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…

Image result for barn owl

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.

Image result for van der graaf generator

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…

Image result for dracula

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.



Posted by: gillarbuthnott | October 18, 2016

Patchwork writing

Had a great time yesterday at the Wee Book Fest at Topping and Company in St Andrews, doing picture book and science events. Thanks to all involved for a grand day out.

The couple of days before that were happily spent changing the spare room into My Study, so that I now have somewhere for all the writing bits and pieces which form a creeping tide throughout the rest of the house. It’s lovely to finally have somewhere I can leave things without having to clear them away every night.

My 1000 word per day target is going fairly well, and since I’ve embarked on a new phase of my writing career, I’m trying a new way of doing things. Previously, writing fiction has been a bit like knitting: I start at one end of the yarn (pun fully intended) and keep going in sequence until it’s finished. The trouble with this is that, not being much of a planner, it’s like starting off thinking you’re knitting a sock and finding halfway that it’s turned into a cardigan – lots of unravelling and reworking required.

So, this time, the way I’m working is a bit more like patchwork. I’m writing scenes, without worrying at the moment about how they fit together. I write the ones that are already vividly present in my head and, so far at least, they are then suggesting what should go next to them, but I’m working on multiple parts of the plot at once. Time will tell if this is a good idea or not…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | October 14, 2016

Fun in St Andrews

Image result for wee book festJust a reminder, if you happen to be in St Andrews on Monday 17th with children in tow, that I’m appearing along with lots of other authors at the wonderful Topping and Company’s Wee Book Fest.


Posted by: gillarbuthnott | October 12, 2016

Who stole that time when I wasn’t looking?

Well, I thought I’d retired, but I’ve been teaching full time for the last few days, which has been a bit of a shock to the system, hence the lack of posts recently…

I visited Lossiemouth and Aberlour High Schools at the start of last week and had a great time there talking about the wonders of DNA. Thanks to everyone for being so welcoming and enthusiastic. I’ve never been to Lossiemouth before and hadn’t realised what a lovely wee place it is – looks like a great beach. I had my fingers crossed I might see the Northern Lights, but no luck this time.

Image result for northern lights from lossiemouth
Here’s what I didn’t see. This time…

Off to St Mary’s primary again tomorrow, in my capacity as Patron of Reading, to do a human body event with the P3 pupils. I hope you’re all ready to experiment on yourselves!

And of course, trying to fit in the odd bit of writing. My 1000 word a day target took a bit of a battering last week, so I’m in catch-up mode now. It’ll be easier if it keeps raining as I won’t feel guilty for not hacking away at the garden…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | September 28, 2016

Reading and writhing…

Image result for yoga gone wrongI had my first proper visit to St Mary’s primary school on Monday, to talk to all of them at assembly about joining them as their Patron of Reading. They were absolutely lovely, and I’d still be there answering questions now if they hadn’t had to go off and do some work… I’ll be back in soon though, to talk to the P3 pupils and spend a whole lunchtime answering questions – really looking forward to that as there’s always some question that makes you rear back in surprise!

Easing into this retirement business nicely now, and starting to Do Things that I didn’t previously have time for – nearly crippled after first yoga in 25 years, and tomorrow is first Greek evening class, so hopefully I’ll be able to do more than order beer and food next time we’re there. Still haven’t got round to spending more time on housework, funnily enough.

And, of course, more writing. I’m taking it slowly, so at the moment my target is 1000 words per day. Most days at least. Weekends off, naturally… Or at least until I get really obsessed with the story…

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | September 22, 2016

Here’s to reading for fun

Image result for extreme readingI’m delighted to announce that I’m going to be Patron of Reading at St Mary’s RC Primary School in Edinburgh. I’ll be off to introduce myself at their assembly next Monday, and I’m very much looking forward to getting involved with promoting reading for pleasure. The timing couldn’t be better: Michael Morpurgo in his lecture for Booktrust last night spoke about how important it is that children (and adults) read for enjoyment, for fun; not just so they can analyse a text or pass a comprehension test. I love the idea of storytime at the end of every school day – one of his suggestions – being read to is one of life’s great pleasures.

I know that St Mary’s already has some great ideas in place, and I’m looking forward to working with pupils and staff to make reading even more fun for all of us.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | September 20, 2016

Gothic Naples

Hooray! I’ve found my lost pictures of Naples. Just to let you understand why I was so keen to get them back, here are a couple. This first one is from one of several catacombs in the city. Some nice artwork, and note the hole left to insert the skull of your choice.. A bit like those things you put your head through to get a daft photo taken – only not.


And this second one is surely the most gothic crypt in the world, slightly helped by the evidence of fire and water damage. Who’s been sitting in my chair? Be afraid…


« Newer Posts - Older Posts »