What a wonderful week of Nip Nebbery fun I have had! Something Nip Nebbery happened every day during Book Week Scotland. 

Like almost everyone I have spent most of 2020 in restricted work parameters and not being able to physically visit schools and events.

My passion has always been about connecting with young children and empowering them to enjoy Scots language and storytelling.  Being an author is so much more than selling books.  I had to learn new ways to work and to connect with my audience.   I was not going to stop doing what I love most. 

During peak Lockdown I was fortunate to collaborate with Mrs Kerr and the children of Primary 2 at St Andrew’s Primary School.  Despite the fact EVERYONE was at home we managed to create the online Nip Nebs Glossary. 

When the children went back to school they created art from my story Huffy the Heron. Click here for the gallery of their work.

Not long ago Mrs Kerr won Scots Teacher o the Year at the Scots Language Awards and I was absolutely delighted for her!  We had collaborated on so much together and yet we had never met.  I had never met the children either. 

When Book Week Scotland came up I knew that I would have to include them in my plans for a Nip Nebs Shenaniganza! A week long event of Nip Nebbery activities!

On Monday we launched the new website www.nipnebs.com  and launched the brand new audio books narrated by Gary Lewis (Outlander, Billy Elliot) with music and soundscape by Alan McClure. 

Book Week Scotland at the Scottish Book Trust helped to fund the Nip Nebs audio books project.  This has allowed us to offer the audio freely to schools and educators.  There is a small charge for anyone else to download the audiobooks.  The revenue from this will help Alan and I to create more Scots language audio stories for children and schools to access. 

On Tuesday I spent the day at St Andrew’s Primary School where I finally got to meet Mrs Kerr and the children who had created the Nip Nebs Glossary.  

I also met other staff and children who played  a part in creating the art work for Huffy the Heron.  It was delightful to spend the day with everyone.  The weather was thankfully kind for my outdoor author visit. Outdoors was the only safest way to have an author visit.  I prefer to be outdoors to tell stories anyway.  There is something really calming about hearing nature around you as you tell your tales. As I waited for the children to arrive in the story space, the Scots Words Pixies jumped out my sparkly bag and scampered up the trees to hide.  It was the children’s job to go look for them for me. They were not allowed to touch anything I brought so the task was to seek, find and point at them until I got there with my bag. Then I would scoop the pixies out the tree and gather them in.  Then we would sit at the story place together and talk about the Scots words that were on each pixies tag.   

Words like  LUGS, EEN, SHIN and SHOCKLES are written on their tags.  This is a great way for me to see if I have told my stories well.  The children should know what these words mean by the time the stories are told.

On Wednesday I spent the day contacting schools about the Nip Nebs audio books and making sure they knew it was available for them to enjoy for free.  I also spent more time than usual reading for myself.  I finished Jack’s Well by Alan McClure which was superbly written and started Daisy on the Outer Line by Ross Sayers.   Book Week Scotland is not just about promoting your own books but appreciating books over all I would say! So why not spend part o this week enjoying reading for myself?

On Thursday I visited Troqueer Primary School and had fun with the nursery children outside in their wild garden.  It was a gorgeous sunny day but a wee bit muddy underfoot.  The Scots Word Pixies scampered out of my sparkly bag and hid in the long grass and up the little trees in the nursery garden! At the start of the session I let the children hear the audio book as I was showing the pictures and doing the actions.  There is a moment in Nip Nebs where I kick up my foot and say “Weeeeeee” and usually the children do it with me. I kicked up my foot and shouted “Weeeee” and splattered a small child with mud! Thankfully the teacher cleaned her up and the wee girl was ok!   I made sure to be a little less enthusiastic for the next session though.  The highlight for me that day was watching the little ones look for the Scots Word Pixies in the sunshine.  Their little silhouettes in the bright sun, wellies splodging through the mud and looking up at the trees. In that moment I forgot all about 2020 and all the trials and heartaches that came with it. 

On Friday I had my first every Zoom Nip Nebs Shenaniganza – meet the author event.  This was a risk for me as I am brand new to this level of digital connection. The dynamics are totally different to being in a room with people physically.  I had to push through any of my personal awkwardness and try to push through the screen and connect with folk on the other side.  I knew I was getting somewhere when I inspired the adults to howl like Shug the Dug from my story Wheesht! 

While it is not the most ideal platform, it is what we have just now.  Physical events are not happening right now as I type this in November 2020.  We will have that back again though.  It is that interactive connection that gives me life and joy when I story tell!  It was attainable through a Zoom event once I got past my self-consciousness and of course the big kiss on the other side of the screen from the youngest attendee really made it worthwhile. 

In summary – despite all the restrictions I feel that I have had the best Book Week Scotland I could have had.  This is a week that is usually so busy I can barely touch the ground for running around between schools and events. This year has been slower paced and much more enjoyable for it.  I recognise there are so many ways to celebrate and enjoy this special week in a Scottish author’s calendar.

Written by Susi Briggs, author of Nip Nebs and Nip Nebs and the Last Berry