In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features Maisie Chan.

Maisie is based in Glasgow and her debut novel Danny Chung Does Not Do Maths will be out in June 2021 with Piccadilly. She has written early reader books for Hachette and Collins and a collection of fairy tales, myths and legends in Stories From Around the World for Scholastic, as well as many stories for The Big Think. She also started the group Bubble Tea Writers to support and encourage new British East and Southeast Asian writers in the UK. When Maisie isn't writing, she enjoys yoga, choosing which face mask to wear, and dreaming of the days when bookstores will be open again.


Tell us about your creative space

I now work in four different rooms in the house because of lockdown. This depends on who’s home and what we all need to do. For instance, if I’m leading a workshop and need to be near to the router I’ll use my youngest child's room. As I've become more professional and have deadlines that HAVE to be met, I can work anywhere now. I used to like working in cafes or going away to write on retreats but I don't see myself going anywhere for a while. There is a room that I can use at Peter Pan Moat Brae, the National Centre for Children's Literature and Storytelling, but sadly, I have only been there once for a weekend. I did do some work in there but would love to go again in 2021 before my Writer in Residence runs out.

If it’s term-time and the children are at school, then I will work at the large dining table where I can spread out. I like having the window in front of me with whatever natural light I can get. We live in a basement flat, but luckily it’s not too dreary. When I am desperate, I will use a small desk in my bedroom. It’s uncluttered and it’s good for drafting, but less so if I have notes I need to see. I have only started using it recently because we bought a heater and a wifi booster; before that, it was way too cold to work there. I think I will be using that space more as it's uncluttered and I can shut the world out.


The white bureau works sometimes but it's in a hallway so there are always people going in and out of the living room there. I've just added some colourful lights to it as there are no windows in that hallway and it can get very dreary.


Your creative tools - what are they? 

I have two laptops; a MAC Airbook that I use mainly for screenwriting. I have Final Draft on there, as well as Highland 2 – both are screenwriting software. I might use my MAC also for editing via One Drive. But I prefer to use my old large Lenovo laptop as it has a large screen and I am more familiar with the functionality of it. I do have Scrivener which I used to draft my first novel. But I have found that really, I mainly like to use Word. I will often use a roll of large paper to plan out my novel from beginning to end, or little index cards. I often write a to-do list out on scrap paper.


Do you have a routine? 

This varies again, depending on who is home, what I need to do and what other responsibilities I have. If the children are at school I usually work between 10-2.30pm. I sometimes hire a babysitter if I have a large project that I need to work on. That saves me from leaving the house to pick up the children. I have been known to work when I have insomnia in the early hours of the morning. And if I have a particularly stringent deadline, I’ve been known to work until 11pm. But I really try not to do that kind of work, and I hope publishers are mindful that we can't always get work back to them in a day or two. I work weekends if I need to catch up on things. During lockdown, I work weekends to take the pressure off myself during the week when I have to home school. At the moment I am not going anywhere or seeing anyone, so it doesn't feel as bad to work odd days.


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

Kit de Waal told me:

Even when you aren't writing, there is a lot of mental work being done which is part of the writing process.

I think that was really good advice. The cogs are moving even if you aren't typing out words. I think sometimes we can berate ourselves for not hitting the word count goals, but it's often those times when we aren't writing, that we get those moments of connections, when pieces of the puzzle slot into place. Sometimes you need headspace to create and we work in cycles. Sometimes we will be more prolific than at other times.


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

I would recommend you find other writers to learn from and be inspired by (writing communities and courses). Doing a course can give you some structure and I see them as investments. Even though I am a full-time writer, I still like to learn and take courses. I am doing lots of picture book courses at the moment because it's an area I want to learn more about. Also, you need to keep going even when you get knockbacks. It takes years to establish a writing career. I also like to try different forms of writing and I have found that learning about screenwriting has helped me understand narrative structure, which is helpful when writing novels.


Favourite book as a child? 

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle.


Favourite ‘how to’ book about writing? 

I recently read A Stranger's Journey: Race, Identity and Narrative Craft by David Mura and it was brilliant. It felt like it was written just for me and I read it at a time when I really needed it. It has tips on the craft but also is pertinent to writers of colour.


What about food and drink? 

Every day I start with hot water with lemon...then I might have a teapot of green tea throughout the day. I don't eat when I write.


Planner or pantser? 

I plan a little. I have an idea of who my characters are, what they want, why they can't get the thing they want, and an idea of the ending. I might write a little then plan more detailed chapters. I generally have a plan for each story I write, a main character who wants something. I would like to be a little more organised and plan out my novels in depth before I start them, but then I also like seeing where the characters will take me.


What inspired you to first start writing? 

My mum died and I wanted to write my memoir so I gained a place on the National Academy of Writers course at Birmingham City University. I didn't finish my memoir but I knew I wanted to be a writer, a professional writer who made money from writing.


Why children? 

I have written short stories and flash fiction for adults, and I have a short film that is funded by BFI and SCREEN SCOTLAND in pre-production, so I would say I am a 'storyteller' first and foremost. I love writing for children because story is a key element. I also think it's a way to make a difference in the world. I hope that children reading my stories might find out about worlds and people that perhaps they didn't know about, OR conversely, a British Chinese child might see themselves for the first time in something I have written. I didn't know I was going to be a children's author, but I did know I wanted to see my books being read in schools.


Find Maisie on Twitter @MaisieWrites, on Instagram @MaisieChanWrites or visit her website here


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

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