Tag Archives: creativity

Talking Tomatoes


I’m growing tomatoes on my windowsill. I traded them for coriander when they were just 2 inches tall and in a very little pot. I’ve watered them every day, fed them every week and taken the dead leaves away from time to time. I built them a bridge between pots with sticks from an old blind, it helps them stay up. One plant makes yellow tomatoes and the other makes red. The photo above is them today, four moths after they came to me.

Here’s what I love about them

  • The smell, they’re so big I can’t help but touch the leaves when I water them. It suprises me later on,  perhaps when I’m on a bus or drinking tea (I do wash my hands eventually though!)
  • The taste, they all ripen at different times so there seems to be a never ending supply.
  • When the tiny ones appear, they’re so small and perfectly round – no bigger than a pea.


A friend watered them for me when I went on holiday and I wrote her a thank you card from the tomatoes. I even loved writing a card from them. I like that there’s a crowd, a tomato collective who are grateful for care.

I love watching them change and grow, they make me think about life. I find it fascinating when a flower appears or a tiny ball of tomato starts. One seed hold instructions for all of this, the plant knows when it’s time to make flowers and fruit. I was writing a poem about maths and the universe the other day, each line has one more word in it. Line 14 was inspired by my tomatoes:

Each seed it holds a perfect ordered story, already told by seasons and time.

They make me think about creativity. Spiders spin webs, birds make nests, wasps make hexagons and tomato plants make tomatoes. We were all made to create something – strategies, computer programmes, safe working spaces, paintings, music, cars, babies, poetry, recipes, stories…. the list is endless. I ask myself what was I made to create?


Posted by on September 14, 2012 in nature, poetry, Science, Writing


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Don’t Forget to Stop and Be

There was a letter on the doormat, I didn’t recognise the handwriting. I opened it to discover, it was a letter from me.

It was written last summer on the Island of Tanera Mor as part of a Speygrian creative writing course. We wrote to remind our future selves of the time on the Island. I had forgotten so I really enjoyed reading and remembering. Here’s the letter:

Holidays are a time to slow down and enjoy the world, a time where we do get to stop and be. I’m just back from a trip to the highlands so here are some of those moments.

The red squirrels at Glenmore Cafe: My favourite cafe in the world. It’s high up in the trees of a pine forest and the birds and squirrels sit and eat peanuts right beside you. It’s a place where it’s easy to stop and be. Plus they do a good mug of tea, cake, soup and even chips. I took these photos with my mobile phone against the binoculars, was quite tricky to line everything up but I like the way the subjects are round:


A run through a pine forest: It was so lovely to run without the noise of cars. The air smelt clean, as though it was cleaning my lungs:

The Speyside Wildlife Dusk Watch: Here are a few more mobile phone pictures of the badgers. It was brilliant to watch them and see life unfolding. I think the badger’s bum is my favourite photo.


Watching the Loch Garten Osprey‘s: We went to try to spot the capercaillies but they weren’t in a dancing mood, despite out 5.30am arrival at the hide. We did however get to see the ospreys live on camera:

The Culbin Forest: We walked through the trees and climbed the sandunes to arrive at the beach. There were seals relaxing on a sand bank and tern’s plunge diving for fish. Here are a few more things that made me smile at Culbin.

Tree Sap that looked like Saturn: These trees hadn’t long been chopped down so the sap was fresh.

A bird auditioning for Strictly Come Dancing?:

The forest floor auditioning for the next muppet movie? (it’s actually rare lichen)

On one day we drove around a loch, climbed Cairngorm, sat with the squirrels in the Glenmore cafe and had a massively tasty evening meal, followed by a beer. Later that evening I got my notebook out and came up with three new CBBC programme ideas. I’d spent a whole month on the CBBC Lab working on ideas but these seemed to be my best yet and I hadn’t even planned to come up with them. It made me realise when we give ourselves time, space and freedom to explore our minds are free to explore too.

Don’t forget to stop and be, don’t forget to dream.


Posted by on April 8, 2012 in nature, Writing


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Annual General Review: 2011

2011 was a roller coaster. It began with a freezing cold jump into the Firth of Forth and ended with my 30th birthday. In between I published my first book, wrote and presented a CBeebies pilot, appeared in a fringe show, performed at my first book festival, won a couple of awards and near the end of the year I resigned from my job to become a full-time freelancer.

I’ve done things I never imagined I could do and I’ve felt like a passenger holding on for dear life. It’s been exciting, it’s been scary and it’s been hard. At times I know I’ve forgotten to enjoy the ride. I’ve struggled with finances, relationships, self-confidence and health. I’ve spent most of the year outside my comfort zone but I’m learning that’s the best place to be.

Right now I’m a little apprehensive about the year ahead so I’m reviewing 2011 in top fives, I hope this will help me to make new plans and look forward to 2012. If you want to find out a bit more just click on a link.

5 things I started..
The Zero Waste Podcast series began with the journey of waste, I travelled from bin to landfill (and retched).


5 things I made..

  • A CBeebies pilot with BBC Scotland (finished in the summer)
  • Films as a Freelancer (May and June)
  • A poetic declaration of love to the Number 10 Eco Bus
  • Snowmen out of socks with kids on the canal (Dec)
  • Podcasts, loads of them! (all year)

5 awards..

5 live performances..

You can watch the live stream of my fringe show or listen to my West Port Book Festival event as a podcast, click on the links above for more. Thanks to Chris Scott who took the photo below at the West Port Book Festival.

Edinburgh Books

5 close encounters of the animal kind..

Lots of birds! I was surprised to see my campaign to persuade locals to do the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in the Guardian and I later received a letter of thanks from the head of media at the RSPB! It was only after this that the blackbird started to terrorise my nights…


5 interviews..

I’ve been excited and nervous when people have wanted to interview me. Massive thanks to all of you – you’ve really encouraged me. Thanks to STV local and Edinburgh Reporter for additional interviews too. For the record I’ve never been called a ‘digital maven’ or appeared on an international poetry podcast or been filmed by the Guardian before so I’m still not quite sure how this all happened! Here’s the Guardian film, it’s a project where I designed ‘heroes at home’ engagement cards and masks to encourage pupils and parents to reduce waste.

5 things I finished..

  • Snowboarding (February)
  • My first book, Banana Me Beautiful (March)
  • Paying for my bike on the cycle to work scheme (May)
  • My first three years of a fixed rate mortgage (August)
  • Working for Changeworks (September)
Snowboarding stopped when I flipped over and head butted an Italian mountain. The hospital was an experience “Un-dresse!” they commanded and I started taking my clothes off. “No what is your addressa!”. It’s funny now but I wasn’t laughing when I had to wear a neck brace. After four years of boarding, I’ve had enough. At least I had time to read and take these photos.
Vodpod videos no longer available.
Sestriere, Italy, posted with vodpod

5 adventures..

Loony Dook Video

5 things I tried..

  • Scottish Book Trust Mentoring Scheme
  • Edinburgh Book Festival Story Shop
  • Jesting About 2: BBC Comedy Competition
  • Get a Squiggle On: BBC Script Competition
  • Love
I want to point out there were plenty of things that didn’t happen but it’s all part of learning and growing. I hope this will encourage you not to give up if you experience a knock-back. One exciting development is that I do now have a mentor but not through the Scottish Book Trust, it’s the wonderful Elspeth Murray!
5 things I became..
  • Trustee of Speygrian network
  • Co-chair of Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Environmental Education Forum
  • Facilitator for a weekly Community Group
  • A full-time Freelancer
  • An aunty (for the fourth time)

5 hopes for the future

  • Make my CBeebies pilot into a BBC series
  • Publish a picture book
  • Get better at the ukulele
  • Make freelancing work and collaborate too
  • Use my creativity to make the world a better place

Finally here are a few more numbers from 2011….

blog posts produced for Greener Leith (48), podcasts made (30), blog posts on this blog (26), films made as a freelancer (9), guest blogs I wrote (8)workshops on National Poetry Day (6), blogs I wrote about Mooncups, yikes! (5)Films I made for fun (3), Awards presented to schools (2), times I performed poetry on the street due to ‘venue problems’ (2) and I attended 4 weddings and a funeral.

Thank you so much to everyone who’s been part of my 2011. Your support and encouragement have made my year possible. And for those friends who drank tea and laughed with me, you know who you are, you’re wonderful (:


Posted by on January 4, 2012 in Banana me beautiful, Events, Media, Writing


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Speygrian Wild Connections: Tanera Mor

Last week I journeyed to the remote Scottish Island of Tanera Mor for a Speygrian Wild Connections course.

An informal course to help you to slow down, 

reconnect with nature and discover your creative potential

That’s what the leaflet said. So how did it go? An island with no roads (and no rabbits) seemed a perfect place to relax and unwind until I discovered there was no wi-fi. I KNOW, that should be a good thing but I was leaving at a busy time, threads were hanging unfinished and I’d taken my lap top with me, in the hope of getting a few of them tied up. I did my best with my phone, submitting interview questions, speaker information and a blog. And then, I resigned to the lack of digital connectivity and let go, a little…

In the first workshop I was slightly taken aback when asked to draw my soul. I looked around to see frantic scribbling, everyone else seemed to know exactly what their soul looked like, drawing it was easy. I thought, in an effort to let go I should have a go and when I did, well I quite enjoyed it, in fact I didn’t want to stop to do the next exercise. Here’s my soul, the middle bit is a mirror. I’ll leave you to interpret the rest.

As we began our week’s creative journey, we began to share our lives with one another. The oldest person on the course was almost 80, Betty Tindal.  A complete inspiration with bright eyes, Scotts poetry and bags of enthusiasm. The youngest person was in their twenties, Rosie who was over from the Mull and Iona Community. A wonderful mix, 15 in total.

Each day started with a meeting. Someone shared a thought for the day followed by practical information. There was a time for appreciations and time for suggestions for improvement. We then had the option of writing workshops with Author Christian McEwen. This was followed by a short book making exercise with Jan Kilpatrick. Then it was free time, groups went off to explore Tanera Mor‘s wild hills and lochs. Most came back in time for the art workshop that ran every day from 3 – 6pm. At 6ish it was time for Jean’s Tai Chi class (I had a go, I clicked lots and wasn’t very smooth) and at 7.30pm dinner was served (or a bit later depending on the meal and the skill of the cooks, we took it in turns). After dinner we sang songs or learnt a dance. It varied. There were days when some went kiaking, others went swimming. People continued their writing or artwork in their own time, it was up to the individual.

I enjoyed the variety of the art workshops, printing, fabric painting, book making, sculpture. All expertly demonstrated by Jan who doesn’t see herself as an expert, if a print comes out as a messy sploge, that’s fine, just print over it and make something beautiful later. This relaxed teaching technique put people at ease. Lessons learnt during printing became my thought for the day when it was my turn to facilitate the morning meeting. I talked about how life (like printing) is sometimes unexpected, it doesn’t turn out how you wanted it to, it’s a mess but we’re to remember that nothing is wasted. The picture you continue to paint over the top is all the richer for the layer upon layer behind it, it incorporates the mess, the splodges and ends up beautiful. That’s what life is like to me (and printing too).

So finally, my highlights:

  • I came face to face with a Bonxie. The Great Skua, king of the seagulls and he almost hit me on the head several times as I filmed him, scary and exhilarating. I’ll blog the video soon
  • I had time to stop and take things slowly, no giant list of ‘to do’s’ like normal
  • I jumped off the pier into the freezing water and loved it (once I’d jumped). Thanks to those who persuaded me to jump and swam with me in the crystal clear water
  • I laughed lots, there were times when people were crying with laughter. It’s good to laugh
  • I had time to really look at the cotton grass. I filmed it, photographed it, wrote a poem about it, painted it onto fabric and printed its shadow using the sun. It was a pleasure to have the time to look that closely at something
  • I discovered Pablo Neruda‘s wonderful book of questions
  • I practiced my banana me beautiful fringe show to an audience of 15 and got written feedback from every person, really useful, thank you all!
  • I gazed upon layer upon layer of mountains and mist
  • I lino printed loads of banana slugs for my banana me beautiful fringe programme
  • Meals, I loved the meals, tasty food and great chat with a wonderful bunch of inspiring women

Speygrian is aimed at artists, scientist and outdoor educators. I first discovered Speygrian three years ago when I attended a Creative Connections course on the Island of Colonsay. I met some totally inspirational facilitators, Kenny Taylor and Gerry Cambridge. I wrote about that course and my facilitators (including a poem about them) here. I’ve also been along to some of the networking weekends, I wrote a bit about the last one (time travel, tepees and finding your element) here. The next networking weekend is in November and includes puppetry workshops with Creeping Toad. I’ve already booked my place, why not come along?


Posted by on August 1, 2011 in Education, Environment, Events, Writing


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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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Banana me beautiful: Two weeks to go…

Banana me beautiful

In a couple of weeks I launch my first book, it’s called Banana me beautiful.

Most of the time I’m too busy to notice how I’m feeling, so I’ve stopped today to write a bit about it.

The book is a journey of poems I wrote as a child, teenager and adult and there’s artwork and photography too (find out more here). It’s a risk to reveal yourself through writing or art. But at the same time, it’s wonderful. Even if no one reads or sees it, you’ve created something new. You’ve taken something from inside and given it a physical form. I feel most alive when I’m creating. Saying all that, this book is scary for me.

Here’s why…

One day I’d like to get married. I’d like to find someone I’d happily spend the rest of my life with. The problem is, I dread an entire day of people looking at me. And this book is like that but worse, I’m inviting people to look at my lifetime. So why would I? Just don’t bother and stop whining (I hear you say). Well here are two good reasons:

1) I’ll use it to run storytelling and writing workshops. I want to encourage people to see themselves and their stories as unique and valuable. The younger they hear this the better.

2) I’m publishing with Chipmunka, a mental health publisher. One in four people struggle with mental health issues in their lifetime but often they suffer in silence. By sharing some of my journey in this book, I hope people will feel less alone and more able to talk.

I struggled on the inside growing up. I created the image above at age 15, it’s huge (81cm by 60 cm) . That’s me sitting on the floor with my knees up (yes I’m represented by a banana). There was a happy sunny world out there but I wasn’t part of it. I was trapped by the bars in my own head.

I’m nearly 30 now and in the last three years I’ve found freedom. Freedom to be myself and enjoy it, freedom to write and freedom from fear. As a result I’ve had the courage to do things I’d never have dared to imagine I could do. I’ve read a poem to the Queen, started writing for Greenerleith, I’ve written and presented a CBeebies pilot with BBC Scotland, I’ve been commissioned to make films and podcasts. I’ve written poems about energy saving lightbulbs, puffins and wanting to pull the emergency chord in the disabled toilet. My book’s on the way, I’ve started this blog and I’ve written stories for children like the Little Oak. He stops listening to the taunts of the other plants and sings:

Wonderful, beautiful,

There’s only one like you

And only one who was made to do

The things that you can do

That’s what I want to say to you too. That’s what ‘Banana me beautiful’ is about.


Posted by on June 25, 2011 in Banana me beautiful, Writing


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