SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet our volunteers! This month, Françoise Price chats to Tania Tay, SCBWI Conference Speaker Co-ordinator and organiser of the London Brunch.

Tania studied History of Art at the University of Edinburgh. She’s an award-winning advertising copywriter. She’s second generation, British Malaysian Chinese and lives in East London. Her writing explores female friendship, mothers and daughters, often with a supernatural twist. Last year, Tania won the Modern Stories Future Bookshelf Headline Open Submissions Initiative. She’s also a screenwriter and was part of BBC Writersroom London Voices 2021. 

What do you write?

I’m writing a young middle grade series, Spellcasters in collaboration with Storymix Studios, published by Hachette Children’s. I’m also writing my debut adult domestic suspense novel to be published in 2024.


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

I am a freelance copywriter and occasionally am commissioned to bake cakes for people.


Describe your writing space.

I handwrite my rough drafts, so I will sit on the sofa in my living room and scrawl in my notebook. I have a very messy coffee table for various writing paraphernalia e.g., laptop, notebooks, pens and snacks. When it comes to typing up the handwritten chapters I move to a desk in my front room.


How long have you been a SCBWI volunteer?

Since 2013! During these ten years, I've made some brilliant writing and illustrating friends and met some extraordinary people.


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

Currently I organise the London Brunch. I am also the Conference Speaker Coordinator so I’m contacting some of the speakers and organising their roles in the conference. In the past, I was the London Network Organiser for a few years, which involved organising socials and brunches and other events, and coordinating the volunteers. Previous to that, I was the Writers Retreat Organiser for a few years so contacted speakers and did all the admin and front of house for the retreat. My first volunteer role was for Words & Pictures. I was a sub-editor and then the Celebrations column editor.

Tania and other SCBWI writers at the latest London picnic

Cupcakes Tania made for the picnic with book covers 
of recently published books by some of the attendees


Do you do any other volunteering?

I’m helping to organise a ESEA Authors Lit Fest at SOAS University with a few other ESEA writers. I just started training to be a Bookmark Reading volunteer.


Has volunteering influenced your writing in any way?

I’ve made so many friends and useful contacts through it, it’s given me a lot of opportunities. I probably wouldn’t have heard of the competitions and opportunities to meet people in the publishing industry without it. And it meant I know lots of like-minded writers if I need to swap critiques which can be really useful.


What are the advantages of being a volunteer?

You meet so many other writers and publishing industry people. You can suggest and organise the events and hire speakers that will be most useful to you.


How many hours per week do you spend volunteering?

It’s hard to say exactly, as nearer to the event happening, especially with the Conference, there’s more hours involved, maybe 2 or 3. But at other times there can be hardly any time spent on it at all.


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

I try and write in the day and do my volunteer stuff at night. Sometimes meetings on Zoom might be in the daytime but this doesn’t happen that often, and that’s usually been determined by a Doodle poll as the best time for everyone.


Favourite children’s book?

Tom’s Midnight Garden by Philippa Pearce.


Françoise Price has been a SBCWI member for 11 years and a volunteer for five and a half. She is Welsh-French and has worked in contract publishing as well as recruitment, marketing, admin and education. She lives in the rolling hills of Somerset with one goat, two dogs and three humans.


Anne Boyere is one of Words & Pictures Feature Editors and runs the #SCBWIchat Twitter chat about books for all ages @SCBWI_BI. You can find her on Twitter.


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