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About auntyemily

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

Inverness Book Festival

Inverness Book Festival

This Saturday my new picture book ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’ is coming home to the Highlands. We’re off to the Inverness Book Festival.

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Event Details: Saturday 23rd August 11.30am, Eden Court, Inverness. 

Tickets for children are £4 but include a free adult entry. You are of course welcome without a child too.

GET TICKETS HERE

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

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

Can’t Dance Cameron is a book about a capercaillie called Cameron who 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…

If you want to know what happens next you’ll have to come along!

Signing

We’ll finish the event with a signing. Here’s me getting some practice in at Edinburgh International Book Festival earlier this week:

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My Illustrator

I’m really excited to hear my illustrator, Katie Pamment is coming along to the event too. She lives in the highlands and I love how her pictures have captured the feel of the place so well. We’ll be meeting for the first time at Inverness Book Festival.

Other Events

There are loads of brilliant book related events at Eden court from now until Saturday evening, find out more on the Inverness Book Festival website. I’m really looking forward to the event on writing for children and young adults with Keith Charters and Gillian Phillip at 3.30pm – get tickets here.

Read about ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’ on the Floris website here. You can buy it at the Inverness Book Festival or from your local bookstore. 

 

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2014 in Events, nature, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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The Day I Woke up in Hospital

Later today at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’m reading the work of Malala Yousafzai. Here’s a bit about her:

Malala Yousafzai was born on July 12, 1997, in Mingora, Pakistan. As a child, she became an advocate for girls’ education, which resulted in the Taliban issuing a death threat against her. On October 9, 2012, a gunman shot Malala when she was traveling home from school. She survived, and has continued to speak out on the importance of education. She was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2013, and again in 2014.

The piece I’m reading is called ‘The Day I woke up in Hospital’ and is an extract from the book ‘I am Malala‘ by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. I feel humbled and honoured to be reading something so moving and meaningful.

There are four authors reading tomorrow. We’ve all volunteered because we wanted to read the work by authors who have had their right to freedom of expression violated, been imprisoned, persecuted, forced into exile or even killed for their work.

Here’s what the programme says about tomorrow’s event:

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Posted by on August 18, 2014 in Events, storytelling, Writing

 

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Capercaillie Stickers

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They’ve arrived! I really love them. I’ll be giving them to children at the Edinburgh International Book Festival events I’m doing on Monday and Thursday next week and at the Inverness Book Festival on Saturday 23rd August.

Choosing text and images

I wanted two types of sticker so the children could choose the character they identify best with. The red squirrel, Hazel is an older sister type character. She’s quite confident while Cameron the capercaillie is much less sure of himself (but he grows and changes through out the story).

The title of the book is ‘Can’t Dance Cameron‘ but I didn’t want to put that on a sticker – I don’t think children would want that as a label. I wanted to encourage the children so I chose a line from the book from Hazel:

You can dance!

And the final thing the crowd shouts at Cameron:

Kick it, Cameron!

I’m excited (and a bit nervous!) to say both Edinburgh Book Festival events next week are SOLD OUT!

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But you can still get tickets to the Inverness Book Festival here.

Make your own stickers and badges 

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The stickers were created using schoolstickers.com funky sticker maker. You can upload your own images and choose text and the great thing is, they don’t charge for the design – just for the stickers themselves.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2014 in Education, Environment, Events, storytelling, Writing

 

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Tales From Our Wild Park

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This is me holding a giant copy of the book I’ve written for Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park. It’s called ‘Tales From Our Wild Park’ and it launched yesterday at Glasgow Queen Street station.

The Launch

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That’s Paul Wheelhouse the Environment Minister in the middle and Fiona Logan (Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park) on the left and the park convener Linda McKay on the right – getting their photos taken at the launch. They were interviewed by the BBC too, you might have seen it on Reporting Scotland last night?

Behind them to the left is the green screen. It was used to create portraits of people in the park. For example, I stood in front of the green screen and cupped my hands and…. here I am holding a red squirrel in the Trossachs Forest!

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You can see all of the photos created by the green screen on facebook here. Read more about the launch on forargyle.com here.

Tales from Our Wild Park

It’s so exciting to see the book in print! It looks absolutely gorgeous. The designers (Create 48) and project manager (Aelred Nicholas) have done an amazing job in putting it together. This is one of my favourite spreads:

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John Muir’s quote, the designers beautiful word art, an amazing photo of the bog cotton and my writing.

The publication is 52 pages long. It focuses on five wild challenges:

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Half of Scotland’s population live within one hour’s drive from the park so really, the park belongs to all of us and this book is written for you. It sets out the priorities for the park over the next ten years and it invites us to get involved. It invites us to visit the park and experience the beauty of nature for ourselves:

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The book is free and is available at outlets across the Park. You can download it here.

My Brief

My role was to make the 150 page biodiversity action plan as relevant, engaging, exciting and easy to read as possible. I needed to write for someone with no background knowledge of the park. I read the action plan several times. Some sections, for example ‘our woodland habitats’, were several pages long. My challenge was to condense seven pages into the equivalent of two. Other sections like ‘red squirrels’ or ‘black grouse’ only had a few paragraphs so I needed to take what was relevant and research the topic elsewhere. I thought a lot about how to make things relevant to the public and proposed a general format for each wild challenge of:

  • Relevant quote
  • Descriptive intro
  • Why it’s important / why it matters
  • What we’re doing
  • How can you get involved / what can you do to help
  • Where can you see it / them (location and travel info)

Aelred loved this format and so I set to work on a sample spread. I wanted to check I was on the right track before I wrote the whole thing. I chose peat bogs first. I read the action plan section a few times and researched bogs in books and online. I spoke to a natural history expert, Kenny Taylor to find out more.

I submitted my first spread and received feedback. The good thing was the tone and style were just right but there were things I needed to work on. The team wanted more excitement and adventure. What is it like to climb the mountains and visit a peat bog? I’d suggested visiting Flanders Moss – the most famous bog in the park but this was the wrong type of bog.

This initial feedback was really useful and helped me to understand what the team were looking for. It also helped me to request the information I needed instead of coming up with it myself – like locations for mountain bogs (since there weren’t bog locations in the action plan). I asked for clarification on the angle of each section – for example with invasive non-native species I suggested as an intro we started off all gentle and beautiful and then switch to the destruction of the plants taking over. They liked that.

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I had to think about the best way to get key points and information across. Not everyone is interested in invasive plants (they’re not cute like red squirrels) so I didn’t want to use lots of text writing about each specific plant. Instead I suggested photos and a table.

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I wrote the rest of the sections and simplified the vision and overview. The feedback was good – just some minor changes and a suggestion to find some alternative quotes (apart from John Muir). I’d chosen John Muir because I love how he captures the heart of the beauty of experiencing nature with so much simplicity. Also, he’s from Scotland, he founded national parks in the US and it’s the year of Scotland’s homecoming. But taking the feedback on board, I found some other relevant quotes and they’ve really added something – like Billy Connolly’s quote about a sexy raincoat!

Aelred asked partner organisations for quotes too – they really bring the topics to life.

I love that about the creative process. When others contribute ideas and vision it makes the whole thing so much better as a result.

Feedback

The style is completely different to anything the park has published before. Feedback and so far has been really positive. One staff member told me how she cried when she read it. It’s been described as a publication that engages with the head as well as the heart. 

I’d be interested to hear what you think too!?

Edinburgh International Book Festival

I’m really excited to say ‘Tales of our Wild Park’ is going to all the teachers visiting Edinburgh International Book Festival School Gala Day on the 26th August. I’m doing three events at the book festival this year including an event at the Gala Day. I’ve written another book that came out this week, this one is for children but it also features a red squirrel and a forest! It’s called ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’. Read more about it here.

Find out more about Wild Park on the Wild Park 2020 website.

 

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Capercaillie Dance Music

I commissioned composer, Sam Gallagher to create a piece of music for my children’s event ‘Dancing Capercaillies‘ at Edinburgh International Book Festival.

In case you don’t know, capercaillies are big black Scottish birds who live in the Highlands. There are only around 1000 of these left in Scotland and every year they do a dance that attracts people from all over the world. This is a dancing capercaillie:

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I’ve written a book about a capercaillie called Cameron who can’t dance. His family, the MacFeathers are the best dancers in the Cairngorms but sadly, when Cameron wiggles everyone giggles.

Cameron learns to dance on a walk through the forest with a red squirrel (Hazel Nut) but he doesn’t realise he’s learning to dance. For example, when a pine marten jumps across a branch above, it showers Cameron with pine needles. Hazel tells him to jump and shake them off. The flutter-hop is an actual capercaillie dance move in real life. I checked with the RSPB.

The Brief

During the event at the Book Festival we’re going to learn the real-life capercaillie dance moves. And we’re going to dance. But I figured dancing is better with music so that’s why I asked Sam to write a piece of music for the event.

His brief was The Lion King meets Grove is in the Heart with a Club Tropicana style intro (but with sounds of the cairngorms forests instead of a tropical beach – I recorded them when I visited). I also said we needed to hear the rhythm of the moves within the music e.g. shake-shake-jump for the flutter hop. Under, over, under, over…. needs an up and down type noise.

The Track

Sam set to work and a week later he sent me his track. As I listened my first thoughts were ‘this is not what I expected’. I kept listening and started to smile… ‘This is better than I’d expected!’. It’s better than anything I could have imagined, I totally love it. He also made me a version of the track with his voice narrating the dance moves over the top (so I can practice). Under, over, under, over…

I’m excited to bring you a wee sample of the track, click play below:

POP! That’s the noise a capercaillie makes when he’s dancing.

More Music from Sam: Litter and Dog Poo

I first commissioned Sam Gallagher to write some music when I was making litter and dog poo films as part of a campaign for Greener Leith. Here’s one of the films with his awesome dog-woof music in the background:

Love Leith 1: Dog owners rewarded for picking up poo on Leith Links (watch it on YouTube here):

Get Dancing 

If you want to hear the whole of the capercaillie pop track you’ll need to come along to ‘Dancing Capercaillies‘ at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on the 18th August. Read more here. Get tickets here. Read about the schools event on the 21st August here. Get tickets for the event at Inverness Book Festival on the 23rd August here.

Image Credit Capercaillie: Laurie Campbell

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2014 in Events, Film, Media, nature, storytelling, Writing

 

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Football Pine Cones

I wanted to be able to kick some pine cones into the audience during my Edinburgh Book Festival event Dancing Capercaillies. In my book, Can’t Dance Cameron, Cameron the capercaillie kicks a pine cone. Real pine cones are a little dangerous when flying at speed towards children aged four to seven years. So I asked my Dad if he would help me to make some giant foam pine cones. Soft and safe. He said yes and here they are:

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Modeled on a Scots pine but these cones bounce. My plan is to do a football trick with them. I’m not sure how well my silky skills (or lack of them) will go down at the Book Festival but ‘Can’t Dance Cameron‘ is all about not being afraid to try so I will do just that. I will also practice lots. I was first team goalkeeper on my football team at Uni so I’m not starting totally from scratch, that’s me top right:

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After my trick attempt (I’m not telling you what it is, you’ll have to come along to see it!) I’m going to get some volunteers from the audience out for a football pine cone challenge. They have to try to kick the ball in between a tree and a wildcat. Obviously the cat isn’t real and we’re not trying to hit the cat, we’re trying to trick the cat. By kicking a pine cone past her – we distract her. I excitedly told my cat Oscar this plan and he wasn’t too pleased. Look at his face:

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He said it appeared to him that I was making a cat into a goal post. I explained I wasn’t and would be really careful to make sure I said we would never kick pine cones at cats and so on. I tried to appease him by telling him we could watch an episode of CBeebies Nina and the Neurons all about the science of football this Thursday on CBeebies at 4.15 (I wrote it). But that didn’t help.

To be honest I think he’s just jealous of the other cats that will be featured in my event. Laurie Campbell is sending a beautiful photograph of a Scottish wildcat – I’m so excited about that. But Oscar isn’t. He wants to be the star cat in the show – he will make an appearance in a video – impersonating a wildcat but that is all. He’s also upset that I’m going to be reading a poem I wrote about squirrels. I’ve never written a poem about him.

Read more about the Edinburgh International Book Festival public event ‘Dancing Capercaillies‘ on the 18th August here. Get tickets here. Read about the schools event on the 21st August here. Get tickets for the event at Inverness Book Festival on the 23rd August here. Read about my episode of CBeebies Nina and the Neurons on the Science of Football here.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2014 in Education, Events, nature, storytelling, Writing

 

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Nina and The Neurons: Get Sporty

I’m off to see the athletics final in the Commonwealth Games today:

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Around the time I’ll be arriving at Hampden Park, one of the episodes I’ve written of BBC Science show Nina and the Neurons will be broadcast on the CBeebies channel. It’s all about the science of gymnastics (why do we bend our knees when we land?).

The new series of Nina and the Neurons is called ‘Get Sporty’. It’s about the science behind sport and it’s been created to coincide with the Commonwealth Games. In each episode children investigate the science behind a sport with Nina through fun interactive experiments. One of the exciting things about this series is, we get to meet professional athletes in every episode too.

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You can catch up on all of the episodes including the ones I’ve written on BBC Iplayer here.

Here’s when you can watch the episodes I’ve written live:

Gymnastics: Friday 1st August: 4.15 – 4.30pm CBeebies (Repeat date TBC)

Football: Wednesday 23rd July, Thursday 7th August: 4.15 – 4.30pm CBeebies

Sprinting: Monday 28th July, Thursday 14th August: 4.15 – 4.30pm CBeebies

I helped develop some of the ideas behind ‘Get Sporty’ in 2012 so I was really pleased to be asked to write on the series after it was commissioned. It’s amazing to now see it on TV.

I’m looking forward to going to Glasgow to see the athletics final too – especially now I know more about the science behind it.

Read about writing for previous series of Nina ‘Earth Explorers’ and ‘Go Engineering’.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Education, Events, Science, Writing

 

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Edinburgh Book Festival Video

Here’s a wee video previewing the 2014 Edinburgh International Book Festival from the Edinburgh Reporter. It includes interviews with the Director of the Book Festival (Nick Barley) and the Director of the Children’s and Education Programme (Janet Smyth).

And then there’s an interview with me. Yes, I am somehow in there with these very important book festival people. Big thanks to the Edinburgh Reporter for that.

 

Watch the video on YouTube here.

I wrote about my book festival children’s event ‘Dancing Capercaillies’ on the blog here. Get tickets here. Read about my schools event here.

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2014 in Events, Film, Writing

 

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Dancing Capercaillies

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Tickets for Edinburgh International Book Festival go on sale tomorrow and I would like to invite you along to my event ‘Dancing Capercaillies‘ at 13.00 on Monday 18th August. I’m excited to be bringing my debut picture book:

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Here’s what page 75 of the book festival programme says about the event:

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If you come along you’ll be at my first public reading. There will football with giant pinecones, a naughty squirrel squirting water, sounds recorded in the cairngorms forest, video footage of real capercaillies dancing and a few other surprises. By the end of the event you’ll know some genuine capercaillie dance moves. You could try them out at a wedding?

Schools
If you are a school group, I’m also doing a schools event on 21st August, I wrote about on the blog here.
 
Love Birds
I love the Edinburgh International Book Festival bird graphics – Cameron the Capercaillie will feel right at home in Charlotte Square.
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Capercaillies

Capercaillies are rare Scottish birds – there’s only around 1000 of them left in the wild in Scotland. They dance every year and I’ve got up very early to try to see them the last three years in a row. Here’s how I got on

Watch to the video on youtube here

 

BUY THE BOOK

Can’t Dance Cameron is published this September by Floris Books as part of their Picture Kelpies range. Advance copies of the book will be available in the Edinburgh Book Festival Shop in Charlotte Square Gardens during the book festival. So that’s the only place you can get a copy before 18th September.

BUY TICKETS (with Oscar!)

Hello, I’m Oscar the cat – there will be a video of me impersonating a character from ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’ during the ‘Dancing Capercaillies’ event. You should totally come along to see that. Invite lots of friends. Especially the smaller noisy people (aged 4 – 7 years) but grown ups will enjoy it too. Get tickets from 8.30am tomorrow on the book festival website. Log into your account before then here (to make it quicker tomorrow).

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Thanks to everyone at Floris Books, especially my brilliant editor Eleanor Collins and to Katie Pamment the illustrator – what beautiful illustrations.

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.  

Read about Cameron dancing in the Floris Book Catalogue here.

 

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Super Science Sleepover

Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with two groups of teenagers to help them to write and perform science shows. Tomorrow the pupils perform their shows to family audiences at the National Museum of Scotland and you’re invited to join them. Details below:

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The pupils are from Apex Inclusion Units at Braeview Academy, Dundee and at Dunfermline High School. They’ve been working hard on the scripts during workshops at school and at the museum here in Edinburgh. I can’t wait to see their final performances.

Pilot

I first got involved in the Museum2Go project during the pilot last year, I wrote about it on my blog here. Read more on the National Museums Scotland website here. Or watch this video, it really captures the heart of the project:

Museum2Go: Alex’s Amazing Adventure from National Museums Scotland on Vimeo.

The Museum2Go project was funded by The Robertson Trust. I have been working on this project with Science Made Simple in partnership with the National Museums Scotland

 
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Posted by on June 12, 2014 in Education, Events, Film, Science, Writing

 

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