GUEST BLOG:INTERVIEW with all round good egg – Emily Dodd


“We know some pretty amazing and interesting people and we’d love to share some of them with you. 

One such person is the very lovely Emily Dodd. We first met Emily about 7 years ago, whilst we were all living in Edinburgh. She was working at a local visitor centre, Our Dynamic Earth, teaching a combination of science and art  – a great mix methinks. There are lots of things that are great about this gal, but what is particularly inspiring to us is how she as taken her passions, made some big bold steps to make them happen and is now making a difference in her field”. 

So, (in my best Liverpool accent), what’s your name and where do you come from?

Emily Dodd, I’m originally from a little village in Derbyshire but I’ve been living in Edinburgh, Scotland for almost 7 years.

And what do you do right now?

Good question, I’m not too sure how to describe what I do anymore. I’ve been a full time freelancer for almost 9 months now doing a variety of projects. To give you a flavour, here’s what I’m up to in the next 4 weeks: I’m writing 2 episodes of ‘Nina and the Neurons’, a BBC Children’s science programme. I’m running two storytelling training courses for teachers and after school club helpers. I’m writing a school science workshop for the National Museums of Scotland. I’m making a couple of films about picking up dog poo for a local environmental charity, Greener Leith. I’ve also got some poetry gigs coming up and some potential projects in the pipeline.

How did you end up doing that?

The Screenwriting came after getting in to training course run by the BBC and the Scottish Book Trust. I’d been writing and presenting science theatre shows, stories and workshops to children for 7 years before that but the media labs taught me how to write specifically for children’s TV.

I started writing science theatre shows for museums while doing a Masters in Communicating Science 8 years ago and have been writing them ever since.

I started storytelling when I was writing the Early Years (3 -7 years) programme of science workshops at Dynamic Earth. I went on loads of storytelling courses and used the techniques along with my science communication background to write stories that teach children science. I wrote them for Dynamic Earth Edinburgh, the Scottish Seabird Centre and Changeworks and I started running my own training courses along the way.

I learnt to make films during a 1 week intensive course as part of my Communicating Science Masters. I’ve been making them ever since and in the last year people started paying me to do it.

I launched a poetry book last year and since then people have been asking me to perform at various events in Edinburgh. One gig often lead to another when someone in the audience tells a friend or invites me to do something else. Usually I say yes and work out how I’m going to manage my nerves and plan my set nearer the time! It’s always fine once I’m on the stage but awful before that. It’s lovely to have been paid for the last couple of gigs too.

I started volunteering for Greener Leith a couple of years ago, I love making podcasts and writing blogs for them. Now I freelance for them if we’ve got a grant for a media related project like the dog poo films. I still volunteer for them too.

Is there a pivotal moment when you knew what you wanted to do? (or did it happen gradually)

I think it happened gradually. I wanted to be a writer when I was a child (I first got published when I was 10) but I was really terrible at spelling so decided I couldn’t be a writer. I took science and art instead and went on to do a science degree (I almost did an art degree). I’ve always loved learning and creating.  Science was a brilliant way to learn about the amazing world around us and I wanted to express some of that wonder to others. Eventually I was writing and presenting science to children. I love working with children because it’s fun and challenging. My ability to communicate something complicated or dry and make it interesting was really useful with adults as well as children. I always wrote poetry but I wasn’t planning to publish a poetry book until that happened.  That started because I wanted to get some children’s stories published to help children with their mental health, they liked my poems and asked for lots more.

What do you hope people gain from what you do?

Ultimately I’d like to use my creativity to make the world a better place. In the meantime I hope people enjoy what I do. The workshops I do with children are about building confidence, showing them how brilliant and unique they are and helping them to enjoy being themselves. The storytelling training with adults is about that too. The films and podcasts I make are about communicating sustainability in an engaging and entertaining way. Much of my writing is about being yourself, enjoying life, celebrating nature and there’s some that’s about challenges too, my poems aren’t all happy (but many of them are).

How do you balance the many different things that you do?

Hmmm, I’m still working that out. I prefer to work on one thing at a time but that’s usually not possible. I try to go running every other day to keep me sane.

What is your favourite thing about what you do?

Seeing someone else gain confidence. I love coming up with ideas so anything that involves that. I really like working with other people to create something brilliant, teams are great.

What is the most challenging thing?

Not knowing how I’ll pay my mortgage in a couple of months. Having to be self-motivated. Keeping up with the everyday things like remembering people’s birthdays or washing up the dishes when I’ve got a deadline.

Is there anything that stops you from doing more of what you’re doing?

Fear used to stop me, I still sometimes find it hard, like I did a gig in a comedy club last week and was almost sick but it all went great once I was on stage. Sometimes I just feel rubbish and don’t want to do anything but running helps loads with that. I guess finances too; if I had more money or more guaranteed money I would perhaps be able to spend a bit more time doing things like writing picture books.

Who do you have supporting you and how do they do that?

Friends, family and others. I meet freelancer once a month for a blether, that’s lovely just to see people are doing life a little differently and they’re fun to be around. My family is really supportive too.  There are loads of amazing people on twitter and in the Edinburgh media / literary scene who are a massive encouragement. I’ve got a mentor, Elspeth Murray, she’s fab too. I’m trying to learn to take compliments and remember them when I’m feeling like I can’t do it. I also go to church and to a weekly community group, they’re brilliant, we support each other like a family. It’s so good to pray about situations and see them change as a result.

What do you think you’ll be doing in 5 years time?

I hope I’ll be writing for children and living in an eco home on an island or in a forest (but definitely somewhere near mountains).

What piece of advice would you give to anyone with a dream they’re thinking of acting upon?

Do it! Step out. Do the things that scare you. Try. Try when it hurts. Encourage others. Think about others. Love. Be Yourself. Pray.

If you’d like to know more about Emily, you can follow her blog: auntyemily.wordpress.com: buy her book bananamebeautiful or on twitter: @AuntyEmily

Photo Credit Lilly Hunter Main picture by Emily Dodd

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GUEST BLOG: Did you hear the one about the Queen Mum, the Dalai Lama and the leather whip?

A little bit about our wonderful guest blogger: Kate. “A Yorkshire lass living in Scotland and married to the great grandson of an African chief who would eat people if they caught him having a bath. My husband prefers showers… and chicken. I’m a TV bod, script supervisor, production manager, writer, swimmer, believer, wife and full-time working step-mum to two fantastic girls (11 and 8) who are my stylists, my daily cheer and my reasons for cleaning”.

January 2012 marks the completion of my first decade here in Glasgow, bonnie Scotland. This is the longest I’ve ever lived anywhere apart from the place where I grew up in the north east of England.

I came up over the border fresh from university in Nottingham and via a short blip in Birmingham for a job with a director on a BBC Songs of Praise programme. ‘I can guarantee you ten weeks of work’ he said. That was enough for me to up sticks and move from the land of Brum to the land of the Glasgow kiss. And ten years later I’m sill here; still working in the wonderful world of television and now married and a step-mum to boot. This monumental anniversary has brought about an air of reflection during my moments of lull – so in the shower and at traffic lights as a general rule. I’ve experienced some bonkers, heart-warming, satisfying, sometimes teeth-crunchingly frustrating and downright daft moments during that time and most of them have been brought about by my job.

Whilst helping to make programmes about Florence Nightingale, the King James Bible, microfinance, a 21st century Scottish clan, Narnia, gangsters and J.S. Bach’s organ works to name but an eclectic few I have found myself in some extremely odd predicaments and situations. Here’s my top 20 in no particular order (except maybe the last one):

Answering the phone to the First Minister of Scotland in nothing but my bra and knickers (me, not him).

Staying the night in CS Lewis’s house right next to a wardrobe. Yes, I checked.

Visiting the Guinness Brewery with an actual Mr. Guinness.

Watching a heroin addict shoot up for the last time before observing his gradual recovery from his dependency.

Being advised spontaneously by a Hollywood film star on the merits of breastfeeding.

Running out of intelligent questions to ask the Icelandic Fisheries Minister before asking him whether he’d seen the ‘Happy Feet’ movie.

Couriering a newsreader’s black outfit to the BBC newsroom on the news of the death of the Queen Mum.

Sharing a cuppa with prostitutes.

Hand-rearing two orphaned robins and a baby vole.

Borrowing a fire engine, wangling a walk-on poodle and blagging the loan of a vicar’s dog collar.

Falling asleep in the office of the head of the Zambian Police.

Walking the red carpet at Cannes and the BAFTAs in Scotland and organizing a film premiere and after-party using nothing but freebies and my eyelashes.

Buying a leather whip on Ebay for the props department. My purchase suggestions have never been the same since.

Having a dead body flown from London to Glasgow and organising the deceased’s funeral having never met the person. An odd but strangely emotional and humbling experience.

Asking approximately a hundred men their inside leg measurement.

Doing the accounts with the man who taught Cliff Richard how to play tennis.

Walking along one of the longest nudist beaches in Spain, fully clothed.

Telling the man who plays Poirot that I’d taken up the clarinet because I’d fallen in love with the Poirot theme tune as a kid… only to be told it was the alto sax.

Meeting the man who smuggled the Dalai Lama out of Tibet.

And…

Being proposed to on the big screen with the help of my clever, creative colleagues and the bravery of my now husband.

And so life took another turn at this last point. And, perhaps, of all the momentous moments, becoming a wife and step-mum has been the most jaw-dropping, exhausting and awe-inspiring of them all. Maternity leave for a step-mum would be a very good idea but my experience as a production manager has come in pretty handy… So bring on the next ten years and a large glass of pinot.

You can find out more about Kate’s work at 1AProductions.co.uk and you can read about (or buy if you wish!) one of the projects I worked on with Kate: C.S. Lewis: Beyond Narnia on Amazon.com