To discover
how others are working, Loretta Flockhart speaks to writers and illustrators 
about their creative spaces, inspirations, routines and tools. 
This month, we hear from writer Luke Palmer. 

Luke Palmer is a poet and author. His debut YA novel, Grow, published by Firefly Press was long-listed for the 2022 YOTO Carnegie Medal and the 2023 UKLA Book Awards, and listed in Sunday Times Children’s Books of the Year 2021.  His most recent YA novel, Play, was published in 2023 by Firefly Press.


What’s your ideal creative space and where do you usually end up working?

Anywhere quiet. Libraries are good but I tend to do most of my work in the office in the garden. Most days it’s just bird noise and the gentle buzz of distant traffic.

Luke in his office in the garden

When do you do your best work?

I need to be alone and a bit cut off from the real world, to feel plugged in, but on the outside of it. It’s about finding the perfect place to observe the world from a distance.


Where do your ideas come from?

My ideas tend to arrive in moments of introspection and reflection. They creep up on me most often when I’m in motion – walking, cycling, on a train or while driving. They need to be left alone for a bit, not scared away. I let them come back to me and get used to me, like feeding a stray cat.

What are your favourite tools for writing?

For poetry it’s pen and paper – a Mitsubishi Uniball eye micro pen. I have drawers full, in case they get discontinued; and some good, heavy weight Italian paper. I use Papuro Milano notebooks for most of my work.


Papuro Milano notebooks and Mitsubishi pens

I also use my phone’s notes app but there’s something about writing longhand that I still find vital. To poetry especially, it’s a physical act and the movement is essential for freeing something in your mind. Poems stay in the notebook for several drafts and don’t get typed up until I’m sure they’re nearly done.


Prose is different. Ideas or rough sketches go in the notebook – a new one for each book – but once the foundations are down, I go straight onto the laptop. The notebook is usually abandoned once I’m ‘above ground’ and the book has its own momentum.

What encourages or hinders your work?

I find it hard to write with music playing because it infects the music of the writing. Sound is an important quality in whatever I’m working on. I’ve tried noise-cancelling headphones which are great for editing, but it can feel like I’m underwater and too artificial for the creating part of the work.


Luke writing in his notebook 

How far into a new project do you feel comfortable sharing your ideas?


Quite a long way, actually. Because I write character based books, I’m living with those characters in my head for a while before I tell anyone about them. I need to work out who they are, what kind of story they want to be in, and what ideas I could explore within it. I need to explain these things to myself before I can share them. I have to let most of the story reveal itself before I can do that.


I talk to my characters to share my ideas and ask them what they’d think if… or what they’d do if…. Sometimes it’s a hard no, but most of the time they’re willing to see where things end up. There’s always the delete button if you wind up somewhere you don’t want to be.


Luke's books, Grow and Play  

Do you work in the same way for each project?

I wrote Grow in a very different way to Play, and the third book was different again. Grow was exploratory. I knew the character and where they needed to get to, but the journey wasn’t planned at all. Play took a long time to settle into its form. Its narrative structure demanded more planning early on.


The third book tumbled out in just a few months almost fully formed. I’m not sure I’ve settled on one formula yet, or if I want to. I want to keep pushing myself to write differently, to try new things.


Has the way you create changed over time or is it the same as its always been?

As father to three young children, my available time has changed. Alongside my teaching job, I have two days each week dedicated to writing. Before the kids, when I worked full time, I used to joke that I wrote poems because anything longer would never happen.


Raymond Carver talks about the same thing in his essays. The novel is an unattainable pipe dream for someone working a 50+ hour week with a family on top. So it was poetry, writing in spurts or in snatched minutes, before I began to carve out time for longer forms.


Have you surprised yourself about the way your creativity flows?

I’ve learned how to better cope with not writing. There’s people who apply the write every day habit - that any words are better than none because it provides raw material - and those who don’t think like that.


So maybe it’s not the words, but life that’s the raw material. If your life isn’t producing that urge to put one word after another, I don’t think you should force it. I’ve learned to trust that the urge will come back when it’s ready.


What’s your one essential piece of advice for others?

Get used to sharing your work. Put it out there early. I’m not saying publish it before it’s ready but find people to share with. And not just those who’ll say it’s good. Find people who get what you’re trying to do, and will offer you suggestions about how to do it better. People who energise your writing are vital. They will energise you and push you forward. Being that catalyst for someone else’s writing is hugely rewarding, especially when they go on to succeed. Writing’s a more collaborative process than most people think. Find your collaborators.

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo

**All other images courtesy of Luke Palmer 


You can find Luke on Twitter @lcpalmerpoet. Luke's website is


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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