Winner of the Elizabeth Jane Corbett Mentorship Announced

HNSA is delighted to announce that the winner of the Elizabeth Jane Corbett Mentorship for young adult fiction is Alison Stegert, for her novel The Remarkables.

The prize was established in honour of Elizabeth Jane Corbett who sadly passed away in January this year. A previously unpublished author, Alison will receive a mentorship with Wendy J Dunn to develop a completed first draft of an unpublished historical fiction manuscript for young adults.

Our judge, Rachel Nightingale (le Rossignol), had a difficult job choosing a winner from the five high-quality shortlisted entries. When describing Alison’s winning entry, Rachel said, “This highly original piece was instantly engaging. Not only did it feature excellent writing, strong characterisation and a clear sense of place, but its energy and wit made it a joy to read and I could see it appealing strongly to a young adult audience.”

About The Remarkables by Alison Stegert

When Winifred is expelled from her posh school she is quickly recruited to a secret group, The Remarkables, tasked with the safekeeping of Queen Victoria. In this piece the flying pace is well matched with the quick wit of its central character as she discovers that being kicked out of school is the gateway to something far more appealing. A humorous take on the Victorian era that grabs the reader and drags them along for an utterly enjoyable adventure.

About Alison Stegert

Alison Stegert is a kidlit creator, freelance writer, and aspiring illustrator based in Queensland. Her travel adventures, love of languages, and keen interest in archetypes and personality theory weave through her writing. Ali draws on her graduate training in applied psychology and 12 years’ experience as a school counsellor to create intriguing characters whose strengths, flaws, and interesting triggers ring true-to-life.  

An enthusiastic creative community builder, Alison is the state director of SCBWI Queensland, the founder of the Sunshine Coast Writers’ Roundtable, and a passionate member of the kid-literary scene in her region. Her six manuscripts have garnered some interest with Australian and American publishing professionals, but so far there’ve been no offers. She was previously represented by a New York literary agent.

For further information:

An Interview with Alison Stegert

Why does young adult fiction appeal to you?

I’ve always had a soft spot for a good coming-of-age story. Set it against an interesting historical backdrop, and I’m in literary heaven. One of my favourite works of historical fiction is The Secret Life of Bees, which explores a young white girl’s journey of self-discovery and belonging during the civil rights movement in the US. The story thrums with emotion, love, beauty, and bees while wrestling with big issues of racism and domestic violence.

As a YA writer, I confess there’s a particular thrill that comes with putting characters through hell just to watch them figure out what they’re capable of, what they believe most deeply, and how the world really works. Plus, it’s fun to revisit one’s early years when love and pain were mysteries and freedom was a jewel glinting on the horizon.

What do you hope to achieve through completing the mentorship?

How-to-write books are handy and writing courses are useful, but in my experience, I’ve done the most growing and seen the best fruit from mentoring experiences. There is something alchemical about the process, transmuting the base elements of a manuscript into something sparkly and desirable. Plus, I enjoy hobnobbing with famous writers. One degree of separation and all that.

I’m looking forward to learning more about historical worldbuilding from Wendy, and I’d like to hone my research skills, as my current approach is enjoyable but (~ahem~) inefficient. I’m keen to learn more about balancing a YA story’s commercial viability and historical accuracy. 

Why do you love the period of history in which your book is set?

The Victorian Era is a wunderkammer of the weird and the wonderful. It was the heyday of the creepy spectacle with hypnotists, magicians, spiritualists and freak shows vying for audiences. Mourning jewellery and death photos were de rigueur. Taxidermy was all the rage, and mummy unwrappings provided entertainment at dinner parties. Besides being morbid, Victorians were ingenious, introducing to the world trains and automobiles, telegraphs and telephones, and game-changing things like anaesthesia, postage stamps, and flushing toilets. 

Above this cauldron of ingenuity and industry sat the Grumpy Cat of queens, Victoria, whose scowl could trip a pig. But what a fascinating woman she was—ruler of a flourishing empire and mother of nine slightly dysfunctional offspring. Contrary to public perception, she was amused, wielding both a wicked sense of humour and a raucous laugh. Between the enigmatic queen and her extended family, there’s enough material to keep a herd of historical novelists busy for a lifetime.

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