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…

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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.

All Ears



Well, the submissions are really starting to roll, stream, flood and rush in  now. There are so many, in fact, that it’s not possible to publish all the new ones in today’s post. So here is a selection, from Maggie Doyle, Siobhan Harper, Sarah James, Alex Kaminsky, Anna Lindsay, Lynda Nash and Mark Niel. You’ll see that we’ve also started to received prose and dialogue pieces, as well as poetry, and this is reflected in today’s selection, which you can read by clicking here July 4th. We’d just like to take this opportunity of thanking everyone who’s submitted so far, and so to say how thrilled we are, not only by the number of pieces we’ve received already, but by their variety and the high standard of the writing.  It really is impressive. And remember, if you’ve already submitted a piece, you can submit again, as many as you wish, up to August 15th. But please do submit using the form on our submissions page.

Now, on to the readings, which begin with a piece that’s particularly apt for today’s Wimbledon Finals. “New balls, please!”

Superbugs!

Bugging aids...

Blimey. Some of you didn’t sleep last night; you were up writing your submissions for Bugged. As it happens, the earliest people to submit were all poets. We are showing you six of them – Stephen Beattie, Annie McGann, Kate Noakes, Sarah James, Paula Ward and Helen Addy.

WordPress is itself a bit of a bugger and won’t allow us to format poetry properly (now they tell us!) So these poems are just a couple of clicks away – but they are worth it. Click here on our file called (inspiringly) 2nd July to read the poems and see the quality of work we’re attracting. Some of these poets wrote directly from their overhearing, including it right in the body of the poem – others used it just as a spark or starting point. They give us a range of voices, all rather contemplative. What a fantastic start to Bugged – we are delighted, moved, and if we’re honest, a bit relieved that some of you really are sending work in. If you are thinking of writing something very different, don’t be put off – we can do funny, light, bawdy as well as serious, thoughtful, wistful!

Of course, most of you haven’t thought of submitting yet; you have till August 15th, and you can do your overhearing any time from now on. There are two common queries so far. First, how do you submit? Answer – go to the Submission Form page, downloading the form and emailing submit@bugged.org.uk. Note – it’s ORG, not CO.UK or .COM or anything like that. Second – ‘if you didn’t hear anything interesting’ or you missed yesterday for any other reason, don’t panic! You can do your overhearing at any time, so long as your work is with us by noon on August 15th. Look at FAQ for word limits and other queries. And bear in mind that we won’t be able to acknowledge every entry, or tell you when it’s up – just keep your eyes on this blog and we will tell you when the next post is coming.

There will be another post on Sunday (including a topical tennis poem) but keep listening, keep writing and keep submitting – we want to be swamped by brilliant new work. Thanks so much to the precocious Buggers who submitted so early. Keep checking back here for new writing – and keep Bugging.

Now then prose writers…. where are you?

Brilliant bugging – so far!

Just a quick update on the evening of B-Day. Reports of successful Bugging are coming in thick and fast – including this lively blog account and many many overhearings, sent on Facebook and Twitter. It’s brilliant – at last we have a real sense that everyone has been out there: leaning on lampposts in Lampeter, lurking in the lanes of Lancaster, shuffling in the streets of Sheffield… etc.

For our blog from this morning, which may have passed you by (including tips on how to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear) look here. Our favourite Buggings from today include:

“‘I never buy red shoes.”

“I went in there once to see if I could borrow an old man.”

“and then she said, ‘You do know I’m leaving, don’t you?'”

“You can’t post something like that. What would the postman say?”

We’ve also had some lovely photos of likely Bugging locations from Janet Jenkins… like this one….

The hills are alive, with the sound of private conversations.....

If you didn’t hear anything – or you forgot – or you come to us late (where were you?) then you can still take part – go and eavesdrop tomorrow, or the day after, but get your writing to us by August 15th. And if you are super-speedy and have already finished a piece – look at Submissions for how to submit. Obviously.

We are having a ball – how exciting to hear all your reports from the frontline. Keep them coming – as comments here, as Facebook or Twitter updates, and keep your ear to the ground till bedtime!

Dramatic Overhearing

With just a week to go now before B.O.D. (Big Overhearing Day) we’re still receiving a lot of eavesdropping jewels through Facebook and Twitter. Here are a few:

  • “I sold that organ for £50.”
  • You can’t kill them. The worst you can  do is hurt them. So just jab it in.”
  • “I’d already had a tattoo by 11.00 this morning.”
  • “I knew all about it before anybody told me.”

Now any of these would make a good starting point for an imagined conversation, and they’re quite fun to write. Initially, you can just create a couple of characters, put them in a particular location, give one of them the overheard sentence as a starting line, write what  the other character says in response, and let it go from there. It’s freefall writing, really,  not thinking about it in detail, almost letting the characters speak for themselves and seeing where the conversation leads. A bit like overhearing in your own head. But if you want to take this further than simple conversation, and develop it into a piece of dramatic writing, there a few points you’ll want  to consider:

  • you’ll  need to fashion a plot, so that the dialogue tells a story
  • find a way of differentiating between the way the characters speak, so that we get a good idea of of who each character  is.
  • find a way of letting us know the setting through the dialogue, in a way that doesn’t sound forced or unnatural.
  • there’ll need to be a conflict of some kind, or a dilemma or problem that needs to be solved. This will form the basis  of the plot
  • you’ll want to bring the story/drama to a resolution. This may not necessarily mean solving the problem, but will give the reader a feeling that the piece is complete.

He shouldn’t have trouble overhearing

If you think you may want to write a script after July 1st, then have a go at one  of the following exercises.

You have to flesh out the ideas with specific setting, characters and situations. You don’t have to resolve the conflicts or the dilemmas, but should indicate a solution. The piece should also have a satisfactory ending, and not just stop. Also, when you’ve written it, try reading it aloud with one or two friends, to see if it really does work.  Speaking aloud is, after all, what drama is written for. You can also check that it does last for 5 minutes.

  • Two characters. One is trying persuade the other to do something that he or she is reluctant to do.
  • Two characters. One has something the other wants. It doesn’t have to be a physical object. Persuasion and/or trickery should be used rather than brute force.
  • Two characters. One has some news to give the other, that she or he is reluctant to give.
  • Three characters. Two of them are in conflict over something, and a third tries to help.
  • Three characters. A has a secret. B wants to know the secret, and persuades C to find out what it is.

If you’re happy with your piece, then send  it in, and we may post it on our examples page.