No peeking now….

Hang on, we're just... er....

Welcome to Bugged. Our first nationwide writing experiment was a huge success, bringing together writers all over the UK in a real and virtual community and a bloody nice book. Read on to find out what we did…. and a hint of our Brand New Bugged for 2012!

Bugged was a mass ‘happening’ and writing challenge which united writers of all sorts – published ones like Stuart Maconie and Jenn Ashworth, experienced poets and fictionistas, and a whole mass of unpublished writers – in a sneaky challenge. On July 1st 2010 they went forth to EAVESDROP on those around them. All over the UK, writers listened in, and used what they heard to start off a piece of writing. They had to send it to us within six weeks. The best writing went up on our blog as it came in, inspiring others to new heights. The very best went into our book – buy it here  (but don’t ‘look inside’ as Amazon have got the formatting wrong on screen!)

Jenn Ashworth, novelist

We featured in the Guardian and the Times: we opened Manchester Literature Festival and closed Birmingham Book Festival. The festivals, putting their money where their mouth is, gave us £250 each – otherwise we were entirely self-funded. It was strangely liberating.

David Calcutt and Jo Bell - Buggers in Chief

Bugged writers appeared on Radio 4, in the national press, at festivals and in print all over the UK. Calum Kerr, who had seldom been in print before, has gone from strength to strength and his short stories will be broadcast on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve! This blog has had tens of thousands of hits – earning WOW status from WordPress, and creating exposure for featured writers.

So Bugged was a happening – a challenge – a community – and it was fun. It was friendly and conspiratorial. Some of you came back to writing after many ‘dry’ years and we’re delighted to have moistened you. Some of you wrote for the very first time. 

Our community of writers was partly physical – writers who live in the same region met up – and partly virtual. Although we live all over the UK, we’ve chatted on Facebook and on Twitter @buggedproject. We met at our many Bugged launches and readings, and connected writers to links, funding opportunities, new blogs.  Even those pieces that didn’t make it into the book were put to good use. Some of you have sent them to journals, magazines or editors with great success. Angela Topping is using one of hers in writing workshops, and has published another as a teaching resource. Max Wallis has had his published on Authortrek;  Liz Loxley’s appeared on the Daily Mirror blog after being selected by Carol Ann Duffy.

Making readers happy since 2010

What next? Ladies and gentlemen……. Son of Bugged! We aren’t going to tell you what it is yet but we can tell you this. It will NOT be exactly the same theme. There WILL be a mass happening in May 2012: there will be the same six-week deadline to get your writing in to us. There will be a book, including commissioned professional writers and the best public submissions. There will also be parallel events – workshops, events and showcase readings to encourage new work and to give all the writers maximum exposure. If you run a creative writing course, a spoken word event, a festival that happens any time between May and October, a writing group, a venue where writers meet…. get in touch with to let us know that you’re interested. We’ll be announcing full details in the new year and we want you to be the first to know.

Follow this blog, or find us on Facebook and/or Twitter to keep up to date. Last year we had hundreds of entries – this time we want to at least double that interest and get the most exposure possible for all our writers. Have a happy holiday – and keep your eyes peeled for more news…..

We name this book…


Popping our cork. As it were.


….BUGGED!  The first of our two launches took place today in Manchester, where we were honoured to open the Manchester Literature Festival programme. Our readers came down from Edinburgh, up from London, east from


The littlest Bugger of all


Wales, west from Derby… they were Jenn Ashworth (right, with McTiny), Cathy Bryant, Dorothy Burgess, Emma Morgan, Susannah Hart, Emma Lannie, Liz Loxley, Ian Marchant, Lynsey May, Angi Holden, Alicia Ogg, Calum Kerr, Valerie O’Riordan and Phil Williams. Every one observed our dire warning to stick to a 3-minute reading – although for the prose writers this sometimes meant cutting their work in half. We made’em laugh, we made’em cry, and most importantly we made’em buy books.

We’re not finished yet – we opened Manchester Literature Festival, and we close the Birmingham Book Festival next Thursday evening at the Ikon Gallery. Programme Director, Sara Beadle writes:

“The Birmingham Book Festival was very excited by the initial idea of Bugged. It remains one of the most fresh and inventive writing projects we’ve heard of. The Birmingham Book Festival focuses on interesting ideas and writers who think, write and talk about the things that are really challenging in our times and relevant in our lives. This year’s programme is no exception, with the likes of Fatima Bhutto, Gareth Peirce, Dominic Sandbrook, David Shukman, John Lanchester, Jonathan Coe, and Lionel Shriver amongst a cast of many others. Aside from the authors we are featuring, there is also a broad workshop programme (including a dark afternoon within Ikon Eastside’s new installation,  Hitchcock’s Hallway), and events in partnership with The Drum, Punch Records, Birmingham Libraries, The RSA, SHOUT Festival and 7 Inch Cinema.”

“It is our pleasure to close our eleventh Festival with the launch of the anthology and we can’t wait to hear the results of this eavesdropping experiment. We are sure that an evening with Bugged and its writers will prove hilarious and no doubt moving, if the early indications are anything to go by. We have watched in admiration as the project has gathered momentum and are proud to be hosting a public celebration of its success.”

Want a copy of the book? Here’s how.

  • The best way is to buy it direct at the Birmingham launch. No postage!
  • Or… order direct from us to get the special edition version (chunkier, nicer, quicker – and the same price) until we run out. If you submitted work to Bugged – whether you are in the book or not – the price is £4.99, plus postage. If you didn’t, it’s £5.99 and serve you right! Email and let us know how many you want, where to send them, and whether you want to pay by PayPal or cheque.
  • Once we’ve run out of special edition copies, buy the standard version (lighter in weight, but still lovely) at the same price from CompletelyNovel or Amazon – ignore the ‘out of stock’ warning, which appears because it’s a print-on-demand book. If you order from these sources, you’ll be waiting longer for your book – about a fortnight… but it’s still a gem!

Now then…. Birmingham, are you ready for us?

Look! A book! and launch details…

Here it is…. a bouncing baby book! And at last we can say…. our book launches this week. Click HERE or click on the ‘Book launches’ tab above to see our invite, with full details of both Manchester and Birmingham launches. Places are FREE but it will really help us if you can book – phone numbers and online details are included. Please send details to anyone you want to invite – either by sending them to the launch page, or sending this Bugged launch invitation.

For those of you watching in black and white – the Bugged project was one day of universal eavesdropping across the UK on July 1st, followed by six frenzied weeks of writing and submissions. Then the writers sat back, and the editors had six frenzied weeks of editing and working with the designer/publisher on the book. It looks lovely and we’re really proud.

Several of you are trying to buy it already, bless your hearts. It’s not on sale yet because we haven’t launched it yet, see?  The best place to buy the book is at one of the launches because a) you’ll get a special edition – slightly chunkier than the standard b) you won’t have to pay postage and c) you can get it straight away.

If you can’t get to Manchester or Birmingham, you’ll soon be able to buy it online. And if you submitted to Bugged – whether you are in the book or not – you get £1 off. We’ll be sending out a discount code in the next few days – email us at if you haven’t received yours by Wednesday.

Judge this book by its cover

Ladies, gentlemen and people of more dubious upbringing – ta-dah! Behold, our book cover. On the outside, the names of our ten commissioned writers/editors. Inside, 44 others – and if you are one of the 300 who fell by the wayside, we hope at least that you might find your overhearing on the cover. Well done to all of you, and especially to those writers who do appear in the book: Helen Addy, Sara-Jane Arbury, Andrew Bailey, Mollie Baxter, Julie Boden, Ruskin Brown, Cathy Bryant, Dorothy Burgess, Helen Calcutt, Marilyn Donovan, Lucy Douglas, Jude d’Souza, Ian Duhig, Jo Field, Marilyn Francis, Sarah Gallagher, Roz Goddard, Susannah Hart, Angi Holden, Andy Jackson, Sarah James, Lucy Jeynes, Charlie Jordan, Calum Kerr, Emma Lannie, Pippa Little, Liz Loxley, Rob A Mackenzie, James Mason, Lynsey May, Emma Morgan, Ray Morgan, Benjamin Morris, Lynda Nash, Samantha Newbury, Kate Noakes, Alicia Ogg, Valerie O’Riordan, Emma Purshouse, Jacqui Rowe, Rosie Sandler, Sandra Tappenden, Val Thompson, Susie Wild and Philip Williams. These names include published writers, regional laureates, award-winning bloggers and some entirely new faces. All were included solely on merit, and by joint decision of the two editors. 

Whether you’re in it or not, take a moment to add yourself to our map. If you have a Google account (or five minutes to create one) then log in, go here to see our lovely map dotted with little bugs, and add a placemark of your own to tell us where you did your overhearing. It’s lovely to see all the dots building up, and gives a real sense of us as a nation of eavesdroppers, snooping across the whole of the UK.

Wild writing, wild tights

This week work from Emma Lee, Tamara Cohen and Janet Smith has been showcased. Meanwhile we’re delighted to hear that Susie Wild, who has a small-but-perfectly-formed-poem in our book, has also launched her collection of short stories The Art of Contraception. She and her publisher Bright Young Things have kindly agreed to let us have a copy for one of you to win.

This one is only available for those of you who are NOT in the Bugged book – so here’s your mission… your life story in six words please. Attach it to this blog as a comment, or to our Facebook page – hell, you can even fit it in a Tweet to @BuggedProject – and get it to us before Sunday to win a copy of Susie’s book.

(PS some of you want to run a promotional event for the Bugged book, or even just an evening at the local library to share it with an audience. We’ll be posting a press release and an e-flyer to send to libraries, here on the website in the next few days. Brace yourselves….)

A fresh pair of ears

There's one on the other side too

Here at Bugged Towers our software is playing up, so we can’t post any more writings just now – but will do soon. Meanwhile, a warm welcome to the right ear of William, a new friend of Bugged, who arrived a few weeks ago and just had his hearing test. He’s fit for eavesdropping and ready to go.

Our own gestation process is going well. We are just under a month away from delivery of a bouncing baby book. Print-on-demand (POD) publishers CompletelyNovel are acting as midwife. For us it’s an experiment – can new technology get a good book into print quickly, cheaply and well, to support writers and give them a worthy new outlet? POD is sometimes associated with vanity publishing – but we think it has lots of potential to do more. With professional editing and design, can it offer a worthwhile platform for new writing? It’s certainly fast and cheap – the book will be out whilst our July eavesdropping is fresh in the memory, so the bright shiny seeds you planted in summer will be in your mum’s Christmas stocking.

So – that’s what’s in it for all of us who took part in the big eavesdropping of this summer. But what’s in it for them, eh? Anna Lewis from CompletelyNovel tells us:

“The team at is thrilled to be helping Bugged to create the anthology which will proudly carry the work of many of those wonderful eavesdroppers who joined in with the competition this summer. We immediately loved the idea of Bugged – we’ve had many a laugh over the summer when snippets of people’s conversations have wafted up through our open office windows from the trendy coffee shop below. A recent personal favourite was when a young teenager earnestly asked her mum, “Yeah but if they are barristas, right, why aren’t they wearing wigs?”

“We’re strong supporters of new writers, as well as being general book nuts, which made it even better that Jo and David decided to publish with us. is an online community which offers writers a place to share their work with others as an online book and sell as a paperback too. We’re passionate about projects in the literature space which both challenge writers and celebrate those who get out there and do something a bit different. We will soon be organising our second 24 hour Book Project, and next year we will be hosting the 2011 Author Blog Awards. If any of you crafty eavesdroppers would like to find out more, please check out our website!”

Well of course, they get a much bigger audience through our book than through a single-author book. But they do seem to be putting their money where their mouth is. They’ve been very helpful, genuinely supportive, and are offering us a discount for Bugged writers…. but you’ll have to judge if it works when you see the book. We hope that all of you will join in this experiment and help us to spread the word. We’re almost ready to show you the cover – next time, my lovelies…

Singing for your supper

The swanky gilded edition could be yours

No new writings for you today, as we are up against our own deadlines – but once again, one of our Bugged writers has come up with a prize worth having. Our Bugged book will include a short story by Roz Goddard but she’s better known as a poet, a former Laureate for Birmingham and the instigator of many fine projects. Her latest publication is a sumptuous pamphlet from Nine Arches press called The Soprano Sonnets. The poems respond to The Sopranos TV series, but we can vouch for the fact that they make perfect sense without any knowledge of it. Roz is kindly giving away a special-edition version of the pamphlet, signed and numbered. Here’s how to win it: inspired by Tony Blair’s recent autobiographical shenanigans, Roz asks you to write a couple of lines on the theme of ‘Cancellation’. Send’em in to us, as comments here on the blog or as Facebook comments, and we’ll pick a lucky winner on Sunday.

Most of the funding for Bugged comes from our own piggy banks, but Manchester Literature Festival (14 – 25 October) is one of the two festivals that have sponsored and supported Bugged from the beginning. It’s a brilliant programme this year as Cathy Bolton, the festival’s director, told us:

“Writers will be traveling to Manchester from as far afield as North Africa, China, Scandinavia and the United States to take part in the fifth Manchester Literature Festival. Our distinguished line-up includes Bernard Cornwell, Carol Ann Duffy, Seamus Heaney, Caryl Phillips, Michael Rosen and Lionel Shriver. The programme features a Historical Readers’ Day and events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the pioneering Manchester writer,

Jeanette Winterson: a veritable hit

Elizabeth Gaskell. We’ll also be presenting some unique MLF commissions including the inaugural Manchester Sermon to be delivered by Jeanette Winterston at Manchester Cathedral, showcasing some of the UK’s hottest new talent, and inspiring the next generation of readers and writers with a tempting selection of family-friendly activities. Events take place in a wide range of  prestigious and unusual venues across the city.

“We are delighted to be kicking-off this year’s festival with the launch of the Bugged anthology on Thursday 14th October. As part of MLF’s Freeplay programming strand we provide opportunities for writers to explore the spaces where new writing meets new technology. The festival was particularly keen to support the Bugged project…. Manchester audiences are always keen to creatively engage with the festival, and we’ve been thrilled by the quality of contributions to the Bugged project.”

We’re delighted that Cathy is delighted. For full programme details please visit the website: or email to order a copy of the festival brochure. We’ll have a similar piece from Sara Beadle of Birmingham Book Festival in the next couple of weeks. Unless of course it’s cancelled – get writing, dear Buggers…

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…

Please Remain Calm

Panic? Us? Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...... ha ha...

We were feeling rather pleased with ourselves this morning. We had definitely told all of you who ARE in the Bugged book. We thought we had also managed to inform everyone who didn’t make it into the book, with an email which we hoped would convey our pride and thanks.

But no. There was, of course, a failing in our cunning system of address-keeping – and of course it showed up only at the last moment. So to the few of you who were waiting for our decision till the very last moment, we apologise from the heart of our bottom. One or two of you may have fallen through the net even now – so if you haven’t yet heard from us….. then I’m afraid to tell you that you aren’t in the book. We read and discussed every submission, and on the way to our 54 final choices we made some very difficult decisions!

More of this soon – and if you are disappointed not to be in the book, you may yet appear on this blog as we select new material to post from the backlog. In the meantime, this is just a quick update to say thanks to all of you who submitted – normal service will be resumed later this week!

Carry on Bugging!

Is this the secret of Jenn's productivity?

Do you ever feel that you are not sufficiently dedicated to your craft as a writer? Consider, dear Buggers, the steely self-discipline of Jenn Ashworth, who did her overhearing and started writing her Bugged piece whilst actually in maternity hospital. The most important result, known in her award-winning blog as McTiny, is thriving and so is Jenn’s writing. Her second novel Cold Light is set to follow her first, A Kind of Intimacy, onto the shelves of the bookshops next year.

The other result of her stay in hospital, The Wrong Sort of Shoes, is included in our short selection August 23rd along with poems from Alison Brackenbury and Jennifer Copley. These are frequently-published names and we’re delighted that they submitted to Bugged. If our selections seem female-heavy, that’s because the Bugged population is exactly 2/3 women; are the men shy, are they bad at eavesdropping, or does this reflect the genuine proportions of the writerly community?

Don't hang up your listening equipment....

Now – about that book. We’ve used the great e-community to find you lovely writers: and we’re using technology to make a book which will attract new readers. Print-on-demand publishers make self-publishing easy, but they have drawbacks for the individual writer. If you are a brilliant writer who doesn’t fit into the conventions of publishing, this method allows you to get into print, market yourself and become world-famous by sneaking in the back door. However, the sad truth is that many writers who are turned down by publishing houses are not brilliantly unconventional. They are simply Not Very Good. Their manuscripts are not ready for a wider world, and without a publisher to design and market of the book, they are not going to become world-famous after all.

The Great Book of Bugged, professionally edited and designed, should give our writers a leg up and access lots of new readers – starting with fellow Buggers who didn’t make it but want to support those who did! Forgive us if we haven’t yet contacted you to tell you which group you are in – it is taking us a while to get through everyone but you will know by the end of the month.

In the meantime we are still choosing and posting work from the hundreds of submissions you sent us, and will blog again at the weekend. Whether in the book or not, you are free to send your submissions elsewhere (but please mention . If your fingers are still itching to write, have a look at the BBC’s excellent Writersroom for opportunities and advice – especially for scriptwriters. And tune in at the weekend to read our tenth core writer – that Stuart Maconie off the radio. We think you’ll be surprised to see what he wrote…

...and don't let your keyboard get rusty!

The end of the beginning

The Finnish? Not yet!

Right all you hard-working Buggers, you can stop now. No really. What? You can’t stop? You can’t stop listening to people around you, and writing new material? Good. That was the point. Bugged was invented as a reminder that good writers notice the world around them. So don’t stop listening, don’t stop writing.

Give those big ears a rest

But you can stop submitting. Our deadline has passed, our inboxes are no longer overflowing, and our latest (but by no means last) selection includes new work from Lynsey May, Emma Purshouse, Sara-Jane Arbury, Marilyn Francis, Janet Rogerson, Susie Wild and lone representative of the male sex, Rob A Mackenzie. Click on the natty title August 15th to read a particularly fine selection of work to make you smile, blush or wince: and have a look here to see a colourful word cloud based on our blogs so far.

In the last six weeks, we received over 300 submissions. In the next six, we will make your work into a book that does justice to all who are included – and appeals to a wider readership. The blog has featured ‘the best of’ and the book will feature ‘the very best of’, but also will include new material from our core writers and much work that we couldn’t post on the blog for reasons of space or balance. It’s your job to help us spread the word – especially if you’re in it – and if you are, you’ll know by the end of August. You will all be itching to pre-order, and we’ll let you know how to do that soon. We’ve self-funded this project, paying commissioned writers, designers and publisher. Book sales are our only hope of making some of it back, so please buy the damn thing!

Helen and Emma - lucky girls eh?

Meanwhile, there are still prizes to be won; today, magnificent awards (left) for the first and last submissions. The first was Helen Addy, whose poem dropped on to our virtual doormat at 07.20 on 2nd July; the last was Emma Lannie, whose short story arrived three minutes before the deadline at 11.57 on Sunday. Ladies, expect something small and disturbing in the post this week.

The posts will keep coming, including work from our remaining core writers Jenn Ashworth and Stuart Maconie. We’ll be posting links, showing you the websites and publications of some of our contributors. There will be writing tips to keep you going if you’re a new writer, and to challenge you if you’re an old hack. What else do you want to see? A Top Ten overhearings? A map of Buggers across the UK? Resources for writers? Let us know in Comments. Don’t go away…. don’t leave us here in cyberspace….