BRANCHING OUT Fiona and David Barker

It's the third instalment of our Branching Out series which explores ways in which SCBWI members have diversified into multiple areas of creativity. This week, Production Editor Tracy Curran talks to children's authors Fiona and David Barker, who have gone and written a pantomime...
oh no, they haven't...
oh yes, they have!

Hi David and Fiona. You both write children’s books but have recently written a pantomime. Why did you decide to branch out creatively?

FB: Our local theatre group was having trouble deciding on a script for their annual pantomime. We have been members for years, performing and helping backstage. The group knew we were both authors and had hinted on several occasions in the past that maybe we’d like to write a script for them. So we decided this (2023) was the year to give it a go.

DB: I find scripts absolutely fascinating and had attended an online course on scriptwriting during lockdown, so was desperate to put what I’d learned into practice.

What an opportunity! Did you have to think about this decision or did you just jump in?

We did think carefully about it as we wanted to write a new story rather than a new version of a traditional script like Cinderella. So we had to make sure we could come up with a different idea that would have enough potential. And we had to think about whether we could work together without killing each other!

What are the differences, if any, of writing a book versus writing a pantomime? Does one skill help the other?

FB: I definitely found some similarities in terms of the structure. Pantomimes have quite a well-formed expected plot structure, rather like a picture book. And I definitely found my picture book experience beneficial when tackling rhyming couplets!

DB: pantomime farce is very different from dystopian sci-fi. But I found writing such scenes a lovely excuse to be silly, and I have had fun exercising some different muscles. A lot of emotion, action and plot has to be explained through dialogue, so every line has to count and every character has to sound different with their own agenda. This is true of any story, but feels especially important in a script.

What have been the highlights and the challenges of diversifying?

FB: This was our first time writing as a team but we found we settled into natural roles quite easily. We both collaborate on the plot and characters and then I do the rhyming and Dave does the puns and double entendres.

DB: The highlight was the joy of brainstorming together. One of the extra challenges of a pantomime script is figuring out how to get into and out of each scene, so that the backstage crew have time to change the scenery (if needed), the cast can change costumes (the chorus often have multiple roles) and to keep the audience guessing about what might happen next. Sometimes that means, for example, writing short scenes to be performed in front of closed curtains while something happens out of sight.

Fiona and David Barker, both children's authors, have diversified into writing pantomimes 
(Credit: Fiona and David Barker)

Will you be writing more pantomimes or are you looking to try any other forms of writing?

FB: We’ve already got a draft for our next panto so I think now we’ve got a taste for it. We didn’t divorce writing the first one, so prospects for more are good! At the moment I’m also writing some non-fiction texts so that’s something different again.

DB: Panto script number two (about pirates) is ready to receive some feedback from early readers. And then we’ll have to think of a new setting and plot for number three. Panto on Pluto? Palaentology panto? Watch this space. I have also written a film script and the pilot episode of my MG trilogy turned into a TV series. Netflix haven’t been in touch yet… At the moment I’m focused on writing the first draft of part three of my trilogy.

What advice would you have for anyone interested in writing pantomimes or in trying new things in general?

FB: Trying something new can be a great way to reinvigorate your writing mojo. If one thing isn’t working or feels like an uphill struggle, try something else.

DB: Totally agree. For me, the words flew onto the page in a way they haven’t for a while because I was so excited about this new project. If you’re interested in writing panto, make sure you watch lots of examples. You’ll soon spot the structure and recurring elements.

What is your ultimate goal in terms of branching out? Do you have a big picture of where you would like this journey to take you?

FB: I’ll just be thrilled to see our first panto performed for the first time (this month). Then the next goal will be to see if any other drama groups choose it for their next panto season. I’ll never give up writing picture books for writing pantos though. Hopefully I can juggle both!

DB: I’m really looking forward to the audience reaction to our brand-new story, and then hopefully to other drama groups trying it out. I’m also keen to see if people think our second panto is as good (or even better?!). And then a third… I’ll still write middle-grade stories as my main occupation. But I’ve also written adult thrillers in the past and might, one day, return to that genre. I just like writing!

Thanks so much for your time.

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo


Fiona Barker writes picture books (and pantomimes!). When not writing, she can be found hanging out as @fionawritesbooks on Instagram, Facebook and Threads or @Fi_BGB on X. You can find out more via her website Fiona Barker | Children's Book Author

David Barker writes middle-grade adventures, thrillers and pantomime scripts. You can follow him as @BlueGold201 on X, @david.barker.3705157 on Facebook and @barker1397 on Instagram. You can find out more on his website


Tracy Curran is the Production Editor for Words & Pictures and enjoys writing picture books, young fiction and lower middle grade novels. Known as Little Cornish Writer, you can find her on Instagram, Twitter/X and Facebook

She also enjoys reviewing children's books on her blog, The Breadcrumb Forest


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact them at

Tita Berredo is the Illustration Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact her at

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