SCBWI FACES Elaine Cline

SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet the volunteers who keep our Society ticking. This month, Tracy Curran chats to Elaine Cline, coordinator of the popular Slush Pile Challenge for Words & Pictures.

Elaine Cline 

Elaine has been a SCBWI member for over eight years and loves to write picture books, middle grade and teen books. She lives by the sea and has one dog. Elaine is a member of the Words & Pictures editorial team, managing the Slush Pile Challenge

What do you write? 

I write picture books, chapter books and middle grade.

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

When I first joined SCBWI, I was a supply teacher. However, after a couple of accidents, I gave up supply teaching and no longer do paid employment.

Describe your writing space. 

My writing space tends to be in my front room, as I like to people watch.

How long have you been a SCBWI volunteer? 

I have been Writing Competitions Editor for SCBWI BI Words & Pictures online magazine since October 2015. This role is coordinating the quarterly Slush Pile Challenge.

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

In order to set a Slush Pile Challenge, I approach an agent or editor who is prepared to set and judge this competition. I schedule a post to announce the competition. Upon receipt of entries, I acknowledge them and make sure that the entrants are from valid SCBWI members who live in the British Isles, Eire or Europe. I also check that entries do not include their name or email address as the agent judges the entries anonymously. Once the competition is closed, I notify the agent/editor of the number of entries we’ve received and he or she lets me know how many they want to read. When the agent/judge has let me know the winner, I schedule a post to announce who has won and inform the entrants about the outcome of their entry. After the winner has received their prize, a thirty minute one-to-one, I ask them to write about their experience of winning the competition for Words & Pictures.

Do you do any other volunteering? 

I assist local primary schools in a variety of ways.


Has volunteering influenced your writing in any way? 

Through volunteering, I have met a lot of lovely people who have helped me improve my craft. 

What are the advantages of being a volunteer? 

I think the main advantages of being a volunteer is that I have had the opportunity to get to know other writers, authors, illustrators and industry professionals. Through volunteering and being in SCBWI, I have met my tribe and some of them have become friends.

How many hours per week do you spend volunteering? 

As you can see from the tasks I have outlined above, I have a very varied role. It is hard to quantify the number of hours I spend per week, as it depends on how easy it is to get an agent/editor to judge the competition as well as the number of entries received.

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

I try and write every day. Sometimes my writing output is hampered by other things going on in my life. I try to fit my volunteering around my writing.


Favourite children’s book? 

I have enjoyed several children’s books. As a child, I enjoyed Secret Seven by Enid Blyton and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. As an adult, the children’s books which have made me laugh, cry or left a lasting impression on me are: WEE! It Wasn’t Me! and POO! Is That You? by Clare Helen Welsh and Nicola O’Byrne – I hope Queen Camilla enjoyed her copies of Clare’s and Nicola’s books; The Last Bear by Hannah Gold; The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh by Helen RutterCall Me Lion by Camilla Chester.

Avatar image of Elaine 

Connect with Elaine on Twitter

*Header image: In house collaboration Shannon Ell & Tita Berredo


Tracy Curran enjoys writing picture books, young fiction and lower middle grade novels. Her debut picture book, Pumpkin’s Fairytale, was published in 2021 and she also enjoys reviewing children's books on her blog The Breadcrumb Forest.


Anne Boyere is a feature editor for Words & Pictures.

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