Writers' writing sheds

Published on: 25 Hydref 2016

Take a look inside the writing quarters of top children's authors and illustrators...

To mark Cressida Cowell's recent vlog about her writing shed, we thought we'd ask other great writers and illustrators to see inside their sheds. The likes of Liz Pichon, David Solomans, Abie Longstaff and a host of others show off their sheds, offices, and in one instance, a cemetery.

Peruse the wonders of the selected writing spaces and let us know on Twitter if you have your own personal writing area.

Pete Kalu, author of Zombie XI

Pete Kalu's writing shed

'I say "my"; it was built for my daughter - but she grew out of it. It has an asymmetrical, cantilevered steel frame, plywood sides, perspex windows and moves in the wind. I like to sit there and listen to the tree, feel its lunges when the wind grabs it, scent the pine, allow aspects of plot, atmosphere and character to trickle through. There's something liberating about sitting in a tree, humans were meant to live high up!'

Gill Lewis, author of Gorilla Dawn

Gill Lewis's writing shed

'My arboreal retreat and refuge: no wifi, no phone, no doorbell. Just me, my laptop, my coffee and the company of birds, squirrels and a few large hairy spiders!'

David Solomons, author of My Brother is a Superhero

David Solomons' writing shed

'Some writers will tell you that working in a room with a view is a very bad idea. How can you possibly concentrate with herds of wildebeest sweeping majestically outside your window? While I am sympathetic, I confess that I've always craved a glassy, airy, minimalist space with the kind of view to get an estate agent thumbing frantically through his thesaurus. Since our children came along, the minimalist bit has taken a battering, but I'm not complaining. In My Brother is a Superhero, the narrator, Luke, regards his tree house as his sanctuary. This is mine.'

Liz Pichon, author of Tom Gates

Liz Pichon's writing shed

'My shed can be a small haven of warmth and quiet to escape to. It's often warmer than the house, but right now it could do with a good sort-out. Every time I start a new book I tidy up, which is very satisfying, and then gradually as my deadline looms I end up working in about two square centimetres of clear space.

'I surround myself with coffee cups and paper, and the whole shed starts to resemble one of those programmes about people who hoard as it disappears under a huge pile of stuff. I had fox cubs living underneath it in the spring. They were very cute and I loved watching them play - right up until they started to chew holes in everything and wanted to come inside.

'They did visit a couple of times, but not for long, and if they were still here I'm not sure I'd get any work done at all.'

Liz Pichon's latest book, Tom Gates: DogZombies Rule (for now), is out now, published by Scholastic.

Abie Longstaff, author of Fairytale Hairdresser

Abie Longstaff

'For me, writing in my hut provides a way to escape from reality. In the house there's always a pile of washing up to do, or post to open. But I can go into the garden, shut the door to my wooden hut and pretend none of that boring stuff exists. I have lots of fairy tale and fantastical things to look at on my walls and shelves, and a pond outside to gaze into. It really is my own magical world.'

Mimi Thebo, author of Dreaming the Bear

Mimi Thebo's writing shed

'I started writing in my shed in desperation. No matter what room I picked in the house, the family seemed to need to be there in the mornings. Once I'd discussed lost-hockey-socks and not-to-forget-to-ring-the-bank, the magic would fade and the writing would stop for the day. There has been so much magic in my shed that now I look forward to going in there... it's insulated and it smells nice and it's completely my own. I love my little shed.'

Jackie Morris, author of Tell Me A Dragon

Jackie Morris writes outside

'I paint in my studio but I write outside, every word drawn out with pen. I follow ancient paths to the hill above my house and like many writers I find that the rhythm of walking helps the words sit in my mind. I need to be out in the wild, away from the domestic world. Here I find the pathways of stories.

'I do have company, always, of the best kind, either hound or cat, and always the birds. I chase words, the creatures watch the world turn.'

Amy Alward, author of The Potion Diaries

Amy Alward on a boat

'Because I spend a lot of time travelling, I steal moments to write wherever I can - whether that's in a coffee shop in Buenos Aires or a boat in the Galapagos. As long as I have my laptop (or a notepad and pen), I'm good to go whenever inspiration strikes.'

Abi Elphinstone, author of The Shadow Keeper

Abi Elphinstone's writing shed

'My favourite place to write is inside my shed at the bottom of the garden. The bookshelf is crammed full of books I love as well as dozens of unusual objects that have inspired my stories: arrows fletched with buzzard feathers, old keys, flowers carved from hawthorn.

'The walls are covered in maps I've drawn to chart character journeys, as well as pages I've torn out of magazines that show unusual settings or interesting tribes that I have an inkling I'll write about in the future. And there is an armchair which I sit in when I'm trying to come up with a particularly complicated plot. There is no internet in my shed, and the mobile reception is dodgy, but I like it that way - because my writing is at its best when I'm quiet and still. It's then that the characters and plots come alive.'

Cece Bell, author of El Deafo

Cece Bell's writing shed

'I work in this awesome barn that is right next door to my house. There's no running water so I have to run (quickly!) back next door to use the loo, but otherwise, it's perfect.

'I am able to focus in this space because there are no dishes in the sink or dirty clothes on the floor staring at me, demanding that I deal with them. The view of the mountains and the river and the train and the neighbor's chickens through my windows keeps me grounded when I get strung out over a deadline. My studio is a "no boys allowed" space - even though I am crazy about my family, I love that this space belongs to me alone, with art supplies inside that no one but me can touch or use. (I'm starting to sound a little bit greedy!)

'There's nothing better than being able to walk out the front door, take ten steps to the left, and be inside this space that enables me to have so many adventures with words and pictures.'

Eugene Lambert, author of The Sign of One

Eugene Lambert's cabin

'I write in a cabin at the bottom of my garden. It can get a bit chilly over the winter but I have a wood burner in there which makes it toasty after a while. The lamppost is a nod to The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe!'

Jo Franklin, author of Help! I'm an Alien

Jo Franklin in Nunhead Cemetery

'I love to write in Nunhead Cemetery. It's a wilderness paradise not far from my home in SE London. I walk my dog here regularly and because he has a bad habit of going on lengthy adventures in the undergrowth, I bring my notebook with me so that I can make use of the time. I don't find writing amongst the decaying tombstones spooky or ghoulish, but I wouldn't want to be locked in at night! Inevitably spending time in such an evocative place has an effect on my writing. The book I'm currently writing opens with a scene at the cemetery gates.'

Sophia Bennett, author of Love Song

Sophia Bennett's writing shed

'I have a shed at the bottom of my garden. Though I have to share it with all our painting tools, the boxes of bubble wrap, broken tennis raquets and unwanted, old computers, it is still my favourite refuge. I love my ten-second walk to work across the lawn, laptop tucked under one arm and a cup of tea in the other. I love the way the door opens with a bang at school pickup time, when my 10 year-old bursts in with his news.

'I also love it that when I really need to concentrate I can close the door and lose myself in what I'm writing. I've written five or six of my books here now, and the walls seem imbued with each of them. Though it occasionally smells of grass clippings (I also share it with the lawnmower) I wouldn't change it for anything.'

Natasha Carthew, author of The Light That Gets Lost

Natasha Carthew's writing shed

'I have written all my books outside in a three sided "cabin" that I built myself out of scrap wood. I am known as an outdoor writer and I run Wild Writing Workshops that help other writers to find the freedom and inspiration from the great outdoors.

'Most people think I am mad but to be able to really feel the elements the way my characters do is very important to me.'

Claire Barker, author of Knitbone Pepper

Claire Barker's writing shed

'I recently bought a shepherd's hut as an office and writing base. It's got a little stove and looks out over fields and woods. It's a slice of heaven in Devon.'

Jeremy Strong, author of Beware! Killer Tomatoes

Jeremy Strong's writing shed

'I treasure my shed. It's a home from home. It's warm, comfortable and above all, quiet. I have my fridge and some chocolate and fruit. Most importantly I can sit here all day and dream, undisturbed. At least 25 of my stories have been written in this wonderful hideaway.'

Neal Layton, illustrator of the Emily Brown books

Neal Layton's writing shed

'My studio is in the back bedroom of our house. With two young daughters I needed a separate space, but working from home also means I'm never far from family life, which is something that's very important to me. When the door to my studio is shut, my daughters know, "Shhh, Dad's working...!", but latterly as they have grown up a bit, they occasionally come in to draw alongside me on the floor. My wife is also an artist and she has a work station beside mine, so sometimes the room has more of a shared studio feel about it, which is nice.

'The walls of the room are covered with pictures, notes and anything else that I find inspiring so the whole room looks really busy. I find this helps get my mind whirring, and ideas to flow. Although it might look quite messy, it's actually quite well organised so I know where everything is!'

Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train Your Dragon

Cressida Cowell's writing shed

'My own shed is an island, a crucial 15-second walk that takes me from home to work. The shed is deliberately buried in green, with trees and vegetation climbing all around it. It is a TARDIS, a refuge, a dream-space. It could be anywhere. It might be anything.'

Viviane Schwarz, illustrator of I Am Henry Finch

Viviane Schwarz's park

'I like to work in the park behind my house, in a tent when possible. I've always been happiest in tents, especially when it rains.

'Sometimes I just put a folding chair and table out under my favourite tree. Other days I go to a cafe to write, because it's helpful to be given hot drinks by a friendly person while writing.

'I like to declare office somewhere, spread out my work stuff and take a picture as a way of saying "hello" to my virtual studio colleagues on Instagram - it's a friendly freelance ritual.'

See where your favourite authors write and illustrate books

Play
Pete Kalu, author Zombie XI
Gill Lewis, author of Gorilla Dawn
David Solomons, author of My Brother is a Super Hero
Liz Pichon, author of The Tom Gates books
Abie Longstaff, author of Fairytale Hairdresser
Mimi Thebo, author of Dreaming the Bear
Jackie Morris, author of Tell Me a Dragon
Amy Alward, author of The Potion Diaries
Abi Elphinstone, author of The Shadow Keeper
Cece Bell, author of El Deafo
Eugene Lambert, author of The Sign of One
Jo Franklin writes outside
Sophia Bennett, author of Love Song
Natasha Carthew, author of The Light That Gets Lost
Neal Layton, illustrator of the Emily Brown books
Joanne Harris
Claire Barker, author of Knitbone Pepper
Jeremy Strong, author of Beware! Killer Tomatoes
Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train Your Dragon
Viviane Schwarz, illustrator of I Am Henry Finch
Pete Kalu, author Zombie XI

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Gill Lewis, author of Gorilla Dawn

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David Solomons, author of My Brother is a Super Hero

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Liz Pichon, author of The Tom Gates books

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Abie Longstaff, author of Fairytale Hairdresser

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Mimi Thebo, author of Dreaming the Bear

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Jackie Morris, author of Tell Me a Dragon

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Amy Alward, author of The Potion Diaries

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Abi Elphinstone, author of The Shadow Keeper

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Cece Bell, author of El Deafo

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Eugene Lambert, author of The Sign of One

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Jo Franklin writes outside

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Sophia Bennett, author of Love Song

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Natasha Carthew, author of The Light That Gets Lost

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Neal Layton, illustrator of the Emily Brown books

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Joanne Harris

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Claire Barker, author of Knitbone Pepper

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Jeremy Strong, author of Beware! Killer Tomatoes

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Cressida Cowell, author of How to Train Your Dragon

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Viviane Schwarz, illustrator of I Am Henry Finch

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