Tuesday, 23 February 2010

taking a short story straight to the hovertrain

Ross Sutherland's attempt at OULIPO's N+7 technique, which is to take an existing text and replace every noun with the noun seven places below the original in the dictionary (except he went further down). Found via Tom Chivers.

See more at www.rosssutherland.co.uk

Publishing Innovation Conference Thursday 18th March


at the London College of Communication. Click on the link for more.

The Future of Reading

Literacy Forum @ the Education Show, NEC Birmingham
Friday 5 March 2010

A major outcome of this forum will be a ‘manifesto’ publication from the National Literacy Association and sponsored by Pearson, giving your views in order to influence perceptions about, and policy for, reading.

09:00 - 10:00
Breakfast, networking and registration
10:00 - 10:15
Opening: Capturing the scene
Professor David Crystal, Author of the Cambridge encyclopedia of the english Language, NLA President
10:15 - 10:45
The landscape for reading
Aidan Chambers, Award-winning writer of novels for children and young adults
10:45 - 11:15
The future for reading?
Chris Meade, The Institute for the future of the Book
11:15 - 12:00
Roundtable 1: Reading in a digital world. Introduction to e-books
Dave Whyley, Wolverhampton e-Services - headteacher consultant for Learning Technologies
12:00 - 12:30
Choosing the right books
Wendy Cooling, Children’s Book Consultant, founder Bookstart Project, NLA Trustee
12:30 - 13:15
Lunch and networking with colleagues and speakers
13:15 - 14:00
Reading real books
Michael Rosen, Author and former Children’s Laureate

14:00 - 15:00
Roundtable 2:
Workshops 1.
Leadership and reading strategy
Tim Boyes, headteacher, Queensbridge School, Birmingham

2. Technology and the future of literacy
Sally McKeown, Consultant, educational
Technology and Special Needs

3. Reading: Promoting identity, culture and heritage
Verna Wilkins, Author and Publisher,
founder of Tamarind Books, NLA Patron

4. Reading for enjoyment KS3
David Wray, Professor of Literacy education, Institute of education, University of Warwick

15:00 - 15:15
Roundup and conclusions

15:15 - 15:30
A unique perspective
Daljit Nagra, Poet and Teacher, Winner of the forward Prize for poetry and Costa Poetry Award

15:30 - 16:30
Join the reading events on The Education Show floor / visit exhibition

Drinks reception for delegates and speakers on show floor, sponsored by Scholastic

ENquiRy hoTLiNE: 08445 888075

Monday, 22 February 2010

futurewriter & the story

2010 is no bad time to be a writer

Traditional publishing may be in crisis, but the internet has given all writers a chance to win both readers and remuneration

An article by Robert McCrum on the Guardian site this morning says lots I agree with.

The STORY, organised by Matt Locke of 4iP was an amazing day of tellings - 20 minute presentations by an array of inspiring talent including Cory Doctorow, Tim Wright delivering a hliarious and moving account of his obsessive hoaxing, Dr Aleks Ms. Internet Krotoski showing her Making Of Virtual Revolutions diary, graphic artist Sydney Padua (see comic below) and lots more. No questions, no break out groups, no manifesto, just.. lots of stuff about stories, plus an array of networker types all bumping into each other and tweeting about it enthusiastically after. I enjoyed myself and did go away with plenty to ponder about the new ways we tell tales.

The Newspaper Clubb printed a paper for the day which contained an ad, designed by Joe Coppard of www.patandtrevor,com, for Phictive, the group we're part of, drawn together by Timo Hannay and including supercoder Euan Adie, Londonist Matt Brown, and Chris Roberts, editor of One Eye Grey, a penny dreadful for the 21st Century. The group is developing a means to make and publish digital fiction for the iPhone, iPad and other new platforms and aims to bring together writers and coders to create compelling, media rich content. More details to follow.

Friday, 19 February 2010

close your eyes

Thanks to Sue Thomas for link to this. Why are these things so curiously life affirming?

Thursday, 18 February 2010

knock knock knocking

These Social Network thingies are weird. After talking to my namesake about fictiveness and Quixote, I tweeted Dave Stewart, ex of the Eurythmics, after I found myself telling the famous Bob Dylan of Crouch End story, variations of which I hear regularly at gatherings of people from this neck of North London. I heard the definitive version from Dave Stewart's P.A. who I met when Stewart bought the old Hospital building next to the Poetry Society in Covent Garden when I was Director there.
Here it is:

Once upon a time Bob Dylan came to Crouch End to meet Mr Stewart at his recording studio, housed in an old Church on Crouch End Hill. But Bob accidentally went to the wrong church - one still in operation on Crouch Hill. He knocked on the door and said to the Vicar, "I've come to see Dave."

Dave the verger was at lunch, but Dylan was invited in and offered tea. When the verger came back he was told, "Your friend Bob is here to see you" and found himself ushered into the presence of the Great Man himself.

It's a good story though it relies on everyone thinking it highly unlikely that this sleepy suburb would attract a rock legend.
Now Crouch End has a fairer share of pop and soap slebs.

Anyway, I also told Dave Stewart that I remembered him visiting the Poetry Cafe at the Poetry Society in Covent Garden when we first set it up with the dynamic Mark Mitchinson. I was pleased to get this tweet back:

@ifbook ha yeah I liked that poetry cafe

Then I thought to ask him about another rumour that circulated at the time. This was Dave Stewart's reply:

@ifbook yes that is true I nearly took Bob Dylan there

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

word picture

I love the poster for the next London Word Festival, and the programme looks good and all.

uh like yuh

Why do people enthusing about the joys of digital magazines act so painfully downbeat? (See also that amazing if ubercool Mag + video But this does look like the beginning of exciting reading for the iPad. I worry though that this next revolution provides another opportunity for slick corporate values to move back in and replace the homemade pleasures of blogging and web story making. Will we suddenly find ourselves back at the beginning with a few major publishers dominating the scene with tightly packaged goods? WE NEED to ensure that tools exist for independent voices to present multimedia stories with style on the iPodnpad. Listen out for an annoucement at the Story conference on Friday.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

edaem sirhc

I was friended on Facebook a while ago by someone called Chris Meade or Meade Chris, with digital and literary interests too.
It turns out we have quite a lot in common.
This exchange just took place on his page (and I hope he's ok with me reprinting this):

Meade Chris "Why does it make us uneasy to know that the map is within the map and the thousand and one nights are within The 1001 Nights? Why does it disquiet us to know that Don Quixote is a reader of the Quixote, and Hamlet is a spectator of Hamlet?"
Yesterday at 20:25 · Comment · Like

Chris Meade Makes me uneasy that my namesake is as interested in metafictive stuff as I. Years ago I wrote my dissertation on Quixote and Tristram Shandy .
20 hours ago ·

Meade Chris Don't be uneasy, Mr. Meade--as Don Quixote would say, matters of war, more than other things, are subject to constant change. And of course, among other things is namesakes. Especially namesakes, even--they are always reading their names in books and things, and thinking that they've written them, and then writing even more such stuff.
20 hours ago

SC hmmm....
9 hours ago

MK My brain just did a backflip, because as far as I can tell there is now more than one Chris Meade. Holy moly!
3 hours ago

SC did you just create another account to do this, chris? or do you really have another secret account like i do?
3 hours ago

Meade Chris Why are you guys so anxious that Chris Meade is facebook friends with Chris Meade? In the rest of the quotation above, Borges concludes, "I believe I have found the answer: those inversions suggest that if the characters in a story can be readers or spectators, then we, their readers or spectators, can be fictitious."
but no, Chris Meade is a legitimate Londoner and book-futures aficionado and namesake, with quarterly goals and everything.
2 hours ago

Chris Meade I'm an imaginary Knight of the Sad Countenance

theory springs leak - bookfutures basketcase

I sent a version of my blog post about 7,000 year old pots and bookflip to the Read 2.0 list and had some interesting responses, including this very detailed rebuttal of my theory by Duncan Caldwell via Dan Burstein. So that's the theory of this blogger dashed. O well.

"The suggestion that both page flips on screen pages and grass patterns on 7,000 year old Jomon pots are hold-overs from previous paradigms is provocative - but holds about as much water as most baskets. First, because a key date is bogus. The incipient Jomon began around 12,500 years ago while the oldest shards, which may have come from pots, date to around 2,200 years before that - in either case, not to 17,000 BP (Before Present). Secondly, because pottery motifs that resemble weaving and wicker-work - on corded and incised ware, for example - were not necessarily the earliest in the various geographic areas where pottery was invented independently. Third, because clay lends itself to decoration by both inadvertent and deliberate stamping, especially by mats, which pots are often laid on before firing. The inadvertent stamps left by mats led naturally to the idea of using the same patterns over whole pots.

Weave patterns would NOT have been a carry-over in that case, but would have been inspired, instead, by the nature of the material and manufacturing process.

Early pots were also sometimes coiled within basket molds, leading naturally to a basket-like "decoration", without it being a vestigial backward reference. In fact, such pots were themselves an outgrowth, in all probability, of baskets that had been lined with clay to make them impermeable.

Thus, the first pots were not simply substitutes for baskets, but their direct descendants. The blogger could have used this observation, if he had known it, to reinforce his point - although he would have had to admit that pottery didn't so much replace baskets as gut and skin bladders - those flexible non-breakable recipients preferred by nomads to this day.

Furthermore, pots have been stamped by all kinds of other patterns as well, ranging from block-stamps, which are artificial, to shells. If we were to use the same kind of logic used by the blogger, we'd have to say that shell-stamped pots harked back to shell recipients used by Paleolithic man - a far-fetched notion if there ever was one.

Finally, even the smaller differences of two to four thousand years, instead of the blogger's 10,000, allows enough time for extensive stylistic evolution. This is particularly true of pottery styles in the Jomon culture, where pots were often given fantastically whirled coral-like rims starting around 7,000 BP.

Looping back to the invention of ceramics during the Pavlovian aspect of the Gravettian, over 25,000 years ago, when clay was first fired, but only to make figurines - not pots - it is interesting to note that the figurines were laid on mats and cloth before firing. This left impressions that were so clear that Heather Pringle (1997) proved that basketwork was over ten thousand years older than previously known. Olga Soffer used the same kind of impressions to prove that Gravettians made cloth with at least 13 different types of knots on portable looms (1997 & 2000) - pushing weaving back too.

In my latest publication, "Supernatural Pregnancies: Common features and new ideas concerning Upper Paleolithic feminine imagery"*, I argued that these precocious inventions influenced northern Gravettian art, including the patterns found on the two Schematic Venuses of Predmosti and figurines from Mezin. So in a sense, Dan, the blog you forwarded to me is right: an invention can certainly have aesthetic and residual effects upon other activities - from art to the screen flips replacing the turning page . I'm just not sure that Middle Jomon pottery motifs are the best example of the phenomenon.

* "Supernatural Pregnancies: Common Features and New Ideas concerning Upper Paleolithic Feminine Imagery" by Duncan Caldwell. Arts & Cultures. 2010. Barbier-Mueller Museums, Geneva & Barcelona. pp. 52-75. A summary of the article's basic idea, which can be called the “Prey-mother Hypothesis” for reading Paleolithic "venuses", is outlined at: http://www.duncancaldwell.com/Site/Paleolithic_Feminine_Imagery.html


Andrea Levy talks about her excellent new novel.

Monday, 15 February 2010

if:book at the hurst

if:book had a wonderful time away with the mentored writers of Arvon and we're now working on a digital anthology of their work to be launched in June. It's the kind of project which is exactly what i imagined if:book doing - and we want to do MORE!!


Saturday, 13 February 2010

The History of the Book In 100 Page Turns

The History of the World in 100 Objects currently playing on BBC Radio 4 is a peach of an idea - if annoyingly similar to a somewhat less grandiose idea we've been considering with Bill Mayblin and his astounding collection of philosophical souvenirs.
But hey..

One object so far has been a japanese 'Jomon' pot, 7,000 years old, made of brown clay, bucket-like, built up with coils, but fibres have been pressed into the side to make it look and feel like a basket. Why like a basket? Because 10,000 years before that, the clay pot replaced baskets as containers for food. Less leaky, more robust, capable of being heated safely, the pot transformed the human diet. But presumably they took a few millennia to catch on, during which time the consumer needed assurance that this was really just a new improved form of basket.

So this is the ancient equivalent of the page flip effect used on websites to designate book-ness.
Will we still be turning digital pages in millennia to come or will all these conventions pass as quickly as the regency style radiogram?

Here's a nice video from the Scottish Poetry Library where words appear to break free from the page to explode all over Edinburgh. Let's dedicate it to Sue Horner, retiring Head of Curriculum at the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority, if:book board member, a friend and a Very Good Thing for Literature, having worked hard to keep poetry and creativity on the menu in schools.

Friday, 12 February 2010


Take a look at Click Opera, the blog of artist, musician and cultural commentator Momus, which has just reached its end. CLICK HERE and, as they used to say in the Correspondence section of the Boys' Own Paper, "Read back!" to educate yourself concerning this rich confection by the Scottish author of The Book of Jokes.
I've been a follower since meeting Momus at the Institute's meeting in London on the Really Modern Library.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010


Writing the World a new Poetry Competition for young people

Winning poems will be published on the Natural History Museum’s website and featured in the October edition of Second Nature the museum's magazine for young members. Prizes include beautiful books on biodiversity presented by Dorling Kindersley and Silver Jungle. Selected by the novelist and poet Sue Hubbard. To enter Writing the World visit Cool it Schools (www.coolitschools.com) the global online climate change and environmental project for young people, ‘Competitions’. Cool it Schools is a Biodiversity Education Partner with the Natural History Museum. Enquiries coolitschools@ukonline.co.uk

Celebrate the 2010 International Year of Biodiversity

The theme: Slip inside some scales, feathers, fur, or shell. Imagine you are a bird, fish, mammal, plant or insect, even an amoeba, and write a poem about your changing environment. Your poem can be funny or serious but, hopefully, it will tell us something new about how species adapt to a changing planet. Decorate your poem with paint, crayons, grass or seeds, whatever material tells us a little more about your chosen subject.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Next week the if:book crew are off to The Hurst, the Arvon Foundation's Welsh base, to work on a digital sampler of work by mentored writers, then I'm speaking at a QCDA conference about Hotbook and other projects while we prepare for our schools project to be available for download after halfterm.

In May I'll be in Australia, working with Kate Eltham and the new Australian Institute for the Future of the Book in Brisbane and then appearing at THIS EVENT.

19 MAY
Meanland: Reading in a Time of Technology
The Wheeler Centre Auditorium, 6:15PM - 7:15PM, Wednesday 19 May 2010

Adrienne Nicotra explains how educational wikis might replace text books; novelist and programmer Paul Callaghan demonstrates the role narrative plays in today’s computer games; and the poet/composer Klare Lanson explores the intersection of music and text.

Friday, 5 February 2010

illegal parking? you decide!

Filmed outside the Poetry Society. "parked with one or more wheels on or over a footpath or any part of a road other than a carriageway"?

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

steve jobs in book group shock

This is one of the images on the Apple site showing off the wonders of the iPad. I was interested to see that it contains notes about someone's book group. Makes a change from all that guff about enjoying cool photos of windsurfing holidays. Here's another cool photo of a person asleep in a library.

lornch ov hotbook at tha freeeewerd senter

The HOTBOOK is a mini social network, stitched together from cardboard, tape and bits of found technology and sent back in time via the TSPoser from the far flung future.
Originally designed by Chris Wilks in Moodle form, the project was extensively piloted in three schools after which we asked Anna Pitt to make a version which could be downloaded by schools to sit on their server. The HOTBOOK contains new writing by Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph, Naomi Alderman and many more, beautifully realised in different digital forms by Toni Le Busque. Following feedback from schools that they wanted more ideas on teaching activities to use with each Litch Bit, a brilliant guide has been created by poet Daljit Nagra, if:book's Sasha Hoare and Queensbridge school's Jo Klaces and Ellie Clarke.

Wendy Cooling is a children's book expert and the originator of the Bookstart scheme; Cory Doctorow writes science fiction and contributes to one of the most popular blogs in the world.
Both were at the launch of our major education practice, which is pleasing as the HOTBOOK hopes to build bridges between page-loving teachers and students focused on the networked screen.

Students and staff from Queensbridge School Birmingham talked about their favourite litch bits and showed off the box they found when the first message arrived from the future asking them to help create the Museum of the History of the Book.

Roland Marden, Head of Research at Booktrust, talking about the success of the HOTBOOK with boys and 'lower ability' students

The wonderful Eleanor Clarke, Head of English, and Jo Klaces, Creative Agent at Queensbridge talking about the impact of the HOTBOOK on her students of all abilities, including the two utterly brilliant young people who spoke at the launch about how much they liked Toni's film of Wilfred Owen's Dulce et Decorum Est and Cindy Oswin's Chaucer remix in particular.

I was delighted to be able to announce that Everythingweb.net is generously providing hosting support for the project - and over 340 schools from the UK and around the world have already registered interest in downloading the HOTBOOK which is currently being tested in a small number of schools and will be freely available from our website in the next few weeks.

Photos by Hattie Coppard. More to follow


Interesting post from Martyn Daniels with solid information on the eye strain question. Here's an extract.

"Finally we have the battle between backlit LCD and eInk and the claims and counter claims on the health effect of screen technology. The recent Taipei International Book Exhibition saw several companies promoting LCD devices aimed at schoolchildren. We have already seen many initiatives to ditch textbooks and go digital in education. LCD screens are less expensive than e-paper screens and obviously offer full colour and multimedia and the new iPad also has an LCD screen. The American Optometric Association finds the tie between eye strain, blurred vision, headaches and neck pain and LCD inconclusive and based on current evidence it is 'unlikely that the use of VDTs (video display terminals) causes permanent changes or damage to the eyes or visual system.' "