SCBWI FACES Kathryn Evans


SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet the volunteers who keep our society ticking. This month,  Sara Grant chats to Kathryn Evans, Co-RA (Reginal Advisor) in charge of finances.

Kathryn Evans has a background in theatre and a lifetime in business, and now writes contemporary novels with a science fiction twist. She’s won multiple awards including the Edinburgh International Book Festival First Book Award, the SCBWI Crystal Kite and the CrimeFest Award. Nominated for the Carnegie Medal, her books have also been translated into multiple languages and optioned for a film. Yet still, her greatest accolade is going viral on Tiktok. Unrelentingly tenacious - it took 15 years for Kathryn to get published and, at the age of 40, she set out to fence for her country (and succeeded) – lockdown presented her with a new set of difficulties which required a total reassessment of the way she lived. Kathryn believes that life is a learning process, and she brings her own brand of kindness, oddity, energy and wisdom to both her books and her events.

Kathryn Evans

What do you write?

I write EVERYTHING from picture books to YA but am only published in YA. My books are contemporary stories with a science fiction twist.


Do you have a job as well as volunteering?

Aside from writing professionally, and doing a lot of author events, I help run the family farm. The farm is a lot less busy than it used to be but still needs me part time.


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

Because it took me so long to get published (fifteen years of seriously trying) a lot of writing time had to be stolen between chores, so I can now work anywhere. I wrote More of Me whilst waiting to pick the kids up from various activities - by the side of a swimming pool, on a gym bench in a fencing hall, in the car or outside a ballet studio. Nowadays, I tend to write at the kitchen table, mainly because it's less bother when the dogs want to come in and out (which is ALL THE TIME). I wrote so much of Beauty Sleep in my hairdressers that they get a thank you in the acknowledgments. True Fact.


   Beauty Sleep by Kathryn Evans, published by Usborne

Why did you decide to become an SCBWI Volunteer?

I've always thought that, if you're going to get involved in something, get involved. Volunteering is a great way to meet people, and to overcome the awkwardness of feeling a bit like you don't belong. Also, SCBWI is almost entirely run by volunteers - if we don't get involved, it just doesn't exist. For example, there wasn't a local face-to-face group near me when I first joined, so I started one with Philippa Francis. Others joined and, years later, we're still going strong, although Elizabeth Dale now runs the group - encouraging and cajoling us into work! That group helped me through lockdown and is one of my favourite things about SCBWI.


How long have you been a volunteer?

Really, in some capacity or other, I've been a volunteer almost since I joined, which is about twenty years!


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

I am CO-RA responsible for finance. I help Natascha Biebow make long-term planning decisions and I manage the financial accounts. We're a not-for-profit organization, under the umbrella of SCBWI in the USA, so we have obligations to keep good accounts and file them annually. I keep records of transactions, producing summaries for that purpose. I also check the budgets for proposed events and, whilst making sure they financially balance, also have to decide if they fulfil our aims, which are to serve our members and also to encourage diversity, equity and inclusion for underrepresented peoples in our industry. So, I pay the bills, but I also help keep an eye on the bigger picture of what we're trying to do here.


Do you do any other volunteering?

I always did, when my children were growing up. I'd be first with my hand up for community projects and our farm worked for many years skill sharing with farms in South Africa and Gambia. I've had to let go of a lot of extra stuff recently, though. I've been really struggling to find time to actually write, which is ridiculous - it's my passion and my job - so I'm now trying to rebalance things and am getting there, slowly.


Has volunteering influenced your writing in any way?

In every way. It is a fact that I would not be published without SCBWI and I think that, if I hadn't got so involved, through volunteering, I may not have felt so tied to the organisation. I learned my craft in SCBWI and met so many industry people and, although it didn't directly lead to getting my agent or publisher, it easily might have done.


What are the advantages of being a volunteer?

Hands down it's the closer connection you create with the organisation and, through that, our industry - I have so many really good friends in SCBWI that I met through volunteering. Also, when you're in a role like mine, you do get some pretty nice perks - SCBWI paid for me to go to the New York winter conference which was AMAZING.


How many hours per week do you spend volunteering?

My role is quite big, in a normal week it's 7-10 hours. Around conference time and end-of-year accounts, it can be a bit more. I often think that someone else might be able to do what I do in less time, though, because I'm not very efficient and I'm also hopeless at prioritising. I have to do everything then and there or I get stressed about it!


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

Oh dear. Yes, this is what I should do, but no. The only way I can manage it is to have a schedule and to not check my SCBWI email until the evening. This sometimes gets scuppered if I'm messaged by people outside of that, although I do ask people not to message me by text unless it's genuinely urgent, and generally people respect that. I check my email every day, though, and most things can wait until then.


Favourite children’s book and why?

I have so many. I love Candy Gourlay's Tall Story, because it's so beautifully crafted, Michael Morpurgo's Private Peaceful because it's so deeply moving and shows just how powerful children's books can be, and Jeanne Willis's Dr Xargle books because they are hilarious. I'm a huge fan of Catherine Johnson, I've never read a book of hers that I didn't love. Sorry, I have to stop, but I could write a list as long as your arm. I'll be here until Christmas. Oh, A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig...that's a good one.

Natascha Biebow would like to encourage volunteers who are comfortable with managing budgets and basic finance or project management to come forward as SCBWI can always use more volunteers in events management roles (please email!

                                                                                                                                                   *Photos courtesy of Kathryn Evans


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!


Sara Grant's books have been published in the US, UK and Europe. She's a freelance editor of series fiction, teaches Master’s courses on writing for children/teens and has given writing workshops in the US, UK and Europe. She co-founded Undiscovered Voices – which has launched the writing careers of forty-two authors and illustrators, who now have published more than 400 children’s books worldwide.

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