In search of inspiration, Caroline Deacon invites established writers and illustrators to tell us about their creative space. This month she talks to Morag Hood.

Author and Illustrator Morag Hood

Morag Hood writes and illustrates picture books and is published by Two Hoots and Simon & Schuster. Her award-winning, colourful and humorous books have been translated into several languages and distributed by Scottish Book Trust to thousands of pupils in Scotland. She loves playing with the relationship between text and image to create unexpected and funny results. Her most recent books, Spaghetti Hunters and Teapot Trouble, feature Duck and Tiny Horse and their very silly adventures together.


Tell us about your creative space.

I have a little home studio, which I keep trying to fit more and more things inside! This is where I do all of my artwork and admin, and also some of my writing. When I’m searching for ideas I often find it easier to be out and about – cafés in particular are the best for when I’m bouncing an idea around my head. I also sometimes work at our dining table when I'm roughing things out. A little change of scene seems to give me a new burst of energy (and it's also nearer to the kettle!)

Your creative tools - what are they?

I love a sketchbook and mechanical pencil for initial ideas, sketches and roughs. When it comes to artwork, I most often use a combination of lino printing, collage and gouache paint. More recently, I've been working on each element by hand, but then use Photoshop to combine, and also sometimes colour, digitally. This gives me a nice mix in terms of ways of working, which helps to keep everything feeling fresh.


Do you have a routine?

My routine is largely dictated by nursery days for my son, so I have three full days a week and then little snippets of other time here and there. I start the day by dropping him off which gives me a walk and a good blast of Edinburgh wind! The work day itself varies a lot depending on what stage of a project I am in.


Do you need particular prompts to get started?

At the moment I’m fully immersed in some final artwork, which is a lot of fun, and I’m able to do this consistently for hours at a time. At other points in a project, though, I need to break up the day into little tasks and changes of scene in order to keep the momentum going. For example, if I’m in the early stages, it can take an embarrassingly long time to settle down to some actual work… but I always like to think that my brain has been working on it all along! Going to a café usually gives me the push to do a short burst of really concentrated idea generation. When it comes to emails and admin, I have to write myself an overly-detailed list, so the satisfaction of ticking things off can force me to get them done, rather than just procrastinating indefinitely. I try and write my list the night before so that I can hit the ground running the next day.

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

Play! It's also the hardest creative advice to stick to. I find it difficult to get the balance between keeping things light and playful, while also pushing myself to work when I just don’t feel in the mood or when there's a deadline looming. But it's this advice which has meant that I take better care of myself and try to get out for walks etc so that I don’t get too bogged down.


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

It’s kind of the same advice but... really try to enjoy the process. I'm always so keen to get to the end point and to have a complete project or idea, but I think the best work has actually been given plenty of time to percolate and be explored before coming to any kind of resolution.


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

I think a walk is a great time to think, or even better, a walk and a talk. I love talking through an idea on a walk as, somehow my mind wanders in a different way, which is really helpful. And it's also good for the soul in general. 

What must you have at hand in order to be able to create?

Tea is essential. And a biscuit to help conquer the mid-afternoon slump. The prospect of tea or an extra nice lunch is a powerful motivational tool!


What image are you dying to use, but haven’t yet found room for?

I have some zebras who keep popping up in my sketchbooks. I think they would be so fun to have in a book and bring a great graphic quality… I just haven’t found the right story for them yet.


What inspired you to first start writing/illustrating?

It had always been a bit of a secret dream, but one I thought was impossible. I’ve always been creative, but, working on developing books, was the first thing I found where I enjoyed the entire process and found it really satisfying. It’s hard work too, of course, but I love working on an idea to make it as strong as possible.


And why children?

Because children’s books are the most fun! I always think it’s a shame that most adults ‘grow out’ of picture books because there’s a lot to be gained by reading them. I think I am quite in touch with my inner four-year-old and really enjoy getting to be silly in my work. The picture book format seems to suit my way of thinking but I would love to write something aimed at older children one day too.


What question do you most like being asked about your work?

I love it when a child asks about what happens after the book has finished – that the world has become real enough to them that there is an answer. It's my favourite question, but also the one I always turn back on them to find out what they think! So perhaps I like it because I don’t have to answer it…

*Header from Brenda is a Sheep by Morag Hood. 

All photos courtesy of Morag Hood


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

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