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…

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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!

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?

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!