SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet the volunteers who keep our Society ticking. This month Alison Gardiner chats to Paul Morton, co-organiser of the SCBWI Picture Book Retreat.

Paul Morton has been a SCBWI member for fifteen years

A professional illustrator for over thirty years with a wide spectrum of clients including chocolate companies and games' manufacturers, Paul has illustrated various educational and novelty pictures books but his driving passion and ambition was always to illustrate his own stories. His dedication finally paid off when he saw his debut illustrated early reader book published by Five Quills. Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble tells the story of the greedy and ingenious frog Bug Belly and his heroic rescue of hundreds of helpless little tadpoles. When their pond mysteriously begins to empty Bug Belly must come up with his most clever plan EVER.

Paul Morton is the creator of Bug Belly

What do you write?

I’m an illustrator by profession and have always longed to write my own stories to illustrate. I now have two Early Reader books, Bug Belly Babysitting Trouble and Bug Belly Froggy Rescue, published by Five Quills and I’m enormously proud of them. Ninety-six pages, approximately two-thousand-and-five words, both written and illustrated by me! I have a couple of picture books ready for submission and also have written, but not yet illustrated, an older chapter book text for 7-9 year-olds. And I’m working on ideas for a Graphic Novel.

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

I run Hot Frog Graphics illustration and design studio but, for the past four or five years, I have devoted my time to children’s books. Consequently much of my commercial work has been put on hold.

Describe your writing space.

I’ve always worked from home and have commandeered one of our double bedrooms. I have a wonderful studio in which I can illustrate by hand as well as two or three Macs for processing digital artwork. But for writing I’ve ‘discovered’ why so many other SCBWI writers retreat to a café. So that’s where I do most of my writing these days. Two to three hours at a time, unbothered by all the interruptions and other jobs at home.


Paul works from home and organises the Picture Book Retreat alongside Clare Helen Welsh

How long have you been a SCBWI volunteer?

I’ve been a member for about fifteen years. I first volunteered on the illustration committee. For the past five years I have co-run the Picture Book Retreat which is just a dream event and I help with the conference. I also run the Advent Calendar competition for illustrators. 

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

My main job is organising the PB Retreat with Clare Welsh – it needs twelve months of commitment to keep it all on time and running smoothly. It involves scheduling and booking speakers, liaising with Holland House, preparing the publicity and then nearer the time preparing the actual events for the weekend. Last year I was instrumental in organising the illustrator sessions at the SCBWI conference in Manchester, overseeing the Sketchbook Exhibition, organising for Jim field to reach Manchester despite the travel problems and making sure the other speakers all had a hassle-free session when it was their event.

Do you think being a SCBWI volunteer now is the same as when you started fifteen years ago? How has it changed?

From recent experience it’s more ‘full on’ and intensive. That’s probably because I’ve taken on more responsibilities. It works best with a committee of helpers, a team effort like the SCBWI conference of 2022.


Has volunteering influenced your writing in any way?

It certainly has. Being closely involved with all aspects of the children’s book world has definitely influenced how serious I take it and how professionally I approach writing and illustrating for children.

What are the advantages of being a volunteer?

It’s the joy of meeting people. Plain and simple. I guess working freelance from home gives me a hermit-like mentality at times so I’ve always found The SCBWI family tremendously supportive. I’ve gained so many friends and connections via SCBWI.

How many hours per week do you spend volunteering?

That's difficult to say... At my most intense, leading up to Retreat, maybe two hours a day. Just before the SCBWI Conference it was half a day when it got really intense.

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

It’s not easy to keep things so separate, if someone needs contacting or an event needs booking, then it takes priority.


Favourite children’s book?

Of old, Stig of the Dump by Clive King. More recently, The Storm Whale by Benji Davies.


You can get in touch with Paul at, via his website, and or connect on Twitter.


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


Alison Gardiner is a radio voice performer and writer. She loves to travel, having spent her early years in Jamaica, USA, Gibraltar and Scotland. She also loves gathering flashes of ideas to weave into tales. 

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