SCBWI FACES Natascha Biebow


SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet the volunteers who keep our Society ticking. This month, Claire Watts chats to Natascha Biebow, co-Regional Advisor for the British Isles region.

Natascha Biebow is an experienced children's book editor, mentor and coach. She is the founder of a coaching and mentoring service aimed at helping children's authors and illustrators to shape their picture books, young fiction and novels pre-submission. Passionate about picture books, she writes the bi-monthly Picture Book Storyshaper column for W & P, and blogs at Picture Book Den. She is the author of The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons, winner of the Irma Black Award and a best STEM book. She has been the co-RA (Chair) of SCBWI British Isles since 1998, and in 2018 was awarded SCBWI Stephen Mooser Member of the Year and an MBE for services to children's authors and illustrators.

What do you write? 

 I write picture books, non-fiction and young fiction.

Do you have a ‘day job’ as well as volunteering and writing? 

Yes, I am a children’s book editor – I run Blue Elephant Storyshaping, a coaching and mentoring service for authors and illustrators at all levels, and I am the Editorial Director for Five Quills.

Describe your writing space. 

I am lucky to be able to work in a shed with pine walls and big windows overlooking the garden. It has a spacious desk and space for my books to keep me company and inspire me. When I’m not working here, I’m writing on the sofa, on a train, while waiting for my son to finish activities, or while walking the dog. I’m always writing even when I’m not writing.

How long have you been a SCBWI volunteer? 

I have been volunteering since 1998, when I first took on the RA role.

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

I am the now, co-Regional Advisor (co-Chair) of SCBWI British Isles region, which means it’s my role to lead and oversee all the regional programming, manage a large team of volunteers, problem-solve any local issues, correspond with members, liaise with SCBWI head office, implement international policies, plan for SCBWI-BI's future, network with industry professionals and organisations, market SCBWI, support members, manage budgets and write annual reports, and make all kinds of decisions about what we should offer our members.

Do you do any other volunteering? 

I organise the World Book Day events at a local primary school.

Has volunteering influenced your writing in any way? 

Through volunteering, I’ve had access to a lot of free craft development, training and advice that I wouldn’t have been able to afford otherwise. Meeting other authors and learning from them has also made me a better writer and enabled me to be more confident and find new avenues to promote myself and my work. I’ve also made life-changing contacts and expanded my network hugely.

What are the advantages of being a volunteer? 

Volunteering is the gift that gives back. I have learned invaluable skills, made new connections with industry professionals and fellow authors and illustrators, and am always being challenged to grow as a person and writer. When you volunteer, you open yourself up for possibilities. I’ve made lifelong friends. Volunteering is fun and good for your health also!

How many hours per week do you spend volunteering?

It depends a lot on what is happening and the time of the year, but on average at least an hour a day, sometimes a lot more.

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

No, I’m quite strict about this. I have a separate email account for SCBWI business and am disciplined about checking it and responding in designated time blocks. Since we’re volunteering for SCBWI, I encourage people to respect this boundary and be patient while awaiting a response.

Favourite children’s book? 

That’s like asking you to choose your favourite child! Classic: Danny, the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. Also Mo Willem’s Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs, Olivia by Ian Falconer and The Megamogs and the Dangerous Doughnut by Peter Haswell – because they’re hilarious.


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


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


Anne Boyère is an editor for Words & Pictures and the host behind #SCBWIchat on SCBWI BI's Twitter account. Her Twitter handle is @AmusedNonQueen

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