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Recording an Audiobook and Album

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I recently recorded my first audiobook ‘Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief’. We recorded a mini album of songs to go with it too! You can download the tracks for free and listen to samples online.

Recording an Audiobook

Alan Windram from the publishers, Little Door Books, brought along his studio recording equipment. We converted my artist studio into a recording studio. Alan coached me to make each line a bit more dramatic and we recorded a page at a time. Later, he edited the book and added sounds so the children know when to turn the pages.

Writing Songs

I wrote a song from the main character, Rosie the squirrel’s perspective. It’s got a catchy chorus with actions for the children to join in on – to make it fun. But I wanted to write about something meaningful too. I’m aware children experience a range of emotions just like we do, so I wanted to write a song I hoped they could identify with when they feel hurt or betrayed by a friend. It’s about the joy of friendship and then the shock when a friend lets you down. You miss them and you want them to be your friend again but you’re also unsure how real the friendship was because the other person was lying. It’s also about being a squirrel so there’s lots of lines about jumping around and playing hide and seek too. The chorus goes:

All the squirrels stick your paws up, don’t turn your nose up.

All the squirrels wave your tails, it’s time to go!

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Alan wrote a brilliant song about nuts and we worked together on the lyrics to make it into a song about the high point of the story – I wanted to make it more personal to the story and again, from Rosie’s perspective. So for example Alan had written:

Nuts, nuts, nuts, NUTS, nuts everywhere!

Nuts over here and nuts over there

And I changed it to:

Nuts, nuts, nuts, NUTS, nuts everywhere!

Nuts in my tail and nuts in my hair

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One of the suspects, Tappy the Woodpecker, is a great spotted woodpecker who hammers a nut until it explodes. I like writing spoken word and I think of a woodpecker as a rhythmic head banger of a bird, who’s a bit well.. badass. So I wrote a rap from Tappy’s perspective. He’s quite self indulgent in it. Here’s a line:

My beak is the key to break into the tree.

My beak is my sound and my sound is Tappy.

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Recording Songs

We recoded the music tracks at the Little Door Books Studio in Oban, the studio incudes two cats who are hiding:

 

 

I felt pretty nervous about recording vocals but Alan said when it’s for young children, it’s better to be clear and enthusiastic so they can hear the words. So don’t worry too much about being an operatic or a fancy singer. He said to imagine I’m Rosie the Squirrel singing. So I’m channelling my inner Squirrel on these tracks!

Here’s who did what:

  • Audiobook – written and read by Emily Dodd (me!)
  • Woodpecker Rap – written and rapped by Emily Dodd
  • Stick Your Paws Up – written and lead vocals by Emily Dodd. Alan Windram backing vocals and he plays every instrument – amazing!
  • Nuts – melody by Alan Windram. Lyrics Alan Windram and Emily Dodd. Lead vocals Emily Dodd. Instruments – Alan Windram.

The Launch

The audio book launched last month at New Lanark Book Festival. You can download the tracks for free here, along with the Crime Squirrel Investigators Audio Book! Or come to an event to see a live performance soon.

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Buy the Crime Squirrel Investigators physical book at all good book shops. It’s Illustrated by Giulia Cregut and published by Little Door Books.

 
 

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Crime Squirrel Investigators Book Launch

Thanks to everyone who came along to Waterstones to celebrate the launch of my new book Crime Squirrel Investigators: The Naughty Nut Thief, published by Little Door Books and illustrated by Giulia Cregut.

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Photographer extraordinaire Chris Scott came along too and he took some brilliant photos. Thank you Chris! Here’s the launch, in photo highlights…

It began with an introduction from publisher Alan Windram:

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Then I introduced myself and the Italian Illustrator, Giulia Cregut. I pointed to the banner because the two of us look quite similar to the two squirrels, see above! (yup, I’m the larger squirrel!)

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

And then we set the scene for the story, guessing objects from the forest. If you’d like to hold a giant Ameican pine cone that’s bigger then your head… come to an event soon!

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

We listened to the sound of the forest and then four volunteers helped make the smell of the forest, here’s one of them in action, wafting the pine oil with a fan…

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Then it was time for the story of the Naughty Nut Thief. Crime Squirrel Investigators Rosie and Charlie investigate three prime suspects after Rosie’s secret nut store is ransacked!

Crime Squirrel Investigators launchThen it was time for a red squirrel true or false quiz, make a ‘T’ or an ‘F’ with your body:

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Then Rosie the naughty water squirter popped out to meet everyone, I definately look like a squirrel here:

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Then my lovely friend Elspeth Murray came up to help Alan with actions. And we taught everyone the Beyoncé squirrel song, here we all are dancing!

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And more actions!

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Then we learnt more about one of the prime suspects, the wood mouse with a camouflage demonstration:

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Next it was time for hip-hop with the great spotted woodpecker rap, yep I really did rap as a woodpecker. Thankfully everyone else joined in with beats and actions:

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I was a bit scared about rapping (it’s new for me) but thankfully we had a professional drummer, Ruairdh Graham from Niteworks to keep us all in time! He also made me practice beforehand – thanks Ru!

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Then it was time for a couple more picture quizzes, look at the shell and guess who ate the nut. All based on the real nut munching animal science the book is based on:

NUT-HUNTINGAnd the finale was a song about nuts! Again thanks to Elspeth and Alan for actions:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Then it was Q and A time, I got to sit down at last. This looks like a serious question:

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch And so does this:

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Hurrrah! It was all over:

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There were thankyous and the book signing:

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And that was it! I want to say a big thanks to Elspeth Murray for chairing and action support (she got flowers) and to Lindsey Fraser my agent from Fraser Ross Associates (she got flowers but she’d gone to the ballet by then!) and to Ruairdh Graham for beats (he got beer) and to Giulia Cregut for illustrations and to Alan Windram and Susan Windram at Little Door Books for publishing the book.

Thanks to my pals Amy, Anna, Jenny and Mel for serving drinks!

Thanks to Waterstones West End Edinburgh for hosting and to all you people who came, there were over 100 guests and we sold out – it meant so much to have your support for the book (and such enthusiastic actions!).

Crime Squirrel Investigators launch

Thank you to Chris Scott for taking these photos. I dedicated Ollie and the Otter to Chris because he encourages so many with his brilliant pictures. If you enjoyed these photographs, you might like the Can’t-Dance-Cameron book launch photos or The Grouse and the Mouse book launch photos

If you would like a Crime Squirrel Investigators event at your school or book festival, you can apply for Live Literature funding from the Scottish Book Trust here and find my author profile here

 

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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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Tunneling Under the Forth

AlistairMoore

I recently worked with two brilliant men, Rab McKenzie and Alistair Moore to help them write and share their mining memories. I’m really excited to share them with you here…

Tunnelling Under the Forth
There are three iconic bridges crossing the Firth of Forth, between Edinburgh on the south side and Fife on the north side. But did you know that deep beneath the Firth of Forth is a mining tunnel that crosses over too? Alistair Moore is the chartered mining surveyor responsible for making two tunnels meet in the middle, back in the sixties before we had GPS. Here’s how he did it:

Press play above or click here to watch on YouTube.

The Valleyfield Colliery Disaster

In 1939 there was a mining disaster at Valleyfield Colliery that claimed 39 lives. Tragically it could have been prevented. Robert McKenzie shares what happened using his extensive research on the disaster, he says mining is in his blood. His story commemorates the lives that were lost:

Press play above or click here to watch on YouTube.

Digital Stories

Digital stories are true stories that last 1 to 3 minutes. They’re first person and in the story makers own voice with still images or video over a story sound track.

I worked with Rab and Alistair over several workshops while they crafted and shaped their stories. They also chose images and I recorded their voices and put everything together in these YouTube videos.

We also had help from Kirsty McAlister at the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative.

Earlier in the project, I worked with primary school children, their stories were factual but we broke the rules when they used their imagination and told the story from the perspectives of pit ponies and canaries!

You can read more about that part of the project here.

Other Projects
If you’re interested in digital stories and local history, you might like some of the other projects I’ve worked on, just click on the links below.

Working with the Arnol Blackhouse and children on the Isle of Lewis to share stories from the Blackhouse (including a story told by a chicken and a piece of peat!)

Working with Trinity House Maritime Museum to share maritime memories of Leith and Newhaven

Working with the Govan Reminiscence Group and Britain from Above to create memories from Govan

 
 

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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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Christmas Contract: Little Door Books

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I have some super exciting news! I’ve signed a contract with Little Door Books for a picture book and download album!

This is me with Alan Windram from Little Door Books at the Scotland children’s authors and illustrators Christmas meal – nice hats! You might spot author Lari Don photo bombing in the background.

The Download Album

To be honest, I’m more excited about the album than the book!!! I’ve been trying to work out why that is? Maybe it’s because I’ve written the book already and I’ve not started on the album yet. Or because I’ve written a few books before but an album is an entirely new and exciting challenge for me? Or because music is amazing? Or because an album is a collaborative process and I’m looking forward to working with someone else who has expertise in this area? Or because my whole life I’ve been writing comedy animal type songs anyway!? Or because I don’t look like a person who would make an album but it doesn’t matter because it’s for young kids and they don’t really care what you look like. It’s just very exciting anyway. I’m looking forward to singing harmonies. And recording in a studio.

The Music Industry

Alan formally worked in the music industry so every book Little Door Books brings out includes a download album of tracks for children and an audio book. Authors can play or perform the songs at book events. Children can download the songs later. Sometimes authors write lyrics and he writes music, other times he writes it all or sometimes they work together. We’re going to work together!

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There’s a woodpecker in the book so perhaps I’ll write a woodpecker rap!!! Something fun for the children to sing and dance to anyway.

Dancing at Events

Speaking of dancing – here’s me and Alan earlier in the year when I was chairing his One Button Benny author event at Edinburgh International Book Festival! He’s an author too. We did lots of robot dancing with the families there:

My Book with Little Door Books

The book I’m writing for Little Door Books is a secret just now but I can say it was first pitched to Alan in the author’s yurt at the Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2016, we had a really good chat back then about books and music. I start all my events with a bird themed dance track that I commissioned a songwriter, Sam Gallagher to produce. I also use it to teach children real life bird dance moves. So we had lots in common in terms of valuing music and dancing in events for children. I was impressed with the books they were producing as Indie Publishers too so we decided to work together.

Little Door Books have a full schedule so we penciled a book in back then for 2018. I pitched a few ideas and we had some meetings and narrowed it down to one. We first met at a book festival a year before that in 2015. So it’s a long process – making books!

Alan and Susan at Little Door Books have chosen a wonderful illustrator from Italy for the book – I’m so excited about the first few pictures I’ve been sent. I’m making the last edits to text over the next few weeks with feedback from Little Door Books and my Agent Lindsey Fraser. So next year will be finalising the text, illustrations from Italy and writing and recording the songs! Bring it on!

PS The book will come out in 2019. Did I mention, we’re making an album?

Please note the album is not an actual CD. It’s a download album of children’s songs and an audio book. 

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2017 in Education, Events, illustration, storytelling, Writing

 

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Random Acts of Kindness

My godfather takes pilgrimages to Israel. He’s always done it. And I’ve always wanted to go – every since he brought me back some olive soap from the holy land when I was around five. I never used that soap – I decided holy land soap was too holy to wash my hands with. It gained a sort of magical status – along with gemstones collected from panning and my Grandma’s jewelry. We treasure funny things in childhood.

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I now like the taste of olives, use olive soap AND I’m finally going to Israel – things have changed a lot and it’s all thanks to a random act of kindness. My Godfather offered me his spouse place on a tour in January – his wife can’t make it so he asked if I’d like to come FOR FREE. I still can’t quite believe this is happening.

Then my parents got jealous and decided to come too. Which is super great because we get on well and there are going to be 100 people of the trip – it’s always good to have someone to take photos when you’re floating in the dead sea reading a newspaper (I’m not sure we will actually do this but good just in case!).

I love the bible so I’m excited about seeing where things happened. I might buy some olive soap too.

The tour company, McCabe tours, ask every guest to raise at least £300 pounds towards their educational trust. It goes to help projects in the area. We’re going to be visiting a boys school near Jerusalem and a blind school in Bethlehem – they’re both funded by the trust.

 

I was telling friends about the trip and my friend Aimerz said she wanted to help raise the money for the trust. She offered her services as a tour guide. She said we could do a bus trip to raise money for the kids. Amazing!

Then Rabbie’s Tours gave us the bus for free and free petrol. Then the Forth Inn in Aberfoyle offered us a free lunch – Aimerz visits their regularly in her day job as a Rabbie’s Tour guide. She also gets amazing reviews on trip adviser – I can’t wait for the tour!

We’re going on Saturday, there’s still a few places left if you wanted to join us. Tickets start from £30. They include entry to Doune Castle and hot lunch at the Forth.

Get tickets, donate and find out more here. 

A few friends said they couldn’t make it but wanted to help so I’ve set up an option for a donation too – again, I’m so amazed by the kindness of others. I’m about at the target of £300 already but hoping to smash through it by Saturday!

Massive thanks to Aimerz, Rabbie’s, The Forth, everyone who’s coming and everyone who’s donating. And huge thanks to my godfather too! 

UPDATE: We raised £385!

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2017 in Events, storytelling

 

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