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Travelling in Time and Space

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On Friday a mad lady scientist took her time machine through history to pick up some lady scientists and bring them to the Dundee Women in Science Festival. The resulting ensemble was called the Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch. This was the fourth performance since the Illicit Ink spoken word show began a year ago at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

I’ve loved being part of it – sitting in a sewing circle with such wonderful characters. These wonderful characters are wonderful writers too – they each researched a character from history and wrote and performed a piece as that character. I’m mostly quiet during the show while the scientists talk about who they are and why their achievements matter. I play Emma Darwin, she is brought along by accident (The mad lady scientist was going for Charles but he was stuck in the privy). The other scientists dismiss Emma but right at the end I speak to question if any of it matters. I talk about having kids and knowing loss and about the fear of loving someone who has completely different views on the most important things in life. I wanted to get to the heart of what really mattered to Emma:

“I’m not a scientist, does that matter? I am a woman, does that matter?

Read about the Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch in the Dundee Courier here.

Lost Among The Stars

And now it’s happening again, a collaboratively written Illicit Ink show. But this time I’m lost in space, not time. Again I say very little until the end. Again there are many different beautifully written characters. Some performed by the writers and some performed by actors. I’ve written and am performing as Tara the astronaut. She’s the one who gets lost. In Space.

Getting Into Character

I found it quite challenging – trying to imagine I’m alone in space and about to die. I listened to astronauts talking about their experiences on Radio 4. I looked at pictures of the earth from space. I had to record a few audio sections ahead as part of a conversation with mission control – but it didn’t smell right (I was slow cooking sausage casserole at the time – space shouldn’t smell of sausage casserole).

But when I read the heartfelt, beautiful monologues written by Tara’s boyfriend Jeffrey (I keep calling him ‘my imaginary boyfriend’ but that sounds a bit odd! His name is Ricky in real life) and the piece by Tara’s sister, who’s kind of half hates her but also loves her too (that’s written by Mel and acted by Roanna) – when I read their work I realised, it isn’t about being lost in space. It’s just about being human. So I managed to write a response to other human’s beautiful words with space as a geographical location. It’s about being real with stars. And I’ve always loved stars. I studied physics, I’m a planetarium presenter, I’ve written space episodes of Nina and the Neurons, I was making rockets on mothers day – I’m still kind of geeky with all things space. Maybe I’m more like Tara than I realise.

Space Wobbles

I’m pretty nervous about my writing and the performance. We had a rehearsal last week and I was totally impressed with everyone’s pieces. There were proper professional actors who were really good. Even the voice of mission control sounds like he’s actually working for NASA! I’m hoping I won’t spoil it with my bit. I’m hoping I won’t pee in my space suit. If I were an astronaut, that would be okay – they wear giant space nappies. The thing is, I will actually be wearing a space suit. But not a giant astronaut nappy. I expressed my fears to show producer Babs, she reassured me that they asked me to do this part because I can write sentimental without being crass. I keep trying to remember what she said.

ANYWAY, this isn’t the first time I’ve written a last address to the world, just before gruesome death. Last time it was for another collaboratively written Illicit Ink show during a zombie Apocalypse. You can read about that and see a video here.

AND this isn’t the first time I’ve written about being lost in space. Here’s a comic, created by me age 11. Okay so it’s about a dog going into space but use your imagination. I needed to go somewhere after giant nappies and zombie apocalypses. Meet Space Dog, yes I know – classic school ending to the story too (sorry!):

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Sadly there is no happy awakening at the end of Apollo 21. And no dogs. There will be space and music and humans. I may or may not make it back to Earth. 

Apollo 21: Lost Among the Stars will be performed on the evening of Wednesday 15th April at The Royal Observatory Edinburgh. Get Tickets from the Edinburgh International Science Festival website here. The Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch sold out at the Science Festival Last Year so get your ticket early to avoid disappointment! 

 

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Women and Science Festivals

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I’m excited to be taking part in Dundee’s Women in Science Festival this month. The festival is all about celebrating and supporting women in science, engineering and maths. I’m also off to Dunbar Science Festival this Friday on a similar theme – it’s a science spoken word night to celebrate international women’s day.

I’m doing seven events in total – for schools, families, mothers and other adults too. There’s a science poetry writing workshop and some spoken word and comedy shows. Men are also very welcome!

Here’s a wee summary of what’s coming up with links to get tickets, hope to see you at an event soon!

Wednesday 11th March: Can’t-Dance-Cameron school events

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Hillside Primary School, Hillside Nursery and Gowriehill Primary School in Dundee. Part of Dundee Women in Science Festival.

Friday 13th March: Rally and Broad, Dunbar Science Festival

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Rally & Broad are delighted to be coming to Dunbar Science Festival on Friday 13 March (8:30 – 10:30pm, Dunmuir Hotel, Dunbar)! We’ll be celebrating ‘Women in Science’ alongside Scots singer songwriter Kirsty Law; science writer and performer Emily Dodd, poet Russell Jones and the surreal musical stylings of Zara Gladman. Come with open ears…

More info and tickets here.

Sunday 15th March: Mother’s Day Science Shows (for families – Dad’s also welcome!)

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Can’t-Dance-Cameron tickets and info hereLove You to the Moon Rocket tickets and info here

Sunday 22nd March: Sparking Ideas From Science (writing workshop)

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I ran this workshop last year in the National Library of Scotland as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival. Really excited to be running it again using the D’Arcy Thompson collection for inspiration.

 Friday 27th March: The Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch

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Tickets and info here.

FIND OUT MORE

Find Dundee Women in Science Festival online here and on facebook here. Download a copy of the Dundee Women in Science Festival Programme here. The twitter hashtag for Dundee Women in Science Festival is #womenscifest and you can follow the event organisers on twitter here

Find Dunbar Science Festival online here. Find them on facebook here and on twitter here

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2015 in Education, Events, poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Book Week Scotland 2014

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That’s me arrived back from the Abu Dhabi Science Festival, just in time for Book Week Scotland! Here’s what I’m up to for the rest of the week:

Wednesday 26th 

I’m taking ‘Can’t-Dance-Cameron‘ to Gorebridge. First I’ll be in Gorebridge Library with local primary school children and then I’m visiting St Andrew’s RC Primary School Primary 1, Primary 2 and nursery classes. I’ll be sharing Cameron’s story along with football pine cones, science experiments, smells of the forest and funky dance moves as part of the Gorebridge Forest Families Project.

Thursday 27th (am)

In the morning I’m at the Read-a-Licious Children’s Book Festival in Peebles, in the Scottish Borders. I’m working in partnership with the Puppet State Theatre Company. They’re performing their awesome show, The Man Who Planted Trees and I’m sharing Cameron’s story in two interactive woodland workshops.

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Workshops all fully booked.

Thursday 27th (pm)

In the evening I’m part of a panel at Dundee Central Library on ‘Writing for Children and Teens‘. This Publishing Scotland event includes Publisher/Chair – Keith Charters, author Kirkland Ciccone and agent – Kathryn Ross of Fraser Ross Associates. More info here.

Venue: Dundee Central Library, Wellgate, Dundee, Angus DD1 1DB
Time: 6 to 7.30pm
Tickets: Free. Email literarydundee@gmail.com to book a place.

Friday 28th

I’m taking Cameron to Fife. I’ll be at the beautiful Glen Pavillion in the park in Dunfermline at 10.30am and at Lochgelly Theatre, Lochgelly at 1.30pm. Here’s page 14 of the On Fife programme:

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Schools programme call 01592 583204 or email libraries.museums@onfife.com to book

Saturday 29th

I’m off to Wigtown in Dunfries and Galloway. It’s my first visit to Scotland’s national book town. I’ll be at Wigtown Primary School at 3pm. Book free tickets here.

Sunday 30th

I’m at Looking Glass Books in Edinburgh for their story session from 11am to 12 noon. I’ll be facilitating some Can’t-Dance-Cameron crafts too:

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They tweeted a lovely poster for the event:

And that’s it. Nine events in six local authorities in five days – phew!

Click ‘schools‘ to find out what to expect from my events, you can watch a video trailer and download a teacher information sheet.

 
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Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Education, Events, nature, poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Ada Lovelace Day

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The Lady Scientist Stitch and Bit*h is back! This time it’s at the Royal Observatory Edinburgh for Ada Lovelace Day. Ada Lovelace is widely held to be the first computer programmer – you can read more about her here. Here’s how the Royal Observatory describe tomorrow’s performance on their website:

Lady scientists have made valid scientific discoveries, but they also come together to knit and sew. Here’s a collection of stories: human, hilarious, and horrible that show what it’s like being a woman scientist at different times in history.

It starts on 14th October at 6.30pm and it’s free but ticketed. To book a space please email vis@roe.ac.uk. This event is for adults only.

Who is who?

We all took a scientist, researched them and wrote a monologue in character. The scientists and writers are

And I’ve written a spoken word piece as Emma Darwin, wife of Charles Darwin. Ada is being played tomorrow by Rebecca Douglas and the mad scientist behind the operation, that is the lady with the time machine who’s been stopping off at various points throughout history to collect us all – was written by Ariadne Cass-Maran and is being played tomorrow by Kaite Welsh.

Previous Performances

This Illicit Ink event began at last year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival. It sold out. I wrote about it here. Then we were asked to perform at Heriot Watt University for Woman in Engineering Day last month. I’m excited to be back on stage with my fellow lady scientists on a day that celebrates the achievements of women throughout history.

Men are totally welcome to come to this event too! 

Image Credit: Douglas McBride

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2014 in Education, Events, poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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The Istanbul Review

I’m excited to have a science poem published in the latest edition of The Istanbul Review, page 22:

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Relativity has a mathematical structure – every line has one more word all the way up to twenty. It’s about the maths and science and stories inside everything. It would fit into the writing genre of creative non fiction – if you’re wondering what creative non fiction is, I wrote a bit about it here.

There’s also an interview with me covering writing for children, writing science, working with excluded teens, blogging and asking ‘if I could add a word to the dictionary, what would it be?’. They do this awesome thing where illustrator Aysegul Sinav draws each contributor:

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I love the gorgeous artwork on the cover (by Canan Berber):

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I should maybe explain what The Istanbul Review is – It’s a literary journal featuring fiction, poetry, art, interviews, creative non fiction and out takes. It’s printed in Istanbul. This issue includes another creative non fiction piece, by Turkey’s most read novelist Elif Skafak:

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There are some lovely mathematical structures in there too in the form of sestutes (62 word poems) by Edinburgh based award-winning historical fiction writer Sara Sheridan:

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Buy a copy online here. Or if you’re in Edinburgh, you can pop in and buy one (or order over the phone from anywhere in the UK) from Looking Glass Books.

Find the Istanbul Review online, on twitter, on pinterest and on Facebook. They’re open for submissions just now for issue 6, find out how to submit your work here

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in poetry, Science, storytelling, Writing

 

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Tales From Our Wild Park

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This is me holding a giant copy of the book I’ve written for Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park. It’s called ‘Tales From Our Wild Park’ and it launched yesterday at Glasgow Queen Street station.

The Launch

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That’s Paul Wheelhouse the Environment Minister in the middle and Fiona Logan (Chief Executive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park) on the left and the park convener Linda McKay on the right – getting their photos taken at the launch. They were interviewed by the BBC too, you might have seen it on Reporting Scotland last night?

Behind them to the left is the green screen. It was used to create portraits of people in the park. For example, I stood in front of the green screen and cupped my hands and…. here I am holding a red squirrel in the Trossachs Forest!

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You can see all of the photos created by the green screen on facebook here. Read more about the launch on forargyle.com here.

Tales from Our Wild Park

It’s so exciting to see the book in print! It looks absolutely gorgeous. The designers (Create 48) and project manager (Aelred Nicholas) have done an amazing job in putting it together. This is one of my favourite spreads:

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John Muir’s quote, the designers beautiful word art, an amazing photo of the bog cotton and my writing.

The publication is 52 pages long. It focuses on five wild challenges:

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Half of Scotland’s population live within one hour’s drive from the park so really, the park belongs to all of us and this book is written for you. It sets out the priorities for the park over the next ten years and it invites us to get involved. It invites us to visit the park and experience the beauty of nature for ourselves:

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The book is free and is available at outlets across the Park. You can download it here.

My Brief

My role was to make the 150 page biodiversity action plan as relevant, engaging, exciting and easy to read as possible. I needed to write for someone with no background knowledge of the park. I read the action plan several times. Some sections, for example ‘our woodland habitats’, were several pages long. My challenge was to condense seven pages into the equivalent of two. Other sections like ‘red squirrels’ or ‘black grouse’ only had a few paragraphs so I needed to take what was relevant and research the topic elsewhere. I thought a lot about how to make things relevant to the public and proposed a general format for each wild challenge of:

  • Relevant quote
  • Descriptive intro
  • Why it’s important / why it matters
  • What we’re doing
  • How can you get involved / what can you do to help
  • Where can you see it / them (location and travel info)

Aelred loved this format and so I set to work on a sample spread. I wanted to check I was on the right track before I wrote the whole thing. I chose peat bogs first. I read the action plan section a few times and researched bogs in books and online. I spoke to a natural history expert, Kenny Taylor to find out more.

I submitted my first spread and received feedback. The good thing was the tone and style were just right but there were things I needed to work on. The team wanted more excitement and adventure. What is it like to climb the mountains and visit a peat bog? I’d suggested visiting Flanders Moss – the most famous bog in the park but this was the wrong type of bog.

This initial feedback was really useful and helped me to understand what the team were looking for. It also helped me to request the information I needed instead of coming up with it myself – like locations for mountain bogs (since there weren’t bog locations in the action plan). I asked for clarification on the angle of each section – for example with invasive non-native species I suggested as an intro we started off all gentle and beautiful and then switch to the destruction of the plants taking over. They liked that.

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I had to think about the best way to get key points and information across. Not everyone is interested in invasive plants (they’re not cute like red squirrels) so I didn’t want to use lots of text writing about each specific plant. Instead I suggested photos and a table.

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I wrote the rest of the sections and simplified the vision and overview. The feedback was good – just some minor changes and a suggestion to find some alternative quotes (apart from John Muir). I’d chosen John Muir because I love how he captures the heart of the beauty of experiencing nature with so much simplicity. Also, he’s from Scotland, he founded national parks in the US and it’s the year of Scotland’s homecoming. But taking the feedback on board, I found some other relevant quotes and they’ve really added something – like Billy Connolly’s quote about a sexy raincoat!

Aelred asked partner organisations for quotes too – they really bring the topics to life.

I love that about the creative process. When others contribute ideas and vision it makes the whole thing so much better as a result.

Feedback

The style is completely different to anything the park has published before. Feedback and so far has been really positive. One staff member told me how she cried when she read it. It’s been described as a publication that engages with the head as well as the heart. 

I’d be interested to hear what you think too!?

Edinburgh International Book Festival

I’m really excited to say ‘Tales of our Wild Park’ is going to all the teachers visiting Edinburgh International Book Festival School Gala Day on the 26th August. I’m doing three events at the book festival this year including an event at the Gala Day. I’ve written another book that came out this week, this one is for children but it also features a red squirrel and a forest! It’s called ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’. Read more about it here.

Find out more about Wild Park on the Wild Park 2020 website.

 

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Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch

It’s tomorrow night at the Storytelling Centre. You can bring knitting. It’s almost sold out. Turn to page 45 of your Edinburgh International Science Festival Programme and you’ll find it. Illicit Ink‘s ‘Lady Scientist Stitch and Bitch': Lady scientist

I’m playing Emma Darwin. That’s Charles Darwin’s wife. The lady scientist with which I’m stitching and bitching are:

And the brains behind the operation, that is the lady with the time machine who’s been stopping off at various points throughout history to collect us all – your compere for the evening is Ariadne Cass-Maran.

GET TICKETS HERE. Join the event on facebook here.

I should maybe point out that I’m not really bitching – I’m presenting the final monologue of the evening. It’s a spoken word piece I’ve written as Emma about her thoughts and questions on life, faith, feminism, science, death and love. I’m also sewing the tree of life onto a cushion and reading one of the letters I actually wrote to my dear Charlie (the real Emma wrote it – you know what I mean). I’m not saying anymore because I don’t want to spoil it! 

 
 

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