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?

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…

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…

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….

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…