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Author Archives: auntyemily

About auntyemily

Screenwriter (CBeebies), science communicator, storyteller, author, podcaster and poet. @auntyemily on twitter (:

Can’t Dance Cameron

I’m finally allowed to share the news – my debut picture book

Can’t Dance Cameron: A Scottish Capercaillie Story

comes out this summer and is published by Floris Books as part of their Picture Kelpies range.

I’m also really excited to tell you I’m taking Can’t Dance Cameron to the Edinburgh International Book Festival. You can read more about the book in the Schools Programme, page 18: can't dance cam

I’m very pleased to see I’m next to the awesome Matt Haig in the programme too.

Come Along

If you’re a teacher or if you know a teacher, tell them to come along with their class to the event if they like the sound of

  • dancing (genuine capercaillie dance moves)
  • a naughty squirrel throwing nuts and squirting water
  • a giant foam pinecone and some football skills
  • video footage of my cat
  • the sounds of the forest (I actually went to the highlands and recorded them)
  • and a few surprises..

Thanks to Chris Scott for the book festival programme photo and to everyone at Floris Books, especially my brilliant editor Eleanor Collins and to Katie Pamment the illustrator – what a beautiful front cover!

Also, big thanks to the Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland – the first version of this book was written thanks to them during my writing retreat (via the Reader in Residence post at Leith Library).

And thanks to Mairi Wilson who let me stay at her house in Ullapool for my writing retreat, she was the first person to hear Cameron’s story. Back then, he was called Colin.  

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2014 in Science, Writing, Education, Events, nature, storytelling

 

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Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch

It’s tomorrow night at the Storytelling Centre. You can bring knitting. It’s almost sold out. Turn to page 45 of your Edinburgh International Science Festival Programme and you’ll find it. Illicit Ink‘s ‘Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch’: Lady scientist

I’m playing Emma Darwin. That’s Charles Darwin’s wife. The lady scientist with which I’m stitching and bitching are:

And the brains behind the operation, that is the lady with the time machine who’s been stopping off at various points throughout history to collect us all – your compere for the evening is Ariadne Cass-Maran.

GET TICKETS HERE. Join the event on facebook here.

I should maybe point out that I’m not really bitching - I’m presenting the final monologue of the evening. It’s a spoken word piece I’ve written as Emma about her thoughts and questions on life, faith, feminism, science, death and love. I’m also sewing the tree of life onto a cushion and reading one of the letters I actually wrote to my dear Charlie (the real Emma wrote it – you know what I mean). I’m not saying anymore because I don’t want to spoil it! 

 
 

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Lunchtime workshops at the Lighthouse

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I’m facilitating a series of half hour creative writing workshops over Friday lunchtimes at The Lighthouse in Glasgow. The workshops take place in the beautiful Britain From Above aerial photography exhibition. The photos are part of the unique Aerofilms collection of aerial photographs from 1919-1953.

How did I get involved?

I’ve been working with the Govan Reminiscence Group over several months creating digital stories for Britain from Above. I’ll blog about that project soon.

The Friday Lunchtime Workshops

I’ve chosen one photo as the focus for each workshop. For example there’s a picture of The Clyde Foundry – thought to be the biggest glass clad structure in Europe at the time – it’s now demolished. The theme of that workshop will be windows. Windows on the past, windows on the future. Looking out and looking in…

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Each workshop is just half an hour so you can come on your lunch break and they’re free. I’m hoping to record some of the participants reading their work at the end of each workshop so we can add audio clips to the photos online on the Britain From Above website. Participants can continue their work at home and add it to the website later too.

I’m facilitating workshops on 28th March, 4th April, 11th April and the 18th April. Poet Towona Sithole is facilitating the workshop on 25th April, they’re all from 12.30pm – 1.00pm in the Britain From Above Exhibition at The Lighthouse.

Book a Place

You can book a place on any of the creative writing workshops here.

These workshops are part of a series of free workshops running in the Britain from Above exhibition at the Lighthouse including drawing, glass etching and felting. Find out more about the other workshops on The Lighthouse website here.

Stay Connected

Follow The Lighthouse on twitter @The_Lighthous. Follow Britain From Above on twitter @AboveBritain. Find out more about the Britain From Above online.

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Thanks to Brian Wilkinson from Britain From Above for helping me to research the photos in advance of the workshops. 

 
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Posted by on March 27, 2014 in Education, Events, poetry, storytelling, Writing

 

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Sparking Ideas From Science

Just a quick blog to say I’m running a science and poetry workshop at the National Library of Scotland on the evening of the 2nd April. You can find the event (and me) in the Edinburgh International Science Festival programme – open it in the centre and I’m top right. Oscar the cat has kindly pointed it out with his paw:

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You can also find details online on the Edinburgh International Science Festival Website here.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Events, Science, Writing

 

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Letter from the Cat

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Hi Emily, this is Oscar. Your cat. We’ve been living together for three months now and I have a few things I need to say. You seem to like writing. You’re always doing it. So I thought I’d write to you.

Firstly, I do not appreciate being called furry pants, silks or ‘my gorgeous lovely’. My name is Oscar.

Secondly, when I drink the water in the sink that you’ve just washed your hands in, it’s because I like the way it tastes. I’d rather you not lift me down and place me in front of my water bowl. If I wanted to drink from my water bowl, I would drink from my water bowl. I know where it is.

I singed one eyebrow on the candle on purpose. It’s hipster. Please stop pointing it out to visitors.

I would prefer not to be referred to as ‘a cartoon comedy cat’ or for you to point out my, as you so eloquently describe them ‘Albert Einstein old-man ear tufts’. I am distinguished. That’s how I’d like you to describe me and my ears, if you feel the need to describe them at all.

And when my eyes are closed and you say “Oh, Oscar, I love your ears” I pretend I’m sleeping but I do appreciate it. It helps me to understand you do really love me and my ears. I’d just prefer it if you didn’t point them out to visitors. I feel conscious about going grey at such a young age and I don’t want to draw attention to it.

With purrs and affection,

Oscar

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Posted by on March 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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New Blogs and the Blogging Snowball Effect

I wanted to let you know about a couple of exciting new blogs and some blogging training…

Common Good Edinburgh

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Common Good Edinburgh launched earlier this month. I’m writing for it over the next six months thanks to funding from a charitable trust.

I’m excited about the concept – the idea is to write about projects and individuals who are doing things for the common good in Edinburgh. If you’re wondering what common good is, there’s a post defining it through cake here. Read more about the story behind the blog here and find out who’s on the steering group here. The launch post was about community gardening at the Grove Edinburgh, you can read it here.

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Common Good Edinburgh on STV

Something wonderful happened a few days after the launch – STV covered the Grove Community Garden story (read it on STV Edinburgh here). We were hoping the blog might become a resource for local journalists so it was great to see they used the audio recorded at the garden. We want positive news stories to spread and the more people who tell the story in their own way, the better.

Common Good in Canada

On that note, the community gardening story also appeared on City Farmer News in Canada! 

Greener Kirkcaldy

While on the subject of greenery, I spent a day working with staff and volunteers from Greener Kirkcaldy to train them in blogging.

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The training was focused on building confidence in the group and generating ideas together. They came up with loads of creative ways to communicate their messages through stories. For example – cats are popular on social so they thought of a cat’s guide to insulating your home – I love it!

Greener Kirkcaldy got in touch to say their lovely new blog launched at the end of the year – you can find their latest post with a great image and personal perspective on volunteering here.

British Arts and Science Festivals Association (BAFA)

I was asked to run a session on ‘Blogging, the why, rather than the how to’ at the British Arts and Science Festivals Association in Edinburgh in November. I felt quite honoured to be speaking at an international event. One of their speakers was unable to attend and they’d had several requests to learn more about blogging. The festival organisers googled ‘Edinburgh blogger’ and that’s how they found me and my blog.

I used examples from Leith Library during the presentation – I wanted to make it relevant and related to engaging new audiences and finding creative ways to share events. Here are my slides:

Being invited to speak to festival organisers about blogging reminded me that blogs are so much more mainstream. Long gone are the days of bloggers being the socially awkward, alone in their bedrooms (okay I admit I am in my bedroom now but not alone, there is a cat).

But you get my point, blogs are a great way for organisations to tell stories and share their personality with the rest of the world. I started blogging as a volunteer for Greener Leith a few years ago. I wouldn’t have expected that to lead to working in social media and speaking at international conferences. It seems – just like with blogs – one story leads to another.

The BAFA conference theme was ‘What is the point of festivals?’, guest blogger Ariadne Cass-Maran wrote a brilliant blog about the two days of events, find it here. A quote that stood out to me from the conference was that festivals might not cure cancer but they’re about art in all its forms and art makes life worth living.

BAFA have added slides and notes from the breakout sessions including the notes taken during my session, find them here.

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2014 in Education, Events, storytelling

 

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Annual General Review: 2013

2013 has been a challenging year for many reasons. People around me weren’t well. A few days building work took five months. Near the end of the year I was in severe pain and on three types of prescription pain killers. At one point I actually thought I was going to die.

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. Isaiah 43:2

Through all of that, people were amazing. They dropped round with meals, someone gave me a £50 shopping voucher. Friends and family looked after me. I felt grateful despite the pain and strangely, at the point when I was least able to work – work came in. Commission after commission for the year ahead. It was a little overwhelming.

I’ve had help to get writing equipment too, an electric desk and a good chair. My back is much better and I’m off pain killers. The building work is done and I have a safe place to call home. I appreciate life more than I ever. I value my health and the need for rest more than ever. I appreciate people more than ever. I’m also really pleased we’re in 2014.

Last year was a year of firsts too. My first appearance in the Edinburgh International Book Festival, my first screen credit (that’s my name at the end of television show with the title ‘writer’) and I ended the year by signing a contract for my first picture book.

I’ve summarised the highlights in a countdown from ten…

TEN days in New York City 

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In February I visited New York to attend the Kidscreen Summit. It’s a huge children’s TV market and conference. I’ve always wanted to go and it was exciting to be pitching an eco comedy drama I’d developed for Visible Ink Television. I wrote about it here.

I also attended the Little Airplane Academy. It’s a three-day intensive course in all aspects of how to create a great pre-school television series. It was brilliant!

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NINE New Workshops 

I wrote about some of these workshops on my blog so just click the links above to find out more.

I start phase two of creating digital stories with the Govan Reminiscence Group next week so I’ll blog about that project soon – I can’t wait to share some of the moving stories they created with you.

Here’s the Filmpoem created when I worked with children aged 5 – 10 during the Film Poem Festival in Dunbar. I ran a poetry workshop and walk while Artist Alastair Cook was capturing film and composer Luca Nasciuti recorded sounds. What I love about this is that the words are entirely the children’s own:

Filmpoem Workshop – Shaking Shells from Filmpoem on Vimeo.

EIGHT Finalists in a poetry competition

I felt honoured to be asked to judge the EuroStemCell creative non fiction writing competition. I judged the poetry category. There were eight excellent finalists, read more about the competition here and find the winning entry here.

SEVEN Live Performances

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The highlight was being part of the Illicit Ink graphic fiction event during the Edinburgh International Book Festival. I read a story I’d written about an otter who’s an artist, while Guardian cartoonist and author Stephen Collins drew the story live (Thanks to Chris Scott for the picture above). I wrote about it before and after the event.

There were a few other live performances in 2013, see my gigs section for all of them. 

SIX Children’s Television episodes broadcast

Earth Explorers

I saw my name for the first time at the end of CBeebies science show Nina and the Neurons. It was exciting and strange to see it. I realised it made me a professional screenwriter but I didn’t actually feel any different to how I was before.

I was the screenwriter for two episodes about engineering and later in the year I wrote four episodes about space. I also worked on storylines and development for the series. Read more here.

FIVE Leith Library Residency highlights

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Here’s the Leith Library top ten highlights blog I wrote when the Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland residency finished in the summer.

FOUR weeks on a writing retreat

Thanks to the Creative Scotland and Scottish Book Trust Residency at Leith Library, I got to go on my first ever writing retreat. Half of it was spent in Ullapool (thanks to my writer friend Mairi) and the other half was cat sitting at my sister’s in Lancashire. I wrote about it here.

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THREE pages on otters

I was commissioned to write a double page spread on otters but it expanded into three pages for a children’s magazine when I added a few ideas for otter fun – think dot-to-dotter…

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TWO Outdoor adventures:

The Capercaillies (rare scottish bird) dance very early in the morning so I had to get up at 4am. I live tweeted the adventure – I know, no one was awake to see it but I wanted to do it anyway. Here’s a picture of the amazing sunrise from the RSPB Loch Garten hide:

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And here’s the video I made about it:

Read more about the capercaillie adventure here.

On the subject of outdoor adventures, I also went canyoning (jumping off rocks into the river in a forest) and I watched a friend do the Great North Swim. Here’s a picture blog about going wood foraging for the first time.

ONE picture book contract signed

I can’t say much more about this just now but I can say it’s being published with Floris Books and will be out in July. It’s one of the books I wrote on my writing retreat so I need to say a massive thanks to the Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland. I was funded for nine months in the Library and three months to do my own thing. Without that funding I would never have been able to take a month off to write.

What Else?

I went to three weddings and no funerals. My best friend from primary school got married in Brighton. There are four of us who have been best friends for over twenty years. Two of us were bridesmaids, one was a bride and the other was the vicar! Our vicar best friend sat on the top table and was somewhat of a celebrity.

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Earlier in the year we all went to see the vicar (Hannah) run the London marathon. I wrote about that here.

Some Priorities for 2014

  • Health
  • Rest
  • People
  • Writing

I want to write three books and a new sitcom. I wrote three and a half books last year and a sitcom the year before so I’m hoping I can do it! I lost four months being ill in 2013 so if I’m healthy I figure that gives me some more writing time.

Exciting and New in 2014

I’ve got new glasses and I’m starting the year with a cat called Oscar.

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Just now I’m writing for CBeebies, two scripts down and one to go. I can’t say which show it’s for, sorry!

This week I launch a positive news blog called Common Good Edinburgh. I’ve been funded for a day a week for six months to work on this project and I’m really excited about writing about some of the amazing things that are happening in our city.

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Next Week I start phase two of running digital story workshops with the Govan Reminiscence Group for the Britain from Above Project.

Next week I’m also starting a project writing science shows with young people from a secure unit with the National Museums of Scotland and Cardiff based company Science Made Simple.

Last week we launched Forest Families in Gorebridge, I’m the storyteller for the project – more here.

The week before last I piloted a new nursery workshop I’ve written called Timmy the Turbine – I’ll blog about that soon.

Thanks

I want to say a massive thanks to everyone who’s been part of my 2013. Thanks to friends, family and colleagues for laughter, support and encouragement. I’m looking forward to 2014.

My Annual General Review 2012 is here. My Annual General Review of 2011 is here.

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2014 in Education, Events, Film, Media, poetry, storytelling, Writing

 

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Don’t Forget the Snowdrops

Earlier this week I was running forest families workshops with children at Gorebridge library as part of Love Your Libraries week. During the workshops I told to the children why I like to go outside. I explained I feel relaxed and it gives me ideas for stories.

Six workshops later, I prepared to head back to Edinburgh. I’ve got writing deadlines just now so I had no time to lose. But then I changed my mind. I realised making the time to go outside would make all the difference to my time inside writing. I needed to do what I’d been telling the children. I needed to go outside.

It was a sunny day so me and the Educator I’d been working with took an hour out before our trip back to Edinburgh to visit Vogrie Country Park. We were met by these snowdrops:

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That hour made all the difference. It was so good to see the snowdrops and remember there’s a world changing and growing all around us. If we stay indoors we miss out on moments like this.

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Working with Libraries

I wanted to let you know about a few projects I’m doing with libraries.

Forest Families in Gorebridge

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Tomorrow I’m off to Gorebridge library to run some woodland themed storytelling workshops with the local primary schools at the launch the Forest Families project. Here’s how the facebook page describes Forest Families:

A project providing positive, nurturing interactions and free play in natural environments, for children from Mid Lothian,aged 3-8 years and their parents

Oak trees are the theme for tomorrow’s workshops. We’re hoping the children will recognise the shape of an oak leaf. It happens to be the Midlothian Council logo so they won’t have just see it on trees. I’m even going to be wearing an oak leaf dress – now that’s commitment!

I’m working with craft maker and educator Jaimie MacDonald. The last time we worked together we were running crafty storytelling training for youth leaders. This time we’re storytelling and making crafts with the children ourselves. I’m excited to hear Jaimie will be wearing a mushroom jumper (in keeping with the forest theme).

Each workshop is a taster session. We’ll have an introduction from project founder Stephanie Walker. Then it’s me with the story bag, leaves, imagination exercises, stories and some songs. Then it’s Jaimie making nature journals and finally we finish up with a wee song from the little oak story as we plant some trees:

Wonderful, beautiful, there’s only one like you.

There’s only one who was made to do, the things that you will do.

Families in Gorebridge will have an opportunity to sign up to monthly Forest Families workshops. The first one is Saturday 22nd February.

Social Media Training for Edinburgh Libraries

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Last month I ran a training session with team leaders and staff from across the Edinburgh public libraries. I was asked to share examples of how we used social media to promote reader development at Leith Library during the 9 month residency I did with the Scottish Book Trust and Creative Scotland (read the highlights here).

The course was full and it was a good opportunity for people to share ideas between libraries. With that in mind I didn’t want to be doing all the talking. For part of the session I got people to slit into groups and discuss different ways to tell stories digitally – audio, video, photo and combinations of the above. Through the discussion and feedback people came up with loads of great ideas for things to do within their libraries and that was all before I shared some of what we did in Leith.

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Science Poetry at the National Library of Scotland

I was delighted to be asked to run a science poetry masterclass this April as part of the great big science read. I was also a little bit nervous since it’s called a master class. Did that mean I had to be a master of science poetry? Images of Yoda sprang to mind. But then we had a planning meeting at the National Library. We got excited about the titles of the science collection as inspiration for poems and I had a few ideas for exercises that the team really liked so that has put me at ease. There’s enough inspiration in that collection and in science itself so I figure I’m just going to be facilitating an opportunity for people to be inspired, connect and share.

If you’re interested you can find details of the event in the Science Festival Programme or in the latest National Libraries of Scotland what’s on leaflet.

You can read my most recent science poem ‘Relativity’ in the latest issue of The Istanbul Review.

 

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Stars and Wishes

Last week I spent the afternoon at Low Port Primary School in Linlithgow for Book Week Scotland. I had a lovely time working with Primary 1 and Primary 1/2 classes. We talked about memory and imagination and how we use both to create stories. All the children were dressed as their favourite book characters so everyone was excited and already using lots of imagination! We made it rain in the classroom and then we pretended we were in a forest for a story. At the end of the workshop the children used their imagination once again to wish. The challenge was they could wish for absolutely anything, not just Christmas presents:

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On Sunday I was working in Portobello library as part of the Inky fingers poetry weekend. We made Christmas fridge magnet pegs that could be used to hold poems:

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I asked the children in the library what they wished for too and I’ve put them together along with wishes from Low Port to make a poem. It’s all in their own words:

I wish I was magic

I wish I had a dog with the ears of a rabbit

I wish for world peace… and no wars!

I wish to be a famous footballer

I wish I could change into a bird and then back again, to a human.. whenever I wanted!

I wish that everyone gets a fair vote and a fair amount of money per job

I wish I could be a butterfly

Monster Bingo!

I wish I had a horse or a pony… no wait, I wish I had a mansion and then I could ride my pony in the garden

I wish I really was a pirate

I wish I could see snow every second

I wish… I actually WAS Father Christmas!

I wish I could go back to France

I wish I had a pet wolf

I wish to be a famous singer

I wish for my Mummy

I wish I could fly

I asked a coupled of the grown ups in the library too. Their wishes were more practical and Christmas related.

I wish I could enjoy Christmas dinner

I wish everybody in the world were happy

I wish everyone will get where they need to be for Christmas

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Posted by on December 11, 2013 in Education, Events, poetry, storytelling

 

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