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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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.

The Summer of Bugged

Ah, hello. Come on in. What kept you so long?

Going to a festival? Take your ears with you

Bugged is just over a week old, and already there are hundreds of us on board for the liveliest writing project of summer 2010. To all the newbies, we say Welcome – whether you found us through the Guardian Books Blog, or other kind links like this one from Claire Conlon which also includes other writing deadlines. If you just found us then have a look here to find out how Bugged works. Find us on Facebook (we are a Page, called Bugged) or Twitter (as BuggedProject). Get listening, get talking.

For those old lags who have been following us since… er… last week, thank you for helping us to spread news of Bugged. You’ve already shared some marvellous overhearings – perfect material for sparking off a poem, a story or a script. Some are comical:

“She’s got a boyfriend at last.”
“That’s good!”
“Yes, but he’s short.”
“Oh I am sorry.”

Some are intriguing… ‘What’s the only word in the English language that ends in MT?’ asks a pub landlord. Answers in the next post…. or find Bugged on Facebook to read the answer.

But there are potentially tragic ones too. ‘I’ve been pregnant before, it was no big deal,’ says a schoolgirl on a bus. Another person says, ‘When it was over I didn’t wash for six months afterwards. I lived in a toilet and drank alcohol.’ There are huge stories behind these tiny soundbites. Make sure that your work does them justice, brings them alive – and keeps them anonymous.

Most unsettling of all, a conversation about Bugged itself was overheard on a bus today. We hadn’t foreseen that we might be victims of our own surveillance team.

Keep those overhearings coming in and do have a bash at our nano-survey to tell us where you’ll be on National Eavesdropping Day.

Jo Bell

Bugged – it’s alive!

Bugged has obviously struck a nerve in a nation of  creative nosey parkers. We’re not even a week old and already hundreds of you are following us. We’ve been picked up by the excellent Literary Platform and others are showing interest too – let us know if you see us mentioned anywhere.

If you missed our first post explaining how it works, look here – but essentially Bugged encourages all writers (great and small) to eavesdrop discreetly on July 1st, and to write something based on their overhearings by August 15th. The good stuff will appear on this blog, and the very best in a book alongside our ten core writers (see the Blogroll, right). Be tragical or comical, moving or uplifting. And be as good as you can be.

I couldn't help overhearing....

We love the overhearings you’ve sent so far via Facebook and Twitter; keep them coming. We especially liked: ‘Yes, we’re rabbit-sitting. They’re paying us in cushions and umbrellas’…….. ‘He opened the car boot and it was full of somebody else’s clothes’…………….. and, ‘She brought her granddaughter back some pebbles from the Firth of Forth, then in the middle of the night she was worried they might be radioactive, so she got up and boiled them.’ We also like the philosophical dialogue overheard in a shop car park – “We’ll only have enough money left for food and booze.” “Do we ever really need anything else though?” “True.”

Summery conversations...

All have great potential to start off a story, a poem or a script. If you’ve not heard anything quite so inspiring, have a little practice with one of these. Play with viewpoints – are you the grandmother, the granddaughter or one of the pebbles?

Our examples page now has ‘overheard’ poems from Alwyn Marriage and Lorraine Mariner. Our Small Print page to see our word limits for prose, poetry and scripts. If you’ve not come across Flash Fiction before, have a look here for a discussion of its strengths and weaknesses.

Is anyone listening? David Calcutt and Jo Bell

There’s a month to go till the big eavesdropping day, and it will be a damn boring wait unless we talk to each other. So do find us on Facebook (Bugged) or Twitter (BuggedProject) to share overhearings and and interesting links.  Established writers – tell us about your websites and work so we can promote it to a captive audience.

If you’re a new or first-time writer, don’t be put off: there will soon be exercises and tips to get you creating, from David Calcutt and others. And if you have a writing group or online community, why not encourage them to write something from an overheard or ‘found’ statement?

We’re glad you like our idea – pass it on!

Start writing with your ears

Welcome to BUGGED, a fantastic new writing project for the UK in summer 2010.  This is how it works:

1    On July 1st 2010*, go forth and…. eavesdrop! Wherever you are – in the British Museum or Bradford bus station, in your office, the pub, on the train – listen in to conversations and fragments of speech around you. Be discreet. Try not to get punched. [* if you missed July 1st, fear not. Any day will do, so long as you meet our deadline – see point 3].

2    Write a new piece of work based on what you hear. We want poems of up to 60 lines, stories up to 1000 words, flash fiction up to 150 words, scripts up to 5 minutes long. Our favourite recent overhearing is ‘I think it was the turtles that did for her eventually.’ Yours may be tragical, farcical, touching or mundane. You don’t have to quote your overhearing directly – it might just be a starting point for your piece.

3 Submit it to us by email after July 1st, and before August 15th (read the small print first). The sooner the better because….

4    …the best incoming work will be posted on this blog. The earlier it arrives, the better chance you have of beating the crowd. Some very fine writers are already sharpening their pencils – see 5, below.

5 The very best of the work submitted will be published in a printed anthology, alongside well-known names like Jenn Ashworth, Ian Marchant and Daljit Nagra. The book will be launched in October at Manchester Literature Festival and Birmingham Book Festival, and you’ll be able to buy it online.

People talk in public....

So clean out your ears and get ready for July 1st. Spread the word so that we have the best pool of writers to draw from. Some of you will write lighter stuff, some will write life-changing material. Some of you have been writing for years; some just started. We are ready for it all. Our Examples page has some Bugged-type work from writers we know, or click on these poems from Ray Morgan and Bugged co-editor Jo Bell.

Join our Facebook Page (Bugged), or follow us on Twitter (as BuggedProject). Get talking to each other. Where are you planning to listen in? What have you heard lately on the bus or in the queue for a coffee? Send us a picture of a good place to eavesdrop – tell us about your funniest or most tragic overhearing – let us know that you’re taking part – and pass on the news to your writing contacts. And keep those overhearings real please. Why make them up when there is so much real-life material?

....and in private!

This is a new kind of writing project. We want to showcase the very best writing, so that established writers can enjoy a new challenge, and new writers can get into print alongside well-known names. But we also want to have fun, and to create a thriving community of writers. Come on in…. and bring your notebook.

Jo Bell and David Calcutt