SPECIAL FEATURE Booktrust Represents phase two

Jill Coleman, BookTrust’s Director and Indigo Williams, BookTrust Represents’ new Project Manager talk to Deputy Editor, A. M. Dassu about phase two of BookTrust Represents.

In August BookTrust Represents, a ground-breaking initiative to help promote and develop children's authors and illustrators of colour, launched the second phase of their project. A series of free taster training and mentoring sessions were delivered in September with a stellar line up of speakers including author Chitra Soundar on nailing school visits, Patrice Lawrence on her journey to becoming a published author, Joy Francis from Words of Colour discussing how creatives can build confidence, and an array of agents, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators who gave valuable insight into the industry. We wanted to learn more and spoke to Jill Coleman about the project so far and Indigo Williams about the plans for phase two of the project.

Jill Coleman, Director, Children's Books

Q. You’re six months into BookTrust Represents. Are you on target to meet your key objectives?

Our ultimate aim is to increase the number of children’s authors and illustrators of colour to 10% by 2022, so we need to wait for those statistics before we can really start celebrating, but the early signs are looking extremely promising that our project is having an impact. For example, we had reports from SCBWI’s Picture Book Day that several BookTrust Represents authors and illustrators attended, and more people of colour than they’ve ever had at an event like that. Opening the doors means creators of colour are feeling rightfully welcomed into spaces they belong in.

Q. What have been the successes of the project so far?

In June and July, as part of BookTrust Represents, 420 school children from nine different primary schools across Leeds had the chance to meet a real-life author or illustrator for the first time, experience the joy and excitement that getting lost in a book can bring and take home a signed copy of their very own book for free. The first round of school visits proved to be a great success. Seeing firsthand what a difference it makes to children to see authors who look like them affirms why we launched the project in the first place.

In September we also ran taster training sessions in Bradford and London for aspiring authors and illustrators, offering hands-on practical advice and mentoring from those already established in the industry. We had over 100 attendees in total. These sessions served as a pre-cursor to the more detailed free workshops BookTrust will run in 2020 for aspiring children’s book creators.

Q. Have there been any difficulties?

Our London training event was over-subscribed, but we had more trouble recruiting attendees for our Bradford event. Reaching out to established groups didn’t necessarily lead to reaching creators of colour, which made us realise that an important part of BookTrust Represents is to be the network for authors and illustrators of colour. We think social media is our biggest asset to help us tap into extreme talent of creators of colour all over the UK.

Q. Will there be a phase three? If so, who will be involved in it?

There is so much more to come from BookTrust Represents. In November we’re launching another round of school visits, this time in Birmingham for older children at key stage 3 and 4. We’re taking lots more talented authors and illustrators to the city to inspire and encourage creativity amongst the children and give them an insight into what it’s like to be a published author or illustrator. We’ll also have more aspiring creatives to shadow those who are more established, so they can get first-hand experience of being in schools and around the audience they are writing for.

Q. What has the response from authors and illustrators supported by BookTrust Represents been so far?

The response has been incredible. Those who are more established are supportive and keen to be involved and help pave the way for those up and coming authors and illustrators. When we launched there wasn’t anything really like this in existence, not just in terms of the research but from a practical point of view too. We’re pleased to see more and more initiatives being put in place and help to readdress the balance for authors and illustrators of colour, to give them more visibility and help more talented people into the industry.

Jill Coleman is Director of Children's Books. She is responsible for BookTrust's expert selection and recommendation of great books, managing book purchasing across the organisation, and working with arts organisations, publishers, authors, and illustrators to promote excellence in children's books. Jill has had held a number of senior roles in publishing, including board director of Bloomsbury publishing, managing director of A&C Black and managing director of Little Tiger Press.

Twitter: @Jillcoleman17


Indigo Williams, Project Manager, BookTrust Represents

Q. Tell us more about the taster training events. Why were they called ‘taster’ events?

We called them taster events because although each session in London and Bradford could have really been a whole day of training, each session was only an hour or so in length, so they really gave attendees a snapshot into what our lengthier workshops will be like in 2020. We had the award-winning Patrice Lawrence talking about navigating the ins and outs of the publishing industry, Chitra Soundar explained the best ways to run schools visits (mostly acting like a clown and not taking yourself too seriously) and Elizabeth Bananuka of BME PR PROS gave some useful advice on navigating social media and how best to start building your brand.

Q. Do you plan to hold more of these events? If so, where?

Yes, absolutely. It’s just the start for us. In 2020 we’ll be arranging more free workshops with lots more amazing talent, packed with advice and practical tips for beginning a career in the children’s books industry.

Q. Which cities will you be arranging school visits in next?

We hope to arrange our next set of primary school visits in Bristol. Watch this space!

Q. How can authors, or those that want to shadow an author visit get in touch?

Authors or illustrators of colour can get involved by joining our mailing list on our website www.booktrust.org.uk/represents. That’s the best way to hear about what events and opportunities we have coming up.


Indigo Williams has been Project Manager for BookTrust Represents since September 2019, managing every aspect of the project to support and promote British authors and illustrators of colour, including a programme of school visits, training and festivals. She is also a British Nigerian writer and passionate about the ways art can transform the way we perceive the world and its ability to facilitate critical consciousness. Indigo has performed and had work featured at Tedx Brixton, Tedx UCL, Glastonbury, BBC Radio 4 Bespoken Word and across the UK and Europe.

Twitter: @indigowilliams

Website: booktrust.org.uk/represents


A. M. Dassu is a children’s author and deputy editor of Words & Pictures. You can contact her at deputyeditor@britishscbwi.org

You can find her on Twitter @a_reflective and Instagram @a.m.dassu


  1. Fantastic! Jill was my very first client when she worked at A & C Black, she gave me my very first illustration job, a book commission no less, way back when!

    1. Fascinating! What a small world we live in!


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.