I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would spend my time as a "writer in residence" at the Lounge on the Farm music festival. I experimented beforehand with new technologies. I spent ages downloading apps and trying to get them to work. I wanted my iPhone to be a pocket-sized multi-media publishing hub.
But I abandoned most of what I'd planned to do within maybe 30 minutes of arriving on site. There were so many actual, real-life walking, talking and partying people to interact with. I wasn't that bothered about tinkering with my phone or reaching out to a virtual audience.
Instead, I went analogue. My creative tools became sharpened pencils, 3x5 cards, paperclips and string.
I accosted passers-by and asked them to reveal their most and least favourite words. I strung these together, hung them in the breeze, and made a story out of them. I wrote flash stories on my 3x5 cards and gave them to people as they queued for burgers or sipped their tea – "Would you like a fresh piece of fiction with your Earl Grey, madam?" Nobody said no. I wrote provocative lines on cup-sleeves for the owners of a coffee stall – their customers loved them, they reported later.
I sat in my writing shed – shared with the rest of the brilliant ReAuthoring team – and answered endless questions from curious people: what are you doing? why? are you really a writer? like, properly?
I learned how easy it can be to slip a little literature into someone's life – just a scrap of paper and a few words will do the job. And how varied, surprising and pleasant the effects can be. Ten words in the right order can make someone laugh, call over their mates, stop, laugh again, then go away "for a bit of a think".
I'm a writer in residence again next week, this time in Whitstable, where I'll be taking over Oxford Street Books for a day. I'll be writing on-the-spot flash stories and other literary morsels, inspired by the customers and the books they browse, from 3pm to 5.30pm. Drop by and I'll write something for you.
|A quiet moment, writing outside the shed|
|A story left on the grass for anyone to find|
|A coffee customer enjoys his shot of words|
|A line on a coffee cup|
|Fun people enjoy a story I wrote for them|
|One of the many lines I pinned to the shed|