SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet our volunteers! This month Candy Gourlay chats to Eva Wong Nava, Feature Editor for the Representation section of Words & Pictures.

Eva lives in the Land of Albion with a goat, tiger and dog. She writes stories that help children to love who they are, develop a sense of belonging, and to see themselves in the pages of books, with a dash of magic and lots of love. When not writing, Eva is a sensitivity editor helping publishers in the UK and North America to make sure that East and Southeast Asian people, culture and heritage are accurately represented in books. Find her on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter)  or email her at

What do you write?

I write for children across the age range (4 - 18). I have written for Middle-Grade readers and I've one Young Adult novel, The House of Little Sisters which won the Firebird Book Awards in America this year (2023). The novel was also long listed for the McKitterick Prize by the Society of Authors in 2022, and shortlisted for Best Literary Work for the Singapore Book Awards in 2023. Having said this, I'm known primarily for writing picture books.

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

I'm a freelance editor and writing coach when not writing and volunteering at SCBWI and WriteMentor. I'm also a sensitivity editor and work with publishers in the UK and North America to ensure that East and Southeast Asian people, culture and heritage are authentically and accurately represented in children's books. I read primarily for Chinese diaspora and third-culture experiences and depiction.

Describe your writing space.

I write with my laptop on my lap. My MacBook sits on a laptop cushion, which sits on my lap and I type away. My writing space is in my living room, where I sit on a bean bag propped up with lots of cushions. It's my cubby space and I feel safe and secure here.

Has volunteering influenced your writing in any way?

Great question!

As a mentor, I put on my editing hat as well as writing hat. Other mentors have their own individual processes but this is my way. And, as someone who has been working in publishing for over a decade and who is constantly learning more about the industry, I think I have developed a sense for what kinds of stories work. So in this way, volunteering has helped me fine-tune my instincts for picture book stories. Volunteering has certainly helped me get to know the industry better.

How long have you been a SCBWI volunteer?

Oh, I can't remember now. *LOL* I think it's been more than 2 years? I started with covering events and then moved to being the Feature Editor of Representation, a segment in the British SCBWI online magazine Words & Pictures. I am tasked with researching and writing articles on celebration days, like Black History Month, for example, in which I also recommend books. My recent article is one about the naming convention in East and Southeast Asian cultures. 

Recently, I took over the co-ARA (Assistant Regional Advisor) Events role. In this role, I'm tasked to organise 4 masterclasses a year, as well as liaise with the Networks co-ARA, who is Philip Kavvadias, to make sure that events run smoothly in our chapter.

What are the advantages of being a volunteer?

For me, it's really about giving back! I find a lot of fulfilment in helping out. I get to meet lots of like-minded colleagues and have made many friends along the way. I feel that in volunteering, you get in return as much as you give out.

How many hours per week do you spend volunteering?

There really aren't any fixed hours, but I try to be disciplined when it comes to time management. As I wear several volunteering hats - mentor, writer and events organiser - I divide my time on where the need is. I also ask for help when needed.

I write an article for Representation once a month for Words & Pictures. These articles are scheduled, so I have an idea of what is required from January to December. It takes me roughly 4 hours a month to do, I'd say.

For WriteMentor, the main bulk of the mentoring is during the summer when they have their Summer Mentorship Programme. I see my mentee for an hour bi-weekly for a period of 3 months.

For SCBWI masterclasses, I've only just started. Taking over a new role is always challenging at first, but I'm sure that with time, I'll get into the groove of things. For the moment, I envision the role to take up about 4 - 5 hours a month. This is not a lot. But I also expect that when a masterclass is coming up, the flurry of activities around this would increase.

Volunteering requires one to be flexible, I guess. There will be busy periods (like when the SCBWI BI Manchester Conference is coming up) and there will be times when things are quieter.

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

I treat my volunteer positions as professional roles, if you will. It's work to me, and I'm paid in other ways instead of a salary. So, I go about the work as I would if this were a paid role. I feel this helps me maintain the kind of professionalism I expect of myself and my colleagues. I try not to work on weekends, unless it's urgent.

For any work, communication is key. I make sure that I communicate with my team. For the co-ARA Events role, I make sure I clarify matters with my boss, who is the Regional Adviser, Natascha Biebow, before I go ahead with things. For Words & Pictures, we have a different team and I report to Gulfem Wormald who is the Editor for the online magazine. As each article is accompanied by a header image, I liaise with Ell Rose for this. Ell works with Tita Berredo, who coordinates the artwork for the magazine, amongst other things.

Favourite children’s book?

Ahh, there are just too many. As it's hard to choose, I'll just share the books I've read recently that I won't be forgetting.

My picture book choices have to be Eyes That Kiss In the Corners by Joanna Ho and illustrated by Dung Ho and Grandad's Camper by Harry Woodgate, and The Woman Who Turned Children Into Birds by David Almond, illustrated by Laura Carlin. For Middle-grade, they are Fablehouse by E.L. Norry and Spellcasters by Crystal Sung, and Maizy Chen’s Last Chance by Lisa Yee. For Young Adult, Last Night At the Telegraph Club by Malinda Lo and Skin of The Sea by Natasha Bowen and The Cats We Meet Along The Way by Nadia Mikhail.


Candy Gourlay
was born in the Philippines, grew up under a dictatorship and met her husband during a revolution. Her books range from Greenaway-nominated Is It a Mermaid, illustrated by Francesca Chessa to Carnegie-shortlisted novel, Bone Talk. The sequel, Wild Song, transports its characters to the 1904 World Fair in America.


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

1 comment:

  1. Interesting interview, thanks both. Nice to have 'met' you now Eva, if not at Conference. : )


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