Hector Kreeping’s Tales of Terror: Halloween-appropriate stories

Much excitement! The day before Halloween, Hector Kreeping is bringing fun and fear in equal measure. I really looking forward to getting back on stage. Scritch, scratch the armoire. That’s all I’m saying.

What is it? A night of spooky tales in a small, independent bookshop. The event if part of the Edinburgh Horror Festival.

When it it? Sunday 30th October, Otherworld Books, Dalry Road, Edinburgh. Tickets are £5/£3. Get tickets.

Who’s reading? I am. I don’t know who else yet, but keep an eye on the Illicit Ink event page.

Lady scientists step out in Dundee

We had a ball on Friday. The lady scientists got back together and this time it was for a road trip to Dundee where we shared our stories as part of the Women in Science Festival. The D’Arcey Thompson lecture hall has great acoustics so we needed to help to raise our voices. The organisers of the festival had got the word out of our visit to all the right places so we had a great audience. It wouldn’t have been as fun without them, helping us along by laughing in the right places and generous with praise in the interval.

Before the show, we had a photo call. Dundee Courier ran an article about us on Saturday and the photo below, by CD Thompson, is from that article.

The lady scientists stitch, bitch and walk in Dundee.
The lady scientists stitch, bitch and walk in Dundee: Melissa Hugel, Kaite Welsh, Rebecca Douglas, Jessica Johannesson-Gaitán, Emily Dodd, Rachel McCrumb, yours truly.


Lady Scientists’ Stitch and Bitch comes to the Dundee Women in Science Festival 2015

The Lady Scientists have been invited to perform at the Dundee Women in Science Festival. We will tell our tales on March 27th, in the D’Arcy Thompson Lecture Theatre at Dundee University at 19:00. The lecture hall can take 290 people and we really hope we’ll fill it! More details will follow, including information on how to get tickets. In the meanwhile, here’s a sample of what you’ll hear.

This 1 minute 36 second snippet from the second part of Marie Curie’s story is from our first performance, at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April last year. I make a gaff towards the end, but you’ll probably only notice is you’re an avid knitter. Enjoy!


I need to know who you are: the problem with the first person

C. and I had a chat about one of the pieces I read at Illicit Ink earlier in the year. He said he thought it worked better as a spoken piece than a written one but couldn’t tell me why. I asked if it was because that it was in the first person. It has very little personal information about the narrator except that she has breasts and wears a bra. When I am on stage reading it, I become that woman – the first person is automatically my person – so the audience knows what she looks like, how old she is, where she’s from. None of that information is in the story. Many of my first-person pieces leave social context out: they are not about what I consider to be gender-, age- or class-specific experiences so that info feels redundant.

An early story of mine, and one of my personal favourites, Neon Tetra Suicides, didn’t originally specify the gender of the narrator. In my head, he was a man, but it didn’t matter to the story. It was about someone staying at friends’ while their flat was empty. What happened didn’t depend on the narrator’s age, class, nationality, race, sexuality or gender*. After reading an editor’s blog which said something along the lines of ‘Don’t send me a story where the narrator is ambiguous or doesn’t have a name’ I added gender indicators. My guy turned into a woman. Well, he turned into someone who goes to business meetings in skirts and tights. There’s still no name but we assume gender from the clothing. (Even with gender indications, Neon Tetras doesn’t sell so uncertainty about who the narrator is obviously isn’t its only problem. But that’s another story.)

But why should that matter?” C. asked me after I suggested that the lack of biographical content was why he preferred Mouth spoken. And that’s the question. I don’t know why, but I know that it does. Last December, I had a 100-word first-person story published online and in the comments one reader asked if the narrator was a man or a woman. For 100 words I didn’t think the gender mattered: either sex can milk cows and chop up frozen zombies with a chain saw. That’s just country living. But my audience clearly did think it was important.

I was asked to change the gender of Mouth‘s narrator for Liar’s League Hong Kong. It took very little effort. I changed a breast to a nipple, a top to a shirt and removed a reference to bras. The gender of the narrator can’t have been that important to the core of the story if that was all it took. For the performance it makes all the difference, however: it was read by a man and that man embodies the narrator.

Unfortunately, I can’t think of any short first-person stories that I have read where I didn’t know basic biographical information about the narrator so I can’t tell whether I, too, want to know these things. That same fact makes me think that I do or more writers would leave them out. My perspective isn’t that of a pepper corn in a salt cellar: I’m not a uniquely socially blind individual. If I don’t think it’s necessary in the stories I write, that’s probably because I already know. I have an image in my head, one clear enough to satisfy my needs for detail. I need to remember to share that image, no matter how sketchy, with my audience. I don’t want to lose them to unnecessary questions.


* Saying that, there are some indications of age – the friends have children – and class – the narrator attends business meetings and mostly works from home on a laptop.


Celebrating Ada Lovelace day: Lady Scientists Stitch & B*tch at Royal Observatory Edinburgh

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Royal Observatory Edinburgh has invited the Lady Scientists to help them celebrate Ada Lovelace day on October 14th.

Madame Lovelace, in whose honor we are invited, is highly conscious of the honor the world has paid her in naming a day for her. I’m convinced she’ll give a spirited account of herself on the night. Madame Sommerville, her old friend, is also delighted to attend. She doesn’t get to see her darling Ada, or indeed her  dear Florence, nearly as often as she would like. Travel becomes more difficult with age, as I am well aware. It is rare that Mademoiselle Nightingale can be tempted away from the hotel she calls home, but she’s promised to tear herself away from her statistical endeavors. I expect Madame Darwin will join us, as usual. She’s a shy one, is Emma Darwin. Not so madame Payne-Gaposchkin, who is rather free with her opinions. She has expressed her interest in the observatory itself, and its facilities.

Of course, without the chronologist who brings us all together our soirés are not possible and we do so enjoy them. It is good to know that she keeps her equipment in working order. A rigorous approach and attention to detail is crucial to good science.

Lady Scientists Stitch & B*tch takes place at Royal Observatory Edinburgh, on Blackford Hill. The event starts at 18:30 and is free, but ticketed. To reserve a seat, email vis@roe.ac.uk.

I hope to see you there.


Marie Curie signature

Appearing on a stage near you soon: Technobabble

One of the things that The Lady Scientists taught me is that I cannot easily learn a script. Not easily – but I can. Glowing with joy at having learned 1,700 words and remembered them when it mattered, I signed up for Illicit Ink‘s next Underground event, Technobabble. All I have to learn for that is 1,000 words.

I felt confident about doing so until I sent the organisers my story yesterday. I only have two weeks. Gasp!

It won’t be a problem. The structure of the piece is such that it should be relatively easy to learn and for most of it, it’s not important that I retell it verbatim.

Writing the piece for this performance was fun and let me play with an idea I’ve had for a while. Usually, I write something and hope to be able to sell it on after performing it. Not this time. This is written as a one off. My aim is to do a performance, feel confident on stage and prove to myself that I can learn a short text. That’s it. There will be no dancing, but there might be sound effects. And a feeling of achievement.

Illicit Ink Underground Technobabble

The Bongo Club
66 Cowgate

Sunday October 5, 20:00 – 22:00

The lady scientists come to Women in Engineering Day at Heriot-Watt University

Next Friday, September 12, 2014, The Lady Scientist Stitch and B*tch, will be performed for the second time. This time, we’re at Heriot-Watt University as part of Women in Engineering Day. We have a tweaked script and some new performers. We have practised on site (a rare treat! Thank you HWU.) and now we’re each doing what we can to perfect our performances and remember our lines.

I’m really looking forward to performing again.

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Lady Scientists’ Bitch and Stitch.

Lady Scientist poster at HWU
Look! That’s me, on that poster. There. Next to the woman with the boot.

Lady Scientists stitch again?

In April, we performed Lady Scientist Stitch and B*tch as part of the Science Festival. Somewhere between a reading and a play, the performance saw six scientists talking to each other about their careers and lives.

We heard nice things from the audience, but we, the performers, really enjoyed writing the stories and working together. Collaboration is rewarding and you always create something bigger than when you work alone. We have been looking at ways to take the stories further and were hoping to do a repeat – improved – performance at some point. We’re looking at weaving the stories more tightly together, maybe adding other scientists and, to avoid confusion in the knitting community, renaming it ‘B*tch and Stitch‘.

Just after that first performance, the idea that we might do it again was exhilarating but the reality felt far away. Now it feels more real since we’re in discussions about a second and possibly third performance.

Watch this space.

B*tchin’ Stitches at the Science Festival

I’m extremely pleased to be involved in a performance in the Edinburgh International Science Festival. The event is The Lady Scientists’ Stitch & B*tch*, a time-travelling knitting/sewing circle that sees women scientists from across time get together for a chat. I’m Marie Curie and you’ll also meet Ada Lovelace, Mary Somerville, Florence Nightingale, Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin and Emma Darwin. We’ve been brought together by a future scientist who has that most amazing of gadgets: a time machine. So what do we talk about?

I’m not going to tell you. The performance is on Friday and I’m not sharing anything until we’re all on stage. Except this: there will be a foot, swearing, stars – both earthly and heavenly – romance, radiation and good manners.

When and where?

Friday April 11, 20:00-22:00.

Scottish Storytelling Centre
43-45 High Street, Edinburgh

Get tickets online, or buy them on the door. Sold out!


* We’re not a meeting of the inspiring Stitch ‘n Bitch world-wide knitting group, and not all the stitching on stage will be knitting. But there will be stitching fun. Feel free to bring works in progress and stitch along.

Rhetorical punctuation and the spoken word

Earlier this week my friend Nina, who studies English Language at Glasgow University, introduced me to the concept of different types of punctuation: rhetorical and grammatical. It was rather an aha! moment for me.

About a year ago I did a performance and presentation course with Alex Gillon. I learned a lot that day, but at times I got confused. Alex would suggest removing or adding commas, not where they should be to separate clauses or lists, but where whoever was reading paused, or breathed. All of my commas were grammatical and changing them to fit the way I spoke felt odd.  Saying that, I did start to punctuate text aimed for reading differently. Yup. I made rhetorical punctuation my friend.

This Sunday, I’m reading the story I practiced with Alex at Illicit Ink Underground. It’s called Mouth, but needs a better title. Face, maybe. It is the first piece I’ve punctuated specifically to help me perform it. Fingers crossed, it’ll help me get the story across.

(Of course, I’ll also be standing well anchored, breath deeply, talk slowly – but clearly – and exaggerate certain words. And make eye contact with the audience at the beginning and end. Just as Alex told me.)