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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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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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Brave New Words

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I’m excited to be the compère an event next week that brings together two of my passions – science and writing. A few people have asked me what a compère is so just to clarify it’s the host who links the evening events together. I’ll be introducing the speakers, chairing the discussion and conducting a science experiment with the audience. You’ve been warned!

The event follows on from the EuroStemCell creative non fiction writing competition. We’ll be sharing work from the winners and talking to a panel of science writers. You can read about the panel members here. If you’ve got a question for a member of the panel please add it to the comments below or tweet it to @Eurostemcell using the hashtag #bravenewwords. I hope to see you there!

Here are the details:

Wednesday 23rd October 2013, 7.00 for 7.30pm.
Inspace, 1 Crichton Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AB

Brave New Words: a celebration of words and science

For millennia, the sciences have fired the imagination. We react to the world around us with awe and curiosity. In order to understand and experience it, we tell ourselves stories. Some of these stories we describe as fiction and some as non-fiction. But all stories, just like all science, can teach.

These stories, once spread as myths and folklore, now come in the form of prose, comics, blogs and poems. But questions arise about how best to communicate science. How accurate must writers of fiction be? Can non-fiction authors be inventive or poetic? What forms are most effective at imparting knowledge and which are best at gripping the imagination?

Brave New Words will look to answer these questions. Hosted by storyteller Emily Dodd, writers of fiction and non-fiction Pippa Goldschmidt, Ken MacLeod, Barbara Melville and Mhairi Stewart will discuss the interplay between narrative and science. EuroStemCell will share the fruits of their recent non-fiction writing competition with comics, prose and poetry on stem cell science, performed by Rachel McCrum and Ariadne Cass-Mara.

The event is free but ticketed – get your tickets through eventbrite here find the event on facebook here. Read more about science writing in the context of this event on Bab’s blog.

 
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Posted by on October 14, 2013 in Education, Events, poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Wood Foraging in Pictures

I’ve recently installed a woodburning stove in my lounge and I totally love it. So when Daniel said:

Doddsy, wood foraging next week?

I said YES! Daniel is a wood foraging pro:

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Back in the day when we worked at Changeworks, I dreamed of getting a stove but most people told me it was a bad idea. Most people, but not Daniel. He had a stove and pointed out how easy (and fun) it was to forage for wood in Edinburgh. Four years later and there we were.

My bow saw was a bit smaller than Daniel’s so it took me a bit longer to cut through the logs:

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This was the pile we cut between us in less than an hour:

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Daniel suggested bringing a wheelie bin but I only had a wheelie suitcase. I filled it just as it started to rain:

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I felt proud of the wood we’d chopped as I walked back through the trees:

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But when I got to the streets I suddenly felt a little self conscious. Did people assume I lived in the wild and had decided to return home and all of my worldly belongings were logs?

When I got home I started my first log pile, hurrah!:

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My arm ached a little but I loved the experience of cutting my own fuel and being outdoors. Thanks to Daniel, I’ll be foraging again soon and next winter I’ll have the pleasure of burning those logs!

Just in case you were wondering, the wood was already dead and lying on the ground, we just cut it into bits. 

 
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Posted by on May 19, 2013 in Education, Environment, nature

 

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What is Spoken Word?

This month I performed at two of Edinburgh’s monthly spoken word events, Blind Poetics and Ten Red. Inviting friends involved me trying to explain what spoken word is. I don’t think I did it justice so I hope this blog will help. A typical conversations went like this:

Me: I’m doing a spoken word gig on Monday at the Blind Poet if you happen to be about?

Friend: What is spoken word?

Me: Some people call it performance poetry…

Friend: Ohhh it’s poetry, so people actually perform poetry? (slightly amused / disbelieving face)

Me:
Yeah, there’s a really active spoken word scene in Edinburgh.

Friend: So do people read poems they’ve written or do they remember them?

Me: Monday’s gig includes open mic slots so it’s a whole range, lots of people do read but others remember them…

Friend: Do you read your poems or do you remember them?

Me: I remember them. I’m the featured poet this month (slightly amused / disbelieving face)

Friend: Featured poet, so what does that mean?

Me: Well I have a twenty minute slot. I get paid. The featured poet is meant to be really good (I don’t make eye contact). Last month they were on tour from Berlin. This month it’s me.

Friend: I’m sure you’ll be grand, my wife’s got an exam the next day so I won’t be doing anything, I should be able to make it. Blind Poet Right? Spoken word (smiles, nods).

Thinking about it, I have friends who’ve never been to any of my gigs or any spoken word gig ever. For some of them, the idea of a night out watching someone perform poetry sounds at best dull and at worst, embarrassing. For those people and for anyone else who’s not heard of or been to a spoken word gig, I wanted to try to explain a bit about what spoken word is and what I love about it.

My first exposure to ‘performance poetry’ was watching the film ‘So I Married an Axe murderer’, it was entertaining and intriguing but nothing like seeing it live. A few years later I saw Phillip Attmore, a Broadway actor and dancer perform a poem he’d written called ‘Move’. It included a tap dance, as ridiculous as that sounds it was and is amazing. It wasn’t just the quality of the performance, the clever lines, the rhymes and the rhythm. It was more than that, it made me want to get up and do something with my life. To write, to move, to speak, to express. Here’s a video of this year’s world poetry slam champion Harry Baker, it’s along the same lines. He’s performing a poem about bees but it speaks to the heart, it makes me want to do something, to be something, to change something. Words have power and we can listen and move on or we can listen and move. Here’s Harry with the bees:

That’s a bit about why I love about watching spoken word but what’s it like on the other side of the microphone, what’s it like to perform?

Performing solo for 45 minutes in a packed out book shop during the West Port Book Festival last year was wonderful and intimate and totally different to being part of an evening like TenRed earlier this month. At Ten Red ten poets share ten minutes each in a cosy back room in a pub in Leith. Every other person was a writer and it was as much about sharing a pint, as a poem. I loved being part of a team of performers and the performances I saw were entertaining, challenging and inspirational. This was the line up,

It’s not all good, I feel physically sick before a spoken word gig. Once I’m performing I’m fine. I like to involve the audience, I love chatting to them, for me it’s about connecting, sharing and having fun together. I know spoken word artists who feel energized when they perform, for me it’s the opposite. I feel totally drained afterwards, I’ve given a part of myself and it takes me a day to recover. I love to get feedback, especially from people I don’t know and I’m always really encouraged by it and glad I performed (despite dreading the gig beforehand and wondering why in the world I’d agreed to it).

There are so many brilliant spoken word artist in Edinburgh, if you live here I totally recommend checking out the scene. Why not write something and consider taking part too? Here are just a few of Edinburgh’s amazing selection of spoken word events:

TenRed: Ten Poets perform ten minuets each at the Persevere Bar, Leith. Poets invited to perform in advance by host Kevin Cadwallinder. Cosy back room atmosphere. Check out the facebook page.

Inky Fingers:
: Monthly writers group, monthly open mic and a whole host of brilliant special events. Check out their blog, twitter or facebook group for details.

Neu Reekie: Monthly meeting of avant-garde poetry-music-film fusions. Last Friday of the month at the Scottish Book Trust. Supported by Creative Scotland. Check out their blog, twitter or facebook page.

Blind Poetics: Monthly spoken word and performance, first Monday of the Month at the Blind Poet, Newington. Includes 5 min open Mic Slots, introducing slot and featured poet. Big bar, always packed out and a variety of levels of experience. Check out their facebook page.

Illicit Ink: Themed Spoken Word events with food treats and funky badges. Regular events are prose but after a successful ‘happy verse night’ more spoken word events will follow. Check out their website, facebook and twitter.

If you’d like to hear some of my poetry here’s an audio clip of Starling My Darling, a poem about starlings and physics. If you want something longer there’s a 45 minute podcast of my Author Talk at the West Port Book Festival.

I’m the featured performer for child themed poetry event for adults (fundraiser for Theater Paradok) at a new bookshop in Edinburgh, Looking Glass Books on Friday 13th July. Hope to see you there, it’s called Pea Green Poetry. Check out the ‘gigs‘ page on this blog for more info.

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2012 in Banana me beautiful, Events, poetry

 

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Speed of Light

This August Arthur’s Seat will be ablaze with the lights of hundreds of choreographed runners in light suits. It’s NVA’s Speed of Light. You can buy a ticket but just to warn you, I’m one of those runners. I ran about in a light tunnel at The Edinburgh Camera Obscurer to create this artists impression of what we might look like.

Actually I’m slightly concerned that you’ll be ooo-ing and ahh-ing at the fusion of public art and sporting endeavours when somebody will shout “What’s that?”. You spot a lone set of lights on the edge of the crags, hurrying to catch up with the others. Perhaps it’s a gymnast about to do something spectacular? No, on closer inspection the lone light appears to be slowing down. It’s ruining the display completely, why is it there? Now the renegade light is lying on the ground, it’s stopped…   That will be me if I don’t get fit.

For over a month now I’ve been running every other day. Well almost. I substituted a few of my runs for Zumba and a couple of long bike rides but I’ve still run more than I’ve ever run before. I’m not at the speed of light (or even 10k fit) but I’ve got a few weeks to go.

I persuaded a few bright sparks to sign up to run in Speed of Light including Peggy Hughes, Anna Beswick and Al Innes. Leah Lockhart and Marianne Paget signed up voluntarily!

How’s the training going? Well I’ve got a little bit thinner and I’ve started to almost enjoy running. If I run in the rain people say things like “rather you then me” or “well done!”, I quite like that. Animals do funny things too. I saw a crow sit down on the grass like a duck, crows never sit down. I also often race a vole that pops out of a hole in the wall. He sees me and runs as fast as he can along the bottom of the wall until he gets to the next hole where he disappears.

Now I’m wondering, what will it really look like? There are photos on the NVA website but I’ve found something even better. Hurrah for Wales – they’ve done something similar, light suits and everything. I imagine we’ll all look something like these sheep:

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2012 in Events, Film

 

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Fin Wycherley: Freelance Ghost

With lots to learn about my new freelance lifestyle I’ve decided to interview the people who make freelancing work. Some hints and tips from the masters, that kind of thing. Welcome to the fifth in the series, meet Fin Wycherley.

I first met Fin at a monthly get together for Edinburgh Freelancers, Freelance Friday. It’s been great getting to know her over the last few months, she’s one of the most social media savvy woman around. I always learn something new in a chat with Fin and recommend listening to her debating in the wee small hours. She’s entertaining, encouraging and interestingly…. she’s a ghost writer:

Fin has a background in law, direct marketing, speech writing, journalism, usability and business radio. She recently started her own business working as a Content Marketer helping companies increase their Google rankings and clients. She builds their social media network by producing content that is shareable, engaging, targeted, regular and branded. So if a business or entrepreneur is completely befuddled by the whole social media thang, Fin can take it off their hands completely (Fin doesn’t recommended this unless absolutely essential) or devise a cunning content marketing strategy and train them up on all the tools and platforms (Fin says this is much more sustainable and authentic).

How did you get started?
I kind of fell into it really. I had a pretty successful blog on arts and culture that had good circulation and local businesses were increasingly asking me for a hand or for tips and tricks for developing quality content. Eventually, when the advertising agencies came a-knocking, I realised my business had just landed in my lap.

The problem for the ad agencies was that they would set up their clients with the whole online merchandising, Twitter and Facebook infrastructure, with training and then the happy business would set off on their social media journey all enthusiastically.

Of course, within 3 weeks they’d run out of stuff to say. They quickly realised you can’t really ‘sell’ on social networking sites, so they were stumped as to what to say, without talking about breakfast and the weather and all that garbage.

That’s where the business name came from, Supersize Blogging. It’s all about taking the business blogs and social media and really supersizing them with cracking content including great photography, videos, design, keywords, etc.

If you could go back to when you started what advice would you give yourself?
Whoah, I’ve only been doing this for around 6 months or so, so it’s still early days. But I suppose I’d say, “Get a move on” cos even though the content marketing industry is pretty new, it’s growing very rapidly and clients are needing more and more support as they begin to see the benefits.

What do you like best about being a freelancer?
I work at the David Lloyd gym mostly and when I need a break, I go off and do a Tai Chi, Body Pump or Zumba class. Or on Fridays, I’ll just have a cheeky wee sauna, steam room and jacuzzi. These days, it’s getting even better cos the outdoor pool is now open and it’s such a thrill.

I don’t understand why more freelancers don’t come and work here. You can break out for a chat with others and there’s free wifi. Very sympa and half the price of working in an office.

What do you find most challenging about being a freelancer?
At first, it was managing my time, but that’s improving. Then there’s the billing and invoicing and accountancy bit which I’m working through. Plus I didn’t really have time to set up a business plan. Still don’t.

I guess that’s what you’d call a lean set up – bootstrapping and working out the kinks as you go along. Waaaaaay better than getting bogged down in funding, banks and public support.

How do you know when to stop working?
My family start shouting at me. My five kids get merciless when it’s diner time so I’ve just gotta be there. Luckily most of them are self-sufficient but they still like Mummy being around.

What do you do in your breaks?
Swim, etc as above.

Are you being paid to do what you love or do you do something else to finance what you love?
Oh yeah, totally loving this. It feels like I’ve always been developing targeted content at specific audiences that informs, educates and entertains. Plus I’m working alongside some very talented folk in video, web design, photography and graphic design, so it’s a real honour to learn from them and be inspired by them.

What are your top money saving tips?
Set up your office at David Lloyd (I’m not an affiliate). Fun, cheap, friendly and gets you fit.

What new projects are in the pipeline?
I’m working on a big contract with one of Scotland’s top law firms. I’m being flown down to London to deliver a one-hour inspirational speech with 20 mins Q&A. Yikes, but it will be immense. Plenty of clients moving down the sales funnel, and I’m looking to take on an extra pair of eyes / hands / brain over summer. Good times.

Follow Fin’s on twitter @FinWycherley, read her blog on www.supersizeblogging.com and she’s also on FB, LinkedIn and all the usual social venues, including Pinterest, her new addiction!

If you’re an Edinburgh Freelancer why not join the next Edinburgh Freelance Friday on the second Friday of the month, 5.30pm at Sofi’s, Leith. More here

Lastly, if you enjoyed this interview, you might like to read the following interviews with Edinburgh Freelancers;

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2012 in Freelance Friday

 

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Film Crew in My Kitchen

If you want to know what goes in the red and blue curbside recycling boxes in Edinburgh or if you want a sneak peek into my kitchen, then the latest Edinburgh Council Video is for you.

I’d just like to point a few things out first:

1) I have a very serious face. This is not because recycling is very serious. I was concentrating on my instructions (wash the jar again) and didn’t realise my head was in shot!

2) That is David Tennant. I did offer to take it down but they said it was authentic. No I don’t have children.

3) It is very windy outside. We filmed the morning of the great hurricane. You weren’t allowed to travel after 3pm. So there were a few takes with bags blowing off down the street!

4) I use rechargeable batteries (not that you care)

5) Lastly, I don’t normally crush bottles with my bare hands, I stamp on them

Watch video on Youtube

Ryan from the Council and the guys from Hee Haw Digital were brilliant fun to work with. Despite my serious face at the start, I laughed lots.

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2012 in Education, Environment, Film, Media

 

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Jonathan Melville: Big Person, Big Personality

I recently became a full-time freelancer. With lots to learn about my new lifestyle I’ve decided to interview the people who make freelancing work. Some hints and tips from the masters, that kind of thing. Welcome to the third in the series, meet Jonathan Melville. 

I first met Jon in March at an award ceremony. Jon interviewed me and totally put me at ease despite the camera. The subject was volunteering and I recall saying “see a need, meet a need”. Afterwards Jon asked if I’d come up with it, “No” I confessed “it’s from the Disney film Robots”. I proceeded to tell him how brilliant Robots was since he hadn’t seen in. It was only after that I discovered Jon was actually Scotland’s premiere film expert, there I’d been with a lot of enthusiasm and a less than eloquent description of a children’s film. 

Since then I’ve got to know Jon at various Edinburgh events and through social media. I’m always impressed by the number of projects Jon works on. He’s well known in Edinburgh and in social media, a big person with a big personality (and I didn’t steal that from Disney).

Although Edinburgh-based Jonathan Melville graduated from Napier University with a Publishing degree firmly rooted in the world of books and magazines, it’s online that he has made his career over the last decade.

Jon managed websites for organisations such as VisitScotland and Standard Life Bank. He then worked for an Edinburgh-based digital agency for three years before fully embracing freelance life as a digital editor and copywriter in 2011.

Now entering his fourth year as film columnist for the Edinburgh Evening News, Jonathan works with Creative Scotland on a number of film-related online projects and runs film website, www.reelscotland.com, voted 10th Best Scottish Website by The List in 2011.

How did you get started?

I started back in 2008 writing arts reviews for the Edinburgh Evening News while working full time as a website editor for various public and private sector companies. I started to get more serious about the idea of going full time freelance in 2010 after a university course I was accepted on fell through. I was finally pushed into taking the plunge in 2011 when two things happened: I was offered a substantial contract with Creative Scotland to manage a number of online projects and my full time employment ended when I was made redundant. I signed the Creative Scotland contract the day after I received my redundancy letter so thought that perhaps it was a sign that freelance life was worth committing to.

If you could go back to when you started what advice would you give yourself?

If I’d known in 2010 the way things would go I would certainly have saved more money at the start of the year, and I think that’s something that’s worth doing even if you’re aren’t planning to go freelance right now. I wasn’t expecting to made redundant and it can, as we see on the news every day, happen any time. Cheery thought.

What do you like best about being a freelancer?

It’s great to be able to take some chances on projects I’d have no way to be part of if I was working 9 to 5 for someone else. I’m still constrained in that I have to make enough to pay the bills each month but this past year has been the most creative and downright fun I’ve ever had. I like that I can’t afford to be complacent about things.

What do you find most challenging about being a freelancer?

Although I always thought that working from home must be the best way to work, I do sometimes miss being in an office with a team. I’ve been working in an office at Edinburgh Napier University for the last few months which means adjusting to a new routine for a few days a week while working from home the rest of the time. There’s a lot to be said about maintaining a regular 9 to 5 day, even if you’re not working on a paid for piece of work.

I suppose the biggest challenge is putting in the effort of finding new work and not knowing what you’ll be doing in a few months time. If you start to think about that too much it can be daunting.

How do you know when to stop working?

I try to stick to the regular 9 to 5 I mentioned before, but if something needs to be finished outside of those hours then I’ll do that. As well as the work I’m contracted for I run ReelScotland in my evenings and weekends, so it’s never quiet around here.

What do you do in your breaks?

Because my days vary, so do the breaks. I try and get away from the computer screen at least once an hour and take a walk outside during lunch.

Are you being paid to do what you love or do you do something else to finance what you love?

That’s a tricky one. The Creative Scotland project has found me promoting Scottish cinema and filmmakers via various websites and has allowed me to travel around the country meeting fascinating people in the process. Meanwhile, ReelScotland finds me doing the same but it doesn’t earn me a penny. So I’m doing what I love which also pays me to do what I love. Does that answer the question?!

What are your top money saving tips?

Make your own lunch. Walk instead of getting the bus. Don’t buy too many DVDs.

What new projects are in the pipeline?

There are a few more film related projects that I’ve had meetings about as well as some regular content writing jobs. I’m also developing some new ideas for ReelScotland.

Find out more about Jonathan at www.jonathanmelville.co.uk or follow him on Twitter at @jon_melville

If you’re an Edinburgh Freelancer why not join the next Edinburgh Freelance Friday on 13th January, 5.30pm at Sofi’s, Leith, more here

If you enjoyed this interview you might like to read the following interviews with Edinburgh Freelancers, Jolene Cargill: Opted out because she cares and Alan McIntosh: Man of Mystery Behind The Broughton Spurtle.

 
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Freelance Friday, Media

 

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National Poetry Day: Edinburgh and beyond

Last month was National Poetry Day and my busiest day as a poet yet. I spent the morning running workshops with 10 classes at Flora Stevenson Primary School, Edinburgh. Then I whizzed over to West Lothian to run the final ‘Tree of Life’ workshop with a retired arts group, Generation Arts. Here are photos of the ‘Tree of Life’ at Howden Park:

Tree of Life, posted with vodpod

I’ll share a few of my favourite poems from the Children at Flora Stevenson.

First a bit of background. The theme for National Poetry Day was games. Children like having fun and playing games so I based creative thinking activities around that. One of our games was guessing objects in a feely bag. We described the objects and talked about what they reminded us of, we were thinking like poets. The key messages I wanted children to take away were:

  • Poetry is having fun with words, today’s workshop is about having fun.
  • This isn’t about spelling, it’s you ideas that make you a good poet, it’s what’s in your head.
  • You have a unique way of seeing the world, unique memories and imagination and that’s what’s fantastic about you and will make your poetry different to anyone else.
  • Enjoy being you, enjoy the way you see the world and enjoy expressing it. Differences are brilliant!
  • Encourage one another, you might be sitting next to a future J.K Rowling, Ronaldo or Matt Smith.

Each workshop was half an hour with lots of short fun activities and challanges. I worked with two classes at a time and altogether worked with four Primary 1 classes, two Primary 5 classes, two Primary 6 classes and two Primary 7 classes. That was five workshops in total. We focused on riddles to tie everything together and I set the older groups a riddle writing task to do following the workshop. Here are some of their riddles:

I walk a bit slack,
I can’t run back,
I hang like a bag
on someone’s back.
What am I?
Chris Peden, P6

I cost a small sum
I melt in the sun
I taste yum-yum!
Stella Soutar, P6
 
I hang onto trees,
I walk on land,
I float on air
and I love shiny things.
What am I?
Ethan Gillespie, P6
 

I was impressed by the children’s creativity and enthusiasm and the work they produced is excellent too. Primary 1 had only been at school a month or so and yet they were fantastic at listening and participating. My last group of the day were Primary 6. We neared the end of the workshop and I checked to see how we were doing for time. The pupils and teachers said they didn’t want the workshop to end, neither did I and since I didn’t have anywhere to be right at that moment I agreed to 15 minutes more. They guessed some more riddles, persuaded me to perform a couple more poems and asked me lots of brilliant questions.

I’d like to thank everyone at Flora Stevenson for a fantastic day. It was a lovely surprise to see one of the teachers, Miss Broadly at my West Port Book Festival performance later that week. I also met a P6 teacher’s Mum. Mr Jackson couldn’t make it to my performance but told his Mum to go along and see me, she’s a writer too.

Finally, I wanted to tell you I met with Elspeth Murray to talk through my workshop ideas at the planning stage and she gave me some great suggestions, feedback and encouragement. Thanks so much Elspeth, here’s what one of the teachers said:

“It was one of the best workshops I’ve attended.  The children were drawn in from the start and the way the sense of touch was used to kick-start their imaginations was inspirational.  The whole class returned to the classroom fired with ideas to start writing, some examples of which I enclose.”

Simon Jackson, Primary 6B teacher, Flora Stevenson Primary School

 
4 Comments

Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Education, Events, poetry

 

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