IN THE SHOES OF... Tracy Darnton

What's life like in someone else's shoes? This month Françoise Price invites author Tracy Darnton to tell us about her day.


I always wake up far too early. I listen to Farming Today on Radio 4 so have a surprisingly wide knowledge of current issues in farming which has yet to come in handy.


I’m married to a keen early morning runner who brings me a cup of tea, (first of twenty zillion cups of Rooibos for the day), and breakfast in bed — yogurt, granola and blueberries.


I read the newspaper headlines first thing and work my way through The Guardian.


Tracy's day begins with a cup of tea in bed


First coffee of the day. Clear up kitchen, empty dishwasher, put washing on. I need a clear head to do any writing which means I must have cleared my immediate to-do list before I settle down. I’m big on lists.

 Tracy is a big fan of lists

I start work at the kitchen table. Emails and admin — I block these morning and late afternoon as I’m easily distracted. Author admin is huge and definitely gets in the way of gazing out of the window coming up with new ideas. Today I deal with requests for photos and bio for an upcoming festival, send invoices and sort out my train tickets for a Comic Con panel. After a couple of Tweets and Instagram posts I put my phone away. When one of your kids buys you How to Break up with your Phone you know you should cut back.


I’m moderating a panel at CrimeFest in Bristol in May so I’m working my way through the panellists’ latest novels. I read a few chapters and make notes to help me formulate questions about keeping secrets and telling lies. YA can straddle both kids and adult writing festivals and I love the variety that gives me.


It’s boot camp day so I swap my Scandi socks for tatty trainers. I’m not a gym person but I like exercising outside so the village boot camp is perfect. I’m the worst there by quite some margin but I’m hoping for the perseverance prize at the end of term.



Showered and ready to face the rest of the day. I need to make some progress on my YA thriller WIP. Aiming for 57-60,000 first draft. If I’m really going for it, like today, I set a timer and work for 40 mins on the hour then have 20 mins away from my desk. Repeat. Repeat. I have a word count list and tick off every 500 words. This part of the process is relentless hard work with moments of creativity.



Mushrooms on toast for lunch today.

Domestic drudgery.

Time for biscuits

Catch up on the news. Usually get angry. Eat a biscuit.



Very excited that I’ll do arts and crafts book events with my picture book My Brother is An Avocado. I put together a box of all the materials and my prototype avocado.

Tracy's picture book features an avocado

I get carried away and do a photoshoot with the avocado.


I should really do a stop-motion mini film — if only I knew how to do that…


Instead, I finish off a couple of blogs for An Awfully Big Blog Adventure on the similarities and differences between writing YA and picture books and the unexpected bonuses. I’m always quick on the words for these blogs, slow on taking and loading up pictures.


My lovely sister has made me a set of crocheted fruit and veg to mirror my picture book which takes literally the stages of pregnancy told in fruit and veg and poses the big questions in life like ‘Can you cuddle an avocado?’

Props for library sessions

I play around with them trialling possible library sessions with little kids. It’s a very different audience to this month’s CrimeFest and Comic Con and a little bit terrifying. I have words with myself so I don’t disappear down an avocado-shaped wormhole for the afternoon and switch back to YA.


Working in my office at my desk. I’ve had it for years and I love it — it’s glass and has a shelf underneath for any writing books. I can close the door on all the DIY and gardening jobs calling me.


Tracy's workspace


I take my knotty YA thriller plot problems on my usual walk up a hill and down again. Today is a wellies day. There’s an unbelievable amount of mud in Somerset. The beginnings of a picture book idea maybe…


 Walking helps Tracy think through plot problems


I select a chunk of WIP and tidy it up to go to my crit group. Half the group of six sends every two weeks. I also have a monthly SCBWI group where we swap 1000 words. I like to have a deadline and a bunch of writing friends who have my back.


Last look at emails. Tick off anything I’ve done on my lists. And yes, I do write things on just to tick them off.



Meet friends in Bath at the pub for a meal and then a quiz. We once scaled the dizzy heights of third place and a tenner. Sadly there are never ever any questions on kids’ books. Or farming.



I seldom read in bed. My eyes have had enough. Catching up tonight with Alistair Campbell’s and Rory Stewart’s The Rest is Politics podcast.


Feeling guilty that I haven’t made time for new ideas — again! I need to get better at compartmentalising different parts of this writing life. Tomorrow is another day.


Header: Shannon Ell & Tita Berredo

All other images courtesy of Tracy Darnton.


Tracy Darnton is the author of YA psychological thrillers Ready or Not, The Rules and The Truth About Lies which was shortlisted for the Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize and was a World Book Night title. Her first picture book My Brother is an Avocado, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail, is out with Simon & Schuster in May.

Portrait photo credit: Charlie Matters

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Françoise Price is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures magazine. Contact her at

Shannon Ell is Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Find their work at Follow them on Instagram and Twitter. Contact them at


Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact her at


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