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Bologna Children’s Book Fair

Last week I went to Italy and met Giulia Cregut. She’s the Italian illustrator for my new book ‘Crime Squirrel Investigators the Naughty Nut Thief’. Here we are:

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Little Door Books found Giulia’s lovely illustrations at Bologna Book Fair here, a year ago:

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It’s called ‘The Wall’. It’s actually several walls where illustrators from all over the world put up posters and leave contact details. That way, people like Alan and Susan from Little Door Books and this random man can find them.

Alan and Susan were looking for an illustrator to match the Naughty Nut Thief text from me, they found Giulia’s work and a year later… we have a book!

Here we are showing off that book by Giulia’s poster that got her the job:

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I found the book fair quite overwhelming, it’s huge. It’s the biggest children’s book fair in the world. A book fair is different to a book festival although my Mum uses the titles interchangeably when she’s usally referring to book festivals.

For clarification, book festivals are places where the public come to see authors and illustrators do book related events. Book fairs are where industry professionals come to do business. Publishers, agents, rights people – it’s a very different ball game. They both include books but that’s it.

This is the Publishing Scotland Stand, Little Door Books and the other Scottish Publishers displayed a selection of their books and did meetings:

20190412_160953To give you an idea of scale, there are over 1000 stands like this one with publishers from all over the world. I felt like a very small person in a very big industry! I wondered around and took photos of the illustrations I found inspirational, here are just a few of many that stood out to me:

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Feeling somewhat overwhelmed, I drunk coffee and consumed bread based products. This is the face of a person who’s eaten croissants, pizza, Panini and Bolognese bread (yep – that’s a thing) for 3 days:

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There aren’t many authors at the fair but Publishing Ireland had a party so I got to meet Chris Haughton, he was really nice:

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Bologna is a UNESCO city of music and the oldest university town. It’s also famous for its meat. Hence the sausage chandelier in an eatery I visited with Little Door Books:

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And our very lovely food, with more bread:

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If you would like to read Crime Squirrel Investigators The Naughty Nut Thief, you can on 1st May when it gets published. Or come to the launch on 2nd May at Waterstones, Edinburgh. With woodpecker hiphop, science, songs and a water squirting squirrel. Get your tickets here.

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Thanks to Imago for the chance to visit Bologna (Gill) and a non bread based meal (Simon). Thanks to Little Door Books and Giulia for being yourselves. And to Lindsey Fraser for support from afar. 

Pre-order Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief from all good book stores.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2019 in Events, illustration, nature, Writing

 

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CSI: The Naughty Nut Thief Cover Reveal

I’m super excited to reveal the front cover of my soon to be published book!

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It’s beautifully illustrated by Italian illustrator Giulia Cregut and published by Little Door Books on the 1st May 2019.

Rosie’s secret hazelnut store has been ransacked and her best friend Charlie agrees to help her to find the naughty nut thief. The crime squirrel investigators only have left-over nutshells as a clue, so they watch the different ways the three main suspects eat hazelnuts to try to solve the crime. Help the two squirrels discover the naughty nut thief and learn about the different ways animals eat nuts along the way!

I hear I’ll get advance copies of the book any day now (so excited!) and I’m all set to record the audio book in a couple of weeks. You’ll be invited to the book launch in Edinburgh in May. It will include water squirting squirrels, science and songs!

If you can’t make that I’ll be at festivals and events throughout the year so you’ll hopefully see me and the squirrels soon!

Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief can be pre-ordered now from all good book stores.

UPDATE: Get tickets to the book launch on 2nd May here.

 

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Bluebell and Blue Cat

I forgot my stylus on a visit to Strathclyde Country Park so I had a go at sketching using using my finger:

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I love bluebells! I was pleased with how it turned out.

And here’s a sketch from earlier this month when I did have a stylus, it’s my lovely cat! He didn’t stay still long but I’m trying to loosen up a bit and add some fun into illustrations. Once he’d moved it forced me to use my imagination and here’s what happened:

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Posted by on May 17, 2018 in Environment, illustration, nature

 

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Sketching on Skye

I’m going to draw more. I’ve set a goal of posting a new drawing on here every other week, this week it’s the black cuillin, sketched on my ipad from the middle of Loch Coruisk on the Isle of Skye:

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Loch Coruisk is described as the most magnificent of Scotland’s freshwater lochs by Walk Highlands. It’s also supposed to be home to a water horse – a kelpie! I was excited when we got the boat towards these misty black mountains, from Elgol:

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We passed some seals on the way:

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And I stopped here and sat to sketch:

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Here’s where I was, from the other side:

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It really is one of the most magical places I’ve been too. I wanted to capture the feel of the mountains – they seemed almost angry. With their snow capped peaks. And the mist too – that’s hard to draw! And all that orange tufty grass:

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And I only had twenty minutes and at one point I got attacked by a cloud of midgies so I’m pleased with how it turned out. But more then that, it helped me to take my surroundings in, to really experience the place I was. Here’s the sketch with a filter on it:

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And a goodbye from me on the boat trip home:

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Posted by on April 12, 2018 in illustration, nature

 

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Multi-Sensory Stories

Last week we celebrated World Book Day… correction, we would have celebrated if this hadn’t happened:

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Not the cat, snow! Deep snow everywhere closing roads, schools and putting a stop to world book day celebrations across the UK. My events were cancelled but I’ve been thinking back to World Book Day last year, when something magical happened.

I was invited by Oaklands School (for children with additional support needs) to come to watch their performance of a picture book I’d written called Can’t-Dance-Cameron, illustrated by Katie Pamment:

They had turned the book into a multi-sensory story. That means they created a sensory experience for the children to engage in using the story as the journey through the experience. They recorded sounds and children who were unable to speak pressed buttons to make the sound at the correct moment in a story, for example “PING”:

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They made props like this amazing tree, giant hazelnut and bird hat:

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*By the way, the teachers dressed up in pajamas or so that’s why I’m in my dressing gown and slippers!

The children and support workers made costumes and the children acted out sections of the book while one of the teachers read the story using a microphone:

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They invited parents and other schools to come and watch. They invited me to say a few words about a new book Ollie and the Otter, illustrated by Kirsteen Harris-Jones, and I used a squeezey osprey to join in with the muti-sensory theme:

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Their performance was one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen. I was so impressed by the effort that had gone in to practicing the story and making it so extrodinary.

The whole event finished with a capercaillie ceilidh – the children danced around in wheelchairs while I was trying not to cry.

One of the staff members told me the boy who played Cameron kicked independently for the first time at the kick part of the story – this was really exciting because in the practice the carer had lifted his leg to make him kick! That’s just one of many moments that morning that made me smile:

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Thanks to everyone at Oaklands for making World Book Day a day I’ll never forget!

 
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Posted by on March 7, 2018 in Education, Events, nature, storytelling

 

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Launching the Summer Reading Challenge

Emily Dodd in Hawick

I had a lovely time in the Scottish Borders last week at the launch of the summer reading challenge. This year’s theme is ‘Animal Agents’, about animal detectives. I visited Melrose Library in the morning:

And Hawick Library in the afternoon:

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Thanks to the families who came along to the Ollie and the Otter (illustrated by Kirsteen Harris-Jones) nature storytelling sessions! There was water squirting, fish catching, bird dancing and giant pine cones. And thanks to the awesome children who were part of the photo shoot at the library afterwards:

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The photographer was Scottish sports photographer of the year Jeff Homes. We didn’t do sport but we did do some bird dancing as part of the storytelling so maybe that counts?!

40,000 children take part in the challenge to read a book a week over the summer holidays. Its a great way to encourage reading for pleasure. You can read more about the launch in the Hawick Telegraph here.

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(I love those wellies! But what is that giant tesco book all about?)

The Summer Reading Challenge is run by national charity The Reading Agency in partnership with Scotland’s libraries and Tesco Bank

 
 

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Blue Dot Days and the Golden Road

I’ve planned the year in dots. I love my colour coded wall planner:

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Yellow is author events. Green is workshops for Historic Environment Scotland. Red is deadlines. Orange is conferences and meetings. The more red, yellow and green I have, the more I need blue dots. Blue dots are rest.

Rest to me looks like:

  • Walking in the hills
  • Cooking and baking
  • Reading
  • Time with close friends
  • Gardening
  • Drawing
  • Slow mornings
  • Cleaning the house
  • Playing football 
  • Watching Poldark with a Gin and Tonic
  • Writing that I’m not being paid to do (writing for fun!)

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(a blue dot day ipad sketch of a stag)

It’s basically doing things that allow me to recharge. The last couple of months have a pretty intense yellow, green and red –go-go-go time. And I’ve not always got the balance right but being aware I need more blue on the wall planner helps. I don’t work properly without blue dots. I don’t think any of us do. The blue dots make everything else possible.

Sabbath

You might call a blue dot Sabbath – a concept that came as a law to 2 million people who were liberated from slavery. The problem was they kept working every day as if they were still slaves. They needed a law to remind them to take a day off.

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(no this isn’t Moses – it’s me on a brunch weekend away to Loch Lomond but it’s in here to remind me to stop, take a day and go up a hill!)

Blue dots aren’t law for me and I can’t often make them Sundays because of working events on weekends. A whole day is preferable but not always possible. But a blue dot morning or a walk to the studio the long way, on the bike tracks and along the river, that’s making blue dots part of everyday.

I’m trying to make it a way of life. To sustain the energy to perform and to write well – I need gaps.

Flexible Dots 
Recently I went on holiday to the Cairngorms – one of my favourite places in Scotland. I’d happily stuck five blue dots onto the wall planner months earlier. But since then I’d had a big book contract and the book was going to print the week after the holiday. I had final proofs of pages coming in every day so I worked around it, I had to. I got up every morning at 6.30am, did a couple of hours reviewing pages and then met folk for breakfast – it worked – it might not be total switch off but it was better than just working. I worked and then enjoyed mountains… and cake!

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Not long after that I was asked to write about being inspired by nature for Books From Scotland – so I wrote about the trip to the Cairngorms – you can read it here. It’s about how places inform writing just as a product of being there – of showing up for a blue dot.

Blue Dot Evenings: Lewis
Last month I was working on an oral history project with a school on the Isle of Lewis – you can read about it on the Historic Environment Scotland blog here. One thing I loved about the team was every evening we went for a mini adventure. We had a walk on a beach, or went to see a stone circle or lighthouse.

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(I loved this cave on Lewis – made me want to swim!)

It was a wee recharge of an evening. And we laughed lots too. That really helped when running workshops four days in a row. The blue dot evenings made the days possible.

The Golden Road: Harris
The project team returned to the mainland while I stayed with a friend for another day and night. I’d planned ahead with a dot. I had a slow breakfast, like really slow! And hired a car to drive to the Isle of Harris. It was just me and my orange bug (car) on an adventure on the golden road – yes the road is really called that!

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Harris is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Like ridiculous amounts of beauty but all squashed into one small place. I stopped every few 100 meters because it was just so flipping lovely everywhere!

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The sheep on Harris did what sheep do, they were standing on the road and siting about. And then I saw these guys. They were different. Organised. In formation. Bleating in harmony. Imagine a Doctor Who episode:

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What do you notice about those sheep?

They’re sheep –white and fluffy? They go baaa. They eat grass.

Look more closely.

They’re all facing the same way? Oh and they’re standing together on rocks. They’re in tune…

Yes. The sheep are organised…

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And they were looking at me. So I drove off!

And then there were the beaches. Normally beaches are beautiful right enough – sand and cliffs and the view of the sea. But it’s usually sea out to sea. Unless…you’re on Harris where there are mountains (and more sheep).

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Like a painter decided to mix all the best elements of a landscape together in one painting that’s really quite unrealistic. But it is real – it’s Harris!

I got the best gin from the Harris Distillery and got my ipad a new jacket from the Harris Tweed Shop. I drove back as the sun set and returned to my friend’s after dark. With memories to take home from the blue dot day on Harris.

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Posted by on July 5, 2017 in Education, Environment, nature, Writing

 

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