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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 seat 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:

Can't Dance Cameron launch

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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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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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.

20140812_231042 (2)

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:

capercaillie5b

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:

20140805_150254

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:

2002footballteam (2)

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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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:

cantdancecamcover

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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Kelpies Book Catalogue

kelpies front

The new Kelpies Scottish Children’s Book Catalogue arrived in the post from Floris Books. I got very excited when I saw it sitting on the mat. I got even more excited when I turned to page 10…

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A Can’t Dance Cameron double page spread! Katie Pamment’s lovely illustrations of the capercaillie lek (that’s a dance) on one side:

pg 10

A description of my first picture book on the other… it is really happening:

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Next week I’m going to see the full colour layout of the whole book. That’s when we make any last changes to text. It will be the first time I see the illustrations (apart from the ones here in this catalogue). I can’t wait!

I had a look at the rest of the books in the catalogue. These ones are next on my ‘to read’ list. I’ve already read the Daemon Parallel and I’m very much looking forward to Roy Gill‘s sequel:

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The catalogue finishes with a map, all the books from Floris are set in Scotland. I felt proud to see Can’t Dance Cameron dancing in the Highlands:

map

Find ‘Can’t Dance Cameron: A Scottish Capercaillie Story’ on the Floris website here. Read about taking Cameron to the Edinburgh International Book Festival here. Read about trying to spot a capercaillie dancing in real life here

 

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2014 in Education, nature, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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