Meet the Judges for the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition 2023!
It's time to reveal our all-star lineup of judges for the 2023 competition ...
We are so excited to showcase the amazing panel for this year's competition. Manuscript reading is well underway, and the submissions portal is still open, so if you want to be in with a chance of having these incredible industry professionals read your story, make sure to head over to the submissions page. But first, read on to see who those incredible industry professionals are ...
BARRY CUNNINGHAM, PUBLISHER AND MD, CHICKEN HOUSE
Barry Cunningham has had an impressive career in publishing. After an English degree at Cambridge, he joined Penguin Books in 1977. As Children’s Marketing Director for Puffin, he worked with all the great names in children’s books including Roald Dahl and Spike Milligan, and was responsible for the re-launch of Beatrix Potter. In 1984 he was promoted to the Penguin Board and became responsible for the marketing of all Penguin Books, a position he held until 1988, when he was headhunted by Random House. In 1994 he was approached by Bloomsbury to set up their first children’s book list. Barry left Bloomsbury at the height of its success and, in early 2000, decided to start his own publishing company. The result was Chicken House, a lively and creative company publishing highly original and enjoyable children’s books, with a special emphasis on new fiction. He has been a judge for the competition since it's fruition.
ALEX O'CONNELL, ARTS EDITOR, THE TIMES
Alex O'Connell is arts editor and the editor of the Saturday Review. She has worked at The Times for 24 years in roles ranging from diary reporter to executive editor. She also reviews children's books, is an annual judge for The Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition and the South Bank Show awards.
DAVINIA ANDREW LYNCH, LITERARY AGENT, CURTIS BROWN
Davinia Andrew-Lynch is a literary agent at Curtis Brown, focusing mainly on children’s/YA writers and illustrators but with a small commercial adult list. Her client list includes authors such as Bex Hogan, Annabelle Sami, Malcolm Duffy, Davina Tijani and Colm Field; and illustrators including Adam Douglas-Bagley.
Formerly she ran Andlyn, a boutique agency and prior to this she worked as a film/TV agent and freelance editor. She’s judged on a number of competitions across both publishing and screen, and co-founded with Faber Children's the FAB Prize: it's purpose, to discover new and upcoming Black and minority ethnic authors and illustrators.
Davinia is shamelessly commercial in her tastes and her aim is to find talent who's content and skill can actively take them beyond the page. A complete 90s child, she's been shaped by the storytelling of the time - big, bold and pacy but with characters you can't help but love. Screen very much influences her approach to the type of stories she's looking to find, both for children and adults. Ultimately though, she just wants to be entertained.
TIM COMPTON, CO-HEAD OF CHILDRENS, LIME PICTURES
Tim Compton is joint Head of Kids & Family (alongside Angelo Abela) at Lime Pictures. Prior to this, he was a script editor and producer at HIT Entertainment and CBBC. For Lime, Tim was the story producer and core writer on the global hit House of Anubis (Nickelodeon) and producer and co-creator of Evermoor, which was the Disney Channel's first direct drama commission from outside the US. Tim produced and wrote for Free Reign, the Emmy award-winning Netflix original and was executive producer on the Emmy-nominated limited series Zero Chill, also for Netflix. He is currently executive producer on Wereworld, Lime’s first animated series for Netflix.
LUCY JAKES, WATERSTONES CHILDREN'S TEAM
Lucy Jakes is part of the Children’s Team at Waterstones. After graduating from the University of York with a degree in History, she undertook work experience at Chicken House, and worked for three years as a Children’s and YA bookseller (all the while spreading the love for Chicken House titles). She joined Waterstones Head Office in 2022, where she now supports the wider Children’s Team and the running of campaigns such as the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize. When not working, she can be found painting, writing, and reading every Children’s book she can get her hands on.
JANE CHURCHILL, SCOUT AND FESTIVAL ORGANISER
Jane Churchill has been spellbound by children’s books in one way or another for most of her life, including being a bookseller, publicist, a book prize judge, and reviewer. She was children’s programme director for The Cheltenham Festival of Literature for 17 years and now programmes children’s events for several literary festivals alongside her long-standing position as fiction advisor for French Publisher, Gallimard Jeunesse.
CJ GAJJAR, SALES REP, BOUNCE MARKETING
CJ Gajjar has always been a fan of literature and after receiving a BA in English Language, wished to make her hobby into a career. She joined The Newham Bookshop for five years, working in the Children’s and Young Adult department. CJ is also a passionate traveller, and as the London Sales Representative, is constantly out and about the city visiting Independent Bookshops, Galleries and Museums. Always eager to get books into the hands of the new generation, she is always happy to help with a recommendation.
FRANCES HARDINGE, CHILDREN'S AND YOUNG ADULT AUTHOR
Frances Hardinge spent a large part of her childhood in a huge old house that inspired her to write strange stories from an early age. She read English at Oxford University, then got a job at a software company. However, a few years later a persistent friend finally managed to bully Frances into sending a few chapters of Fly By Night, her first children's novel, to a publisher. Macmillan made her an immediate offer. The book was published to huge critical acclaim, and went on to win the Branford Boase First Novel Award. She has since written many highly acclaimed children's novels, including Fly By Night's sequel Twilight Robbery, as well as the Carnegie-shortlisted Cuckoo Song and the Costa Book of the Year winner, The Lie Tree. Her most recent book is Unraveller.