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 submit@bugged.org.uk 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?

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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 CompletelyNovel.com 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. CompletelyNovel.com 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: 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…

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!

And now, the end is nigh….

…..or at least, the submission date is nigh. Last-minute submissions are coming in and this time, the choice has been not just difficult but heartbreaking. We have had so much good stuff that we can’t post it all. But all is not lost… read on to find out what will happen to those just-missed submissions.

Bleak but heartfelt

It’s the twelfth of August and we have an appropriately Glorious choice of work, in a bumper selection called with our usual style August 12th. Click on that date to find work from Emma Morgan, Valerie O’Riordan, Val Thompson, Catriona Child and Susannah Hart. Here we have blindness, mutilation, drunkenness and racism in one happy bundle.

What happens between the submissions closing on Sunday, and the launch of the Bugged book on October 14th in Manchester (or 21st in Birmingham)? Will we disappear into the ether? Will we Bugger, dear Buggers. This blog will shift its focus. We will continue to post your work, and we have contributions from Stuart Maconie and Jenn Ashworth up our sleeve. But we’d also like to make it more of a forum for you. We’ll showcase some of your websites and blogs; highlight interesting sites for writers and readers, resources or organisations for writers at all levels, and live literature shows where we can meet up in the real world. Since our main Bugged groupings seem to be in London, Birmingham and the North West, we’d love to hear of forthcoming events there. We also want to hear from some of you about your writing processes, and how Bugged has changed them or shaken them up. What would you like us to include? Post your ideas here on the blog via comments, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

We still have a little pile of Bugged prizes to give – so there will be more writing challenges to come. The closing date for submissions is Sunday, at noon. If you are cutting it close, be extra sure that you’ve saved the submission form in Word, that you’ve put all your details on it including your Earth address, and that you send it to submit@bugged.org.uk.

We’ll sit down next week with a pile of print-outs, a bottle of gin and a pair of loaded pistols to decide on who will appear in the Bugged book. It will be processed and printed at CompletelyNovel, and we will have physical copies in October. We would love to send one to all who appear in it, but we just can’t – we had to fund Bugged privately so you’ll have to cough up for your own! But we will do our damnedest to make it affordable and attractive.

Tune in on Sunday for the final pre-closure selection. This is not the end, but it is a good moment to say THANK YOU. We hoped that Bugged would bring together experienced and novice writers in a shared guilty pleasure, and it already has. According to you we are ‘inspired and inspirational’ – we have ‘reminded you to listen to the world around you’ and ‘given you permission to creep about listening to people.’ It is frankly a wonder that none of you have been arrested. If you’re looking for something to relax with after writing your piece, why not treat yourself to a copy of David Calcutt’s new book The Map of Marvels?

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!