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!

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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….

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?

Core blimey

This is the point where some of you will be thinking of giving up. Don’t! The perfect moment to write your piece may never arrive: so start it on the bus, in a queue for your Lottery ticket, in the bath. That’s all very well, you may say – but while I am slaving over a hot keyboard, what have the Bugged core writers been up to? (see Blogroll, right). Well, some of them are lolling about on chaise-longues, eating peeled grapes and not doing their homework. We know this, because we are them.

Others, very wisely, were at their desks by dusk on July 1st and we have been waiting for the right moment to post some examples. Today – ta-dah! we reveal work from Mil Millington, Ian Marchant and David Gaffney – all, as it happens, pieces to make you smile as well as think. It’s in our crazily-named file Core writers – July 25th. In our next post on Thursday, you’ll see the final story in David Gaffney’s sequence, plus a script from Steph Dale – and you’ll hear about a new publication from another writer close to our hearts. To find out more about these writers click here (and if Bugged is news to you, look here to see how it works). If you’re struggling to work an overhearing into a piece of your own writing, these pieces should give you an idea of how it can be done. Bear in mind that you don’t have to quote it directly – so long as it sparks the piece off.

Meanwhile another of our gang, Jenn Ashworth is still collecting material for her own online project at Wirral Stories – and we are delighted to see that Andrew Philip and Lorraine Mariner, both supporters of Bugged, were shortlisted this week for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for Poetry. Congratulations.

Good overhearings are coming in – because as you know, you can still collect your overhearings and write from them now, so long as your work comes to us by August 15th. We like:

‘One of them had a glass back, and the other tried to kill you.’

‘That’s six inches by anyone’s reckoning,’

‘I’m all about customer service. I’m 100% about customer service. Customer service means everything to me.’

‘….threatened him with a hammer. And they didn’t even take anything!’

We have well over 100 pieces of brand new writing sitting in our files now, and continue to be overwhelmed by the success of our single idea; but it may be that you are saving the best till last. Don’t get it right – get it written. And come back on Thursday for news of another writerly prize….

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.

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.]