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…

Image result for patchwork quilt

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…

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…

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