Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Nearly Feedback

I've been gathering together some of the feedback which I've been sent privately re. various Nearly workshops and events I've organised over the past few years as part of the process of composing my transmedia novel, What Didn't Quite and the PhD in Practice-based Digital Writing at Bath Spa.

There's information on lots of these activities at but this blog seems a more suitable place to put these comments.


I performed with Carol Laidler and the Ifso Band at the Earl Haig pub in Crouch End. In the audience was artist Bee Peak. Here are her comments in an email 11/07/2014: 

Dear Chris

I have been nearly going to email you on a couple of occasions

We enjoyed the Night of Nearly. I was intrigued by the characters &  by the end of the evening was left  interested in the characters &  looking forward to following their story. Yes I suppose the show did feel like work in progress but I’m all for that. I really liked your ukulele songs they had an immediate quality –good & amusing lyrics & thought the style of them melded well with the readings.

I suppose what would intrigue me would be to see how it develops and leading to some kind of conclusion.Possibility of a parallel story when all the nearly events happened (like woman looking out of 1st floor window & seing old friend & him coming in to their lives again & how this might change the course of events) Don’t know how you could do this.
I loved a Carol Shields novel (sorry can’t remember which one) where to read the alternative version you turned the book upside down and it was printed on every other page. I suppose you could have two different typefaces & RHs the Novel & LHs back of page the NearlyReally version.

Interesting about people vocalizing their Nearlies during a show. The fact of having a small stage  necessarily makes the division between performers & audience. Even as an ex-thesp I find I am mostly resistant to audience participation.You has a very gentle, relaxed approach with no pressure to participate but because of the stage it gave the audience a more formal showcase for their words. I liked it being on the small platform. However it might be interesting to see if different participation would be forthcoming if you arranged chairs round in a circle with the three of you distributed among the first row of the circle.

It might be an idea to put in the publicity for another evening the question –what nearly happened to you & that it would contribute to your ongoing work  –maybe you did do that in your email about the event. Can’t quite remember.

 Thing is it does need a bit of ruminating on – I found a) first off I couldn’t think of a single thing
 b) then dredging around found the incident of nearly meeting Paul at the squat party as my only example which I actually thought might be pushing the Nearliness
c) then only on the way home did I remember how I nearly stole a policemens helmet..over forty years ago ! I will write it up or tell you but not now.


You may well have read Wanderlust by Rebecca Solnit. Recommended to me by Jack. I was reading it this morning & in a chapter dealing with mazes & labyrinths was struck by a passage which you might like:

‘ To write is to carve a new path through the terrain of the imagination with the author as guide –a guide one may not always agree with or trust but at least be counted on to take one somewhere. ‘

Look forward to the continuing journey.

All the best


Extraordinarily I had already used exactly this quote from Solnit in an essay for the PhD. 


I asked  Philip Jones, the editor of The Bookseller, for his opinion on the current state of digital publishing. Here's his email of 4/11/2016 in full:

Publishers look to print and paper first, last, and always, particularly as many of their experiments in transmedia, enhanced e-books or interactive fiction have largely failed – at least on the terms by which they measure things, sales. Where they are still looking for more interesting digital versions, it is generally seen as a way of selling more print books – for example the Julian Fellowes serialised fiction website Belgravia, which has now become a fantastic vehicle for selling the hardback. The market will shift again, but perhaps only when an author-led experiment meets with commercial success, and the big trade publishers once again look to redefine what a book can be. For now, they rather like the fact that a book still looks like a book.


LILY MCLEISH ran the Nearly Acting Nearly Being workshop for me at the Intimate Space, Hornsey, in 2015. Afterwards I asked for comments from participants.
I received these thoughts on the Nearly Workshop from Lily McLeish in an email on 28/01/2016:

“Thoughts on Nearly Workshop: 

“In theatre during the scene analysis we often talk about events - moments when all the intentions of all the characters in the scene change. They are physical shifts that we read onstage. Very much like in life. We are constantly changing our intentions to what happens around us. Fo me what was incredibly interesting was to start to see how the events that nearly happen are just as important as the events that do happen. Someone almost saying or doing something may not immediately have an impact on another person in the room but the nearly event for that person who almost dared to say or do the thing will stay with that person and shape the person’s further actions. I found this most interesting in our exercises on nearly touch and the painting improvisations of something nearly happening but then reversing the event. 

The writing of our nearly biographies and seeing our lives as a set of choices. I found that the routes a person almost took say as much about us as the routes they did take. We often consider the things we have done. Our CVs are full of them. But to look at all the things we almost did and be proud of those, understand those, gives us a greater understanding and in a way is almost more insightful in understanding a person’s life. I like the idea of thinking about the person we are and then imagining all the versions around us who we nearly are. This data exists around us all the time. In some areas probably greater than in others. Some nearly selves might be as high as 60% or 80% depending on how near we were to doing. But some might be at 5% and we don’t even think about them until we start looking at our nearly selves. Some things are active choices, other things dependent on outside events. 

Exploring the emotions that surround nearlyness. Regret, desire, the possibility of something, hope, a dream, the loss of something, sadness of not experiencing something. It was interesting to explore these emotions through movement and improvisation. We improvised the idea of having a second self. Imagining taking a different route from our nearly biographies and exploring that self. Are we really that different? Or would we be the same person just with a different title? Would we really talk, move and think differently? It felt like a very rich subject to explore in improvisation and also a great starting point for narrative.”

Here's what actor actor Nicholas Gerard Martin sent in an email 13/02/2016

Hi Chris,
Great to hear from you! Hope you're well and happy! I hope this isn't too late, but I thought the workshop was great and a totally new and original world for me. It felt that the possibility for exploration of ones psyche was almost limitless. Cathartic, investigative, and curious. I particularly liked the improv as the nearly detectives. Exploring the sorts of characters and their objectives or private needs that could lie behind a 'nearlyological' narrative was quite a beguiling experience. Thank you for the it, and hope all is well!


Researching ideas on how to compose and present transmedia work, I conducted interviews with Adrian Hon, CEO of Six To Start,
Annette Mees, then co-Director of Coney, an immersive theatre company,
Therese Steele, artist and performer.

Here is the link to edited extracts from the full interviews:


Friday, 27 January 2017

New Media Writing Prize

Date 19.01.17
Prize winners announced for the New Media Writing Prize awards ceremony at Bournemouth University
Writers from across the world, including those from BU, were among prize winners whose work was celebrated at the New Media Writing Prize at Bournemouth University.
The event, now in its seventh year, saw entries across a variety of different styles and narratives including non-fiction, novels and transmedia pieces. The event was also televised live by BU Television Production students.
Judges assessed interactive stories that could be viewed over PC, tablet or phone, using words, images, film or animation. Five key areas formed the judging criteria: innovative use of new media, accessibility, effective use of interactive elements, examples of things that new media can do that traditional cannot, and the potential to reach a wider audience.
The first of five prizes, £1,000, donated by if:book UK Director, transmedia writer Chris Meade, saw JR Carpenter invited to the stage to collect the award for The Gathering Cloud, a hybrid print and web-based work converging on the work of 19th century manufacturing chemist, Luke Howard, who first penned the names for cloud formations in 1803.
Canadian artist and writer, JR Carpenter, also gave a talk on the history of her work, “Things rarely turn out the way I intend them to”, which looked at how the progression of the internet from her first work on Netscape 1.1 in 1995 had shaped her work and enabled her to realise new creative ideas.
An audience Q&A session saw questions asked by the audience on the transitions of her work between physical text and traditional media to digital stories, hybrid texts, and convergent media, as well as some advice for those looking to start or innovate their own new media texts.
Peter Phillips, CEO of Unicorn Training awarded the Student Prize, a three month paid internship, to Jamie Paddock, whose work The Dying Mind explores themes of loneliness and mental illness within a first person exploratory narrative.
Jamie, a final-year BA Communications & Media student at BU, said: ““Like any other student, the time after finishing university is an uncertain one so it’s a huge relief to be able to take up this fantastic opportunity with a three month paid internship at E-Learning company Unicorn Training in the summer.”
Other awards included the Dot Award, also sponsored by if:book, which was awarded to Theodoros Chiotis, for his idea for a multimedia autographical performance, and two awards sponsored by Gorkana, the top UK media database and agency: the Gorkana Award for UK Digital Journalism, won by Carla Pedret for The Exodus Data Project, and the Gorkana Award for International Digital Journalism, won by Berta Tilmantaite and her team for Will to Win, a mixed-media piece about the Lithuanian Paralympic Team.
In summing up this year’s awards, host and organiser, BU’s Dr Jim Pope said: “2016 has seen yet another brilliant set of shortlisted pieces and worthy winners. We have had entries from all around the world, and the winners come from Canada, Spain, the UK, Lithuania, and Greece - so truly an international event.  With £5,500 in prize money this year, the event is clearly expanding in reach and status and we look forward to the 2017 round”.

Those interested in the awards should visit:

Thursday, 21 July 2016

I've just finished my stint as part of Academy Inegales and it's been an absolute delight to work with such a talented and warm group of people. I'll be writing more about it soon I'm sure.

A Field Guide To Getting Lost

This blogpost was written for the Club Inegales website, January 2016

A Field Guide To Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit is one of those books which for me works a bit like the I Ching; wherever and whenever I open it, there’s an extract that speaks to me. I’m a writer not a musician and when  
trying to think of a text that could work as the equivalent of my instrument for improvisation with the other members of Academy Inegales, Solnit's book seemed a perfect choice. I opened it at random and soon found a line to chant: “Nor can I recall what the wine opened up for me.” Singer Nouria Bah echoed the words while I found other passages which felt right to speak with the sounds I was hearing. Until that point I’d known I wanted to be part of Academy Inegales but hadn't known how I might participate with this talented and diverse group of musicians. Suddenly it was happening.

Afterwards I was asked by Peter and Martin to find a short quote from the book that mightinspire each of the members of the Academy to compose three minute pieces working inpairs for our first performance together at the ClubExtracts sprang out from the pageswhich seemed right for each player. When I emailed quotes to fellow member, violinist Layale Chaker emailed straight back to say: ”This is the story of my life in one phrase!” 

Her quote was: The mystic Simone Weil wrote to a friend on another continent, “Let us love this distance, which is thoroughly woven with friendship, since those who do not loveeach other are not separated.” This is the same section of the book that leapt out at me when I came back feeling sad from seeing my son and his family living happily but far away in Stockholm. It inspired a beautiful, plaintiff duet with George Sleightholme on clarinet.

Other pairings included Martin Humphrey's tuba and Andy Leung's electronics recreating lost games of childhood, violinist Joanna Lawrence and tabla player Rishiraj Kulkarni making the sounds of our fear of accident or desertion when visitors don't turn up on time; George Sleightholme dismantling his clarinet and playing on each section of it. His quotefrom the book was: "Now it is as decayed as a real book might be after being buried or abandoned, and when I think of the scraps that remain, I wonder what weather in the mind so erodes such things."  The whole evening was a rich mix of sounds and ideas.

I applied to be part of the Academy because I’m always interested in collaboration and this seemed an amazing opportunity to work with some fantastic musicians. I’m a transmedia writer, have recently taken to writing songs but have no musical training, am fascinated by the potential for collaborative writing in the digital age and how writers and translators could improvise live in the way that (some) musicians do, making work for specific times and places. Club Inegales in Euston is an atmospheric basement venue, and to be performing a piece of my novel in progress, creating a soundscape of looped words amidst such pleasurable music was a thrill. 

Transmedia fiction involves thinking of a book not as text locked up between covers, but as story orbiting its reader, a landscape that we’re led through by the author who takes us along its sentences and paragraphs, points out good views, sings to us as we walk, hands us keepsakes and clues along the way, leads us to clearings where we can sit and converse about what we’ve experienced and what it’s meant for us. A real life venue likeClub Inegales is a perfect laboratory for experiments in ways to make and share poetry and stories. We can put words on the tables, project them onto the screens, whisper them to new arrivals, write on the spot in response to the music, email them later to each ticket holder…

What I like about what (seems to me to be) the Inegales approach is that it uses experimental means to make captivating music. As a writer I’m bored of digital trickery that might look cool but fails to draw readers in. I’ve very much enjoyed the music at ClubInegales as well as been challenged by it.

Words are, quite literally, literal, which means they tend to define what’s going on around them. I slipped in one line from the Field Guide to an improvisation by 12 people and that line soon became the title of the piece. My next challenge is to find ways to include words as a more equal part of our unequal ensemble, so that the spoken word is no more or less important than the piano or the percussion, and for writers to jam together to make something of quality that works in the setting for which it’s made.

I’m looking forward to finding out more about my fellow academicians and the ways theycompose and play their music – I know I have so much to learn from them.

Solnit writes:
 It is in the nature of things to be lost and not otherwise. Think of how little has been salvaged from the compost of time of the hundreds of billions of dreams dreamt since the language to describe them emerged.

Since joining the Academy Inegales I notice my dreams often involve a sense of being part of a large group capable of helping to make whatever it is I'm trying to do seem nearly possible. 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

J R Carpenter on A Picture of Wind

In my submission for the Dot Award I proposed to create a new web-based (tablet compatible) piece called This is A Picture of Wind. This work will expand upon a short text written in response to the storms which battered South West England in early 2014, resulting in catastrophic flooding in Somerset and the destruction of the seawall and rail line at Dawlish. Following the news in the months after these storms, I was struck by the paradox presented by attempts to evoke through the materiality of language a force such as wind which we can only see indirectly through its effect. I began to explore weather, and wind in particular, in all its written forms. I have been collecting language pertaining to wind from current news items as well from as older almanacs, private weather diaries, and past forecasts held at the Met Office Library and Archive in Exeter. I am also studying classical ideas of weather. For example, Lucretius writes: “The wind burst open the cloud, and out falls that fiery whirlwind which is what we in our traditional language term a thunderbolt.” This award would help me develop a simple yet stable web interface to combine these diverse archival and classical materials with my own quotidian narrative of the storm events of early 2014, live weather data and maps, and text scraped from Twitter. I do not know yet exactly what form the final work will take, only that it will attempt to address climate change by picturing through language and data the absences left by wind.  

Wednesday, 27 January 2016


I'm just back from Athens where I was a speaker at the Hack the Book weekend at the Onassis Institute, part of this:

The Europeana Space project is exploring different ways of reusing digital cultural heritage by running pilots in six thematic areas (TV, Photography, Dance, Games, Open and Hybrid Publishing and Museums).  From 22-24 January 2016, the Open and Hybrid Publishing Pilot is organising the Hack the Book Festival in Athens, Greece, inviting designers, artists, publishers, programmers, authors, poets, hackers and entrepreneurs to redefine the book as an evolving, visual and open medium. - See more at:

Thanks to Theodoris, Theodora and the team for inviting me to speak at such an inspiring and positive weekend. Three of the teams get to come to London to develop their ideas further. I'm not sure if I'm at liberty to disclose more about the winning ideas, but watch this space. 


My talk was billed as: Nearlywriting Nearlyology, and it's the first time I've used this topic as the theme for a proper, full-length lecture on digital possibilities for literature. I also showed a slide of the hamper which I've bought to put all the different elements of my novel into, in analogue form. And I also talked about my new nearlywriting practices. 

In the morning I warm up by meditating for ten minutes, then write some words in the air with my body, an exercise I learnt from the Nearlydancing workshop we ran with Jia Yu Corti. I write for a while in my room at home (more a studio than a study now, it houses ukuleles, percussion and recording equipment as well as laptop, books, pens, paints, scissors and paper for cutting and sticking…) before walking into town with my laptop where I go to a cafe or the local library and write some more. Later I drift through the streets, seeing the world through Carraday's strange eyes, and imagine the story told by a tour guide wandering around the places my characters inhabit... Whether some of this ends up creating a book, or a song or a blog post or nothing much, it is all Nearlywriting.