Monday, 8 June 2020


I’ve been thinking a lot about dens lately. Mostly because, what with the lockdown the way it is, we have one in almost every corner of the house. In the garden, too! But also because my latest book ‘The Perfect Shelter,’ illustrated by debut talent Asa Gilland and published by Little Tiger Press, features one of the most BEAUTIFUL dens I’ve ever seen! 

Illustrated by Asa Gilland and published by Little Tiger Press, 'The Perfect Shelter' is about ‘homes from homes’ and about seeking ‘shelter’ in difficult times. 

Dens have been on my children’s minds, too. 

Can you come in my den?’

‘Can we eat in our den?’

‘Can we sleep in our den?!’

But the question that prompted this post was…

Why don’t adults make dens?’

That got me wondering, when did I stop making dens? I know I loved making them as a child. Had I lost my sense of adventure in adulthood? That’s when it struck me…

...I do still love dens! Not necessarily behind the sofa or under the kitchen table anymore, but as an adult and writer I still need a place to escape to. A place that’s comfortable and equipped and allows me to immerse myself in creativity and the wonderful world of stories. 

And I am not alone. I invited the Picture Book Denners to share a little bit about their creative places. This is what they had to say; 

NATASCHA BIEBOW: When it's my turn, I am lucky to write and edit at this lovely desk in the shed overlooking our garden. The pine wood is calming, and handy on the bookshelf, I can keep mentor picture books, books I've recently edited, notebooks and folders for keeping organized, and of course crayons for doodling!

LYNNE GARNER: As you can see I’m tucked away in a corner, kept company by RAF Teddy. My other half bought him from a stall which was raising money for the local air cadets. A reminder of my late father who did his National service in the RAF. My desk lifts up when I need to so I can work standing up. The large screen is useful when I’m researching for any non-fiction I’m working on. So I can just touch type and read the screen.

GARETH JONES: This is my desk in my backroom where I sometimes write. On the wall are notes and diagrams of work in progress. Behind me are all the music instruments I play when I'm thinking about what to write next. I write in other places too. I've always enjoyed going out and finding places to write on buses and in cafes but that's not really an option right now so I find other spaces in my house as I find physical movement helps me create.

LUCY ROWLAND: I love that my desk looks out over the farm and I can see the cows and calves. It feels like a very calm, baby-free space up there! The notice board has some (rather dried out) cacti, some post cards from illustrators and a piece of art work from Mark Chambers from our ‘Pirate Pete and his Smelly Feet’ book. There is also a photo of my Gran when she was young. The framed pictures are by Natasha Rimmington from our ‘Gecko’s Echo’ book and Laura Hughes from our first book ‘The Birthday Invitation.’

GARRY PARSONS: I work from home and use the biggest room in the house to illustrate in. It’s bright, quiet and overlooks the trees of Nunhead cemetery. I have enough room to spread my work out across the desks in the middle or space for the kids to draw or do their school work, so during lockdown it’s been busy. It’s quite cluttered but it’s ordered and everything I need is to hand.

JANE CLARKE: I'm lucky to have plenty of room. Currently, the most important things are my granddaughter's art work and the yoga mat on the floor in the foreground for Zoom yoga sessions. The 'don't panic' sign is always a good reminder :-)

CHITRA SOUNDAR: I moved the armchair sofa from living room to study during quarantine so I can read and write here and my desk stand allows me to stand while writing and editing. 

My own creative den is rather more temporary and portable at the moment. Sometimes on the sofa, in the garden or on my bed! Being a Mum and fulltime primary school teacher means that I have learned to work pretty much anywhere. Even traffic jams! But given the choice, my dens are always flexible, comfortable and relaxing. I like to have a blanket and to put my feet up… anything that tricks my brain into thinking I’m not actually working! Nature, as well as music, helps to transport me into a sort of meditative, mindful state where I can immerse myself in my imagination. 



My husband is building his own den… but he’s agreed to let me commandeer a small corner! I do wonder whether I’ll find it too much ‘pressure’ to write at a desk, but it will be nice to have a place to keep my things and a more permanent writing space.

Both on a physical and emotional level, dens offer us protection, a place to call our own, and escape from the outside word. We all want, even need, a little place to escape, to recharge, to feel inspired, but just like us, those places are all different and varied. 

Now my children ask; 

'Can we come in the grown ups den when it's finished?'

We'll have to see about that! 

Now it’s over to you! 

Do you have a den? What is it like? Is it permanent ? Temporary? What’s inside? And what do you use it for?

We look forward to hearing about them!

Clare is the author of fiction and non-fiction picture books and early readers. She is passionate about using creativity and the arts to promote a love of learning and emotional well-being. Her newest book, with Asa Gilland and Little Tiger Press, is about her personal exeprience with cancer and about seeking ‘shelter’ in difficult times. 

‘The Perfect Shelter’ publishes on 25th June and can be pre-ordered here:

Clare is represented by Alice Williams of Alice Williams Literary.

No comments: