Writing Platform Bursary winners: the new writers

Leila Johnston, Managing Editor, The Literary Platform

As we announced on our news page recently, the first beneficiaries of The Writing Platform bursary scheme for writer-technologist partnerships have been awarded. 

The two winning teams, Caden Lovelace @neoeno & Laura Grace @usherette and Ben Gwalchmai @BenGwalchmai & James Wheale @JamesWheale, will work on their digital literature projects for three months, completing them on 30th June 2013. They will then present a piece of work or prototype at Bath Spa’s Mix Day on July 17. We’ll be following their progress here too of course, and the work will be showcased on this site and on The Writing Platform. All four winners put forward some great ideas, and there is a new, in-depth interview, with Ben Gwalchmai and James Wheale over on Publishing Perspectives.

For now, though, I wanted to talk a little bit about why I thought these teams are so potentially exciting.

On the Publishing Perspectives site, Ben Gwalchmai and James Wheale write:

“Favourite characters, like old friends, follow us wherever we go. Now it’s our turn to follow them. Fabler is a simple concept: the more you walk, the more you hear. When you stop, it stops. We want you to move through stories. Literally.

As you progress through an audio story, you unlock extra content, such as additional story material, coupons, offers, videos, urls etc. Further incentivising the experience.”

James and Ben met at the Books and Print Sandbox that was run by REACT at Bristol’s Watershed. We actually covered the project on this site back in January. Both create interactive content for a living, and coming from varied creative backgrounds, both are representative of the changing literary landscape. As they suggest in the Publishing Perspectives interview, they are not ‘writers’ or ‘creative technologists’ – but they wield toolkits, able to draw on their experience and switch fluidly from one skillset to another as the need arises. In this field, it no longer quite makes sense to describe oneself as a ‘writer’ or ‘tech’; many of us have skills in both these areas and more.

The same message came through in Laura Grace and Caden Lovelace’s applications. Games writer Laura is preoccupied with the structure of stories, “How can we guide a reader along a well-lit path,” she asks, “while still allowing them to make satisfying choices?” This is as much a technical question as a ‘creative writing’ one, and of course, these are the day-to-day thoughts that most creatives in our field take for granted. It is no longer enough that writers simply ‘write’ – they must be obsessed with configuring the whole picture, the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’. “How can we create parallel pathways through a story, without leaving the reader wondering if they chose the ‘best’ route?” asks Laura. “How can we make paths converge in one seemingly-inevitable ending? This stuff keeps me awake at night.”

Caden wrote: “We are writing more now than we have at any point in history. Writing has run away with us and it is only the fraying membrane of the new canon that is holding capital-w Writing together. Soon, text will burst forth like a swarm of angry bees into the living-room of literature. That, or I’m interested in code as writing.” Code as writing.

Code as writing; writing as code. Isn’t it, after all, just communication? We still talk to computers by writing to them, and increasingly, in the digital world, we talk to other humans through writing too. Writing to computers or people is still the most trusted way of serving up instructions and creating simulations – that is, painting pictures in minds, whether those brains are fleshy or synthetic.

Keep an eye on this blog and our sister site The Writing Platform to follow the progress of these two teams over the next month or so.

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