Friday, 20 December 2013

2013 nearly over - annual update

BELOW is an update on what if:book UK has been up to over the past year. Thanks for your interest and support.

IN 2013…

I appeared on BBC Radio 4’s Cultural Exchange in January, in a discussion chaired by Mark Lawson to launch this year’s cultural festival
was keynote speaker at a conference in Pitlochry organised by AmbITion Scotland;
spoke at the Heart of English event at the Royal Society of Arts and am now part of the group looking at how best to support good teaching of English in schools;
devised and performend NEARLY with dancer Jia-Yu Corti at Chisenhale Dance Space and the Live Literary Lounge at Kings Place during Jewish Book Week;
completed a successful pilot of SET POETRY FREE at Queensbridge School Birmingham;
was a judge for the second year of the Bologna Children’s Bookfair Digital Prize for children’s book apps;
took part in consultations over the ACE Envisioning Libraries report;
lectured to writing students at  East London University;
ran a workshop at the British Council for visiting literary activists from around the world;
ran an if:book stand at Free Word’s open day for associates and members; 
tutored Arvon Jerwood mentored writers on digital possibilities at the Totleigh Barton centre;
initiated a new IFSOFLO support group for writers and literature professionals with Luke Roberts of indie publisher Choc Lit;
spent a week at Sharjah Children’s Reading Festival in May running digital writing workshops for Children, working with performance artist Joakim Stampe;
designed and launched the IFSOPRESS.COM website as a place for collaborative reading home-cooked by if:book
ran a Collaborative Writing Weekend in Suffolk during which participants wrote this murder mystery:
co-ordinated a Collaborative Writing week with this year’s Arvon Jerwood mentored writers during which they wrote a script together.
spent time observing, drawing and writing about Gillett Square Hackney for M.A. research by Hattie Coppard into public space and play;
gave a Canon Tale at The Literary Consultancy’s annual Digital Writing Conference;
joined the board of Modern Poetry in Translation, a wonderful magazine founded in 1965 by Ted Hughes, and have been advising on its digital strategy 
spoke on a panel on digital publishing at Stoke Newington Lit Fest;
as Hornsey Library’s nearlywriter in residence, ran the first Nearlywriting Nearlydancing workshop with Jia-Yu Corti;
hosted a night of Nearlyology at the Rocking Chair Café, London involving short talks and readings by people telling things that nearly happened to them,
was commissioned to write a poem set to music by local musicians and performed by dancers from Hornsey School;
appeared as Poet in the Phone Box as part of Crouch End Festival
developed the website, writing fiction and nearlysongs with the Ifso Band.
commissioned Lisa Gee to write a piece for on the New Media Writing Prize, providing links to the winning works since the prize came into existence.
spoke at the Backflow Conference this October at Spitz on the Danube in Austria, part of the annual ELIT European Literature Days.
I’m a judge of the New Media Writing Prize this winter, run by Bournemouth University, and, for the third year, of the Bologna Ragazzi Digital Prize in February
To explore the potential for an annual writing event, we ran a pilot collaborative writing weekend at the Vicarage in Hackney Central involving a movement workshop with dancer Andrew Harrington and photography by Will Jennings.
if:book has appointed Luke Roberts its first Collaborative Writer In Residence, as a pilot for future commissions to authors exploring digital possibilities for literature. Luke will be working on his novel as well as collaborative projects and co-ordinating the ifso writers group’s activities.
Work created will be published by The Ifso Press on  a site designed to offer readers and teachers some good stories and poetry to read, plus resources for schools and bookgroups, which is now the home for a team of writers who are working together to help each other develop and amplify their fiction.

nearly 2014

It’s Nearly 2014 and a good time to tell friends and associates of if:book UK and IFSOFLO about my plans for the year ahead. 

It's Nearly 2014 so a good time to tell you what's happening next.

I’m writing digital fiction on a practice based PhD at Bath Spa University in NEARLYWRITING & NEARLYOLOGY. As I compose and research this, I’ll be running NEARLY TIMES at venues around the country, and if you or a library/festival/café/gallery/venue you know of would like to book one, or an element of it, or be involved in the project in any way, please email me.


On a Nearly Day I sit in a public place – like a café, pop up gallery, library, festival - with a sign up inviting people to tell me their nearly stories and write them on cards which I display, put on website and some of which will be included in my novel What Didn’t Quite. I bring a display of Nearly Art, ‘I nearly’ badges, copies of The Nearly Times newspaper etc.

During the day I write and chat, can give a talk, run a workshop and/or offer one to one advice on nearlywriting and digital possibilities for literature.

Later I run a Nearly Night where I tell the story of the Nearlyology, sing nearly songs, then invite audience members and invited guests to stand up and tell their nearlies. The events we’ve done so far have been fascinating, funny, moving and entertaining.

So far we’ve run nearly days in Bristol with the artists collective Alldaybreakfast, and as part of the Crouch End Festival, and are keen to do more.

Please contact me if you'd like to book a Nearly Day or elements of it for your venue, festival, workplace, library… Fee negotiable and concept adaptable to your needs.

Additional elements can include: music from The Ifso Band, a five piece combo; a Nearlydancing workshop with choreographer Jia-Yu Corti; bigger collaborative writing projects etc designed to suit the host’s requirements etc.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Restarting Point

I haven't put much on this blog lately but it seems the right place to say this.   

I’m about to embark on the PhD in Digital Writing at Bath Spa University, and before the project is put into this academic setting it seems important to reflect on what I’m on about in my own terms.

Instead of working quietly and privately on a text which might eventually be published at which point it could be promoted through live events, and a website, could even be published online in some kind of enhanced digital form, I’ve started the other way round, with an idea that at its heart involves reader response and which I want to develop through live events and workshops as well as private writing time. I’m planning to ‘publish’ chunks of it in different formats as I go along, and the composition process will involve collaborations with others and the final work will include song, images and animation as well as text. Why? Because it’s created on a device that can make all these things, and because my imagination and intelligence expresses itself in this range of ways. There’s nothing gimmicky about this. To me it seems much more natural than cutting off from the world and reducing my options to putting black print on white paper.

Yes, I’m concerned that I might have given the idea away before it’s written, that collaboration might dilute the final product, that the distractions of the networked life may keep me from the creative task in hand. But a good idea is resilient enough to cope with some exposure as it evolves. and I’m also aware that the final work is unlikely to attract as many dedicated readers as those who might like the jist and pick up a trace of that and move on – but this has always been true. I could fill a library with the books I haven’t read but know enough about to mention in conversation. Marketing spreads awareness of a work wide in hope of netting a small proportion of those it touches.

Right now I feel very excited. I’m taking a short course in Flash animation at the City Lit, working with the Ifso Band on recordings of some of the songs I’ve written in the persona of a character in the novel, I’m handing out copies of the NEARLY TIMES to friends and colleagues, scattering copies in cafes, trains and places where people might happen across them, reading a fantastic novel by one of my supervisors to be at Bath Spa, meeting with a group of writers to explore how we can work together, sorting out work issues in preparation for my new beginning.. and even managing to do some writing.

Meanwhile I’m keen to make contact with writers interested in this project and way of working. So.. here are my ‘research questions’:

To what extent have activities such as reader development projects, public workshops and websites with interactive elements and digital illumination, previously seen as purely promotional and ancillary to literature, become central to the creative act of storytelling in the age of social media and digital publishing?

What are the skills and support structures needed by writers to create, edit, promote and amplify work that takes full advantage of the creative potential of new media and the web?

Things we nearly do are as important as what we’ve actually done.
In the digital age we can take one path but follow others virtually; with self publishing and social media, there is no clear division between the published and unpublished. I want to explore through fiction the implications of all this ‘nearlyness’ for our sense of self.

The project is about allowing a narrative to grow organically using whatever platforms and collaborators seem appropriate. To me this creative exploration is what’s been missing from debate about the future of fiction.

I will explore the research questions in the commentary to my creative project NEARLYOLOGY, an evolving digital fiction.

I will:
Write WHAT DIDN’T QUITE, a novel-length narrative, published online and on paper in a variety of formats including iBook, epub, print, on a website, and in episodes

write an album of songs written in the voice of one of the characters in the fiction

create a graphic element to the narrative

co-ordinate a reader generated stream of stories, some incorporated in the text, others running alongside it

generate collaborative fictions spinning off from the core narrative concerning characters in the story and nearlyincidents of very different kinds

make a series of collaborative works around the theme of Nearlyness with dancers, digital makers and performance artists, musicians, poets etc. and run public workshops with writers, dancers, performance artists linked to the piece.

I’ve already started the novel, written some songs, run workshops on nearlywriting, and on all sides this project feels ripe for development within an academic context.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

nearly store

Here's the Nearly Store I've set up at the Library Cafe in Hornsey including Nearly Times which I made through the Newspaper Club and it looks lovely. All part of the process I'm out to explore, making a fiction with whatever collaborators, platforms and happenings seem appropriate as it goes along. I'm enjoying myself so far.


I've been updating the layout of the blog and find all the widgets have disappeared and only 2 posts show... although my dashboard shows all looking fine. Maybe it's some glitch at google and normality will resume but.. I'm baffled.

But now all is well again. 

doctor nearly

I'm delighted to say that I've been accepted for a fee waiver practice based PhD in Digital Writing at Bath Spa University. I'll be working with such wonderful people as Kate Pullinger, Naomi Alderman, and fellow PhDs include if:book associate Lisa Gee and Christine Wilks, past winner of the New Media Writing Prize. I'll be working on the Nearlyology and a guide to Nearlywriting.

Monday, 17 June 2013

modern poetry in digitisation

New Web and Communications Role at MPT

Following a successful Catalyst bid MPT is looking for a new team member to support the development of our web and communications strategy.
This is an exciting opportunity to collaborate on an internationally important, UK-based poetry magazine, founded by Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort and currently edited by Sasha Dugdale. MPT, one of very few journals specializing in the translation of poetry, is supported by the ACE as a National Portfolio Organisation.
The successful candidate will have a proven track record in the use of digital media in the arts and experience in and enthusiasm for digital innovation in literature and the arts. We are also looking for someone with a history of contributing to successful funding bids in the area of digital media and the arts. MPT will be fundraising over the next two years for large digital development projects and the successful candidate will be a vital part of this process.
Web-editing skills and experience of using social networking for arts promotion are essential, as is excellent written English and proofing skills.
You will work closely with the Editor and the Managing Editor, who is responsible for overseeing all financial and administrative matters. Both are answerable to the Board of Trustees, which meets quarterly in London. This is a home-based self-employed role but with a requirement to attend launches / events and other meetings. The candidate will be expected to use their own PC and mobile telephone, and have a good broadband connection.
Salary: £5,200 per annum (approx. 35 hours per month flexible) on a self-employed basis, initially on a six-month fixed term contract which can be extended for a further eighteen months (two years in total). The contract may be renewed after this period subject to appropriate funding being found.
Closing date: 1st July 2013. Interviews: 16th July 2013, London.
For more information and application form please go to:

Free Drawing at the Sharjah Children's Bookfair

Monday, 13 May 2013

psycholiterogeographiapp is the place to go to download the free GIMBAL app made by Ra Page's Comma Press, specialists in short fiction. The Gimbal allows you to download just the right length and style of story to fit any journey, or to explore in the city you travel to.

Ra writes: "Basically it's a free app that offers you an additional layer to what and how you read a city. You listen to the story being read, whilst the app plots a route for you through the city which the main character is taking,. it literally takes you where they're going. You can, of course, make excursions, explore nearby points of interest, landmarks, or just go off piste.

COMMA publish people like David Constantine, Sean O'Brien, Adam Marek, Jane Rogers and a lot of writers in traslation, including the very interesting Iraqi author, Hassan Blasim.

Download and experiment. This is similar to the app called Phictive which we nearly made with Timo Hannay and others some years ago. But this one really does exist and looks good. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

ifsoflo salon reborn

IFSOFLO SALON at the Candid Cafe June 3rd 7.00 with contributions from writer and publishing person Luke Roberts, publishers Sidekick Press, non fiction author and collector Bill Mayblin, Chris on ifsoflo, plus short extracts from a couple of pieces of new writing to give feedback on. 
An evening of discussion about inspirational and innovative practice in literature. If you'd like to come, email me. Places limited.

nearly events and ifsoflo updates

I've not been updating the blog lately but putting more on the IFSOFLO facebook page and putting energy into IFSOFLO.COM, which is our new space for collaborative reading and writing, literature happenings homecooked by if:book. Meanwhile I'm working hard on stuff.

Here's more on IFSOFLO events for the Crouch End Festival:

16 Park Road, Crouch End, N8 8TD

THURSDAY 13th JUNE 7 – 9pm 
An evening of stand up short talks starting with the words “I nearly..” 
“I nearly… led my whole life as a lie”
“I nearly… didn’t set fire to the wedding photos”
“I nearly… made a movie and I can describe it exactly”
“I nearly… really met Bob Dylan”

Throughout the festival
Nearlyologist and author Chris Meade will be gathering stories of the things we nearly did that we’d like the world to know about.
Call in at the Rocking Chair Café or Hornsey Library Café to give him your nearly and collect a free badge

IF you’d like to tell your nearly, email


A workshop by writer Chris Meade and dancer Jia-Yu Corti

Share things that nearly happened to you and turn them into stories and poems, then work with Jia-Yu on using movement to inspire, explore and perform. Open to writers prepared to move about a bit and dancers wanting to write things down.

Free event but places very limited. Please email for more details.

Chris and Jia-Yu met when they were participants in the Turner Prize nominated These Associations by Tino Sehgal at Tate Modern last summer and collaborated on NEARLY, a performance at the Chisenhale Dance Space and the Live Literary Lounge at Kings Place as part of Jewish Book Week.
Chris runs IFSOFLO PRODUCTIONS, makers of literature happenings.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

this sounds exciting

UK TOUR | MAY 10-25 2013

Electronic Voice Phenomena is a new experimental literature, performance and music show that feeds on the corpse of paranormal pseudo-science.

The EVP programme takes its inspiration from Konstantin Raudive's notorious 'Breakthrough' experiments of the 1970s, where he captured voices-from-beyond in electronic noise. Themes of otherness, the profane and the divine join with new approaches to writing speaking and performing in a suite of new interlaced works - featuring poets Hannah SilvaRoss Sutherlandand SJ Fowler, and hauntological synth-pop group Outfit.*


All tickets are now onsale.


* Special guests include Hetain Patel, Richard Milward, Holly Pester & more.
  See full listings for details.


Twitter  @_EVP

Produced by Mercy & Penned in the Margins
Funded by Arts Council England

Tuesday, 19 February 2013


if:book's contribution to AmbITion Scotland's day on the future of the book at Pitlochry this January. See the rest at:

Friday, 1 February 2013

looking for the heart of english

Michael Boyd of the RSC. Sue Horner.. and me at the RSA discussing where the Heart of English is now, part of a national conversation on the future of the curriculum. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

january update

My amazing mum died in December so this is a sad and transitional time. Normal service will be resumed soon, but meanwhile here's a reminder of what if:book's been up to lately.

I started 2013 by appearing on the Radio 4 debate on Cultural Exchange with Mark Lawson. 
What a shame mum missed that - she would have been impressed and reassured that my work involves more than drinking coffee and tapping on a laptop. 

Since October we’ve partnered on two major IFSOFLO events outside London:

The award ceremony for the New Media Writing Prize run with Bournemouth University, covered by the Independent and Bookbrunch. Shortlist and winner can be seen at

The first Literary Salon at Loughborough University organised in partnership with Writing East Midlands and the University publishing course.

Chris worked with poet in Inua Ellams on a Twitter poem for National Poetry Day. Inua has written about it for the blog and Set Poetry Free;

gave a seminar on if:book and Nearlyology at the Royal College of Arts for the MA in Critical Writing in November;

ran an if:book stall at the Literary Platform’s Writers Platform at Rich Mix, Hackney in November

spoke at the Folkestone Literature Festival panel on authors as publishers;

attended the roundtable evaluation of THE SPACE, Arts Council’s new digital arts site;

met with Hotkey Books, UK division of Bonnar children’s books to discuss commercial potential of ifsobooks; 

was part of an action research project for a play studio as part of the proposed Children’s Museum

was interviewed in STRUCTO magazine issue 8;

wrote a contribution for the Looking for the Heart of English national discussion on English teaching;

undertook some initial community building for The Global Hamlet crowd-translation project based in Italy

is the official Nearlywriter in Residence at Hornsey Library;

was a participant in the British Library Digital Futures event in December;

is speaking at the Heart of English event at the Royal Society of Arts;

will be providing digital training and support to next year’s intake of Arvon Jerwood mentored writers

is a judge of the 2nd Bologna Children's Bookfair Digital Award

 if:book stall at the Rich Mix event run by the Literary Platform

at Loughborough University