For a peek into how others are working, Loretta Flockhart invites writers and illustrators to reveal a few secrets about their creative spaces, processes and tools. This month we hear from writer Serena Patel.

Serena Patel is the author of the Anisha, Accidental Detective series which won the Sainsbury's Children's Book Award for Fiction. She lives in the West Midlands with her family and believes all children deserve to feel seen in the stories they read and that books are an important tool for empathy. When she's not writing Serena enjoys watching movies, reading and eating cake. Chocolate cake preferred.

Tell us about your creative space

We moved house last year so I’m still finding my ideal place to work. In our old house because we had very little space, I worked on the sofa and then for a while I had a little desk alongside my children’s toys and books, all our coats, shoes and general dumping ground of all the other household stuff. It was cosy if nothing else!

Actually, most of the Anisha series has been written in all sorts of places. In the car, at my children's activities, on trips away in small pockets of free time. In this house I mostly work at the dining table but also hoping to carve out a little nook for a desk that is just mine at some point in the near future! 


Serena in her creative space

What are your creative tools?


A Pilot G-2 07 ballpoint pen, paper to sketch out a story plan, post it notes and my laptop.

Anisha Accidental Detective series, by Serena Patel

Do you have a routine?


I don’t write every day because sometimes I’m out on events and sometimes life stuff takes over but I’m hardly ever off deadline so full days or weeks off have been rare in recent years. When deadline is approaching, I will write at least 1000-2000 words a day. I find that my ADHD brain works best in the morning or late at night and in short bursts. I’m easily distracted!


Do you need any prompts to get started?


I quite like working with the radio on in the background, I know some people find this difficult but it weirdly helps me.


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


Go easy on yourself and also don’t compare your journey/achievements to the highlight reel on Twitter/Facebook/Instagram.


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


Keep going. Rejection is part of the journey and doesn’t stop even after publication but someone somewhere is going to love your writing.


Creative tools: a notebook and pen

What was your favourite book as a child?


I loved Alice in Wonderland, I think because it was pure escapism. I still have my hardback illustrated edition that I treasured.


Does exercise help your creative process?


I definitely need to exercise more and when I do, it absolutely helps me to feel more focused. Walking is great I think because it allows my brain to just breathe.


Any food or drink to help you create?




Planner or a pantser, or a mixture of both?


I need a plan. It gives me something to work to and keeps me in line! The plan can change along the way if it needs to but I need a structure and to be able to see the end point.


What inspired you to first start writing?


I loved books from an early age, they held my hand throughout my life, seeing me through difficult times and opening up my world when it felt impossibly small. I wanted to create books that might do that for others and also to create stories that children could see themselves in. 

I also believe strongly in the power of children seeing someone who is different to them as the hero of the story. Growing up, I also thought that being a children’s author was one of the coolest jobs in the world. Now I am one, I feel like I was right.


And why for children?


Children’s books are so important, I feel like they are THE most important books we ever read. They stay with us, they can help shape our view of the world. We learn so much through reading. It’s a huge privilege to write for children and I’ll never take that for granted.


At what stage of the creative process do you feel most / least, inspired?


Starting a new book is always really exciting but also very hard. I’ve been working on something new and inspiration has been really difficult at times. But equally working on the second draft of a book can be really draining and usually the point I feel least creative. 

The taking apart and putting back together of a story requires skill and determination. So, basically I struggle at every stage but I have amazing editors who guide me with wisdom and care and we get there in the end!



*Header image: In-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo
*All other images courtesy of Serena Patel

You can find Serena here:

Twitter @SerenaKPatel

Loretta Flockhart is the Creative Secrets editor, and features editor, for Words & Pictures

Twitter @lolajflo


Ell Rose
 is the 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 the Art Director of Words & Pictures. She has a Master's degree in Children's Literature and Illustration from Goldsmiths UOL and a background in marketing and publicity.   

Follow her on Instagram and Twitter or 

Contact her at:

No comments:

We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.