SCBWI FACES Sarah Broadley


SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet the volunteers who keep our society ticking. This month, Anne Boyère chats to Sarah Broadley, one of Words & Pictures' feature writers. 

Sarah Broadley

Sarah writes picture books and middle grade novels. She lives in Edinburgh with her family and is a member of SCBWI Scotland, the Society of Authors, CWIG and the Scottish Book Festival Network. Sarah is also a trustee on the board of Cymera - the UK's only sci-fi, horror and fantasy writing festival. She chats with creatives on her Words & Pictures feature Writers’ Minds and wins invisible prizes for her outstanding procrastination skills.


What do you write?


I used to only write picture books but then became enthralled with the roller coaster lives that 8-12 year-olds lead. Usually whilst consuming too much tea and receiving imaginary gold stars for my epic procrastination skills.



Do you have a job as well as volunteering?


I was made redundant in lockdown so I now write full-time whilst herding home-learning teenage exam sitters and their feline counterparts.


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


I have a desk that will never have enough room for all my stuff and I’m surrounded by growing piles of books still to be read that remind me of Doctor Who’s Weeping Angels. If I blink they get bigger and closer – no sharp teeth though, thankfully.


Why did you decide to become an SCBWI Volunteer?


I wanted to learn as much as I could about my craft and volunteering seemed a good place to start. And it still is as I’m always learning something new. Writing can be solitary and isolating for some, so it’s a fantastic way to nurture my creativity and entice myself out into the world from my writing cocoon.


How long have you been a volunteer?


My first volunteering role with SCBWI was when I set up the picture book and middle-grade critique groups for SCBWI Scotland back in 2014. I then went on to co-chair the network from 2015-2017. I now write the Writers’ Minds feature for Words & Pictures (since 2018) which has introduced me to some tremendous writers and illustrators. I am also part of the Twitter team who moderates the SCBWI BI account and I volunteer at the conference when I can too – I usually host a Friday night critique group which is great fun!


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


For my SCBWI magazine Words & Pictures feature Writers’ Minds, I get to annoy/interview/cajole (delete as appropriate) industry professionals into telling me about their world – from Catherine Johnson and her superb historical fiction to Rikin Parekh’s fantastic illustrations that bring so many characters to life.


Do you do any other volunteering?


I co-ordinate the monthly book group for staff and volunteers at St Columba’s Hospice in Edinburgh. The group is predominately made up of octogenarians who are ruthless, yet fair, in their critique from YA and beyond. Their honesty is refreshing!


I am a trustee on the board of Cymera – the UK’s only sci-fi, fantasy and horror writing festival. It’s been fantastic to get involved in the inner workings - from programming to on-line events and chairing panels. Now that we’re in our fourth year and survived the obstacles the pandemic has thrown our way, I, more than ever before, fully appreciate its director, the unstoppable Ann Landmann, and all the volunteers that make the festival what it is today.


I am also a reviewer for on-line resource My Book Corner. I regularly review and interview children’s writers and illustrators for the site. Emma Perry, My Book Corner creator and fellow SCBWI, is a joy to work with. Over the years, I have built up some amazing relationships with agents, editors and publishers and it’s a privilege to be involved when a new book heads out into the world.

Has volunteering influenced your writing in any way?


I have learned more about the workings behind the publication process and also the expectations we put on ourselves to achieve as creatives. Thankfully, the writing community can be a supportive place to be.

What are the advantages of being a volunteer?


At the conference in particular, volunteering is a brilliant way to chat and connect with like-minded folks. We are a busy region with quite a few miles between some networks so it’s a good chance to catch up for support and friendship. It’s also a great way to learn about events – their management and creation.


How many hours per week do you spend volunteering?


Writers’ Minds is a quarterly feature so I have a bit more time to approach potential interviewees, create questions, receive answers and collate them - all in time to send it all back to the fabulous editors at SCBWI. I also keep my My Book Corner reviews to a manageable level but it can be hard to say no when sparkly, ‘fresh out the printing oven’ ARCS arrive at my door! In summary, given how many initiatives I’m involved in, I probably spend as much as ten hours per week but this can fluctuate when the need arises.


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


In my opinion, it’s useful to have some kind of time-management element to how you approach volunteering and hope that it won’t encroach on your writing time/paid-work. I worked in finance for over twenty years so I am used to schedules, spreadsheets and deadlines, which stands me in good stead for whatever comes my way. However, I have a strong procrastination vibe running through my veins but I can usually keep it in check most days in order to achieve my goals. I am much kinder to myself now than I was, my health and well-being is too important. I have also learned to say ‘no’ a bit more often, it’s not that I don’t want to help and be more involved, it’s more about being realistic when it comes to my workload.


Favourite children’s book and why?


I read a lot of books across many age groups for My Book Corner, my favourites from the last wee while are:

YA – Ghost Bird by Lisa Fuller. This astounding novel is about First Nation Australian twins, one goes missing, the other has to find her sister before it’s too late! As a twin, it’s rare for me to find a book that describes the strong sibling bond so well. I also believe we learn from each other every day and it was a pleasure to interview Lisa on her own lived experience as a member of the Wulli Wulli Nation in Queensland. Both my review and interview with Lisa are on the My Book Corner website.

MG – there are so many books I could mention for this category but I think the best twist I have ever read for this age group is in The Shark Caller by Zillah Bethel, beautifully illustrated by Saara Soderlund. The attention to detail throughout will have you totally immersed (no pun intended). When I grow up, I want to write like Zillah.

PB – as I write mainly middle grade at the moment, I don’t find myself in the picture book world as much as I’d like. I can’t end without mentioning the brilliant Babara Throws a Wobbler written and illustrated by Nadia Shireen, and also King of the Swamp written by Catherine Emmett and illustrated by Ben Mantle. It’s a rhyming joy to read and a masterclass in page turns.


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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