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About auntyemily

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

Ada Lovelace Day

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The Lady Scientist Stitch and Bit*h is back! This time it’s at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh for Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace is widely held to be the first computer programmer – you can read more about her here. Here’s how the Royal Observatory describe tomorrow’s performance on their website:

Lady scientists have made valid scientific discoveries, but they also come together to knit and sew. Here’s a collection of stories: human, hilarious, and horrible that show what it’s like being a woman scientist at different times in history.

It starts on 14th October at 6.30pm and it’s free but ticketed. To book a space please email vis@roe.ac.uk. This event is for adults only.

Who is who?

We all took a scientist, researched them and wrote a monologue in character. The scientists and writers are

And I’ve written a spoken word piece as Emma Darwin, wife of Charles Darwin. Ada is being played tomorrow by Rebecca Douglas and the mad scientist 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 – was written by Ariadne Cass-Maran and is being played tomorrow by Kaite Welsh.

Previous Performances

This Illicit Ink event began at last year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival. It sold out. I wrote about it here. Then we were asked to perform at Heriot Watt University for Woman in Engineering Day last month. I’m excited to be back on stage with my fellow lady scientists on a day that celebrates the achievements of women throughout history.

Men are totally welcome to come to this event too! 

Image Credit: Douglas McBride

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Education, Events, poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Meerkats and Capercaillies in Linlithgow

Independent book shops all over the UK are throwing ‘Books are in My Bag‘ big bookshop parties tomorrow.

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I’ll be part of the animal themed party at Far From the Madding Crowd Bookshop in Linlithgow.

At 11.30am and 12 noon there will be ‘cool creatures‘ sessions at the canal tea rooms – children will be able to meet and even hold real animals including a hedgehog, a skunk, a bearded lizard and two meerkat brothers who cuddle each other. Tickets are £3.

Seriously cute!

At 1pm I’ll be doing a free ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron’ story workshop in the bookshop!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

There will be:

  • Football with giant foam pinecones (more about that here)
  • Videos of actual dancing capercaillies at RSPB Loch Garten
  • Beautiful Scottish wildlife images thanks to Laurie Campbell
  • A naughty water-squirting red squirrel
  • Science experiments
  • A chance to make a red squirrel fridge magnet

You can also expect sounds effects, stickers, smells and a few surprises. We’ll be learning capercaillie dance moves along the way and dancing to music composed especially for the event by Sam Gallagher. Here’s a wee sample of the track, click play below:

About the Story

Cameron the capercaillie can’t dance. His family, the MacFeathers are the best dancers in the Cairngorms but sadly, when Cameron wiggles everyone giggles. Cameron meets a new friend, a red squirrel called Hazel Nut who takes him on a journey through the forest, will he learn to dance?

Craft and Signing

Afterwards I’ll be signing books and we’ll be making Hazel Nut red squirrel fridge magnets:

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More Animal Stories

At 2pm local Author Ewan McVicar will be storytelling in the bookshop.

Cake and Animal Masks

And if that’s not enough there will be animal mask making and cake all day!

Red Squirrel Fridge Magnets

I made a few squirrel fridge magnet examples last night, I based them on Hazel Nut in the book and tried to make a simple template for children to decorate. The naughty squirrels pegged up a family photo on the fridge when I wasn’t looking:

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Find Far From the Madding Crowd on twitter and facebook

 
 

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Make Your Own Log Book Stand

My favourite cafe in Edinburgh, The Haven Cafe agreed to sell copies of my new book Can’t-Dance-Cameron (hurrah!). The problem was they didn’t have anything to put it in. So I decided to try to make a stand. Here’s how I did it.

Step 1: Find a suitable half log

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I happened to have a good half log in my flat. It was too big for my wood-burning stove and I’d been meaning to chop it up at some point. If you don’t have your own wood supply you can buy logs like this from garden centers, garages and shops like B & Q.

Step 2: Try to saw a wedge into it

I sawed for a long time and made very little progress. I think I used the wrong type of saw (the blue one above). You could try using a bow saw instead – read more about using one of those in my blog about wood foraging.

Step 3: Hammer and chisel a wedge into it

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This was much more effective. I really enjoyed chiselling out the V shape wedge, section by section. I tested the book in it and changed the angle where I needed to. The book needed to stand up.

Step 4: Add a back support and label

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The back support stops the book bending and doubles up as a place to attach a label. I have lots of bits of wood for kindling but you could always use a pencil or a piece of dowel if you don’t have scrap wood. I added a Can’t-Dance-Cameron sticker (read about the stickers here) to the lablel for the woodland theme.

Step 5: Add the book

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I felt pleased with it, all that hard work was worth it – Cameron looks so at home on a log.

Step 6: Take books and stand to the cafe

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The cafe loved the woodland display stand and found a perfect spot between the sunflowers and the gramophone.

Thanks to Natalie (pictured) at The Haven Cafe for selling Can’t-Dance-Cameron. Find the Haven on Facebook and Twitter.

 
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Posted by on October 8, 2014 in Education, nature, Writing

 

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Dundee Literary Festival 2014

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Just a quick post to let you know I’m taking my first picture book ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron: A Scottish Capercaillie Story’ to Dundee Literary Festival on 25th October, 10.00am. Get tickets here. The event is part of the family fun day:

DundeeKids

There will be:

  • Football with giant foam pinecones (more about that here)
  • Videos of actual dancing capercaillies at RSPB Loch Garten
  • Beautiful Scottish wildlife images thanks to Laurie Campbell
  • A naughty water-squirting red squirrel
  • Science experiments
  • A chance to make a red squirrel or capercaillie fridge magnet

You can also expect sounds effects, stickers, smells and a few surprises. We’ll be learning capercaillie dance moves along the way and dancing to music composed especially for the event by Sam Gallagher. Here’s a wee sample of the track, click play below:

About the Story

Cameron the capercaillie can’t dance. His family, the MacFeathers are the best dancers in the Cairngorms but sadly, when Cameron wiggles everyone giggles. Cameron meets a new friend, a red squirrel called Hazel Nut who takes him on a journey through the forest, will he learn to dance?

Pet Portraits

Literary Dundee have been sharing photos of pets with the programme on their facebook page. I got a little bit carried away and sent Peggy Hughes eight photos from the photoshoot I did with Oscar. Here he is at the end (I think he’s had enough!).

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Find Literary Dundee on Facebook and on Twitter. Find the wonderful Dundee Literary Festival programme online here.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2014 in Education, Events, nature, Science, storytelling

 

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Portobello Book Festival 2014

I’m part of this year’s Portobello Book Festival along with science writers Anna Claybourne and Pippa Goldschmidt. Here’s what the programme says about our event:

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The festival runs from the 3rd to the 5th of October in Portobello, Edinburgh. The programme launched earlier this month in the Dalriada Pub. I was excited to meet one of my fellow science writers Anna Claybourne at the launch:

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I grew up loving the type of children’s non-fiction science books that Anna writes so it was a real pleasure to meet her.

I was even more star struck (if that were possible) when I met the women behind a book I absolutely love, despite my inability to knit. I bring you the wonderfully woolly Knit Your Own Scotland:

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And here are Ruth and Jackie, they look a bit like they’ve been knitted too (or has the love for the book taken over my imagination?):

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I told them how much we loved their book in Leith Library and how we challenged the knitting group to knit Scotland for Book Week. The good news is, you can build a new Scotland (well knit it) at the knitting workshop on the Saturday afternoon.

This year’s programme really is amazing, we say that every year but it just keeps getting better. You can see all of the events here.

Writing Workshops

If you’re an aspiring writer, I’d recommend the ‘Opening Lines’ workshop on Saturday morning run by the lovely women from my writer’s group Mairi Wilson and Louise Kelly. Or if you’re into YA writing there’s a workshop with on ‘Writing for Teens’ with children and young people’s librarian Simon Radcliff, and award-winning YA authors Keith Gray and Cat Clarke.

I’m also looking forward to finding out ‘What’s happening in Publishing’ with Francis Bickmore (Publishing Director at Canongate Books), Allan Guthrie (author, agent, editor, publisher – what can’t this man do?) and Eleanor Collins (Senior Commissioning Editor at Floris Books) on Sunday afternoon.

Get Tickets

All the events are free but ticketed and tickets are available in person from Portobello Library. No you can’t book online or phone up – you need to go to the library and that’s a good thing! There will be a chance to donate after each event – please do – all the speakers and organisers contribute their time voluntarily – your donations will make next year’s festival possible.

It’s my third year being part of the programme and I’m delighted to be back in Portobello!

Find the programme online here. Follow Portobello Book Festival on Twitter @PortyBookFest.

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

 

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Can’t Dance Cameron Book Launch

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Last week my first picture book ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron: A Scottish Capercaillie Story’ launched in Edinburgh. STV Edinburgh wrote about it here. There were a couple of exciting announcements at the launch:

1) Can’t Dance Cameron is on a reprint. That doesn’t normally happen on the day a new book launches – the book was actually out in shops in Scotland a couple of weeks before the launch because of the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Thanks to everyone who’s been buying the book.

2) My new book ‘The Grouse and the Mouse’ is out next year – I had to keep that secret until now. I signed the contract at the beginning of August and wrote the first version of the book last year. It’s changed a bit since then and it’s now about ready to go to an illustrator. Very exciting.

Back to the launch, here it is in pictures, thanks to photographer Chris Scott. I’m like Can’t Dance Cameron – afraid I’ll look silly dancing BUT Chris somehow managed to get a photo of me in mid-air – he described it as an ascension shot. And I look, well,… almost graceful.

The Launch

The evening started with drinks, nibbles, networking and chat. People took their seats ready for the launch to begin:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Intro from Eleanor

The Chief Commissioning Editor at Floris Books, Eleanor Collins introduced people to me and the book:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Living legend Jonathan Meres did a wee stand-up comedy slot with a giant blue dice:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

There were six comedy stories on my interactions with birds through the ages:

  1. AGE 7 IN THE DEN
  2. BIRD WATCHER BADGE
  3. HITCHCOCK’S THE BIRDS
  4. LEATHER GANNET
  5. FULMAR AUTOPSY
  6. PUFFINS AND MEETING THE QUEEN

We got three stories depending on the dice throw:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Into the Forest

Then it was me. We went on an interactive journey through the forest to try to find a dancing bird. This is the naughty water squirting squirrel, Hazel Nut:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Here are the expert volunteers who fanned the smell of the pine forest all around the audience:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

This is an actual giant pine cone – from the USA. We practiced a firework style “ooooh!” and “Ahhhh!” when the pine cone came out – ready for later in the story…

Can't Dance Cameron launch

True or False?

This was a red squirrel true or false quiz – you had to make the shape of a T or an F with your body:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Football

Then out came the football pine cones – Bethan and Roo volunteered:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Here’s Bethan kicking the pine cone past the wild cat to distract it. That’s Adele, she’s works at the Botanic Gardens and she’s pretending to be a scots pine.

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Dancing

Then we learnt the dance moves, this is the assertion shot I mentioned earlier. Look at my feet!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Science Experiment POP!

Then a quick science experiment to make the capercaillie popping noise using an alka-seltzer rocket!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Music and Dancing

Then we put the dancing together with the music and everyone joined in:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Here’s a sample of the track, click play below:

Even Roy Gill danced, despite his earlier tweet:

The Story

Then I shared the story with the pictures up on the big screen:

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With some actions along the way:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Q and A

After that it was time for the Q and A chaired by Bookriot blogger Edd McCracken:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

There were some great questions from the audience including:

  • What inspired the book?
  • What happened to the wildcat?
  • How long did it take to write the book?

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Thanks

Then there were some thank yous, hosted by poet Elspeth Murray:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Elspeth thanked:

On my behalf and then I said a few thanks to:

  • My writers group – especially Mairi who let me stay in Ullapool (where I wrote the first version of the book)
  • The Scottish Book Trust (they funded the writing of this book via the Reader in Residence post at Leith Library)
  • Katie Pamment the Illustrator
  • Everyone at Floris Books
  • A big thanks went to my amazing editor Eleanor – I gave her some flowers

Can't Dance Cameron launch

I also thanked everyone for coming and for buying books. Finally Kirsten the publicist from Floris came up to say a final thanks – it was a lovely surprise to be given some flowers too!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

Signing

Then a sort of double queue formed, here’s a slightly awkward moment when two people thought they were first in line!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

It was lovely to meet people and sign copies of the book. The illustrator Katie Pamment signed too – it’s not every day you get a first edition signed by the author and the illustrator:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

This is near the end of the queue. By the time we finished all the wine had run out – before I had chance to drink any!

Can't Dance Cameron launch

There are more lovely photos from the event in a Chris Scott album here

Feedback

Lastly here are some of the tweets from the event. Floris books put some together in a storify too, find it here.

 
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Posted by on September 17, 2014 in Education, Events, nature, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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The Istanbul Review

I’m excited to have a science poem published in the latest edition of The Istanbul Review, page 22:

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Relativity has a mathematical structure – every line has one more word all the way up to twenty. It’s about the maths and science and stories inside everything. It would fit into the writing genre of creative non fiction – if you’re wondering what creative non fiction is, I wrote a bit about it here.

There’s also an interview with me covering writing for children, writing science, working with excluded teens, blogging and asking ‘if I could add a word to the dictionary, what would it be?’. They do this awesome thing where illustrator Aysegul Sinav draws each contributor:

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I love the gorgeous artwork on the cover (by Canan Berber):

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I should maybe explain what The Istanbul Review is – It’s a literary journal featuring fiction, poetry, art, interviews, creative non fiction and out takes. It’s printed in Istanbul. This issue includes another creative non fiction piece, by Turkey’s most read novelist Elif Skafak:

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There are some lovely mathematical structures in there too in the form of sestutes (62 word poems) by Edinburgh based award-winning historical fiction writer Sara Sheridan:

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Buy a copy online here. Or if you’re in Edinburgh, you can pop in and buy one (or order over the phone from anywhere in the UK) from Looking Glass Books.

Find the Istanbul Review online, on twitter, on pinterest and on Facebook. They’re open for submissions just now for issue 6, find out how to submit your work here

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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