Advertisement

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

Books

The Ampersand Project: Unearthing the secret lives of teenagers

by Estelle Tang , December 6, 20111 Comment

Like most editors, my colleagues and I get people pitching us book ideas wherever we go. When a certain kind of someone discovers that you have the power to grant a book deal, it turns out they’ve written a story about their cat or have an unfinished fantasy manuscript in the bottom drawer. I’ve had people pitching me in bars, at family barbecues, and even while I was sitting in a dentist’s chair. It’s particularly hard to smile politely when someone’s poking around your molars and trying to sell you their idea about talking animals.

So you’d think a group of teen-fiction editors would shudder at the thought of actually asking for pitches. And yet the one thing worse than being pitched at relentlessly is only ever being pitched the same ideas. For months all we’ve seen are werewolves, angels and dead girls narrating from beyond the grave. Our desks are groaning under the weight of grim dystopias and paranormal romances (and their love children, which we like to call ‘disnormals’), and finally we thought: is anyone even writing real-world fiction about the secret lives of teenagers? And wouldn’t it be easier if we said we wanted it?

Yes, actually. So the Ampersand Project was born.

Hardie Grant Egmont has published its share of supernatural and speculative fiction, but there’s plenty of room on our list for the sort of real-world books that we loved as teenagers. Think Forever, I Capture The Castle, Looking for Alibrandi and Tomorrow When the War Began (which doesn’t count as dystopian fiction in today’s market: discuss). Incredible real-world fiction does make it onto the shelves, of course – Graffiti Moon, All I Ever Wanted, Six Impossible Things, Stolen and Pink are some of the stand-outs – but unfortunately they’re the exceptions in a saturated disnormal market. And we’re sick of seeing these great books miss out on the coverage and sales they deserve.

We have our theories about why paranormal and dystopian fiction dominate the bestseller lists even though real-world stories are just as good. Readers have always been drawn to books that can make them feel things, either in the pants or in the mind, and other-worldly stories are particularly clever at that. But it’s hardly impossible to do when your book is set on this earth. In any case, your buying decisions might be made for you when you walk into a bookshop’s YA section and find an ocean of red and black covers, punctuated by sad girls wearing beautiful dresses in forests.

So the point of the Ampersand Project is to bring some balance back to the YA scene. We want to find brilliant writers with real-world stories that are as compelling and exciting and funny and sexy as anything else. We’re going to build the profile of this new collection so that emerging writers can use it as a launch pad for their fiction careers. And we’ll back the writers and their books with the kind of marketing support that debut authors would normally not have access to.

With nary a futuristic war zone or vampire in sight, it’s enough to get an editor excited about pitches again.

Submissions for the launch of the Ampersand Project are open until 27 February 2012 and guidelines are available here. Writers should send the first five chapters and a synopsis of their YA novel to ampersand@hardiegrant.com.au.

Marisa Pintado is a commissioning editor at Hardie Grant Egmont and the Ampersand Project.

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/AmpersandYA

Twitter – @AmpersandYA




  • Annerliegh Pappos

    Yeah.. I think i’d rather pitch to you at a pub… the synopsis is a killer…

loitering-cover-cmyk-570

Sam van Zweden

The Writer at the Centre of the Essay: Charles D’Ambrosio’s Loitering

Loitering is Charles D’Ambrosio’s quietly brave collection of experimental essays. It doesn’t announce itself noisily, but associations slide sideways through the essays in unexpected ways. This collection is lyric in both senses – freely associative and loose, it borrows from the world, trying meaning on for size, producing metaphors and connections wherever it sees fit. Read more »

discworld

Elizabeth Flux

Footnote to a life: How Terry Pratchett kept me from going postal

If imitation truly is the sincerest form of flattery, then teenage me would have been the steamroller to Terry Pratchett’s somewhat plagiarised tarmac. In the ten years since I first picked up The Fifth Elephant, my work has been littered with Pratchettisms to varying degrees. Read more »

Patricia-Highsmith2

James Tierney

The Necessary Paradoxes of Patricia Highsmith

A highly regarded author of complex psychological thrillers, including The Talented Mr Ripley and Strangers on a Train, Patricia Highsmith’s fiction comes freighted with a heady mix of cross-purposes and intimate alienations. Read more »

Rebecca Shaw

TERF War: Transphobia in the LGBTQI community

I started to realise that I was ‘not like other girls’ about the time I hit puberty. From that point on I underwent an extensive and daunting process to emerge from my closeted cocoon into the beautiful lesbian butterfly I am today. An important part of that development was realising – mostly via the Internet (or very occasionally through people I met in real life) – that there were people like me all over the world. Read more »

9807778273_afe6ec792d_z

Rebecca Shaw

Breaking the Celluloid Ceiling

We are still at a point where far less than half the movies we see have a clear female protagonist, even though women are half of the population. If women as an ENTITY are not properly represented, their stories not told, what chance then do women of colour have? Read more »

article-2301242-18FA52E4000005DC-314_470x763

Rebecca Shaw

An Inconvenient Truth: Social stigma and menstruation

If you have heard of menstruation, you would know that it is an essential process in a little tiny thing called the EXISTENCE AND CONTINUATION OF HUMAN LIFE, and it is something that most (not all) women experience for about five days every month for a large part of their lives. It is a topic (besides shopping, lol) that women think about frequently. Read more »

flock_roof

Anwen Crawford

Don’t be Sheepish: Why Ewe Should See Shaun the Sheep Movie

Shaun the Sheep Movie is the latest feature-length production from Aardman Animations (the folk who brought us Chicken Run), and it is a delight. Borrow a young relative for cover if you must, but believe me, you are not too cool for a kid’s movie when it’s this much fun. Read more »

9331818982_322b389ff2_z

Annabel Brady-Brown

The blue pill or the red pill? In defence of highbrow film

Cinema is a powerful medium. Going to the movies, be it a Lav Diaz epic or a Michael Bay blockbuster, is an act of submission. You hand over $15 and the whole mash of your brain/senses/heart/dreams for ninety minutes. Read more »

girlwalkshomealoneatnight

Anwen Crawford

Bad Cities

A Most Violent Year has an atmosphere of all-pervading dread, like a film noir, as if the polluted air of New York itself was causing people to act against their better intentions. Even more haunting and more noir is A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, a memorably audacious debut feature from American-Iranian director Ana Lily Amirpour. Read more »

empire-tv-review-fox

Anwen Crawford

Rise of an Empire

Watching Empire, I wondered why there haven’t been more television shows about record labels, the music industry being the cesspit of venality that it is. Forget TV dramas about police departments and hospital wards – a show about a record label comes with all that conflict, plus outfits, plus songs. Read more »

video-undefined-22D54AFA00000578-784_636x358

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Insufferable assholes and grown up Girls

Yes, our girls are growing, learning, discovering. But all they’re really discovering is how toxic and unheroic they are, and how to use that to their advantage. They’re not going to grow out of their asshole tendencies, because they are actually assholes. Read more »

agent-carter-7683

Danielle Binks

Agent Carter and the future of the female superhero

Agent Carter has been described ‘a Triumph for Women, Marvel and TV,’ and heralded as an important new chapter in comics culture. If this supposedly groundbreaking new show fails, does it spell doom for the future of female-led superhero franchises? Read more »

jakobson0052

Katie Williams

Storytelling vs. interactivity: What makes a highbrow game?

What makes a game ‘highbrow’? We don’t have solid criteria for deciding conclusively which games are masterpieces, and which are just dumb, explosive fun. Read more »

ss_f6a450fbf737eb04c58b973f72e8817bb2b50285.600x338

Katie Williams

Brain Candy: Are game jams diluting the potential of video games?

In a world where YouTube gameplay videos narrated by hollering amateurs hold as much clout – if not more – than professional game critics, I worry that developers may be swayed to choose an easier, unimaginative, and more vacuous path to success. Read more »

cher_horowitz_closet-010_2

Katie Williams

Fashion Forward: How hidden algorithms are dressing up technology

Though we increasingly rely on technology to simplify our lives, we still want to believe that behind the scenes is a happy, human face, rather than an impassive machine that does the dirty work for us. Read more »

16475519129_bb489cf4ce_o

Jane Howard

Creative Space: The secret power of community theatres

Theatre is inextricably tied to space, and the best theatre spaces become more than buildings. They become communities of like-minded people: of artists and of audience members, intermingling their ideas and their lives. Read more »

Tessa Waters stars in Womanz

Jane Howard

Fringe Feminism: Women, comedy and performance art

Taken together, the work of these female comics and performers loudly proclaims that their ideas about gender, femininity, performance and comedy are not diametrically opposed. It is because of their performance backgrounds that their shows are hilarious, not in spite of them. Read more »

Before Us_3

Jane Howard

Stuart Bowden’s Unfamiliar, Universal Worlds

It’s hard to classify the work of Stuart Bowden. His one-person storytelling theatre works are at once hilarious and melancholy. They exist in a particular space of fringe theatre: intricately crafted stories built for small rooms & small audiences, they lift and rise that audience, gathering us all up in the magic of stories & the closeness they can breed. Read more »