SCBWI FACES Claire Watts

Let’s go behind the scenes at SCBWI-BI to meet the volunteers who keep our society ticking. This month Tizzie Frankish chats to Claire Watts, Editor of Words & Pictures.

Claire Watts

Hello Claire! Can you tell us what you write?

Currently I’m writing middle grade fiction and nonfiction, but I’ve also written YA.

Do you have a job as well as volunteering?

I’m a freelance editor and writer of children’s nonfiction. I’m also a supply learning support assistant in primary schools. It’s fun to go into school and help out now and then and useful to be around children now that mine aren’t the age of my target audience anymore!

Describe your writing space. If you don't have one can you describe your favourite place to write?

Before last year I used to work at my desk in the living room with the dogs snoring beside me after everyone had gone to school or work. When my husband started working from home he took over my desk and I moved into one of my daughters’ rooms. But then they all came home in the first lockdown and I spent a few months working at the kitchen table early in the morning when there wasn’t anyone hanging around in there and then moving to my bed once they were all up! Now things are settling down again I’m really hoping that my eldest daughter has left home for good because I’m about to turn her bedroom into my new writing room at last.


Claire's temporary desk space


The loveliest place I ever wrote was when I went to stay in my friend’s house in France on my own for two weeks. It was absolute bliss. You can read about it here

Why did you decide to become an SCBWI Volunteer?

I hadn’t been a member of SCBWI for long when I received an email asking for volunteers for various jobs with W&P. I initially planned to volunteer for one of the smaller jobs but I decided to go for the editor job because I thought my experience would be useful to the magazine.

How long have you been a volunteer?

I’ve been a volunteer since 2016.

Describe the main tasks of your role as a SCBWI volunteer.

Editing Words & Pictures involves creating the schedule, making sure posts are in, commissioning one-off posts and managing a large team of volunteers (amongst other things!).


Do you do any other volunteering?

I’m also on the committee of the Society of Authors in Scotland. 

What are the advantages of being a volunteer?

Managing Words & Pictures gives a structure to my week which is easy to lose hold of when I’m writing stuff to please myself rather than editing or writing to a commission. I’ve made some brilliant SCBWI friends and I’m really proud of what Words & Pictures has become under my editorship.

How many hours per week do you spend volunteering?

An easy week might be about an hour and a half; one when I’m scheduling or dealing with different issues that arise might take a full day.

'The loveliest place I ever wrote': a writing space in France

Do the boundaries between volunteering get blurred or do you have clear schedules writing/volunteering times/space?

I wouldn’t say that the boundaries get blurred because I don’t separate the two things: I consider the volunteer work I do for the community of children’s writers and illustrators to be part of my professional work as a writer.

How does your family and day to day life influence your own writing?

There are a lot of mothers and daughters in my books! Pets too!

Are you a plotter or pantser?

I wouldn’t know where to start without a very clear and detailed plan. You can read about my version of the Snowflake Method here.

Favourite children’s book or author and why?

If I can only have one, Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer. It’s a perfect children’s book for me, the ordinary world touching the fantastic, moving, exciting, and full of interesting relationships.

Do you have any writing tips or advice you'd like to share?

Get that first draft written. You know the old cliché, ‘writing is rewriting’? It’s true.

*All photos courtesy of Claire Watts


Claire Watts has been a freelance writer and editor of non-fiction for children for thirty years, though secretly she was always messing around with fiction too. About ten years ago, she decided to concentrate on fiction. Since then, she’s self-published three YA novels and written many more both YA and MG. After winning W&P's Slush Pile Challenge, she's now represented by Ben Illis. Claire moved from London to rural Scotland twenty years ago and yearns for the city when she’s at home and the country when she’s in the city. Her house is full to bursting with all sorts of books but children’s books are her passion. You can find Claire on Twitter  and on Instagram 

By day, Tizzie Frankish is a mum to two boisterous boys and a part-time university Specialist Support Tutor. By night, a writer who is plagued by her characters. She writes better in her dreams than she does in the cold light of day (thank goodness for edits!) and she’s currently working on a number of young fiction stories. Her works are often humorous and more often than not include animals — even if she starts out thinking they won’t. Website: Tizzie Frankish Twitter: @tizzief
The header image is by Irene Silvino, 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
Fran Price is an editor for Words & Pictures. Contact her at Twitter: @FranGPrice

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