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 author Sophie Anderson.

Sophie Anderson was born in Swansea, and now lives in the Lake District with her family. Her writing is most often inspired by folk and fairy stories, especially the Slavic tales her Prussian grandmother told her when she was young. 

Across her bestselling novels, Sophie has won the Independent Bookshop Book of the Year Award and the Wales Book of the Year Award, and has been shortlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal twice, the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize, the Blue Peter Book Award, the British Book Awards’ Children’s Fiction Book of the Year, the Andersen Prize, and the Branford Boase Award.

Sophie’s books have been translated into over 25 languages, and The House with Chicken Legs has been adapted for stage by Les Enfants Terribles. Sophie is represented by Gemma Cooper of The Bent Agency.

The Snow Girl, Sophie's latest book

Tell us about your creative space


I have a corner of a shared room, with a small desk for my laptop and a little storage trolley for my papers and notebooks. Most of my work happens there, but I do tend to carry a notebook around so I can write bits and bobs anywhere, and I frequently migrate to the floor so I can spread my paper out.


Sophie in her creative space

What are your creative tools?


I use notebooks, or the back of receipts, for on-the-go-writing. Long rolls of brown packaging paper for messy plotting and A4 pads for first drafts. 

For highlighting or organising thoughts, I like ordinary grey pencils, although I sometimes use coloured ones. For later drafts, when my ideas feel more certain, I sometimes use blue, inky pens. For typing up my scribbles, and all the editing, I use Word on my laptop. I tried Scrivener once, but was too lazy to learn all the features, and Word really has all I need.


Do you have a routine?

Most mornings, I do at least an hour and – if possible – that will extend towards lunchtime. After that, my writing will fit around family commitments. As deadlines approach, I find myself working more and more hours which is not ideal but I’ve learned to embrace it. Writing a book, for me, seems to come in waves, with ebbs and flows.


Any particular prompts to get started?

I do prefer quiet, but as I live in a busy home, this is tricky! I sometimes put on headphones (with nothing playing through them) to dampen the noise, and if I still struggle to concentrate I’ve learned it’s best to just take a break instead.


Sophie's bestselling books

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

My agent told me to ask four key questions about my stories, and try to answer each one with a simple, clear sentence. Who is Your MC? What do they want? What is stopping them from getting what they want? What will happen if they don’t get what they want? I still do this with all my story ideas today.


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

Practice, Perseverance, Persistence. And enjoy the Process.


What was your favourite book as a child?


The Moomins books by Tove Jansson. I have always loved their mix of beauty, whimsy and philosophy, and I gain something new on each re-read. I have the lovely Sort of Books editions on my bookshelf.


What is your favourite ‘how to’ book about writing?


Early in my career, my agent recommended Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder, a book about screenwriting, to help with plotting. I still refer to it frequently, and use the ideas about plot points and beat sheets – although in a slightly more flexible way than Snyder suggests. I also love The Writing Life by Annie Dillard, which is less of a how-to book and more of a comfort blanket.


Poster for The House with Chicken Legs theatre production 

Does exercise help your creative process?

Oh, definitely! A long walk outdoors can refill the creative well like nothing else, and rock your subconscious into untangling all kinds of problems.


Planner or a pantser? Or a bit of both?

I used to say pantser but these days I’m inclined to think we all do both. Maybe it’s just that a pantser’s first draft is a long-winded form of planning.


What inspired you to first start writing?

I’ve always loved writing for myself, especially little poems to express and explore my emotions and make sense of the world. But it wasn’t until I took some time off my career in science during my 30s to have children, that I began to really dedicate hours every day to writing. At first, I wrote stories for myself and my children to enjoy, but as my passion and dedication grew I began to look outward, to wonder if I might one day be published and reach a wider audience. 

It took me 10 years, and many unpublished books, before I found my wonderful agent and publisher.


And why for children?

I believe writing for children is the highest honour and privilege. The books we fall in love with as children become part of us – they shape us, comfort us, guide us in a million ways. They can make children’s lives bigger and brighter, and ultimately make the world a better place.

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo.

**All other images courtesy of Sophie Anderson.


You can contact Sophie Anderson via her website (, Twitter (@sophieinspace) and Instagram (sophieandersonauthor).


Loretta Flockhart is the Creative Secrets editor for Words & PicturesYou can find her on Twitter @lolajflo

Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact them at

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

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