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Posted by Helen, February 27, 2013

Where I work: Helen Peters

This is the first instalment in a new series of blogs that we have planned, in which some of our authors and illustrators share their favourite writing spots. First up is Helen Peters, author of The Secret Hen House Theatre, newly shortlisted for The Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.

As a full-time mum of young children, I have trained myself to write anywhere: soft play areas, park benches, tree stumps. But my favourite place to write is in my spare bedroom, when the house is empty. I love the silence and seclusion and the tranquil bareness of the room. And I love to look at the trees outside the window as they change with the seasons.

I write on a laptop but I also have three notebooks on the go all the time. The smallest is the one I take everywhere, in which I scribble random thoughts and ideas for the book and also observational notes on places, seasons and weather, which feed into the descriptions in the story.

The middle-sized notebook is where I plan out the chapter I’m working on. If the writing’s going relatively smoothly, I don’t need to use it so much. But when I’m stuck, I fill pages and pages with tortuous scribble: mind maps and lists and questions to myself that I need to answer.

The largest notebook contains the research notes and big ideas for the book: the overall plan and outline of the story and also poetry and song lyrics that capture the mood I want to create. I try to keep this notebook neat because, in those moments when it feels like the story is never going to come together, then I can at least feel slightly reassured by the fact that there is a Grand Plan. It offers a glimmer of hope that, if I just keep writing, sooner or later there will be a finished book.

You can read the first chapter of The Secret Hen House Theatre below or order the book online here.