In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features New York Times bestseller Elizabeth Wein.

Tell us about your creative space.
I actually work best when I am imprisoned somewhere, like a train or a plane or a waiting room. Fortunately or unfortunately, this doesn’t happen all that often. So on a daily basis, I move around a lot: living room, kitchen counter, study. My happiest place to work is the summerhouse, in my garden. I like working in the garden, too, when it’s warm enough.

Why does this work for you?
I don’t know why I need to move around! I am in the habit of making a note in my manuscript of where I am whenever I am writing. Here is a list of places I wrote during a single day of working on a recent project as I travelled from meeting to meeting around London:
Docklands Light Railway
District Line to Victoria Station
Gatwick Express
Civil Aviation Authority headquarters reception, Gatwick
Victoria Station concourse
Heathrow Express
Heathrow Airport, Terminal 2 departure lounge
It doesn’t seem possible even to me, but I was really focused that day, living from liminal space to liminal space, using the downtime to think of what I was going to write next and then getting the words out as soon as I was able.

Do you need particular prompts to get started?
I usually need to fool around a little – I suppose my most consistent prompt is a cup of coffee. The author J.B. Priestley called this preparation for work the “sharpening pencils” stage.

 Your creative tools - what are they?
I mostly write my first drafts longhand. The paper and writing implements depend on the book I’m working on. Some things demand to be written in fountain pen, some in pencil. My preferred pen is a black medium ballpoint, and I have a lot of very nice pens – my current favourite is made from the propeller of a Spitfire fighter plane.

Do you have a routine?
I try to write every day during normal working hours, but no, I don’t have a routine. Considering how many books I’ve published (more than ten), you’d think I’d have fallen into a routine by now, BUT NO.

What advice would you like to give to writers/illustrators who are trying to get established?
Join the SCBWI! (Seriously – I tell people this all the time!)
Get a writing buddy. Join a critique group or just have someone to work across the table from you.

Do you have a word you are dying to use in a story, but haven’t yet found room for? 
They are all weather-related words that I learned while I studied the meteorology section of my pilot’s license! Virga – rain that evaporates before it hits the ground. Petrichor – the smell of fallen rain. Anabatic winds and noctilucent clouds. Sublimation of water. I *love* these words.

Planner, pantser, or mixture of both?
Definitely a mixture – I plan, fly, and re-plan during the course of a book. I like to know the ending, but getting there is usually an adventure for me – often as much as for my characters. And usually, I don’t really know everything – or even the most important things – about my characters until I’ve been writing about them for a while.

Why writing for children?
I just write what I like to read, and I’ve always liked reading fiction aimed at young people. I guess I like the room young characters have for change and growth, which is not so true of adult characters. I started writing as a teen myself, and fell naturally into this field. I feel that I am able to take risks with my writing, and I get to share my books and my ideas with young people in schools and libraries, which I could not do as easily if I were writing for adults. It was not a conscious decision – it’s just what I do.

Caroline Deacon lives in Edinburgh and is the author of several childcare books. She now writes MG and YA and is agented by Lindsay Fraser of Fraser Ross Associates, Edinburgh. Find her on Twitter @writingdilemmas and at

The header image is by Emma Graham, a Hook finalist at the 2016 SCBWI BI conference and a finalist in The Stratford Literary Festival picture book competition 2017. Emma's first illustrated book, Symphony Hollow, was written by Jessica Reino and published by Spork. She is commissioned illustrator for The Children’s Appeal at Ipswich hospital creating illustrations for publicity, charity events and the refurbished children’s ward. 

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