The SCBWI Advent series has been a popular annual challenge for member illustrators over the years. Organiser Paul Morton takes a look back, while John Shelley catches up with the previous winners.


The Advent competition arose following some discussion on creating printed holiday season cards or calendars for SCBWI. The practicalities for this proved awkward, so as an alternative I think it was Anne Marie and me that settled on trying an Advent challenge to run digitally.

It launched in 2013 with a great response and traditionally garners lots of positive responses on social media. For the first couple of years it ran in Words & Pictures and on the Showcase Gallery site, and then was transferred to our SCBWI Facebook group where it has grown in popularity. Our writer members often run a micro-tweeting event to comment on and compliment the images.

The Advent regularly receives around 60 to 70 entries every year competing for the 25 spots. Following a redesign of Words & Pictures we took a rest in 2017 and ran the "Quadvent" where I gathered the best entries from previous years to run on Facebook. Members of the illustration committee vote on the top image which then receives the first spot on December 1st. The second placed image is reserved to appear on 25th, the third place appears on the 2nd, fourth place on 3rd, fifth on 4th December and so on.

So, how have our previous winners been getting on? We contacted our previous first place winners for an update.

2013 winner - Heather Kilgour

The cloud of the pandemic has had one silver lining: it has brought into focus what I want to achieve and a plan for how to do it when everything returns to normal. 

Heather Kilgour   @heatherkilgourillustration


2014 winner - John Shelley 

The Advent has been a fascinating coverage of our members every year. In 2014 I was very busy with commissioned books written by others, but in recent times I've been working more on developing my own self-written projects, which I've found present a different set of challenges! Visits to trade fairs like Bologna have definitely helped to focus, though not, of course, this year. 

It's been a tough year for creatives, however our online network is strong! Since the beginning of the pandemic I've been working at home - sending SCBWI members strength and support during these difficult times, I'm really looking forward to meeting up when it's all over!

John Shelley    @studionib

2015 winner - Jacqueline East 

As an artist I feel so blessed to be able to create worlds that come from the heart, filled with love, warmth and quirkiness. I hope all you creatives out there have found solace in your work these last few months and know that with it, you touch other's hearts. 


Jacqueline East   @jacquelineseast

2016 winner - Demelsa Haughton  

Since taking part in the Advent Illustration Competition I have gone on to illustrate five children's books. I'm also lucky enough to let my imagination run wild while illustrating jigsaw puzzles for Ravensburger. Dream job!

Demelsa Haughton   @demelsahaughton

2017 - Quadvent interlude.

2018 winner - Francis Martin   

Since doing this little Christmas scene for the Advent calendar,  I have illustrated a story for the amazing  Candy Gourlay which was featured in the Sunday Times, accepted onto the Picture Hooks mentoring scheme which gave me the opportunity to work with Chris Mould, and then to exhibit the results at the National Gallery of Scotland!!!! I am illustrating a picture book for the celebrated Scottish writer Chae Strathie, it will be out next year on Little Door Books


Francis Martin  @theephantomscribbler

2019 winner - Imogen Foxell  

I was very honoured to be one of the winners in the Advent competition last year. In my head, this is an environmental picture - a celebration of Christmas that connects with the natural world rather than despoiling it. This last year has been all about poetry illustration for me - a poster celebrating the winners of the Foyle Young Poets competition, live illustration videos of poems in different languages for the Stephen Spender Trust, and a bit of Shakespeare too. I've also been making gradual progress on a personal picture book project with environmental themes. 


Much love to all SCBWI people in this difficult year - looking forward to seeing you when it's allowed again!

Imogen Foxell  @imogenfoxell


Paul Morton runs HotFrog Graphics and is a long-standing volunteer with SCBWI's illustration team. His book Bugbelly: Babysitting Trouble was released by Five Quills earlier this year. Instagram Twitter

John Shelley is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures and the illustrator of over 50 books for children, most recently The Boy in the Jam Jar for Bloomsbury. He's a four times nominee for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Instagram Twitter


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