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Category Archives: Events

Ollie and the Otter Book Launch

It’s official, this is the window at Waterstones, Prince’s Street in Edinburgh today:

waterstonesdodd(Thanks Keira Brown for tweeting this photo!)

I invite you to the launch of my new picture book ‘Ollie and the Otter‘, illustrated by Kirsteen Harris-Jones on Thursday 9th March at  6.30pm! You can collect tickets from Waterstones in person or order them online via eventbrite here. Here is the lovely book cover:

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It’s aimed at children aged 3 – 6 years but lots of people will be coming without children so if you have some they’re so welcome but you don’t need to borrow any if not. Look here’s a Chris Scott photo from the last book launch I did:

The Grouse and the Mouse launch

(see, lots of adults!)

Here’s a bit about the story:

Ollie the osprey loves catching fish but he’s useless at throwing them! And if he can’t throw a fish to Isla, she’ll never become his friend. Can Rory the otter help? A fun book about the loveable birds and animals of the Scottish Highlands.

You can take a sneak peak into the book and read more about it here.

There will be wine and nibbles and books and fun! Hopefully see you there! The cat will be staying at home…

If you’re not too sure what to expect, check out the Can’t-Dance-Cameron book launch photos and blog or The Grouse and the Mouse book launch photos and blog

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2017 in Education, Events, nature, storytelling, Writing

 

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Top Fives: Reflecting on 2016

On new years eve I was having dinner with friends and someone suggested we do top fives. You take it in turns to say one highlight from the year past. It made a change from talking about the state of politics or how many great people had died in a shocker of a year that was 2016.

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There were five of us and we shared stories together until it was time for fireworks. After I’d shared number three a friend said:

Wow, you really challenged yourself this year didn’t you!?

And I realised, every story I’d shared had a pattern.

  • It was something I was scared to do
  • I didn’t think I could do it
  • I did it
  • I enjoyed myself because I realised I could do it after all

I was doing mini Rockys (you know the films with Sylvester Stallone?) all year and the hard work had led to my highlights. Had I never taken the challenges, I’d never have got to the highlights.

I’m writing a children’s book just now about a character who is afraid of something so he just doesn’t do it. And he thinks he’s fine. In some ways he is, he’s comfy enough. But his friend suggests he might be missing out and tries to encourage him to try and do the thing he’s afraid to do.

All through life I’ve been scared of things so I wanted to show children that courage isn’t the absence of fear, courage is something you need because life is scary. It’s not a magic potion that makes fear disappear. It’s a choice to act when you’re not comfortable, you’re not sure you can do it, you’re not sure others will like it and you might look like an idiot. That’s what courage is.

When I write for children my characters have a habit of reminding me of things I need to remember. It’s like in my head I think ‘I want others to know that’ and then I realise I really need to know it myself. I’ve been like the character in the book where I think I’m fine but my world is limited because I’ve let a boundary of fear define how far I’ll go or how much I’ll try. I’ve chosen comfort above courage because I’m afraid of looking stupid or failing or being rejected. That’s not how we start off in life. That’s not how we are made. If it was, we’d never learn to walk.

Looking back over the year was a good reminder that trying new things and learning and growing is what we’re made to do. Our brains make new neuro pathways as we learn, because they’re designed to work inside changing, problem solving creative humans. That’s all of us.

So if it’s daring to be honest or signing up to try and keep trying something new or having the courage to really enjoy the present or just the courage to do something everyday when you’re feeling so bad that just going to a shop seems like a mountain to climb…

Whatever it is for you, you can do it!

TOP FIVES FOR 2016 :

Playing an International for Scotland Writers in Italy (and being the only Woman on the Team)

Image Credit top left: Adrian Searle 

This was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life – starting in a stadium, in Italy in a Scotland kit felt amazing! Also I need to thank the friends who told me over and over I should go. One even texted me every day asking if I had booked flights. I was scared because I didn’t know the guys well and I was the only woman and I thought I wasn’t good enough. But I had the most brilliant time! Also I really worked on my fitness the month before so I could play okay in 29deg heat. Italy had a woman on their writers team too and both teams were lovely. Here’s the captain Doug’s fab match report (warning- there’s lots of swearing in it!).

Chairing at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Totally one of my favourite jobs ever! I got to look after brilliant authors and illustrators TIm Warnes, Nick Arnold and Tony De Saulles. Read about it here.

Becoming a Chaplain to Hutchison Vale Semi Professional Ladies Football Team 

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Yes I am wearing a giant manager style coat and look twice as big as everyone else! I really enjoyed supporting the team in 2016.

Mining Memories: Creating Digital Stories with Children via the Perspective of Animals

One of my favourite school projects with the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative and Boness Public Primary – read more about it here.

Being a Dinosaur in a play for adults in Edinburgh International Science Festival

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Image Credit: Chris Scott

This was the dress rehearsal. It was like AE but for dinosaurs that have been debunked. We wrote our parts too – as part of Illicit Ink. Read more about it here.

New Challenges for 2017

I wrote three books which are coming out this year – I’m planning events now. You’re invited to the Book Launch of Ollie and the Otter on 9th March, 6.30pm at Waterstones Princes’s Street, Edinburgh.

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I’ve finished the season of chaplaincy so I can work on music related stuff.

I’m working on a new non-fiction book project and I’ve recently written my first radio play for BBC Scotland Schools radio. It’s about space and emotions and will be broadcast in March.

I’m working toward my first illustrated book (I’m an author of other books but I’d like to illustrate too). You can read a bit more about the journey towards illustration here and here. Here’s one I drew over Christmas on my ipad:

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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Education, Events, illustration, Science, Writing

 

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I am a Dinosaur

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I’m a dinosaur in a spoken word show in the Science Festival. It’s an adult show.  I’ve written a monologue from the perspective of Dracorex Hogwartsia. If you’ve not heard of her, well I am.. or I was a really awesome dinosaur with spikes and horns. The name translates to dragon king of Hogwarts – yeah.. the Harry Potter dinosaur.

But they discovered I was actually a juvinile Pachycephalosaurus. The dinosaur more commonly known as a bone head. Which really sucks. The cool spikes and horns disappear when I get older.

The show starts with my relegation from dinosaur status. I’ve been demoted like Pluto when he lost his ‘planet’. And I’ve arrived in some sort of limbo where the demoted dinosaurs rant and drink tea. It’s a support group. Or something like that. And that’s our show. Based on real science. Questioning what it means to exist and what happens when science gets it wrong.

So who are the demoted dinosaurs? 

  • LIBYCOSAURUS (the ever optimistic) played be Beth Godfrey, written by Sarah Thewlis
  • AGROSAURUS (hater of humans) played by Sian Hickson, written by Sian Hickson
  • ARCHAEORAPTOR (the missing link) played by Lewis Hou, Written by Lewis Hou
  • AACHENOSAURUS (the sarcastic philosopher) played by Andrew Blair, written by Andrew Blair
  • UNICEROSAURUS (the preacher) played by Ricky Brown, written by Ricky Brown and Nerd Bait Band
  • DRACOREX (the confused) that’s me

The show idea and direction come from Sarah Thewlis. Co director and tech support comes via Chris Scott. Hope to see you there!

The Illicit Ink show ‘Linnaean Limbo: The Dinosaurs That Never Were’ is at the enatomy lecture theatre at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival on Monday 4th April. Tickets are £8.50. Get tickets here.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2016 in Education, Events, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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World Book Day 2015

Happy World Book Day! All over the world children went to school dressed as their favourite book characters and people celebrated reading through events!

I spent the morning at Danderhall Library in Midlothian. We got everything set up ready for the children to arrive for a Can’t-Dance-Cameron event:

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After dancing, science experiments, smells, football pine cones and a story with the children, we had a chance to drink tea and eat this lovely cake:

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They asked me what my favourite cake was and baked it especially for the visit! What a welcome and thank you Rachel, it was delicious! Speaking of cake, the library made this cake out of books to celebrate their birthday:

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They also made some wonderful jellyfish out of plastic bottles and bubbewrap:

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Wee Write and the BBC

Earlier this week I was at the lovely Aye Write‘s Wee Write festival in Glasgow.

Again they were so welcoming and friendly. After the events I was interviewed by BBC learning. They asked what my favourite book was when I was a child. The video was published today, in time for World Book Day, you can find it online here.

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2016 in Education, Events, Film, Media, storytelling

 

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Book Week Scotland 2015

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I loved Book Week Scotland 2015! It was a busy week – I traveled 560 miles, met 440 children, inspired 65 multi-feathered multicoloured pine cone capercaillie creations, visited five local authorities and performed eight events about three books. Here are the highlights:

Number 35

The Scottish Book Trust announced a list of the 50 most influential novelists on twitter in advance of Book Week Scotland and to my surprise, I was at number 35! Was really good to see many children’s authors on the list.

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Leith Library: Edinburgh

The first events I did were with the lovely St Mary’s Primary School at my local (and favourite) library, Leith Library.

I added a Poo or False quiz to the ‘Grouse and Mouse‘ interactive story event so this was a chance to test it out. I may have slightly overdone the number of samples for this first session and have since added many more science links (e.g. when trying to count black grouse you may instead look for these droppings!)

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Leith Library was home for nine months when I worked as the Scottish Book Trust / Creative Scotland Reader in Residence. It was lovely to be back and to see the familiar faces of staff – thanks everyone for having me!

Find Leith Library on Facebook here.

Read-a-Licious Book Festival, Peebles

It was lovely to be at Read-a-Licous Book Festival for a second year with two new book events. I did a Grouse and the Mouse with 120 very excited nursery to P2 pupils:

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Image Credit: Read-a-Licious Book Festival. Find the Eastgate Theatre on Facebook here.

Followed by my first Volcanoes and Non Fiction writing show with 60 Primary 4 and 5!

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Carrbridge Primary School in the Cairngorms

I took the Can’t-Dance-Cameron interactive story event to Carrbridge for a whole school assembly and then we made capercaillies out of pine cones with the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage:

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I met a child who had a female capercaillie visit his house! I still haven’t seen one myself yet.

Carrbridge is a caperaillie conservation area so engaging the local school by sharing about these amazing birds was a real privilege. Plus now every child in Carrbridge can dance like a capercaillie.

Sinclairtown Library and Newburgh Library, Fife

I had the most lovely welcome from staff and children in Fife!

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I saw 120 children over two events. One girl called Emily (not me – it was a child!) knew all about owl pellets – she proudly shared her expert knowledge during the now improved, poo or false quiz. I was very impressed with the overall enthusiasm for wildlife in Fife. We also sold around 80 books that day so I hope many children and parents are enjoying wildlife themed bedtime stories!

Day Off

Friday was amazing – a lie in, then afternoon tea at Mimi’s and in the evening it was ‘The Lady in the Van’. I’m still recovering from a bad back so was really tired after lots of driving and events. This day made all the difference.

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The Language Hub, Glasgow

Saturday was my final event, a trip to The Language Hub for a family Grouse and Mouse event. It’s a lovely wee venue in Glasgow:

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Image Credit: The Language Hub, find them on twitter here and Facebook here.

I’d like to say a big thanks to everyone who helped organise events and to the children and grownups who came to celebrate reading with me for Book Week Scotland!

 
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Posted by on December 1, 2015 in Education, Events, nature, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Feeling Better

I’ve not been blogging as much as usual these last couple of months. The truth is I’ve not been doing most things as much because I’ve been a bit poorly with my back. It started mid September and got gradually worse and then very slowly better. I recently had an MRI scan and it turns out three of my disks were prolapsed (slipped) and the bottom one was compressing my nerve on the right side.

The good news is, I’m loads better now. So much better that I’m off the strong pain killers, I can walk okay and I bought some lovely new football boots – I’ve just joined a five aside league and I’m hoping to start playing next week – back depending!

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UPDATE: Turns out my muscles on the right are weak so have to slowly build them back up before I play football – so hopefully I’ll be playing early 2016!

Thanks

I wanted to say a big thanks to the people who knew what was happening and who dropped round meals and generally kept my spirits up by being in touch and just acting like normal lovely people. Special thanks to my flatmate Rhian! I’ve had severe back pain before – a couple of years ago it took me out for around 3 months so this time I was better at dealing with it. Here are some things I learned last time, that helped me get through it better this time around:

  • Ask for help

I’m not good at doing this but I did it early on this time. Just an email to a few friends explaining the situation and asking if folk could drop round a meal if they had time or be in touch or pray for me.

  • Think weather

A couple of years back when it was really bad my physiotherapist said you need to look at a week overall and think weather – it might be raining right now and today’s weather looks worse than yesterday but overall has the week been better than last week? That way when you have a bad day it doesn’t seem quite so discouraging and you can hopefully see a gradual improvement.

  • Lower expectations

I’ve always been an over achiever. I’m now a recovering perfectionist. If you’re used to expecting a lot from yourself and then you can hardly do anything it’s incredibly discouraging. I’d start to feel a bit better and plan a full day of things including getting up early to fit it all in. Then I’d sleep through three alarms and feel exhausted and end up disappointed because I couldn’t do much at all. So I got used to expecting less. I’d maybe have one thing to aim for in a day. Doing some writing. Going to an event.

  • Take every day as it comes

You just don’t know how you’re going to be so it’s hard to plan for pain and also, there’s no point worrying about tomorrow either. Just be wherever you are at the time. Which I know is easier said then done.

  • Find ways around things

Walking or standing aggravated my back and after a few minutes of either I’d be in a lot of pain. So as I got better I drove to things, even very short distances. And sat or crouched down when standing became too hard. My car spectacularly failed its MOT and is now scrapped so in desperation, I tried cycling to a Pilates one evening. Because it was sitting – I was okay. After that I started cycling – it was so good to be able to get some exercise and get around but without hurting my back.

  • Don’t let fear stop you

Because it can suddenly become quite painful, it’s easy not to go out because you’re scared. I knew that fear could make my world smaller and smaller until I’d end up hardly doing anything. Then I’d feel quite miserable and that makes the pain worse. So I did my best to do things, even if I didn’t stay long. Even if it hurt and it was all I could do that day.

Lovely Wigtown Book Festival

I had four events at Wigtown Book Festival near the end of September when my back was still quite bad. I was still on prescription painkillers and I wasn’t sure how it would go.

I made contingency plans for the first two ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron‘ schools events with 500 children. I could get volunteers up on the stage to show them the capercaillie dance moves if I couldn’t do them. I could do the whole event sitting down if I had to. I didn’t take the super strong pain killers the night before because I knew I’d never get up in time and I asked people to pray. I didn’t sleep but despite that, it actually went really well. I was able to stand and even dance on the stage and give the children my full energy. Here are some sketches Shoo Rayner drew at the event:

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Lots of teachers came up to say how much they’d enjoyed the event and they didn’t know about my back so they weren’t just being nice. The shop sold out of one of my books at the first event too so that was amazing. I got to sit for the signing so that gave my back time to recover between events.

I headed to the author’s yurt for lunch with my hot water bottle and enjoyed the lovely food (yes that is lobster!):

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And lovely people, the volunteers, the staff, Shaun at the Bookshop, the authors – Robert Twigger took some fab black and white photos of us all and added them to the message board every day:

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and later I visited my wonderful chairperson Renita’s house and spent the afternoon there drinking tea and resting. That evening I went to a magical storytelling evening based on ‘the moth‘ but called ‘the midge’. I was enjoying myself so much I even joined in with a story myself.

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And after that I still felt okay so I went along to book at bedtime – hot chocolate in the bookshop and a poetry reading from Peggy Hughes. It was such a lovely day and there’s such a wonderful welcome and atmosphere at Wigtown. I didn’t want to leave! So that was one of my best and most unexpectedly well days.

The next day I had a swim with Renita’s dog, walking to the water hurt but then the cold water hit me and the pain went – it was really good for my back.

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(Thanks to Renita Boyle for the video and photo!)

And later that evening it was Rally and Broad:

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with the wonderful Bookshop Band:

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I loved being part of the event with such brilliant performances from everyone (and a great audience!). There wasn’t a theme for the event so I based my set on all things at Wigtown.

And the final day was a family event for the Grouse and the Mouse – many of the rooms in the school had been transformed into magical fairy-light lit venues for the festival. It was amazing!

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(thanks to festival photographer Colin Tennant for this photo)

And before I traveled back to Edinburgh I saw ‘To Begin’, a moving show from the National Theatre of Scotland based on the real stories of the people of Wigtown (with lots of local people acting in the show too).

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So a big thanks to everyone at Wigtown for having me. I loved it and I’m looking forward to coming back soon.

Tidelines

Another lovely festival I visited at the beginning of September (before my back got bad) was Tideslines Book Festival. I had a couple of events in schools

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and then a public event in a theater with my first ever Hollywood style dressing room:

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And after the event the festival had organised a whole host of nature crafts with rangers and artists. Here’s a black grouse made from a pine cone:

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The rangers had slugs and bugs and fox fur you could feel:

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And the children had loads of fun too:

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Next week it’s Book Week Scotland and I’m really looking forward to these events – it’s so good to be feeling better again and I’ll just make sure I get plenty of rest in between.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2015 in Education, Events, storytelling

 

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August

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August was a little bit overwhelming. It included nine lots of airbnb guests staying in my old flat, three Edinburgh International Book Festival events, two events at the Green Man festival in Wales, one event in the Cairngorms, a visit from my sister, niece and nephew and three writing deadlines.

I’d launched a book and moved house at the end of July so I didn’t start August in the most relaxed place either. I’d also borrowed money and had a large amount on a credit card and had friends who were going through difficult situations. So I was feeling overwhelmed but then I had a mini revelation at a conference.

Firstly I felt like I should make a list of all the good things that had happened in August. I used to write things I was thankful for in a book at night – a gratitude diary. But I’d somehow got out of that habit a few months back. I’d stopped remembering to be grateful.

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So I made that list.

And then the speaker was talking about his three-year old daughter. They were in a lift and more and more people were getting in and it was hot and the people were smelly and the wee kid said “pick me up Daddy, it doesn’t look good down here”.

And so the Dad picked up his daughter. And the situation hadn’t changed, they were still squashed into a lift but the child had a different view and that changed everything. So I looked back at the list and realised I’d lost perspective – I’d been too crowded by circumstances and I’d stopped noticing the good things.

So I thought I’d share a few of the good things here in pictures:

A Visit from Family

I had three days off just doing nice things like making this mermaid:

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Unbound at Edinburgh International Book Festival

On the subject of mermaids, a group of Illicit Ink writers each took a fairy tale and rewrote it with a twist. This is the Wee Mermanny:

Illicit Ink: Happily Never After

Chris Scott took some amazing pictures of this event. I’d rewritten sleeping beauty but with cryogenic freezing:

Illicit Ink: Happily Never After

Green Man Festival

Wales, camping! I did a Cameron kids event in a tent and then some science spoken word for a soggy Sunday afternoon huddle.

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Edinburgh International Book Festival Children’s Events

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I enjoyed meeting families at ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably‘ and doing a schools event for Gala day to promote ‘The Grouse and the Mouse‘.

Loch Garten and the Giant Black Grouse

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One of my favourite things had to be taking Can’t-Dance-Cameron to the Loch Garten Osprey Centre in the Cairngorms. This was the place that first inspired me to write a story about a dancing capercaillie.

There was a wee girl at the event called Islay. It’s always children who remind me of the important things in life. She was four with curly red hair. She’d been to see me do Can’t-Dance-Cameron at Dundee Literary Festival last October. Now she’d brought her older cousins and her younger cousins and several families. I soon realised she was the most excited and enthusiastic audience member I’d ever had. When we got to learning the dance moves she triumphantly shouted her catchphrase “I know that!”.

So I got Islay up to the front to help show everyone how to dance like a capercaillie. She was so happy dancing there and when the music stopped I asked the audience to give her a round of applause. The entire Osprey Centre started clapping. All the adults who had been busy at the telescopes during the session had stopped to watch her and now they were clapping so hard . Islay smiled back at everyone. It was really wonderful.

The thing is, going off to the cairngorms by myself was a little daunting. Whenever I do events I feel well… alone. It’s a bit weird. I think it’s maybe because my greatest fear was and probably still is standing up in front of people. I did an MSc in communicating science ten years ago to try to conquer that fear, to learn the skills I needed to stand up in front of people. But it’s not like those feelings ever go away. I get nervous. If I’m on the stage I’m being me so it feels kind of vulnerable. If I’m sharing something I’ve written that’s also me, so it’s double me in front of people and it often makes me feel sick! But when I’m in front of kids I’m so I’m busy making sure they’re having a good time that there’s not really time to think about me. And Islay was having the time of her life so I guess I realised it was all totally worth it

The staff at the Osprey Centre were so welcoming and excited too (not quite as excited as Islay, but still pretty up there). They wrote about the event on their blog here. One of the rangers, Nimrod dressed as Bagpipe the black grouse from The Grouse and the Mouse. He learnt all the Cameron the caercaillie dance moves and came out after we finished the story to join us for one last dance. Unfortunately – the arrival of a giant bird caused three of the children to cry! So he danced at the back instead. He was very complimentary about the session:

“What you’re doing for conservation is astounding!”

Again I was reminded it is all worth it!

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After the event I went for a two-hour walk in the forest and it was so beautiful! And I didn’t feel alone even though it was just me. I felt happy.

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And that night I had curry with the rangers, the Education Officer Jen cooked up a feast. Nimrod arrived and said he couldn’t believe that I was there with them and it was just really lovely to eat and find out more about wildlife.

And Now?

One of the writing deadlines I had during that busy August was a synopsis for a non-fiction science book. I heard last week it’s been signed off. So now I’m writing and that’s a new book on the way. I finally put the forest up in my office / room:

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I guess it’s a reminder to stop, and reflect and breathe. And to know it will all be okay. Sometimes we just need a new perspective.

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2015 in Events, nature, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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