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….)

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: www.manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk or email admin@manchesterliteraturefestival.co.uk 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…

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 http://www.bugged.org.uk) . 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!

Racing Towards the Finish

It’s 7th August which means that there’s just over a week to go before the deadline for submitting work to Bugged, which is noon on Sunday, 15th August. So there’s not much more to say other than if you are still working on something to submit, do make sure you send it to us on time.

There are two new posts here today. The  first features work by Phillippa Barker, Angi Holden, Rebecca Audra Smith and Tim Woodhouse – three poems and a short story. You can read their work here Best of Bugged August 7th.  The second is a piece by another of our core writers, playwright, essayist and long-time “Archers” scriptwriter, Mary Cutler, which you can read here Core Writer August 7th. There’s work by just two more core writers to come, and we hope to be featuring those in the next posting. And more selections from your submitted work of course.

Thank you to all those who have also contributed to our competitions, and we hope you’ve enjoyed taking part in those, and congratulations to the  winners. We hope you’ve enjoyed your prizes.

Early birds and bright sparks

Be prepared for eavesdropping....

So, the early birds are sitting smugly on their laurels, whilst the procrastinators rush round the house looking for a pen and shouting ‘Less than a fortnight to go!’ Today’s selection includes the Goldilocks writers – those who submitted not too late, and not too early. We have poems from Suzanna Fitzpatrick and Rosie Sandler, and a short story from Catherine Fearn, in our excitingly titled August 3rd selection. And there’s another thrilling prize to be won, so read on, dear Buggers….

There’s also new work from two more core writers – David Calcutt (co-host of Bugged) and Leila Rasheed (fresh from her honeymoon, so well done for focusing). We thought long and hard about the title for this document – we decided on Core writers – August 3rd. Leila’s piece has inspired this visual response by artist Helen White….

Now – that prize. Here at Bugged Towers we have snagged a copy of The Five-Minute Writer, which is full of useful spark exercises for all kinds of writing. As usual you have to earn it. We were tickled to notice that the BBC news site, which shows a constantly updated list of ‘most searched for topics’ was displaying the following three subjects this morning: KNITTING – POETRY – WATERCRESS. So your challenge is this: send us (via Comments on this website) a paragraph including those three words. The one that makes us laugh, cry or spill our beer with its creative brilliance, will get the book. Deadline for this little mission… ooh, let’s give you till Saturday shall we?

You can now book for the first Bugged launch in Manchester on October 14th here (it’s free, but it would be nice to know how many are coming). There is plenty of other great stuff in the programme for the Manchester Literature Festival, so look through the other events too. The Birmingham launch is on 21st October – more news of that soon.

There’s still plenty of time to send us your piece of writing based on an overhearing. If you need instruction, the basics of Bugged are here – ignore the bit about July 1st, you can eavesdrop any time. But don’t forget to submit via our Submissions Form – we can’t accept even the greatest masterpiece otherwise!

Arrivals and Departures

There are many, many good things arriving on the Bugged website today.  Not just one, but two selections of new work, and a competition.  The first selection is from the latest batch of submissions from writers from all over the UK, and in this one features work by Cathy Bryant, Maggie Doyle, Lynda Nash, Suzanne Phillips and Rodney Wood. You’ll find their writing here Bugged July 29th . And the second is more work from our core writers, and there you’ll find a script by playwright Steph Dale, another story by David Gaffney and a story from the first of our editors to complete her piece, Jo Bell. You can read their work here – Core writers – July 29th

And now for the competition. One of our editors – not the one who’s work appears in this post – has a new novel coming out next week. It’s fantasy adveture story called The Map of Marvels, and tells the story of a boy who goes on a series of fantastic, magical, and sometimes terrying  journeys. And, as many of your overhearings have involved you going on some kind of journey, we’d like you to send us a single sentence describing a journey of some kind. It may be an actual journey you’ve taken, or a dream journey, or one you’d like to take. But the idea is to send us just a single image from that journey, in one sentence. The competiton closes on Tuesday 3rd August and the writer of the one we like the best will be sent a copy of The Map of Marvels. And if you suspect that this competition is just an underhand way of plugging the book – it is.

Finally, we’d like to say thank you to Bugged Writer and photographer Janet Jenkins who’s been inspired by the project not only to write overhearings but to take photographs of them as well. It’s one of her photos that illustrates today’s post. Birdbugged. Thanks again, Janet.

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…

Poetry! Prose! Prizes! Prozac!*

A month and a day to go to the Bugged deadline, and we hear keyboards clicking all over the country. There’s loads of good writing to enjoy today – it’s really getting tough to decide what to leave out.

Two of our core writers have coughed up – Ian Marchant’s is a prose piece, and David Gaffney got so carried away that he gave us a series of three micro-stories based on different overhearings. We’ll post both of these soon. Jenn Ashworth, who only gave birth last week, is getting on with hers too. Congrats to Jenn not only on the arrival of McTiny, but also on the announcement that her second novel Cold Light will be published by Sceptre next year.

The best of the recent submissions from readers and writers across the UK are bundled into today’s selection, titled (in our usual blockbuster style)  July 14th. We have work from Ray Morgan, Peter Wild, Sarah Gallagher, Norman Hadley and (in extract) Christine Howe. What have you especially enjoyed so far? Let us know in Comments.

We’re loving Bugged. We are stunned by your enthusiasm, your talent, the variety of your work – and also by the difficulty some of you have in following our simple rules. So here it is you naughty Buggers: NO, you can’t submit work and then withdraw it because you wrote ‘bumblebee’ when you meant ‘wasp’. NO, you can’t write 1056 words when the limit is 1000 words (we have Word Count too). YES, it has to be a Word file (ending in .DOC). We really don’t accept .RTF files, Mac Pages files, or anything else. If you haven’t got Word, then you need to convert it before you send it to us. The tiresome business of making a living means we just don’t have time to convert them for you, or to contact you about doing so. Use our Submission Form, and make sure you’ve put your own details in there – name, address etc. This

Small but perfectly formed

way, we can print them all off in the same format on August 16th, install ourselves at Bugged Towers with a big tin of biscuits and a large gin, and argue about which ones go into the book.

After that stern telling off, here’s a spoonful of sugar. We’ve got a copy of The Writer’s Block to give away. It’s a little fat book whose every page has a spark idea to get you writing. ‘Virus’ is one. ‘Write about your greatest childhood fear’ is another. To win it…. well, since Jo is currently reading J B Priestley’s Delight, we want you to tell us what delights you. Tell us via Comments, here on the blog – in no more than ten words. The one that delights us most before Sunday morning will get the book, and be announced on the midweek blog.

[*only for those of us who have to choose between these submissions.]

Bugged – and on it goes….

We are gobsmacked, delighted and now a little bit scared by the quantity and quality of writing coming in. Our main Bugging day was less than a week ago and we already have 70 submissions. And this is good work that’s coming in, not just any old rubbish*. So this post is just a quick one, to show you some of the work that has come in to date.

Today we bring you poetry and prose from Helen Addy, Andrew Bailey, Lucy Jeynes, Jo Field, Brenda Ray and Ruskin Brown – all in this lovely file with the catchy name of July 7th. We hoped that Bugged would bring you new material for your writings. I think we are doing so: surely, ferret theft and toilets in Norwich are amongst the things you wouldn’t normally consider as subjects. Truly, there is nothing you can’t write about.

If your name is not here, don’t panic. We haven’t been able to read all the work submitted so far, so you might yet appear in the next week or so. We’re expecting a little dip in submissions but we do hope you will prove us wrong. Some are submitting several pieces – which is fine! Don’t forget to submit via our Submission Form, and to attach it rather than paste it into your email.

If you’re dithering over whether to send us something – please do. Bugged is a community of writers creating and sharing. We know how much generosity it takes to offer it for the blog or anthology, especially if you are beginning your writing career. But it is an absolute joy to see the variety of responses we’re getting – some funny, some heartbreaking, some plain weird. All of them are original and clearly based on a real overhearing. Keep’em coming – we want 100 before our next post on Saturday.

Coming soon… our first response from one of our ten core writers, and news of book launches from others who are taking part. Keep Bugging!

*If you think your own writing does fall under the heading of ‘any old rubbish’ then ignore that nasty little self-doubting voice and submit anyway. Honestly; all writers doubt their own talent. Get on with it.