In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month features author Sheila M. Averbuch.


Sheila is a former journalist who’s interviewed billionaires, hackers and would-be Mars colonists. She holds a 2019 New Writers Award from the Scottish Book Trust and lives with her family near Edinburgh. Friend Me (Scholastic Press), a thriller for middle grade readers, was published in 2020. 

Tell us about your creative space

Almost by accident I discovered that I write best outside. Our garden is in pieces at the moment due to construction work, so the tiny space outside my office door, rather than my old seat up on the lawn, is my current creative space. I think I like this space even better. The enclosure of the high wall and the faint sound of the wall fountain, plus the antics of whatever birds are passing by, make me feel protected, but connected to nature.


Your creative tools - what are they and why?

I rely on my laptop but also, when revising, on my mobile phone, where I read drafts of my manuscript as a Kindle doc. The change of format and device helps me get a new perspective on the story.


Do you have a routine?

I write for three hours on weekdays and some Saturdays, always in the morning, which is my best creative energy. My original fiction routine was writing after the kids went to bed, but by 9 o’clock at night my brain wasn’t functioning for fiction. I made much more progress by switching to mornings.


Do you need particular prompts to get started?

Because I trained as a journalist and ended up working on a fast-deadline newswire, I never had any problem motivating myself to start writing when I began with fiction. That doesn’t always mean words on the page: sometimes I’m just staring, but as soon as my writing time starts, I’m writing.


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

Protect your writing time. Schedule other things around it, treating it with the same seriousness you would a full-time job that you’re committed to keeping.


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

Find a critique partner – another writer – you can trust to give you sensitive feedback and share your work with them early on in your journey. Don’t be afraid other writers are going to steal your idea. That’s not what inspires writers: they want to get their own ideas across, not take yours.


What was your favourite book as a child?

Anne of Green Gables


What is your favourite ‘how to’ book about writing and/or illustrating and why?

Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell because it was so practical and full of usable ideas. Can I choose two? Screenplay by Syd Field helped me get a handle on key turning points in a story.


Does walking or exercise help the creative process, and if so, what do you do and why? 

My current morning routine before I write is Tai Chi plus a long walk; the former makes me feel positive and energized, and the latter always helps me work out the deeper parts of characters' mindsets and motivation.


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

I use a Pomodoro 25-minute timer and find myself drifting to the kitchen for teas in the five-minute breaks, more to force myself to get up rather than because I really need the drink.


Planner or pantser?

I write loosely for three chapters, then do a synopsis, but I always have the central idea of the character and the pain and how that will connect them to the journey they’ll go on.


Why children?

I remember sitting in a chair, age 11, desperate to keep reading the book I was holding; I wanted to make modern 11-year-olds feel the same.


Learn more about Sheila and her work 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

1 comment:

  1. Caroline thanks so much for this profile! I really do write in the garden unless there's a tempest blowing.


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