The Eavesdropper’s Digest

And about bloody time too, you are no doubt thinking; what have they been doing? Well, we’ve been formatting the Great Book of Bugged, which is almost fit to print now. If you didn’t make it into the book, we know you are disappointed but we love and adore you with a passion we can barely express. Whether you’re in the book or not we’d love to link people to your work – if you have the technology, why not make a video? Sarah James did and it’s here…

Mil Millington is threatening to do a video too. His piece The Select has a cast of thousands, not to mention a lot of horses, so we are all agog to see what he comes up with. Perhaps he is intending to film his second piece from the book, It’s Always 11.15, which is set in a classroom and contains no horses at all, just an imagined frog.

In the meantime our last core writer has come up with the goods. Stuart Maconie, brilliant DJ on Radio 2 and 6 Music, best-selling author and keen fell-walker, surprised us and apparently himself by coming up with a long poem. ‘It’s a bit serious,’ said he apologetically. We don’t mind that a bit. Part of the pleasure of Bugged has been to see established writers coaxed into new forms, and new writers encouraged to ‘come out’ at last, by the demands of an overheard phrase. Click here on Not a Girl – Stuart Maconie to read it, and to see how different it is from Stuart’s style in his books like Pies and Prejudice. And click here to see what he’s up to at the moment, as he films for a new DVD of Lakeland walks.

We’ve got something else you might like too. We asked what you’d like to see on the blog, and several of you suggested a sort of digest of all your overhearings so far. We hate to see you cry, so here it is: in a radical departure from our previous titling style, we’ve called it Bugged – overheard comments and there are some corkers in there. Have a look and see if your own is on it. Do pass them on, use them to prompt a new piece of writing, or if you run writing workshops yourself, use them there as a spark to new writing. We’ve missed a few off, but there should be enough here to get you thinking.

We’re keeping Bugged alive in other ways too: David Calcutt and Jacqui Rowe are reading their pieces at the next Poetry Bites evening in Birmingham, Julie Boden is seeing if she can incorporate it into her work with schools and orchestras in the West Midlands, and some of you are planning ‘Bugged’ evenings where everyone who took part can read, and others can read anything based on overhearings. Got any other bright ideas? Bring’em on if so…

Eavesdroppers Anonymous

No: you're being Bugged

Frankly, you’re not helping. We two Buggers-in-Chief are trying to write our own pieces, but we keep getting distracted by the new work coming in from you lot. It’s varied, it’s exciting, it’s a bloody good read. So we have put all our creativity instead into the title of today’s selection. Click, then, on the splendidly named July 21st where you will find words from Benjamin Morris, Roz Goddard, Sam Burns and Colin Henchley.

Your overhearings have been gathered on a hen night in the local, on the bus, on a ‘boring and delayed train journey’, at Shadwell tube station or on a narrowboat for the first time. One of you listened outside the village school, one during a break in Switzerland – and one was inspired ‘partly by overhearings…. partly by the Pomp and Circumstance quilting exhibition’. And we hear from some of you that Bugged got you writing for the first time, or starting up again after a long break. If so, then we’re glad but we just reminded you of what writers do – like children crossing the road, we all just LOOK and LISTEN. Keep writing regularly and don’t be afraid to send us another piece before the deadline on August 15th. (If you just joined us and this makes no sense at all, look here for the basic rules.)

Poet and eavesdropper Marvin Cheeseman took this one...

Some of you have long writing careers under your belt – Roz Goddard, for instance, is a former poet laureate of Birmingham. But as you’ll see, her first Bugged submission is a short story, and others are also writing in forms which are not their ‘first language’. Is your found material forcing you to experiment with new forms and new styles of writing? Is it taking you in new directions? Jolly good.

And some of you are submitting work for the very first time. We know it can be a bit nerve-racking and we thank you. So the key idea of Bugged is working – voila, a real community of writers sharing their nasty little habit and creating something from it. It’s like Eavesdroppers Anonymous. Thanks too to those who are sending a few words with your submission form to say, ‘I’m really enjoying the project’…. ‘Bugged is such FUN as a challenge’….’I had such fun writing these.’ Serious writing can, after all, be very good fun. Keep having it – and keep it coming.

You have till early next week to send the next bout of writings – but we’ll try to get a blog up on Sunday that showcases some of the work from our core writers (see blogroll, right). Playwright Steph Dale has done her homework – so have David Gaffney, Mil Millington and Ian Marchant. We’re just beginning to think about the pieces that might make it into the Bugged book, launching on 14th October in Manchester and 21st in Birmingham. Read on, MacDuff…

The Garden of Bugged Delights

There’s been a wonderful  response to our competition, and many of you have written in telling us what it is that delights you. Among the delights you’ve told is about are: warm pavements, trees, red shoes and the smell of books.  There’s still a little time to send these in, although the competition does close at midday tomorrow (Sunday 18th June). Not long after that, the name of the lucky winner of a copy of The Writer’s Block will be announced.

What delights us of course, is reading the many excellent poems, stories and scripts you’re sending in, and you can read a further selection of these here,  July 17th , where there are poems, a story and flash fiction from Jon Andriessen, Jan Arnold, Bob Hill, Alison J. Littlewood, Andrew Philip, Fran Martel and Bosey Manumba. We’ve also been receiving more pieces from our core writers, and we’ll posting some of these shortly. The only core writers we have to have a stern word with are a certain Jo Bell and David Calcutt, from whom we’ve heard nothing, despite repeated emails and texts demanding they set a good example and send in their pieces.  Rumour has it they haven’t even started writing yet. Shame on them. They really ought to know better.

Bugged – it’s alive!

Bugged has obviously struck a nerve in a nation of  creative nosey parkers. We’re not even a week old and already hundreds of you are following us. We’ve been picked up by the excellent Literary Platform and others are showing interest too – let us know if you see us mentioned anywhere.

If you missed our first post explaining how it works, look here – but essentially Bugged encourages all writers (great and small) to eavesdrop discreetly on July 1st, and to write something based on their overhearings by August 15th. The good stuff will appear on this blog, and the very best in a book alongside our ten core writers (see the Blogroll, right). Be tragical or comical, moving or uplifting. And be as good as you can be.

I couldn't help overhearing....

We love the overhearings you’ve sent so far via Facebook and Twitter; keep them coming. We especially liked: ‘Yes, we’re rabbit-sitting. They’re paying us in cushions and umbrellas’…….. ‘He opened the car boot and it was full of somebody else’s clothes’…………….. and, ‘She brought her granddaughter back some pebbles from the Firth of Forth, then in the middle of the night she was worried they might be radioactive, so she got up and boiled them.’ We also like the philosophical dialogue overheard in a shop car park – “We’ll only have enough money left for food and booze.” “Do we ever really need anything else though?” “True.”

Summery conversations...

All have great potential to start off a story, a poem or a script. If you’ve not heard anything quite so inspiring, have a little practice with one of these. Play with viewpoints – are you the grandmother, the granddaughter or one of the pebbles?

Our examples page now has ‘overheard’ poems from Alwyn Marriage and Lorraine Mariner. Our Small Print page to see our word limits for prose, poetry and scripts. If you’ve not come across Flash Fiction before, have a look here for a discussion of its strengths and weaknesses.

Is anyone listening? David Calcutt and Jo Bell

There’s a month to go till the big eavesdropping day, and it will be a damn boring wait unless we talk to each other. So do find us on Facebook (Bugged) or Twitter (BuggedProject) to share overhearings and and interesting links.  Established writers – tell us about your websites and work so we can promote it to a captive audience.

If you’re a new or first-time writer, don’t be put off: there will soon be exercises and tips to get you creating, from David Calcutt and others. And if you have a writing group or online community, why not encourage them to write something from an overheard or ‘found’ statement?

We’re glad you like our idea – pass it on!

Start writing with your ears

Welcome to BUGGED, a fantastic new writing project for the UK in summer 2010.  This is how it works:

1    On July 1st 2010*, go forth and…. eavesdrop! Wherever you are – in the British Museum or Bradford bus station, in your office, the pub, on the train – listen in to conversations and fragments of speech around you. Be discreet. Try not to get punched. [* if you missed July 1st, fear not. Any day will do, so long as you meet our deadline - see point 3].

2    Write a new piece of work based on what you hear. We want poems of up to 60 lines, stories up to 1000 words, flash fiction up to 150 words, scripts up to 5 minutes long. Our favourite recent overhearing is ‘I think it was the turtles that did for her eventually.’ Yours may be tragical, farcical, touching or mundane. You don’t have to quote your overhearing directly – it might just be a starting point for your piece.

3 Submit it to us by email after July 1st, and before August 15th (read the small print first). The sooner the better because….

4    …the best incoming work will be posted on this blog. The earlier it arrives, the better chance you have of beating the crowd. Some very fine writers are already sharpening their pencils – see 5, below.

5 The very best of the work submitted will be published in a printed anthology, alongside well-known names like Jenn Ashworth, Ian Marchant and Daljit Nagra. The book will be launched in October at Manchester Literature Festival and Birmingham Book Festival, and you’ll be able to buy it online.

People talk in public....

So clean out your ears and get ready for July 1st. Spread the word so that we have the best pool of writers to draw from. Some of you will write lighter stuff, some will write life-changing material. Some of you have been writing for years; some just started. We are ready for it all. Our Examples page has some Bugged-type work from writers we know, or click on these poems from Ray Morgan and Bugged co-editor Jo Bell.

Join our Facebook Page (Bugged), or follow us on Twitter (as BuggedProject). Get talking to each other. Where are you planning to listen in? What have you heard lately on the bus or in the queue for a coffee? Send us a picture of a good place to eavesdrop – tell us about your funniest or most tragic overhearing – let us know that you’re taking part – and pass on the news to your writing contacts. And keep those overhearings real please. Why make them up when there is so much real-life material?

....and in private!

This is a new kind of writing project. We want to showcase the very best writing, so that established writers can enjoy a new challenge, and new writers can get into print alongside well-known names. But we also want to have fun, and to create a thriving community of writers. Come on in…. and bring your notebook.

Jo Bell and David Calcutt