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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!



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:



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!):


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:


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.


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.


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

And later that evening it was Rally and Broad:


with the wonderful Bookshop Band:


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!


(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).


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


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


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


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:


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


And the children had loads of fun too:


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.


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


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The Grouse and the Mouse Book Launch

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Earlier this month I launched my new picture book ‘The Grouse and the Mouse’, illustrated by Kirsteen Harris-Jones. Here are the highlights of the launch thanks to photographer Chris Scott (and to all of you who tweeted your own pictures too!).

We arrived at the venue to discover these amazing birds were already waiting for us:

Eyebrows were painted red, just like Bagpipe the black grouse by Katie Smith. Katie is the friend who the book is dedicated too – read more about that here:
The Grouse and the Mouse launch

My lovely editor Eleanor Collins introduced the evening:
The Grouse and the Mouse launch
I introduced the audience to the characters from the story, Squeaker the wood mouse, Bagpipe the black grouse and also some of the minor characters – this is the fox from the story:

The Grouse and the Mouse launch

I had some help to demonstrate how camouflage works:

The Grouse and the Mouse launch

The Grouse and the Mouse launch

I introduced the highland cow from the story, MacMoo with a true of false quiz:
The Grouse and the Mouse launch

Most of the audience think what I’m saying to them is MacMoo True:
The Grouse and the Mouse launch

But this statement is definitely Poo False:
The Grouse and the Mouse launch

Then it was time for the story with actions (Squelch Squelch):
The Grouse and the Mouse launchRound of applause from a lovely audience: The Grouse and the Mouse launch

And then it was a Q and A hosted by poet and friend (with red eyebrows) Elspeth Murray:
The Grouse and the Mouse launchThanks to everyone who asked questions: The Grouse and the Mouse launch

And there were lots of thank yous to be said:
The Grouse and the Mouse launch

And then it was book signing, I got to meet my illustrator Kirsteen Harris-Jones for the first time that night too! We signed books together:
The Grouse and the Mouse launch

Here are some of my favourite tweets about the event:

Huge thanks to everyone who came along and made the evening so lovely! Special thanks to the children, seeing your reaction and enthusiasm for the book made my night.

Thanks to photographer Chris Scott for these wonderful photos. You can see more photos in the album from the book launch here

The Grouse and the Mouse is published by Floris Books in the Picture Kelpies range. It is for sale now at all good book stores. Help your local independent book store by buying it online from the Hive. If you enjoyed it, please review it on Amazon! You might also enjoy ‘Can’t Dance Cameron: A Scottish Capercaillie Story‘.


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Book Week Scotland 2014


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.


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 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:


Schools programme call 01592 583204 or email 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:


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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Portobello Book Festival 2014

I’m part of this year’s Portobello Book Festival along with science writers Anna Claybourne and Pippa Goldschmidt. Here’s what the programme says about our event:


The festival runs from the 3rd to the 5th of October in Portobello, Edinburgh. The programme launched earlier this month in the Dalriada Pub. I was excited to meet one of my fellow science writers Anna Claybourne at the launch:


I grew up loving the type of children’s non-fiction science books that Anna writes so it was a real pleasure to meet her.

I was even more star struck (if that were possible) when I met the women behind a book I absolutely love, despite my inability to knit. I bring you the wonderfully woolly Knit Your Own Scotland:


And here are Ruth and Jackie, they look a bit like they’ve been knitted too (or has the love for the book taken over my imagination?):


I told them how much we loved their book in Leith Library and how we challenged the knitting group to knit Scotland for Book Week. The good news is, you can build a new Scotland (well knit it) at the knitting workshop on the Saturday afternoon.

This year’s programme really is amazing, we say that every year but it just keeps getting better. You can see all of the events here.

Writing Workshops

If you’re an aspiring writer, I’d recommend the ‘Opening Lines’ workshop on Saturday morning run by the lovely women from my writer’s group Mairi Wilson and Louise Kelly. Or if you’re into YA writing there’s a workshop with on ‘Writing for Teens’ with children and young people’s librarian Simon Radcliff, and award-winning YA authors Keith Gray and Cat Clarke.

I’m also looking forward to finding out ‘What’s happening in Publishing’ with Francis Bickmore (Publishing Director at Canongate Books), Allan Guthrie (author, agent, editor, publisher – what can’t this man do?) and Eleanor Collins (Senior Commissioning Editor at Floris Books) on Sunday afternoon.

Get Tickets

All the events are free but ticketed and tickets are available in person from Portobello Library. No you can’t book online or phone up – you need to go to the library and that’s a good thing! There will be a chance to donate after each event – please do – all the speakers and organisers contribute their time voluntarily – your donations will make next year’s festival possible.

It’s my third year being part of the programme and I’m delighted to be back in Portobello!

Find the programme online here. Follow Portobello Book Festival on Twitter @PortyBookFest.


Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Education, Events, Science, storytelling, Writing


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West Port Book Festival 2011

I’m really looking forward to being part of the West Port Book Festival 2011. It takes place in second-hand book shops, art spaces and pubs in West Port and Tollcross, Edinburgh. Here’s what it’s all about (from their website):

“Our aim has been to offer free events to a diverse audience who share our passion for books, bookshops and fun. We have also been creative, dipping into the dressing up box, casting our eye around for new talent and transforming local shops into intimate, innovative venues.” 

There are loads of exciting and unusual events this year from getting your old books mended by a Book Doctor to meeting a Doctor Who writer. As well as a whole host of brilliant Authors there’s a tea dance, an open mic night, new gaelic fiction, nibbles and a chance for you to release your really bad writing in a therapy session.

I’m part of the line up on the 13th October, 8.30pm at Edinburgh Books. Here’s what the programme says:

“Storyteller, podcast/film maker, scientist, entertainer, singer and poet, there’s no-one quite like puffin-loving banana fan Emily Dodd and her magical blend of song, story and poem. Edward Lear, Dr Seuss and A. A. Milne collide in what promises to be a joyous hour for the young and young at heart alike.”

I was really excited when Peggy Hughes sent the above text through and asked if I was OK with it, the answer was most definitely a yes! Peggy is the Festival Programme Director and she’s also the Communications Officer at the Scottish Poetry Library. I first met Peggy when she came to my Banana me beautiful book launch with Colin Fraser in July. It’s hard for me to take in that the programme is talking about me, I read it and think “she sounds good, I’d like to go and see her” and I can’t quite make the leap in my head that she… is me.

You can collect a programme from one of the venues or view it online here. There’s a funky mobile phone app too. For tickets email I’m making an extra programme for my event, it will include all original artwork, photos and a postcard of a depressed banana in prison, like my fringe programme.

I attended the official West Port Programme Launch last week in Edinburgh Books with cake, wine, great chat and short speeches. Mister Tollcross wrote about the launch here, I enjoyed the evening. It was good to see the lovely Sara Sheridan again, she’s in West Port too.  Sara helped me to plan my book launch and read one of my stories ‘Owl’s Birthday’ at it, brilliant. There were space raiders crisps at the launch so here’s a spacey version of a photo I took.

My event is listed in The List Magazine with a slightly different write-up, they describe me as a ‘Eco Activist’, I think they’ve been reading Greener Leith. Thanks to The List for including me.

The Edinburgh Reporter have compiled an excellent list of 5 things to go and see in the West Port Book Festival, thanks for including me in your top 5 Edinburgh Reporter.

I recommend you see it all…


Posted by on September 30, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Events, poetry


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Banana me beautiful: The book and the boat

The Leith Agency Barge

Today I visited the venue for my book launch, the Leith Agency barge. Today I saw a kingfisher, twice. Today I discovered the hole where the mouse is getting in and today, I had an email from my publishers to say my e-book is ready, ahead of schedule.

Banana me beautiful launches along with 80 brilliant people on a boat in the Shore, Edinburgh on 11th July 2011. I told you a bit about how I was feeling and why I wrote the book last week. Today I’m writing to you about ‘planning the book launch’.

Firstly, bare in mind I’ve not launched a book before. The closest I’ve come is organising a white water rafting trip. It was for the same number of people and the majority of time was spent floating. Thankfully this event doesn’t involve wetsuits or chasing people for deposits.

I’ll try with a little help from my friends…..

It started with a facebook appeal ‘HELP, I need to launch a book, what makes a launch great?’ They all said free cake and drinks. I started the Banana me beautiful facebook next, for more interaction and to open a window into the book. I had some more brilliant advice, this time from top authors Sara Sheridan, Kenny Taylor and Juliet Wilson. They suggested I share the lime light, keep it within an hour and get someone else to facilitate the Q and A.

I’ll get by with a little help from my friends…

Book launches have signings but you can’t sign an e-book. I’m printing limited edition postcards instead. My friend Jo does graphic design in her spare time so she’s been helping me put these together. Banana themed food seemed essential so I’ve enlisted the help of some ace baking friends. I wanted music in the break and I really like my friend Drew’s music and he said he’d be happy to help, I used his music in the background of this film.

I’m going to fly with a little help from my friends…

Edd McCracken has been my writing’s greatest critic over the last 6 years. That makes him my writing’s greatest friend and I’m chuffed to bits he’s going to be facilitating the Question and Answer session at the end of the launch. Last night I said I was intimidated by the number of ‘Edinburgh literary giants’ that are attending and he reminded me that I was giving people free food and alcohol. When you do this “You can put a rabid badger on the stage and people will cheer” he said. Thanks Edd.

Ohhh baby….

And we’re nearly there. After some wonderful coverage in the Edinburgh Reporter, STV local, Edinburgh City of Literature, Scottish Book Trust, Greenerleith and the Edinburgh Evening News all 80 tickets were allocated and the reserve list is still growing. It helps to be lauching on a boat, big thanks go to the Leith Agency for that.

I’m honoured to have the poetry slam champion Young Dawkins the 3rd and top authors Sara Sheridan
and Juliet Wilson reading my poems at the launch. My folks are coming too, with wine. Rachel Everitt is exhibiting her beautiful etchings (we worked together to turn one of my stories into a picture book) and Alison Mackintosh, the person who first told me I was a writer is introducing the evening.

If you’re a bit nosy, here are some more of the wonderful folks who are sharing the evening: The Broughton Spurtle, The Edinburgh Spotlight, The Edinburgh Reporter, Edinburgh City of Literature, Anon’s Colin Fraser, The Scottish Story Telling Centre, The Scottish Poetry Library, Milo McLaughlin (Clear Minded Creative), Jon Melville, Mark Davidson (Observealot), Ruth Dawkins (Dorkymum), Ali George (12books12months), theinnertubemap‘s Susanne, Chris Gulland (TheEcoBrand), Caroline Hood (Casbo28), Iain McGill, Anita Sharkey (cladygirl4), Jim Wolffman…, the woozle, Ally TibbittElspeth Murray,
Vegware, Victoria Raimes and more….

(If you have tickets and you’re not here, let me know, I’ll add you)

Read more about the launch here. And if you can’t wait for the launch, if you live too far away or you don’t have a ticket, you can buy the book here.


Posted by on June 29, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Events, Writing


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