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Top Fives: Reflecting on 2016

On new years eve I was having dinner with friends and someone suggested we do top fives. You take it in turns to say one highlight from the year past. It made a change from talking about the state of politics or how many great people had died in a shocker of a year that was 2016.

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There were five of us and we shared stories together until it was time for fireworks. After I’d shared number three a friend said:

Wow, you really challenged yourself this year didn’t you!?

And I realised, every story I’d shared had a pattern.

  • It was something I was scared to do
  • I didn’t think I could do it
  • I did it
  • I enjoyed myself because I realised I could do it after all

I was doing mini Rockys (you know the films with Sylvester Stallone?) all year and the hard work had led to my highlights. Had I never taken the challenges, I’d never have got to the highlights.

I’m writing a children’s book just now about a character who is afraid of something so he just doesn’t do it. And he thinks he’s fine. In some ways he is, he’s comfy enough. But his friend suggests he might be missing out and tries to encourage him to try and do the thing he’s afraid to do.

All through life I’ve been scared of things so I wanted to show children that courage isn’t the absence of fear, courage is something you need because life is scary. It’s not a magic potion that makes fear disappear. It’s a choice to act when you’re not comfortable, you’re not sure you can do it, you’re not sure others will like it and you might look like an idiot. That’s what courage is.

When I write for children my characters have a habit of reminding me of things I need to remember. It’s like in my head I think ‘I want others to know that’ and then I realise I really need to know it myself. I’ve been like the character in the book where I think I’m fine but my world is limited because I’ve let a boundary of fear define how far I’ll go or how much I’ll try. I’ve chosen comfort above courage because I’m afraid of looking stupid or failing or being rejected. That’s not how we start off in life. That’s not how we are made. If it was, we’d never learn to walk.

Looking back over the year was a good reminder that trying new things and learning and growing is what we’re made to do. Our brains make new neuro pathways as we learn, because they’re designed to work inside changing, problem solving creative humans. That’s all of us.

So if it’s daring to be honest or signing up to try and keep trying something new or having the courage to really enjoy the present or just the courage to do something everyday when you’re feeling so bad that just going to a shop seems like a mountain to climb…

Whatever it is for you, you can do it!

TOP FIVES FOR 2016 :

Playing an International for Scotland Writers in Italy (and being the only Woman on the Team)

Image Credit top left: Adrian Searle 

This was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in my life – starting in a stadium, in Italy in a Scotland kit felt amazing! Also I need to thank the friends who told me over and over I should go. One even texted me every day asking if I had booked flights. I was scared because I didn’t know the guys well and I was the only woman and I thought I wasn’t good enough. But I had the most brilliant time! Also I really worked on my fitness the month before so I could play okay in 29deg heat. Italy had a woman on their writers team too and both teams were lovely. Here’s the captain Doug’s fab match report (warning- there’s lots of swearing in it!).

Chairing at Edinburgh International Book Festival

Totally one of my favourite jobs ever! I got to look after brilliant authors and illustrators TIm Warnes, Nick Arnold and Tony De Saulles. Read about it here.

Becoming a Chaplain to Hutchison Vale Semi Professional Ladies Football Team 

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Yes I am wearing a giant manager style coat and look twice as big as everyone else! I really enjoyed supporting the team in 2016.

Mining Memories: Creating Digital Stories with Children via the Perspective of Animals

One of my favourite school projects with the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative and Boness Public Primary – read more about it here.

Being a Dinosaur in a play for adults in Edinburgh International Science Festival

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Image Credit: Chris Scott

This was the dress rehearsal. It was like AE but for dinosaurs that have been debunked. We wrote our parts too – as part of Illicit Ink. Read more about it here.

New Challenges for 2017

I wrote three books which are coming out this year – I’m planning events now. You’re invited to the Book Launch of Ollie and the Otter on 9th March, 6.30pm at Waterstones Princes’s Street, Edinburgh.

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I’ve finished the season of chaplaincy so I can work on music related stuff.

I’m working on a new non-fiction book project and I’ve recently written my first radio play for BBC Scotland Schools radio. It’s about space and emotions and will be broadcast in March.

I’m working toward my first illustrated book (I’m an author of other books but I’d like to illustrate too). You can read a bit more about the journey towards illustration here and here. Here’s one I drew over Christmas on my ipad:

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Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Education, Events, illustration, Science, Writing

 

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Football Pine Cones

I wanted to be able to kick some pine cones into the audience during my Edinburgh Book Festival event Dancing Capercaillies. In my book, Can’t Dance Cameron, Cameron the capercaillie kicks a pine cone. Real pine cones are a little dangerous when flying at speed towards children aged four to seven years. So I asked my Dad if he would help me to make some giant foam pine cones. Soft and safe. He said yes and here they are:

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Modeled on a Scots pine but these cones bounce. My plan is to do a football trick with them. I’m not sure how well my silky skills (or lack of them) will go down at the Book Festival but ‘Can’t Dance Cameron‘ is all about not being afraid to try so I will do just that. I will also practice lots. I was first team goalkeeper on my football team at Uni so I’m not starting totally from scratch, that’s me top right:

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After my trick attempt (I’m not telling you what it is, you’ll have to come along to see it!) I’m going to get some volunteers from the audience out for a football pine cone challenge. They have to try to kick the ball in between a tree and a wildcat. Obviously the cat isn’t real and we’re not trying to hit the cat, we’re trying to trick the cat. By kicking a pine cone past her – we distract her. I excitedly told my cat Oscar this plan and he wasn’t too pleased. Look at his face:

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He said it appeared to him that I was making a cat into a goal post. I explained I wasn’t and would be really careful to make sure I said we would never kick pine cones at cats and so on. I tried to appease him by telling him we could watch an episode of CBeebies Nina and the Neurons all about the science of football this Thursday on CBeebies at 4.15 (I wrote it). But that didn’t help.

To be honest I think he’s just jealous of the other cats that will be featured in my event. Laurie Campbell is sending a beautiful photograph of a Scottish wildcat – I’m so excited about that. But Oscar isn’t. He wants to be the star cat in the show – he will make an appearance in a video – impersonating a wildcat but that is all. He’s also upset that I’m going to be reading a poem I wrote about squirrels. I’ve never written a poem about him.

Read more about the Edinburgh International Book Festival public event ‘Dancing Capercaillies‘ on the 18th August here. Get tickets here. Read about the schools event on the 21st August here. Get tickets for the event at Inverness Book Festival on the 23rd August here. Read about my episode of CBeebies Nina and the Neurons on the Science of Football here.

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2014 in Education, Events, nature, storytelling, Writing

 

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Nina and The Neurons: Get Sporty

20140731_224951I’m off to see the athletics final in the Commonwealth Games today.

Around the time I’ll be arriving at Hampden Park, one of the episodes I’ve written of BBC Science show Nina and the Neurons will be broadcast on the CBeebies channel. It’s all about the science of gymnastics (why do we bend our knees when we land?).

The new series of Nina and the Neurons is called ‘Get Sporty’. It’s about the science behind sport and it’s been created to coincide with the Commonwealth Games. In each episode children investigate the science behind a sport with Nina through fun interactive experiments. One of the exciting things about this series is, we get to meet professional athletes in every episode too.

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You can catch up on all of the episodes including the ones I’ve written on BBC Iplayer here.

Here’s when you can watch the episodes I’ve written live on the CBeebies channel:

Football: Wednesday 23rd July, Thursday 7th August: 4.15pm. Wednesday 15th October, 4.30pm

Sprinting: Monday 28th July, Thursday 14th August: 4.15pm. Wednesday 22nd Oct, 4.30pm

Gymnastics: Friday 1st August, Wednesday 20th August: 4.15pm. Tuesday 28th October, 4.30pm

I helped develop some of the ideas behind ‘Get Sporty’ in 2012 so I was really pleased to be asked to write on the series after it was commissioned. It’s amazing to now see it on TV.

I’m looking forward to going to Glasgow to see the athletics final too – especially now I know more about the science behind it.

Read about writing for previous series of Nina ‘Earth Explorers’ and ‘Go Engineering’.

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2014 in Education, Events, Science, Writing

 

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Football and Poetry

We’re playing football on the meadows, the sky is blue and it smells of autumn. An almost perfect evening until…

FOOT CRAMP.

I retired to the nearest bench. The game went on.

I took off my boot and tried to rub my foot back into normality.

It was frustrating, I wanted to play but my foot hurt.

Eventually, I stopped focusing on my foot. I looked around.

Arthurs Seat was reassuringly stunning in the setting sun. Yesterday I’d seen David Mach’s version of the same scene with Noah’s Ark and the animals. I’d felt quite uncomfortable. I used to run a climate change workshop at Dynamic Earth which showed Edinburgh disappear under a flood (including comedy sharks) with only Arthur’s Seat and the Crags sticking out. This was a worst case climate change scenario, but an ark might be needed, in the future. Tonight though, it was dry. All was well.

And then I looked at the bench I was sitting on. There was something wonderful there, a wee poem about looking out over a football game and about life.

And I realised, sometimes, when things don’t go as we had planned or hoped and it’s painful we need to stop focusing on the pain and look around, there’s probably something beautiful, right there if we just look.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in Environment, poetry, Writing

 

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