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Chairing at Edinburgh International Book Festival

nicktony

This year was my first year of chairing at Edinburgh International Book Festival.

If you’re an author who’s appeared in the book festival but you’ve been too shy to tick the box that says ‘would you be interested in chairing?’ – well I would very much recommend you consider ticking it.

I was shy for three years and I finally discovered this year, I totally love chairing. I much prefer it to doing my own author events but they help. If you’ve been there as an author you’ll know what it’s like to feel really nervous because you’re about to bring a new book to the world and you’ll know how to make it more enjoyable for someone in that position. Also if you work regularly with schools, you’ll know how to interact with an audience so this might be the thing for you!

The chair makes sure everything goes smoothly for the author before, during and after their event. The role includes:

  • Meeting and greeting the author before the event in the authors yurt
  • Taking the author to their event venue
  • Introducing the author on stage with enthusiasm and knowledge (to get the audience excited about the event)
  • Fielding questions and answers with the author and the audience if required
  • Finishing up the author event on stage and reminding the audience they can buy books and get them signed straight after the event
  • Taking the author to the signing tent and shielding them from any over enthusiastic audience members on the way (they can get books signed and ask more questions AT the signing tent – not before!)
  • And finally you escort the author back to the yurt after the signing

But it’s more than these practical things. It’s about making people feel welcome, valued and important at the festival. It’s about helping them to relax and focus on their event because you’ll take care of extra things like orientation.

So here are my top tips for chairing.

1) Introduce yourself and explain your role

You’ll be meeting your author 45 minutes before the event for a public event or 30 minutes before for a schools event so don’t overload them with information. You’ve got a while so mix what you need to get across with being interested and listening to them – put them at ease. After an enthusiastic introduction and chat you could introduce your role like this:

I’m going to introduce you on stage but I’ll also take you to the venue and take you to the signing tent after and we’ll come back here once everything is finished. So if you’ve got questions, I’ll find out the answer for you or if you need anything I can make sure it happens, I’ll probably send someone else to get it for you because my role is to stay with you the whole time so you’ll always have someone from the book festival with you if you need anything.

2) Be enthusiastic

Tell them what you love about their work and be specific  – which book, something you particularly loved. READ THE BOOK THE EVENT IS ABOUT. This may seem really obvious but I was once chaired by someone who told me they hadn’t read the book when they met me – that’s just going to be discouraging and it’s not good enough.

Don’t gush or fan girl / fan boy them. Just one sentence is fine and if they seem to enjoy it say more but they might really want to sit quietly with a coffee before the event so you don’t want to be like Donkey in Shrek with way too much chat. If you’re not sure you could ask “How do you like to prepare for events, do you enjoy chatting or prefer quiet?”

3) Be kind

Ask helpful questions like:

Can I make you a tea or a coffee?

How are you feeling about the event?

Is there anything I can do for you to help during the event?

Listen if they start to tell you about something, don’t be all about your agenda and miss being present and responding to the person. They are the most important person there. If  you’re dying to ask them about their process or why a plot twists happened in book 5 of a trilogy, maybe wait until after the event.

4) Cover everything required

There are chairing notes that get sent to you from the Edinburgh International Book Festival so read them and don’t miss anything. I made a wee check list on a postcard and at some point I said something like “there’s a few things I need to check with you” and I got my list out. I’d already covered most of it but I did things like check the facts I’d researched about them and explained I’d use them as part of their intro on stage. You need to ask if they would like you to field questions and answers at the end of the event or if they would prefer to do it themselves.

It’s really important the event keeps events to time because there’s likely to be another event straight after so you need to mention it. I said something like:

“I have to make sure we keep to time, there’ll be a clock in the venue but it’s quite strict so would you like a five minute or one minute warning before we need to end the event? I’ll come on at around five minuets before the hour to finish up and remind people to buy books and to get everyone to give you a big thank you”

5) Create a buzz about the author and the book

The chairing info suggests looking up some interesting facts about your author. Google them! When I chaired Horrible Science author and illustrator Nick Arnold and Tony De Saulles I introduced their books, got very excited about science and then I shared some facts I thought would be relevant to the audience:

Nick Arnold once broke his arm during a Horrible Science author event like this one…. and after the event he signed 75 books and then was rushed to hospital in an ambulance. So boys and girls, whatever happens today… you’ll get your books signed!

Tony used to get told off for doodling in school but now he gets paid to do it and he’s famous for it so if there’s something you love doing now, you never know, even if your teachers tell you off for it… it could end up being your job in the future!

When I was chairing Tim Warnes it was for a younger audience so I wanted to say less and be more visual. I still shared a fact (that Tim and his wife have illustrated over 200 books between them – wow amazing!) but then I used something from the story.

In Tim’s books ‘Dangerous!’ and ‘Warning! This Book May Contain Rabbits’ there is a character called mole who loves labeling things. So I made some giant labels with what I thought about the books. There was ‘Brilliant!’ and ‘Fun’ and I stuck them up and held up the books and said what a treat we were all in for and finally I said we had one label left, it was ‘Tim Warnes’, but where was he? And that’s how we brought him up onto the stage.

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6) Sell books

Before and after each event I told the children that they could get a signed copy of the book  at Edinburgh International Book Festival after the event. I held up the books and talked about how great they were.

With the schools event I told the children at the end of the event that they all had £3 vouchers so they could get £3 off the book and I explained that even if they couldn’t get the book today, they could come back with their Mum or Dad or Grandad or Grandma or Aunties and Uncles and use their voucher to get this brilliant book because it would still be in the shop!

If you don’t explain this the children will go into the brilliant shop with a voucher and millions of books to choose from and they might choose one they’ve not read or one that’s for older children or one that’s got a game with it. But if they get a book signed by the author they’ve just seen they’ll remember that forever! So it’s okay to make a big deal about the fact that there’s a chance to meet the author and buy a book and get it signed. That’s what book festivals are all about. I did this at both events and everyone bought lots of books and the publicists were very pleased and thanked me for it!

7) Be yourself!

You being genuinely you will put them at ease. It’s a chance for you to meet an awesome creative human being.

So that’s my top tips for chairing. If you’re a seasoned chair I’d love to hear you tips too! And if you haven’t chaired before, I hope this will encourage you to do it!

I’ll leave you with the lovely books the authors signed for me, after their events:

nicktony2tim2

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2016 in Education, Science, 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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The Grouse and the Mouse: Reviews

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The Grouse and the Mouse was recently reviewed in the Herald as part of a Christmas books special ‘Best Picture Books’ by Vicky Allan. It was super exciting to see it in there, just before Christmas and with the likes of Mog an Elmer:

And, if you like your creatures resolutely Scottish, there is always The Grouse And The Mouse, by Emily Dodd & Kirsteen Harris-Jones (Picture Kelpies, £5.99) which follows Bagpipe the puffed up and pompous grouse and Squeaker the wood mouse, as they find out just who really is the most magnificent animal in Scotland.

I also discovered a lovely review on the Scottish Natural Heritage Nature Bookshelf blog:

Youngsters will enjoy reading, or having read to them, the story of The Grouse and the Mouse. Emily Dodd’s last title ‘Can’t Dance Cameron’ proved very popular and the tale of Bagpipe the Black Grouse is destined to be equally well received. There are starring roles for Red Squirrels, the Scottish scenery and a Highland cow in a book that is illustrated by Kirsteen Harris-Jones.

Lastly, a parent posted the following review on the books section of my blog. This feedback is what makes it all worth while:

My 2.5 year old daughter has fallen deeply in love with The Grouse and the Mouse – she has never got through the bathtime routine at the lightening speed she is now, knowing that she will have it read to her (usually repeatedly). So thank you Emily, please write another book of enchanting Scottish creatures soon!

You can read and listen to the first reviews that came in for the Grouse and the Mouse here. If you enjoyed reading it, I would totally love it if you reviewed it on Amazon!

Image Credit: Chris Scott

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2015 in Education, nature, Science, 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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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:
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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:

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I had some help to demonstrate how camouflage works:

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The Grouse and the Mouse launch

I introduced the highland cow from the story, MacMoo with a true of false quiz:
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Most of the audience think what I’m saying to them is MacMoo True:
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But this statement is definitely Poo False:
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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:
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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

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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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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:

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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:

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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:

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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?):

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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.

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

 

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