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…


Posted by: gillarbuthnott | September 18, 2016

Only in France…

Image result for carcassonneJust back from a few days in Carcassonne, to celebrate – oh joy -the fact that I can go on holiday during school term time now that I’ve quit teaching. The town itself isn’t terribly interesting, but embedded in it is the fabulous medieval Cite, which looks like something designed by Disney. Husband and I spent many happy hours wandering, eating and drinking. While we were in the inevitable castle gift shop I noticed a very jolly range of melamine plates for children, with brightly coloured comic-book style illustrations of knights, damsels, peasants etc, each with a bit of text. When I read these, they all turned out to be exhortatations to have good table  manners. ‘Don’t talk with your mouth full!’ and ‘Don’t gobble your food!’ for instance. How very French… Bought them for all my nieces and nephews for Christmas – don’t worry, mes enfants – only joking!

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | September 13, 2016

A Festival Memento

I just wanted to share these beautiful sketches of Edinburgh during the festivals, sent to me by Jens Harder, whose book Alpha… Directions I introduced at a Book Festival event last month. They really capture the atmosphere in town then. And the rain…





Posted by: gillarbuthnott | September 12, 2016

Underground Naples#1

20150411_163736.jpgI was trying to find photos of Naples that I know I saved somewhere, because they are vital background to the novel I’m just embarking on. Typically, they seem to have evaporated for the moment, but I did find these extraordinarily atmospheric ones, also from Naples. They’re from the Borbonico tunnel, which was built as an escape route from the royal palace for the Bourbon kings of Naples, was then forgotten about, was used as both a bomb shelter and a vehicle pound during WW2, then was forgotten about again, until a vet renovating his surgery found a disused door with a load of steps leading down from it… and all this. 20150411_164246.jpgImage result for borbonico tunnelTruly Naples is a wonderfully crazy city. It deserves to be visited more.

Oh dear… I’ll just have to go back now and re-take those missing photographs. What a shame.

Posted by: gillarbuthnott | September 8, 2016

Pooh’s Brave New World?

Image result for winnie the pooh book illustrationsI’ve got a new job… I am the Science Advisor to the Winnie the Pooh Science Party. Beat that! I was ever so hopeful that this would turn out to be a new political movement, and was excitedly trying to anticipate what their policies might be, but tragically, it’s a one-of event for primary school children in St Andrews. It’ll be great – it’s all about how the senses work, hung round Pooh characters, and will possibly feature live donkeys, owls and bees – what could possibly go wrong? I’m still not convinced it shouldn’t be a new political party though… I would definitely join; it sounds so much more fun than any of the others.

Piglet for PM!

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