Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Shh. Keep your voice down. Do you see that woman writing in her notebook? No, don't turn around.

Yes, her. She's writing down everything we say.

I am not being paranoid. She's obviously warming up for Bugged, a national exercise in "creative eavesdropping" that takes place tomorrow.

Here's the deal: We all know writers are nosy parkers, right? And why shouldn't they be? You can't write real-sounding dialogue unless you study the real thing, and sometimes these illicit field recordings get appropriated for made-up stories. The Bugged project just legitimises an age-old process.

Writers are asked to write down what they overhear wherever they are, and then use the material as the basis of a piece of creative writing (poem, short story or flash fiction). Send it in to the Bugged people by August 15th and it could be published on their website or in an anthology alongside commissions from Daljit Nagra, David Gaffney and Jenn Ashworth, which is launching in October at our own Manchester Literature Festival and the Birmingham Book Festival. All the details are here. So get out and listen in.

Just, please, be discreet. It's not okay to ask people to speak up because you can't hear what they're saying. Or to throw them evil, surreptitious looks from behind your notebook, while snickering meaningfully to yourself. That kind of thing gives us writers a bad name.

(Illustration from Harriet The Spy, which you really should read if you haven't yet.)


Beccy Schtyk said...


I like this idea. It's something I've been meaning to do for years myself. In my current story the character is nosying in to a conversation and then she realises that the stranger is talking about her. But it's not real. I'm going to keep my ears open for real snippets of other people's lives now. Please could you let us know of the guidelines for submissions.

Thank you :)

Kate Feld said...

Dr. Ken, you can see all the guidelines for submissions if you follow the links in the post to the Bugged website.