SCBWI FACES Chip Colquhoun


SCBWI Faces goes behind the scenes to meet our volunteers. This month Ell Rose chats to Chip Colquhoun, Opening Lines Features Editor for Words & Pictures.

Chip Colquhoun began storytelling for children in 2007 and was asked to write the EU’s guidance on using stories in classrooms in 2015. He became a children’s writer when The History Press commissioned him in 2016 to write Cambridgeshire Folk Tales for Children. He’s since had twenty-two books published, most as part of the Fables & Fairy Tales series he co-produces with illustrator Korky Paul (published by Epic Tales), and is currently working with the National English Hub and the National Literacy Trust to raise the rate of recreational reading in schools. You can find him at


What do you write?

Mostly adaptations of folk tales for middle-grade and handbooks for educators, though I'm currently working on a middle-grade action-adventure and an adult thriller too.


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

My main vocation is oral storytelling. Up until recently I was also a part-time alternative provision tutor for my local education authority, but now the majority of my working time is with a major UK education and events provider who recently broadened out into storytelling and publishing. I'm their publishing director!

Oh – and I mentor and run writing workshops for the National Centre for Writing.


Describe your writing space

Right now, somewhere capable of evoking strong memories for any post-meteorite dinosaur! That's mainly because I still haven't tidied following the first quarter of 2024, which has included a book launch, National Storytelling Week, and World Book Day. Plus we only recently moved into Pepys House, the former childhood residence of diarist Samuel Pepys, so there're a fair few boxes left to unpack too.

That said, I can be just at ease writing on my laptop in a train carriage, a café, a library, the corridor of a sports centre... Wherever I am when the urge to write finds me!


Pepys House, where Chip currently lives

How long have you been a SCBWI volunteer?

Since March 2023.


Describe the main tasks of your role as a SCBWI volunteer

I took over the editorship of the Opening Lines feature in Words & Pictures from Natalie Yates, who's been a tough act to follow. I then somehow found myself supporting the wonderful Rebecca Colby as co-compere for the 2023 Mass Book Launch.

Chip (left) was co-compere at SCBWI-BI Conference 2023 Mass Book Launch

Very soon, fellow SCBWI YA author Matt Killeen and I will also be releasing The Lit-Picking Podcast to champion SCBWI authors and their books – albeit by letting them get mercilessly grilled by the people who matter, ie young readers...

Do you do any other volunteering?

Part of the condition of our tenancy at Pepys House involves volunteering as a tour guide for anyone interested in exploring the heritage of the 17th century diarist. I write voluntary pieces for the National Association of Writers in Education, the Association of Christian Writers, the National Centre for Writing, and others. Occasionally I also support climate groups such as XR, Possible, and Youth Climate Solutions.


Has volunteering influenced your writing in any way?

It's all about the people. Interaction is nuclear fuel for the imagination – whether that's meeting a potential new character, finding inspiration for a plot point from a real-life situation, or just giving your brain the fun break it needs to return to writing refreshed and ready to crack that previously unpassable chapter.


How many hours per week do you spend volunteering?

I try to spend at least one day a week on voluntary work, though rarely all at once.


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

Oh, they blur all the time – especially since some of my volunteering involves writing, such as pieces for Words & Pictures or the Samuel Pepys Club magazine. But rather than set myself goals or targets, I tend to set myself 'foci'. That helps me to feel a sense of achievement based on the journey rather than the destination, which I've found gives the drive I need to get quite a fair bit done. Although not yet, alas, tidying my writing space...


Favourite children’s book?

That's quite tough to answer — from the age of six I was reading across genres and would always get most passionate about whatever I was reading at the time. But perhaps the most influential on my personal storytelling and writing journey has been The Story Giant by Brian Patten.

* Header illustration by Tita Berredo and Ell Rose
Other images courtesy of Chip Colquhoun


Ell Rose is a non-binary illustrator & animator based in Edinburgh and Illustration Features Editor for Words & Pictures. They have two cats that sometimes feature in their work in either comics or illustrations/animation. They are available for editorial, non-fiction and fiction books and commercial work as well as 2D motion graphics. Contact


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


Tita Berredo is Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Follow her on Instagram, X and or contact her at:

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