Posted by: gillarbuthnott | May 11, 2017

Back to work…

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Garelochhead; a lovely place for a school visit…

Just getting back into the swing of things after an extended break, holidaying in Costa Rica with the husband to celebrate our escape from the world of work in the classroom/office. I’ve been straight back into events: thankyou to all the small but enthusiastic scientists who came along to Borders Science Festival at Duns library on Saturday for my Human Body event, and thanks to everyone at Garelochhead Primary for the warm welcome you gave me yesterday. That was a lovely day out for me, to a new part of the country as far as author events go. I could still be talking now, I was having such a good time with the pupils. Hope the story-writing is going well… Let me know!

Have had the luxury today of almost a whole day spent with the Naples novel, doing bits of rewriting and generally tidying things up. With any luck, I might get another one tomorrow, though I can hear the garden weeds growing behind my back…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 13, 2017

Easter Editing

Image result for writer writingI am busy editing a novel draft at the moment, and in particular, making sure the timelines work. You know the sort of thing: have I put two Tuesdays in one week; have I made a character give birth three months after the pregnancy started; has it been summer for nine months? All very embarrassing if you get them wrong – and someone will always notice. Then there’s the matter of names. Some of my main characters don’t have surnames yet… No one will care what their surnames are, I can hear you saying. But they still have to be right, because they won’t seem real to me, otherwise, and if they’re not real, I can’t write about them. And did I mention they’re Italian, so it’s harder for me to know if I’ve got them right for the place (Naples) and period (1620ish)?

None of this is very enthralling, but it is vital. Get it wrong, and you basically make your reader run into a wall if they spot one of your mistakes. And then what happens to the all-important suspension of disbelief??

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | April 4, 2017


I opened a parcel from my publishers yesterday to find this little beauty…


I’ve never been in Portugese before – perhaps this is my chance to teach myself some. Not perhaps for general conversation or useful-on-holiday purposes…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 29, 2017

A Grand Day Out

Image result for newcastleI was unchained from the desk yesterday and let loose in Newcastle for a day, working with Eric Ferguson as part of the ‘Literature Works’ programme which runs in the city’s schools. I had great fun visiting West Denton, St John Vianney and Westgate Hill primary pupils, who had been reading A Beginner’s Guide to Life on Earth. They came armed with many, many questions about living organisms,  writing non-fiction, and being an author. I had a great time – I only hope they enjoyed themselves as much as I did!

Right – the leg irons are being fastened again, so it’s back to Naples for a bit more death…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | March 20, 2017

Creeping into the light again..

Hello… It’s been such an embarrassingly long time since I posted that it’s become harder and harder to actually do it. Pathetic. Anyway, back again now. I’ve been doing lots of school events (Hello Downfield, Our Lady’s High and Davidson’s Mains), bashing on as fast as I can with the patchwork novel, which is nearly a finished draft now, and working on a new non-fiction project.

But what has finally lit the blue touch-paper under me is that my first story for radio goes out this Wednesday for BBC Schools’ Radio, and it would be nice if someone, somewhere listened to it! It’s been very exciting to write something so different – those of you who know me will also know I don’t often sidle up to a short story – and I can’t wait to hear it being read by an actual Actor. You can find out all about it here. It’s called A Long Way From Home and has a bit of a twist in the tale/tail…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | January 6, 2017

And so it begins…

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Hello 2017! The festivities are over, the decorations are all put away, we’ve almost finished the cheese,  and I’m back at work at my desk, unlike most of Edinburgh, who seem to be extending their holidays until Monday 9th.

I haven’t been idle since the last (long ago…) time I posted, and the patchwork-quilt novel (that’s working method, not subject) has reached 70,000 words. It underwent an unexpected and rather pleasing gear change this morning and is now definitely entering the final act, though quite a long final act, I think. I am so enjoying being able to write every day – it’s amazing what a difference a bit of momentum makes. And you were right,Theresa Breslin, when you said there would be much more room in my brain once I stopped teaching – thankyou!

In January, I am particularly looking forward to reading The Essex Serpent, and to Donald Trump’s inauguration, where he reveals that he is in fact David Bowie in a hideous mask…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | December 1, 2016

From donkeys to Dracula!

I’ve been a bit tardy updating the blog on how my Book Week Scotland events went…

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The Winnie the Pooh Science Party was a huge success! No children were carried away by owls, or indeed pooped on by them, as they (the children) lay on their backs watching them (the owls) fly over. Bonnie the Barn Owl allowed all 300 (!!) children to stroke her, though Fergus the Little Owl wasn’t so keen on that bit. Seonaid the donkey was the epitome of calm and behaved immaculately, as did all the school pupils. I had thought I might have some epic anecdote of disaster to relate, but not a thing went wrong. Amazing.

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The Electricity and Magnetism roadshow similarly failed completely to blow up any school or pupils at all. Nick and I did risk the electronics of the schools involved (we may not have made that exactly clear to them at the time) by setting up the Van der Graaf generator and making it light up a neon tube, but we got away with it. We re-set the world record in the magnetic press-up challenge and entranced people with our plasma globe. I think a few of our audience were going to ask for their own one from Santa once they’d seen it…

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It’s been lovely after that to have a writing-focussed week, but I’m back on the road next week for my last event of the year, when Doug MacDonald and I take the ‘Who is Dracula’ workshop to Dundee…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | November 21, 2016

On the road for Book Week Scotland…

Image result for owl from winnie the poohAs part of Book Week Scotland, I’m  involved tomorrow in the fabulous Winnie the Pooh Science Party in Glenrothes. I’ll be running workshops on sight with Archie the Owlmeister and his two live owls for 3 groups of 100 primary 1,2 and 3 pupils from local schools. What could possibly go wrong with that combination, I ask myself???? Watch this space for an update on what happened!

electricityAnd on Thursday Nick Armstrong and I are having a mini road trip taking out Electricity and Magnetism event to Canmore Primary in Dunfermline, Dunnikier Primary in Kirkcaldy, and St Andrews Library. Will we manage to avoid blowing things up, I wonder…


Posted by: gillarbuthnott | November 7, 2016

Give the Giving Tree a Go!

Image result for blackwells giving treeI’m delighted that on Thursday 10th November, I’ll be in Blackwell’s bookshop in Edinburgh to help launch this year’s Children’s Giving Tree appeal. This is a brilliant scheme which allows customers to gift a book to a child  who is living in difficult circumstances over Christmas. Each child can request a special book, or a book about a particular subject, and  the requests are written on Christmas tags and displayed on the ‘Giving Tree’ in the Children’s department of the shop. You can choose one of these tags and buy the book, safe in the knowledge that it will go to a disadvantaged child who really, really wants it – and you don’t even have to go into the shop; you can gift a book on line.

The Giving Tree gets bigger and bigger every year, but of course, it only works if you people get involved! Go on – it’ll make you feel pretty good too.


Posted by: gillarbuthnott | October 24, 2016

Badgers and Bella Donna

Truly, the internet is sometimes the gift that keeps on giving…today I was trying to find what an Italian renaissance noblewoman might have called her pet dog (as you do) when I stumbled on this marvellous site, La Bella Donna, which not only answered my question, but led me to this:

‘The picture below is of Il Sodoma (Giovanni Antonio Bazzi) with his pet badgers (notice the pretty collar) in a fresco at Abbazia territoriale di Monte Oliveto Maggiore.’


I ask you – Il Sodoma and his pet badgers? You wouldn’t dare make that up.

Mille grazie, Bella Donna.



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