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Everyday STEM Geology

Earlier this year I had an exciting new book published – Everyday STEM Geology. It’s written by me, illustrated by Robbie Cathro and published by Kingfisher Pan Macmillan.

It’s a book about the geology in the everyday – in your phone, plastic, cans, concrete…

Plus geology in space and a few other surprises including experiments to do at home.

I love that it says ‘science is all around you’ on the cover. I’m especially chuffed that I wrote a full spread on geophysics – that was my undergraduate degree back in the day. I adore the illustrations by Robbie too. I hope you enjoy it!

Please ask for it from your local library and tell all the 9 – 11 year olds you know.

If you would like to buy Geology in a way that supports me and your local independent bookshop, you can buy it here. Otherwise I won’t earn anything when you buy elsewhere because I don’t have a royalty contract on this book.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2022 in Education, Science, Writing

 

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Art at Taigh Chearsabhagh

My art is up in a real life art gallery!! FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.

This is me at the opening event of an exhibition at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Art Gallery. I’m next to a mixed media piece I created called ‘Gravity and Magnetism’.

Here are two more mixed media pieces, ‘Clachan Sands’ and ‘Under the Earth’. They’re from a series of four pieces I made based on the water cycle, rock cycle and life cycle and how it all connects.

This is one of my cyaotype collage prints, of a place called Solas:

The arrows point to some of my figure drawing pieces, the one on the right is a blind drawing:

It felt amazing, to see my work on the wall and to hear such positive reactions from people who were seeing it for the first time. I loved seeing work up from my classmates too, we’ve all worked so hard. This is Nisha, Jesse and Andrew next to their paintings:

And Sif, a forth year BA student next to a local clay kiln-fired sea sponge:

Going to Art School

The reason I’ve got art up in an art exhibition is because I’m now an art student. At the beginning of September I moved to North Uist to Study Art and Design with The University of Highlands and Island.

The course I’m doing is one year full time and based at Lews Castle College in the studios at Taigh Chearsabhagh. I always wanted to go to art school so this is me finally following that dream.

It’s been really hard to be honest, being back at school and doing things that are totally new so I’m not good at them – I have to learn. I’ve felt so aware of it. Like the feeling of starting a new job but every single week. It feels exposing and vulnerable.

BUT I’m learning and improving all the time. And I’m making work I feel proud of too. All the more so, after the pain of all that effort to learn new techniques and apply them to a task we’re doing. I feel grateful to my tutor and to the other students.

I also moved five times in the first four months and I ended up in hospital with my back. And I’m working at the same time too.

So it’s been a challenging few months but I’m so glad I’m here and I’m glad I’m making art every week. Thankfully I’m now in a permanent home too – so no more moving for me.

The Launch Party

There were three exhibition all launching at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Art Gallery that night, all of us together. If you head there this weekend you will see an exhibition from a collective of local artists – the Uist Arts Association. Such beautiful small square pieces:

And an exhibition called ‘Three’ from three artists – Margaret Fenton, Margaret MacLellan and Peter Ferguson.

I especially loved seeing the finished paintings from Margaret Fenton – she came to see the students last year and showed us sketch books and her work in progress.

Art blog posts

I’ll share more about the process and thinking behind my work in the exhibition, along with more work I’ve been making too. I’ll do that in a series of blog posts – coming soon.

But for now, if you’d like to see some of what I’ve been up to, I’ve shared a little more work on instagram here and on twitter here.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2022 in Education, Events, Media, Science

 

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Tiny Wonders

Tiny Wonders is on CBeebies just now. It started during the Christmas holidays and it continues every day on the CBeebies channel until February. If you don’t get a chance to watch it live, you can catch up on BBC Iplayer here.

I’m super excited about Tiny Wonders because it’s the first time I’ve written a whole series for CBeebies – all ten episodes. I was also part of the development team – I wrote the pilot script, developed the characters and developed multiple episode ideas.

And after the show was commissioned by CBeebies, I wrote the storylines and scripts for each episode too.

Tiny Wonders was created by New Zealand based animator Daniel Short. He came up with the amazing concept and was also the lead animator throughout the project. The series was produced by independent production company Freakworks. Myself and Dan worked with Freakworks and CBeebies during the development and production of the show.

So what’s Tiny Wonders about? Here’s how’s it is described on the CBeebies programme page:

Join the Nogglins, Fidd, Nono, Itty, Yapp-Yapp and Hum, on a voyage of discovery to explore the Tiny Wonders of the natural world. Slow down, look closer. What can you see?

And here’s the trailer:

In its first week, Tiny Wonders was the most watched show on CBeebies and the most popular children’s show on BBC Iplayer. I think it’s gorgeous but it was really good to hear how many children in the UK enjoyed watching it too.

Before I tell you about writing for Tiny Wonders, I want to share some of the wonderful art and crafts children and parents have been sharing.

Tiny Wonders Art:

Some gorgeous Fimo Nogglins from Angus and Anna:

Tiny Wonders Art from Angus:

A brilliant wooden noggin, made by Mahboob Raja for his four year old boy:

And a tray of play dough nogglins from Rhona, Sarah and Craig Lamont.

These are all so lovely!! Thanks for sharing them with me.

Writing Tiny Wonders:

Here’s a bit more about the development process, from my perspective as the screenwriter for the show.

Hired:

Daniel Short pitched the initial Tiny Wonders idea to CBeebies, along with a company who wanted to make it with him, Freakworks. CBeebies liked it so much they gave Freakworks some development money and that’s the point when they hired me. I was brought on board to develop the characters and episode ideas, and to write the first episode script.

They found me on a children’s media database I’d forgotten I was even on. And we happened, by wonderful chance, to all be based in Leith in Scotland. So I went to meet Chris Marks the producer and we clicked. I’d written episodes for CBeebies before (Nina and the Neurons) and I’ve worked in-house for BBC Scotland in development – storylining episodes and developing new science series for children’s television. Freakworks had made lots of shows, but nothing for 3 to 6 years so this was a good fit.

Coming up with lots of small and wonderful ideas:

We all contributed episode ideas, until the list grew to around 30 wonders-of-the-tiny-world. We needed natural objects that had something surprising or interesting about them. We wanted a mix of urban and rural locations. Objects had to look different (and not too obvious) when you were close up and exploring them as part of a macro world.

Two of my ideas that later became episodes were geode and litchen. I’d seen an amazing fence post that had a whole host of lichens growing on it – it was really stunning. And I’ve always been fascinated by geodes – that boring looking round rocks can contain a dazzling crystal world inside them.

I wrote short paragraphs pitches for every episode next. These were important because they showed CBeebies what was Tiny (and Wonderful) about each episode and they showed the potential for a story. Here is an example:

GEODE (natural)

Inside the rock egg there’s a secret place, it’s purple and sparkling…

Location: Bottom of cliff

Developing Characters

The characters, designed by Dan, were shaped in ways that corresponded to how they moved. Fidd is an ice hockey puck shape and slides quickly about. Hum is a floaty cloud shape and glides slowly. The characters started as 2D drawings that later became 3D shapes.

I was given illustrations of the characters, names and basic descriptions for how each character moved along with their main characteristic – chatty, bossy, fast and so on.

I used the enneagram as a framework to develop the characters further, giving them more personality and depth. The enneagram is a type of personality profile that was used in ancient communities to make sure there were different types of people within a community and to show how everyone learns from (and needs) each other.

Each enneagram personality type changes under stress or aspires to be someone different at their best – so it was a perfect way to determine how each character would respond to the challenges presented in the episodes. It helped determine how they relate to each other too. It’s also pretty hipster, the enneagram. Not that I’m a hipster. I just like it.

Here’s an example of one of the character profiles, after my development:

HUM

The reflective, thoughtful, sensitive one.

Hum is distracted, drifting, musical. She is sometimes a little sad. She is in her own world, observing and taking things in from a unique perspective. Hum keeps calm in a crisis.
Sample line: It’s all round and shiny, like a tiny moon!

Group role: Younger sister. Independent bystander. Notoces things the others don’t see.
Movement: Floats along slowly
Character type: Investigator / Observer. Investigators have a need for knowledge. They are introverted, curious, analytical, and insightful

Here are all the characters with their enneagram types:

  • Fidd: Type 7, The Adventurer / Enthusiast (red)
  • Yapyap: Type 3, The Achiever (orange)
  • Itty: Type 8, The Challenger / Asserter (purple)
  • Nono: Type 6, The Questioner / Loyalist (green)
  • Hum: Type 5, The investigator / Observer (blue)

It took a lot of thought to match profiles to the already assigned characteristics I’d been given. I had to include:

  • the way they moved
  • their already defined age relationship
  • name and a basic assigned characteristic (chatty, distracted etc)

And I needed to make sure all the characters were sufficiently different to each other.

At the time I was studying counselling one day a week at college so I’d explored the enneagram personality profiling in depth and I knew, for example what the child versions of profiles were too.

Every interaction I would write between the nogglins, every observation about their world, the way in which they respond to the jeopardy and solve a problem – they are all based on characterisation so it was really important that I knew who they were

I also wanted the series to represent neurodiversity and encourage child viewers to celebrate the differences within themselves and those around them.

For example, Hum is distracted and gets lost because of it in ‘Bark’. Distractedness in Inattentive ADHD is due to noticing (and thinking about) other things. It’s about noticing too much at once and being hypersensitive to things like sound and light. So HUM gets lost when distracted but is found by using music – humming sounds. In other episodes, I was careful to make Hum the character who spots things others don’t. For example in ‘Geod’, Hum is the one who finds the crack and follows it to reveal the crystals. The others haven’t noticed it. So in writing the episodes as I did, I show both the helpful and unhelpful sides of distractedness.

Yapyap is the chatty character. But in ‘Lichen’, Yapyap needs to quieten down during a game of camouflage hide and seek. Being talkative causes Yapyap to be spotted easily when the others hear them talking excitedly. But I was really conscious that we don’t suggest that Yapyap needs to learn to be a quiet Nogglin. Yapyap will grow up to be a chatty adult Nogglin and that’s okay, they just learn in that episode that sometimes, it’s a good idea to be quiet.

When I’d finished all the character descriptions and explained the enneagram to Julia Bond, (Executive Producer at CBeebies) she said “This is amazing, it stops them being just blobs, now they’re blobs with depth and this could be what makes this show stand out as different.” What a relief to have such a positive response after all that hard work. She really understood my ambition for the series.

The Noggins are voiced by real children and I wanted them to behave like authentic children too.

A lovely part of the Tiny Wonders concept was to include real children’s reactions to each of the wonders. So when I was writing scripts I’d write the sorts of things I knew children would say. For example “It looks like a tiny volcano” when describing the barnacle. Next to some of the lines of the script I added a star. These were lines that could be swapped out and replaced with real child reactions when they were recorded at a later date.

But most of the lines were too important to be changed. They were absolutely necessary to the viewer’s understanding of the story. So the child actors read all the lines in the script I’d written but they were also showed pictures of objects and they responded in real time with their own descriptions. Some of those lines were later chosen by the producer, Chris Marks, to be included in the final episodes.

For the development script ‘Dew drop’, I wrote a long list of questions for the children, to try to prompt reactions when looking at a dew drop image, these included:

  • What does it remind you of?
  • What do you think is sounds like?
  • What does it look like?
  • What do you think it wants?

All the time I was writing the script and developing the characters there were visual changes being added too, by the animation and production team. For example, glasses and monocles were added to the Nogglins to give them more character and to make them look similar to their craft, the bee sized Noggin.

I love the Noggin – Dan’s idea for the spacecraft. It has interchangeable appendages so it can hover or float or fly, depending on where it landed. A sort of cross between steam punk and nature. Nature Punk – if that’s a thing!

After weeks of hard work from everyone, the script, character descriptions, episode ideas and pilot animation were pitched to CBeebies and we got a yes!

This was super exciting news but I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone because it was all confidential. And then we had to wait 6 months before production began too. And it was more than a year after that before it came out on TV – that’s a very long time to keep a secret!

Creating Stories

Once we’d been commissioned and production began, my next challenge was to write each episode idea into a proper story. I collected information from all our meetings until I had a long list of all the things I needed to do as the writer. Here’s the list I came up with, to make sure I was doing what was expected. Every episode needed:

  • Awe and wonder at the natural world – introduce beautiful and surprising things in nature
  • An authentic child-based perspective and way of seeing the world (from the nogglins)
  • A initial moment to slow down and notice things, narrator introduced
  • A second moment of slowing down for the Nogglin of the day (who hadn’t previously slowed down much) to use mindfulness to solve a problem, without the narrator saying to do this
  • Increased jeopardy in each episode
  • At least one funny part in each episode
  • A problem set up and resolved, featuring that episodes nogglin of the day
  • A problem caused, in part by a characteristic of one of the nogglins (e.g. being fast, being distracted)
  • A problem caused in part by the Tiny Wonder environment
  • A life lesson learned from the solving of the problem – if it’s one that was learnt as a result of a characteristic (e.g. being stubborn) the lesson is universal to children (for example, it’s important to listen to your friends) rather than very specific to a perceived negative characteristic in a child (for example you need to be less stubborn / chatty / distracted).
  • At least two different scripted macro shots plus the landing shot
  • A section where the nogglin of the day is solo and uses mindfulness to discover something. But they have to discover this by talking to themselves (no narrator or other character dialogue) or by visually showing this somehow – and then they re-join the others and share what they’ve learned.

Every episode had to be under 3 minutes long and 1 minute of that was arriving and leaving the tiny world and there was always a section of live action too. So it was a massive challenge to get so much into so few words and construct a fully resolved story. All the noggins needed to participate in each episode, they all needed to respond in ways authentic to their character and the situation and there needed to be lines that could be swapped out for real child reactions. I wanted it to always sound like real children having real conversations.

Because it was a new show, things were still being worked out as I wrote the storylines and scripts. So for example I had to write some of the episodes without the actual Tiny Wonder image. I knew what it would be (for example a barnacle) but it hadn’t been taken yet.

Other episodes had to change because of the limits of animation, or in terms of movement of characters or the Tiny Wonder itself. So there were lots of changes.

We came up with initial story ideas during a writers room day, with myself, the producer Chris and later the animator Dan too – we really needed him to check our ideas were possible in terms of the animation.

I then wrote storylines for each episodes (a plan of what happens, it’s a bit like a book synopsis) and these were sent to various people for notes in including the producer, the lead animator and to the CBeebies exec. They all sent me notes.

I made changes to the episodes in response to the notes – but sometimes I came back to explain why something needed to be a certain way for the episode to work. Then they were sent back to CBeebies for the final sign off. Once a storyline had been signed off, it came back to me and I wrote the script – the lines of dialogue and lines of action for the episode.

The scripts went through a similar process of circulation and notes in response, and I rewrote them multiple times. Once we had a template script for one episode and rules for the Tiny Wonders world, it was much easier to write the next episodes but sometimes we’d need to change something in one episode that would affect all of the episodes.

We kept all the characters genderless. That was challenging from a writing perspective – to never use ‘he’ or ‘she’ in any dialogue, but always make all the dialogue sound like four year olds talking naturally to each other.

As changes happened I worked super hard to maintain the authenticity of each character – so if a change was needed visually, I’d make sure the character responded in a new way that was authentic to them. With so few lines, any small change – even to a single line – would change the whole script. I needed to make sure each character got an equal amount of lines and lines in keeping with their character. I also had to think about the lines for the narrator – if they’re speaking to the Noggins or to the viewer because this changes the ways things are said. 

I have lots of experience working with four and five year olds, doing workshops and storytelling. I often show them a giant pinecone and without fail, every time I get it out, wherever I am, children react in the same way. The reaction is always a big amazed noise that turns into a collective wow. Here’s a photo of that moment in an outdoor classroom:

I included the collective ‘wow’ as an authentic shared expression in my scripts – a bit like a family having a catchphrase or in-joke.

At times I had lines suggested to me as quick fixes to solve a visual problem but more often then not, they didn’t work because they were explaining something from the viewers’ perspective, looking in or looking down on the tiny world. The Noggins are in the Tiny World looking outwards – they can’t see what what the viewers’ can. That was yet another thing to consider and I wanted to keep it consistant.

Writers need to take notes they are given on board and make requested changes. But I said when I believed something was really important and when I believed a suggested changed could damage the integrity of the show. Ultimately – there were lots of compromises but I am hugely proud of the end result.

Conclusion

Well that’s me shared a little bit about my role as a writer for Tiny Wonders. There were so many people involved that I haven’t mentioned. People at Freakworks who did things like taking beautiful photos of the tiny worlds, filming on location, animators, the voiceover actors (a big shout out to the children -they were so good) and so many more besides them. We’re all really proud of what we achieved together. If you haven’t seen it already, I really hope you enjoy it.

 
 

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Stream My Story

Libraries across Scotland worked together to commission children’s authors for an online book festival called ‘Stream My Story’. The book festival went live at the end of term and schools watched events in class, as an end of term treat.

The author videos stayed online over the holidays. Now there’s just a few days left to watch the festival before the videos are taken down so I wanted to share this video with you.

I was asked to do an event around 20 minuets and I’m proud to say I did it in all one take. It’s filmed it in a hazel grove on the Isle of Skye. It seemed like a good place to film, since the story, Crime Squirrel Investigators, is all about hazelnuts! It’s also where I live (Skye, not a hazel grove).

Thanks to my friend Joyce for tech support and for coming along with me too. I’m glad I wasn’t dancing about in front of a camera, by a loch, in a hazel grove, all by myself!

You can see all the brilliant stream my story book festival events here for a few more days. Hope you enjoy them!

 
 

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Water Cycles

I’m excited to share this lovely new illustrated nonfiction book with you.

Water Cycles is Published by DK and it’s the sequel to ‘Life Cycles’ (which is DK’s most popular book!). The gorgeous illustrations are by Sam Falconer.

I’m the contributing author of the biology spreads. So if you’d like to know how a camel survives dehydration or how water moves through a plant, you can in some of my spreads.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2021 in Education, illustration, Science, Writing

 

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Help There’s an Alien in My Park!

YOUR MISSION

Should you choose to accept it: Read the story, complete challenges and do experiments to continue the adventure and send Fizz the Alien, home.

This is how ‘Help There’s an Alien in My Park!’ begins…

On the next page, the reader is introduced to their team members, Ben and Jaz. They make their own team profile by drawing a self portrait and annotating it with their skills, likes and dislikes:

Then the story starts. Chapters are interspersed by science challenges that move the story forwards. The children stick in stickers to complete each of sections and there’s a certificate and competition at the end of the book.

Team Work

I was commissioned to write ‘Help There’s an Alien in My Park’ by the Science Art Writing Trust (SAW) in Norfolk. They usually visit schools with science workshops but this stopped due to covid.

Dr Jenni Rant, the SAW programme manager had the brilliant idea to make a book instead. A book could be gifted to children so they could catch up on science they missed over the summer holidays. It would be science engagement AND a lovely gift.

Six partner organisations contributed challenge ideas and information and each challenge was based on the partner organisation’s area of research. The challenges topics were:

  • Food
  • Immunity
  • Biodiversity
  • Plants
  • Insects and pests
  • Climate change

Here’s details of the contributing partners, they’re all part of the Norwich Research Park:

Fun and Engaging

We worked to make the challenges fun and easy to do for children, even without parental support. We wanted to engage children who don’t like reading or science to help them to catch up on the science they missed due to covid and school closures.

Short easy sentences, clear instructions and humour all helped make the book fun and accessible. All the challenges can be done at home or outside using household items.

A theme of energy runs through the story. Fizz the alien needs energy to fly home and the challenges help Fizz learn about energy on Earth.

The school curriculum areas covered by the book and it’s challenges include:

  • Art and design
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Mathematics
  • Food (nutrition)
  • Expressive arts (drama)
  • Technology
  • Reading and writing (including creative writing and descriptive writing)
  • Science (including light, food chains, food webs, energy and forces, plants and photosynthesis, global warming and climate change, biodiversity including insects, the body organs and the digestive system
  • Eco schools topic of waste and energy

Feedback

I was lucky enough to be there when a friend was reading the first two chapters to her son. It was wonderful to see him laughing and doing spontaneous impressions of Fizz the alien (Fizz laughs with a honking sound!). This was my reward (who needs stickers?).

I spent the last few months working on the text while Atom Boy (Daryl Blyth) was busy drawing the gorgeous illustrations:

Others working in the Team include Beth Sherman, who worked on the challenges as part of a PHD internship. Jenni Rant and Sami Stebbings at SAW worked with the research partners on the challenges too. And Kaarin Wall worked on the book design. I think it looks brilliant – I’m now a fan of an A4 landscape layout!

Gifting Books

The books were gifted to over 5000 children in Norfolk and Suffolk, aged 8 and 9. Prince George even got a copy!

And now it’s about to be gifted to four primary school in the North end of Skye. That’s where I live so I asked the trust if we could gift some books here too. They kindly said yes! The schools go back in Scotland this week, so they will get signed copies as a back-to-school treat. I really hope they enjoy reading it and doing the challenges.

Feedback

I gave a copy to a lovely 9 year old neighbour (who doesn’t like science) and she popped round to tell me she’d finished her bug hotel – wow – it’s an epic hotel indeed! It’s good to see the book working, a non science fan is enjoying science! Here’s her hotel and Daryl’s drawing from the book:

My bug hotel building neighbour made this gorgeous card too. It’s in the style of the book cover, but with me on the front:

My nephew is 9 so I sent him a book too. His Mum sent me a video of him touring the body map he’d made, with toast travelling through a digestive system. It’s one of the challenges in section one of the book and it involves socks! If you’d like to see it and find out more, I’ve shared it on my author Facebook page here.

Getting a copy

If you’re age 8 or 9 but don’t live in Norfolk, Suffork or in the North End of the Isle of Skye, sadly you won’t have been gifted a book.

But you can still get your parents to buy a copy from one independent book shop, The Book Hive in Norwich or from Waterstones online. It costs £10 and 100% of profits go towards next year’s book project.

 
 

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Cover Reveal: Why is Blood Red?

I’m super excited to reveal the cover of ‘Why is Blood Red?’, my latest book, published by DK in March 2021.

It was commissioned before we knew there would be a pandemic. I planned and wrote it through lockdown. I found it incredibly hard to be motivated but I got there, one weekly deadline at a time until it was finished. I’m proud of this book and I hope children will love finding out about their brilliant bodies as they read it.

Big thanks to everyone involved including my lovely editor at DK books, Katie Lawrence. Thanks to the DK design team in India and to consultants including those at the Smithsonian museum in the USA. And thanks to Lindsey my agent at Fraser Ross Associates.

You can preorder it here.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2020 in Education, Science, Writing

 

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Virtual Summer School

I’m excited to be part of the programme of authors, illustrators and special guests at the Virtual Summer School, hosted by Edinburgh Zoo and The Highland Wildlife Park. Here’s the trailer, see if you can spot me!

It looks amazing, it’s on for the next four weeks and starts Monday. There’s behind the scenes talks, crafts, family challenges and lots of animals. My nephew can’t wait to go – he loves penguins.

Book tickets here.

 

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Science Skills

My nephew (9) had to draw a scientist and label their skills for school. My sister sent me this picture and explained he’d chosen to draw me. Wow! I love it. I especially love that I have the skill ‘fearless’ along with the complimentary skill ‘good at being safe’.

It reminded me of a book I came across recently when I was preparing for an online school event. I wanted to see what authors were doing online to get some tips, so I watched this Scottish Book Trust video:

What started as research into technique quickly changed into me being fascinated by ‘The Incredible and Fantastically Feminist Life of Ada Lovelace’, and by Mrs Puff, her best friend the cat. The whole video is so engaging, as is the illustrated book. As Ada grew up it made me think of Rachel McCrum’s fantastic performance playing Ada when we toured with the Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch.

I am not my father’s daughter

That’s the line that always sticks in my head, about her relationship with her father the poet, Lord Byron.

Ada’s life is fascinating, as is her design for the first computer – the difference engine. If you want to know more, buy Anna’s book from your local independent bookstore.

I looked up the rest of Anna Doherty’s work – I was so impressed – she’s an author illustrator who writes about women scientists and women who are neurodiverse (both topics are close to my heart).

She even wrote an illustrated book about Michelle Obama. And then I discovered her first book was about the Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre is one of my favourite books. I felt inspired seeing Anna’s work and Anna, after watching the video.

And in a small way, I felt proud my nephew chose a woman scientist for his school project – and that woman was me.

 

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Storytelling in Lockdown

It’s been over 3 months since lockdown began and just like other authors, I’ve had my live events and book festivals cancelled due to covid 19. We’ve had to learn new ways to share stories. Here’s a bit about how I’ve been doing that and some story videos for the children you know.

Live in Schools

Last week I did a live Crime Squirrel Investigators event on google meet with two remote primary schools, Badcaul and Scoraig near Ullapool. One is only accessible by boat and in total, there are 16 children in both schools.

The event was lovely – we planned how to take what I normally do live and make it work on a computer screen while keeping it interactive. The teacher Mrs Love, was really helpful and we did a test earlier in the week so I worked out how to share images, music and video while still being live on screen myself. I was a bit nervous about the technology but it all worked.

For example instead of getting volunteers to help me with a camoflage demonstration, I prerecorded myself dressing up instead of the children:

Instead of getting a teacher to help with actions while I’m singing a song, I taught the children the song on guitar live and then played a prerecorded audio version while I mimed along and did live actions. I hadn’t realised quite how exhausting jumping about like a squirrel all the way through a song is and I had to do it for two songs!!

We got families to type answers in to quiz questions on the chat function and at other points the children made true or false shapes with their bodies for a squirrel quiz. At the end of the event, the children asked questions live on video. I really enjoyed it and I was pleased that they did too. Thanks to the Scottish Booktrust for funding this event.

I’ve even purchased a go-pro camera since then, so I can make better films and have a much better webcam for future events. I’m excited about using it for underwater filming and outdoor adventures too – it’s waterproof!

Live on Facebook with RSPB Scotland

Earlier on in lockdown, RSPB Scotland asked if I could make a video to engage with their younger members. We went for a Can’t-Dance-Cameron interactive storytelling session (with dancing and a science experiment) as part of their Big Wild Sleepout event. It was broadcast on Facebook and they added it to YouTube too so you can watch it here:

I could have filmed more outside but I wanted children who couldn’t go out much to feel understood and I wanted to remind them, with our imaginations and using stories – we can go anywhere. The sent me an osmo pocket camera so I learned how to use that and filmed it all myself. It took ages so I vowed to simplify things a lot for the next video. Thankfully the RSPB helped with editing! And thanks to the Scottish Booktrust for funding this event!

The Little Oak Tree

What came next was a request to record a story for the children at Ps and Gs. I chose a simple story I wrote about a little oak tree. It’s got a couple of songs in it too. It’s main aim is to encourage the children to be themselves. The story comes first and then there’s some songs and rhymes from Rachel. I hope you enjoy it, the message is for adults too – be yourself! Watch it here:

Leaf Cafe Live on Facebook

I had a nice surprise when I heard Carol at Leaf Cafe in Hartfordshire was reading Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief live on facebook as part of her legendary 11am daily book reading. You can watch it on facebook here. It’s had over 1500 views because Carol is great at reading stories!

Lockdown

It’s been a strange time. A hard time.

At first I was surviving, waiting to get through it and come out the other side. Now I’ve got to a place where I’ve realised I don’t have very much control over planning the future so I’ve surrendered to that. And as a result, I’m more able to get on with what I’ve got to do right now and I’m less bothered when things I thought were going to happen don’t or can’t. I sometimes have hard days but overall, I’m feeling much better. I’ve been running lots which I think helps. I hope you’re doing okay, whatever is happening for you and I hope these stories help.

I’m writing most days and I’ve had deadlines every week for the last 10 weeks so I’ve had to get on with it. I realised I’m more resourceful than I thought I was because I’ve made my deadlines, even though I was finding it really hard at first. I suppose that’s what we’re all doing, we’re doing our best to keep going and do what we need to do, whatever that looks like for us.

Learn Gaelic

I’ve heard lots more people are learning Gaelic since lockdown began so I’ll finish up by sharing a Gaelic glossary I made for Historic Environment Scotland when I was working as a facilitator out on the Ilse of Lewis. I didn’t share it here at the time I made it, so now’s a good time. It’s an easy introduction to a new language. And it’s full of children’s artwork so it’s really lovely. Why not give Gaelic a go and watch it here:

Read more about the Blackhouse project on the Isle of Lewis here.

I hope you have a fantastic summer holiday and I’ll blog again soon. Sorry it’s been so long!

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2020 in Education, Events, Film, Media, nature, Science, storytelling

 

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