In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features Patrice Lawrence, award-winning writer of stories for children and young people. 

Patrice's YA debut, Orangeboy, was shortlisted for the Costa Children's Book Award, won the Bookseller YA Prize and Waterstones Prize for Older Children's Fiction and has been shortlisted for many regional awards. Indigo Donut, published in July 2017, was Book of the Week in the The Times, Sunday Times and Observer and one of The Times top children's books in 2017. Both books were nominated for the Carnegie Award.

Tell us about your creative space

I've recently moved, so for the first time I'm living alone. It's a one-bedroom flat with high ceilings and a massive window with a view over the park to the sea. It's east-facing so the sun floods in first thing in the morning. I mean really floods. It can be positively searing (there are no curtains as it's high up on the first floor on a steep hill)! I start off in bed with a notebook and pencil, free-writing ideas for my next book and, when there's no longer any chance of being cooked on high, I move into the main room. There's a big table and I either face the kitchen area and stare at the cookie cupboard or the blank wall above the wood burner. My pictures have not reached me as yet.

I can work in most places. Most of Indigo Donut was edited on buses to and from work, Rose, Interrupted on the southbound London Overground. Before I moved, I mostly worked in a spare room used as an office.

How well does this place work for you?

I'm not sure that it does. I'm sitting on a kitchen chair that is doing nothing to help my already appalling posture. But I do like being in my own space where I can wear a t-shirt and PJ bottoms and snaffle ginger biscuits without shame. It's also lovely to have all my books on shelves and easily accessible for research. I am planning to take my notebook down to the beach to take notes at some point. The wind's been up so I probably need a giant pebble to weigh it down.

Do you need particular prompts to get started?

I stole my daughter's scent diffuser so have some frankincense wafting about. I usually have the radio on - a combo of BBC Radio London (as I'm in denial about not being London-based anymore), Radio 2 and 6 Music. Later in the afternoon, I might graduate to my Spotify playlist, either Korean indie or South American instrumental jazz inspired by the brilliant Roberto Fonseca.

Your creative tools - what are they?

Numerous notebooks that I forget to label. A variety of pens. A variety of pencils that remain deeply unhappy about my inadequate pencil sharpener. A very old Toshiba laptop the size and weight of cattle scales. 

Do you have a routine?

Nope, especially since the pandemic and lockdown. Days collapse into each other, though somehow I never forget breakfast. I even listen to the radio on playback so time is warped. I am creatively sharper in the mornings so use that time to free-write new material. Afternoons are editing and emails. Social media threaded through. When I say threaded, I mean bannered, a very long wide banner on a constant loop that wraps itself around everything I try to do.

What is the best creative advice you’ve been given?

"Have you thought about first-person?" Advice from Jenny Downham, feeding back on an early draft of Orangeboy. It was originally in third-person and I couldn't make the voice work. Originally Marlon sounded too feminine. By changing to a close, first-person point of view, I grew much closer to him and could almost see through his eyes. It also made me think of his voice - the feel of it coming out of his throat, the words he'd say and how he'd say them.

What advice would you like to give to writers who are trying to get established?

Firstly, some people worry about being too old. Orangeboy was published when I was in my late 40s. If you'd have asked me when I was in my 20s if I wanted to be published, I would have screamed 'yes'. But, actually, a whole wealth of transferable skills have helped me sustain my career so far. As well as a pretty wide well of experiences to draw from, which enables me to write for all ages, I know how to create and deliver workshops, write and perform keynote talks, mentor and critique - as well as having a sideline in commentating on Radio 4.

Have a social media presence, simply so you can follow the industry - agents describing what they're looking for and how to submit, competitions, other writers describing their experiences, good and bad. Know what you're getting into before you do.

If you can, join a critique group. I've been a member of mine for around 15 years. The advice and support of members has enabled my work to improve to the point of making it publishable. We support each other through success and rejection!

Favourite ‘how to’ book about writing?

Stephen King's On Writing. I've always admired his productivity and his ability to take a strong concept and keep me caring through hundreds of pages. Also, the bit about the ear injection - damn! I read it to my daughter when she was seven. Maybe, not my best parenting moment.

Does walking or exercise help the creative process?

I head out for a walk by the beach. I love it when it's windy. It blows away stale thoughts. It's also a change of scenery, essential when I work in the main room of my flat.

What about food and drink - what must you have at hand in order to be able to create?

A cuppa first thing, then everything else is up for grabs. I sometimes brew up a coffee but I can actually feel my heart speed when I drink it, which can be a little distracting. A copious supply of Jacob's orange Club biscuits is beneficial.

Planner or pantser?

Both. I create my characters and think about a) what they want, b) what they fear and ) what's precious to them. I scrawl various mindmaps to generate ideas and lists of 'What Ifs'. I like to have an idea of the resolution in the early stages, then play with ways to get there. I am a great fan of getting someone to give you prompts. My writing group is great with that! They often take me in unexpected but satisfying directions.

If you want to know more about Patrice, read this piece she wrote for Luna's Little Library Diversity Month I am a writer with privilege, explore her blog The Lawrence Line or connect with her on Twitter.

All photos courtesy of Patrice Lawrence

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 and at


The header image is by W&P Illustration Features Editor John Shelley. Find him at

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