SCBWI FACES Catherine Whitmore

Let’s go behind the scenes at SCBWI-BI to meet the volunteers who keep our society ticking. This month, Ashley Taylor chats to Catherine Whitmore, who has several volunteer jobs within the organisation, including looking after the SCBWI Network Organisers. 

How would you describe what you write? 

Mostly YA...


"My work space... I love this screensaver - don't we all want to hold our characters' hands?"

Do you write full time or do you have another job?


I am a mother to two children and a step-mother to a teenager. So, yes, I do! I also work for family businesses. I am very lucky though in that I get time to write.


Would you say your job influences your writing? If so, in what way?


So, obviously being a parent is a massive influence when writing for children. I sometimes think that I am not reading enough, and then I remember that I read to each of my children for at least twenty minutes every bedtime. I think it's great to gauge how they respond to books. They disagree with the Waterstones marketing team ALOT!


I qualified as a commercial and intellectual property solicitor when I was in my twenties. I was sold a dream by Ally McBeal that the Manchester legal community just couldn't deliver, so I didn't last long. The main 'take away', apart from amazing friends and an ability to drink all the wine, was to value the skill of writing accurately. When you're drafting contracts and advice letters, it's vital. But I think that striving for precision in language is handy for writers too! The other influence that I've carried with me from my legal career is not one that my husband and children appreciate, it is the habit of considering the worst case scenarios... handy when you need to up the jeopardy for your protagonist... not so much when your family are making plans!


How long have you been volunteering for SCBWI and how did you get into it? 

I had been going to SCBWI critique sessions in Manchester for a few years when the region lost its organiser. I got talking to Marie Basting, who had just taken on the role of ARA Networks, at the conference. We'd met at the Manchester crit groups a couple of times. I complained about there not being much going on in our area, so, when she organised a pre-Christmas get together for those SCBWIs in Manchester who were interested in getting the region going again, she volunteered me! I worked with Marion Brown to get the Manchester meetings up and running again. We have such a passionate and supportive community in the North West, everyone is so invested, it was a pleasure.


What are the main aspects of your SCBWI volunteer role? 

As ARA of Networks, I oversee all of the networks, ensuring that each region has at least one invested network organiser. Hopefully, the NOs know that I am here to support them with any issues that they might have. I act as go-between with the RAs, passing on communication, representing NO's opinions and regional points of view when we have steering committee meetings etc. And, for members, I help them to find their regions. Then there are the jobs that come along with being an ARA, like generally supporting SCBWI BI when and if it's needed, such as working 'backstage' at the OH! MG conference last month.


Has volunteering helped your writing career in any way? How? 

The main positive in that regard has been in helping me to be part of a writing community who have been supportive and given me constructive criticism which allowed me to develop.


How much of a commitment is volunteering for you? 

Obviously, when there are big projects on, I can spend many hours a week volunteering, for example, in the run-up and during an event. However, usually, I check and reply to emails four times a week, it can take ten minutes, or an hour, depending on what's come up.


Would you recommend volunteering with SCBWI? Why? 

I would! I have loved getting to know people better, and understanding more fully all of the benefits of being a SCBWI member. So many people ask 'what benefits do you get from SCBWI?' especially compared to other writing groups out there. I think it's easy to think that there's just the Facebook page, a few chats and advice, but, by immersing yourself into the society, you realise that there is so much more. Volunteering helps people like me, who are perhaps a bit more introverted and would never put a hand up or ask for help. I walked into my first conferences and only really chatted with the people who happened to sit next to me. But, through volunteering, I've felt more confident. I have made some of my best friends since volunteering for SCBWI. Also, I do believe that if there's something that you want to happen, sometimes you have to make it happen. That's how I felt in the North West, and it paid off. If anyone wants a change in their region, please do let me know!


On that... we are looking for network organisers to work alongside our current NOs in Wales, the North East and Central West region. If you're even thinking you might consider it, please get in touch and we can chat through what the roles entail.


Catherine Whitmore is a mum and rarely evil step-mother from Greater Manchester living in Cheshire. Hook winner 2018, she writes YA and is represented by Polly Nolan at PaperCuts Literacy Agency. She’s had a short play about football performed at The Lowry Theatre, Salford. Her happy places are family holidays, eating halloumi in cafes with writing buddies, the moment a gym class ends and watching football with her dad and brother. You can find her on Twitter @PureWhitty


Ashley Taylor is an actress, voice artist and aspiring writer of YA novels.
Twitter: @AshleyMckTaylor Insta: @ashley.mcktaylor


The header image is by Irene Silvino. Irene Silvino is an illustrator based in London and founder of Editartz. She loves to illustrate people (especially focusing on their feelings and emotions), nature and animals! Find her at


If you have a SCBWI event that would be of interest to SCBWI-BI members, please contact Fran Price at

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