All stories are fractal. Here’s why.

I like this piece by Damien Waller [see link below]. Particular what he says about structure; like it or loathe it, ‘it’s bigger than we are’. Of course it is but what kind of structure you use and how is not entirely sewn up with the classic three act structure form that has come to dominate our narrative appetite. Stories are fractal and for them to work on many levels, as the best stories do they must be written with this fractal structure firmly in mind. I think this idea is given more credence in our digital times where gaming narrative structures continue to challenge the classic three act, narrative arc form. And i think that’s a great thing. It’s a fee paying online course promotion post designed to whet your appetite but still…interesting read.

apologies if you hoped for a good cactus read: This post has nothing to do with cactus ; ) but they’re lovely right?

Source: All stories are fractal. Here’s why.

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Future Library first novel in progress

I love this project from Scottish artist Katie Paterson: Future Library Project. What an honour it would be to be one of the invited authors. Margaret Atwood is such a fitting first contributor and even such an established literary figure as her  feels delighted to be taking part. The idea of commissioning an author a year to write a novel that will then only be seen in 2114 when it is published on paper made from trees planted a few months ago is simple and prompts the ‘that’s an obvious idea’ response when first heard that all great ideas do. Of course someone should do this.  It’s a creative and almost magical celebration of the imaginative life of books and the power of libraries as exquisiste collections of all that the human mind is capable. A perfect artwork as its form matches it concept ‘deliciously’ – a word Atwood uses herself to describe her involvement. I only wish I could be around to see it’s realization. But the fact I’m wont somehow only heightens the project’s allure.

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What is it with mothers’ blogging?

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First time at Mumsnet Blogfest [now in it’s third year] and I have come away feeling inspired about blogging and the genuine empowerment it gives to women from all kinds of backgrounds and with all kinds of interests. I met a secret divorcee, a jewellery and crafts maker, a business advisor, a designer, a fashion stylist, someone who does amazing things with vintage fabrics, all of them mothers, most are wives [or exes] and all are dynamic individuals following their passions as women in an age defining activity – blogging. It’s a place where all of us can share our experiences of motherhood and intimate personal relationships – something as women we all share but also express ourselves beyond the tag of mother/wife/partner etc to other like minded souls without leaving the house. Something like approximately 80% of all bloggers are female. So what is it about blogging that attracts women and in particularly mothers? Traditionally ‘stuck at home with the kids’ women can now communicate with a global audience. We can share our interests and passions and experiences and feel connected and validated. Rather than isolated and alone. Is it the ease with which you can take part in wider society while still fulfilling your family commitments? Perhaps. But more than this I think it is about writing. Whatever you’re writing about writing requires a level of reflexivity – of reflection that makes meaning in our lives. Writing allows us to catch hold of at least some of the things we experience everyday and hold it dear. The discipline and structure involved in putting even just a paragraph or two together bring you out of the maelstrom of life – particularly family life – and like a meditation allows you space to think. This might seem like a small deal in the scale things – but life is made up of small things and as I age and life moves faster I value this space to reflect more and more. I started blogging as a way of connecting to my students [I am a writer and lecturer] but since having my now 3 and half year old and 6 month old boys I want to write about my transition into motherhood. I even embarked on a PhD around this subject. [See my about and research pages] I would love to know why you blog? Why did you start blogging? Has your reasons for continuing changed? if so how? Why?

The challenges of living as a writer in the 21st century

I’ve only published 2 short stories in print and received nothing but a small cash prize for one of them. Not payment as such. Being a paid writer is something I aspire to. To be paid one day for the work I write would allow me to have the focussed writing life I’ve long desired, a chance to tell stories, explore ideas and develop my craft. But the market likelihood of this ever happening seems to lessen year by year by the corrosion of creative copyright laws and a digitally minded society with generations who increasingly resent paying for anything.

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/mar/02/bestseller-novel-to-bust-author-life

This somewhat disheartening but realistic survey of the state of things for writers wishing to write for a living summarizes the problems anyone considering writing as a profession, rather than writing for a hobby. Not that I’m disparaging the values of writing as a hobby – there are many – but rather a situation surrounding creative copyright that would have us all content providers but not a one getting paid. Technology disseminates, enables and living it with is inevitable but if the only people who make any money are the handful who run the digital distribution platforms,  the content providers – designers, filmmakers, musicians, writers must look elsewhere for an income. A situation that might well result in a era of bust for independent authorship, free voice or original thinking. It will certainly mean a lean time of belt tightening for anyone desiring an old fashioned life of letters. The challenge for writers is to find ways of reinventing this notion of a committed and serious life of words while staying true to its heart and purpose and the personal and creative integrity that that entails.

How We Become – Update

How We Become Who We Are is the working title of my doctorate novel. Today I had a bit of breakthrough with voice and character perspective – always a major challenge when beginning a novel and the answer to the most important question of all at this stage. What kind of novel am I writing? So far I’ve tried third person past tense, first person present tense – fortunately i’ve been able to exclude other options for this particular novel – sometimes the mind edits subconsciously – for this I am thankful.  Neither on their own has felt right. So today after 4 hours of dissatisfactory reworking of the first 10 pages I come up with the mind shatteringly brilliant solution [please hear the sarcasm] of trying both. And I like it. I spent way too long on my previous novel writing in the wrong perspective – third person past tense – when what works best for it – and how it is now – is first person present. Somehow everything I wanted to say about the main character, her predicament and the themes/ideas suddenly sounded true when I’d found the right POV in which to present them. Spending so much time on finding the voice or perspective of your novel can feel like you going nowhere slowly. You might gaze longingly as your word count objectives for this week/month as they pass by ludicrously out of reach. But in fact the work you are doing is in many ways the most important work of all. Words on a page is what you can do. You are a writer. Putting the RIGHT words on the page – well that takes a better writer and that’s what you want to be isn’t it? With each novel you want to become a better writer. Better answer that question of what kind of novel am I writing then. Because when you have the voice everything else follows – form, structure, language not to mention your background research to do list. Then you can really start putting words on the page.

Automatic-Writing-Ron-Athey-©-Roshana-Rubin-Mayhew_108_595

How We Become Who We Are

How We Become Who We Are is my doctorate novel about the stories we tell that make us who we are online and the gaps between our real and virtual lives.

Is this myself, or are we merely fictions – David Shields reality hunger

From How We Become

‘Frankie knew the internet was a slippery thing. She knew how easy it was to get caught up. So many diversions, distractions, lies, fantasies, desires in one place. If it’s not selling you something it’s telling you something, making something, faking something. Sapping life out of the new, squeezing the value out of everything. Frankie had too often had enough. But as she watched the stats of her youtube channel pass 1 million subscribers she ascended from the merely ordinary to somewhat remarkable. It was a good feeling. A feeling she felt she deserved. For the first time in her life Frankie had assets. Assets that, if she played her hand right, could fundamentally change her life.’

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How Should A Person Be?

Time for a little re-branding. After a bit of a break I am coming back to this blog with new enthusiasm and a slightly new angle. I am going on maternity leave in 3 months and have few teaching commitments in that time [or after for a period too of course] I am going to use this Blog to share thoughts, information and ideas about a broader range of subjects – see my strap line. I have nicked my Blog’s subtitle from a brilliant if controversial book I recently read by Canadian author Sheila Heti. Her 2013 novel/memoir How Should A Person Be? addresses this age old philosophical question in a provocative and striking way and reflects the theme of the content here. It also, conveniently, ring-fences a field of inquiry that legitimizes posting on all sorts of subjects – social, cultural, political, literary, cinematic – and post i will.  I’ll be offering a short personal review of Heti’s book soon.

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Writing in a Digital Age –

Brilliant summing up of last weekend’s conference by writer and journalist Molly Flatt

http://www.bookbrunch.co.uk/pid/article_free/the_literary_consultancy_writing_in_a_digital_age

who herself made an impassioned call for words not gimmicks as writers and technologists etch out mutual ground. An inspiring and thought provoking two days. Set up by Rebecca Swift and Jon Slack of The Literacy Consultancy  the conference covered both business and creative ends of the digital discussion.http://www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk/events/literary-conference-2013/2013-programme/

more anon no doubt

Week 9: The End of Books…

This week we will be looking at Writing About You Work in preparation for your critical commentary essay assessment element and Multi-Modal Story telling, Digital and E-Literature. With regard to the former you are required to submit a 1000 word essay critically reflecting on your creative writing practice [your responses to 4 out of the 5 experimental modals of creative writing presented on the course]. You should identify the key strategies presented with each model and how you have adapted and interpreted these for your own work. You should reflect on and assess your work according to the works’ achievements in adhering to and/or developing the original author’s strategy, using references and demonstrating the depth of your understanding of the methods and context of the work through close textual analysis, self reflection and critical comment [don’t forget to reference the Everyday Life Theory we covered too].

Multi-Modal Story telling, Digital and E-Literature

Digital literature is a term is used in a number of ways. It can mean anything that finds itself presented in computational form; it is the preferred term for any new writing that is generated and designed to be read digitally – in North America the term E-literature is favoured for this type of work. Basically both terms refer – in their purest sense – to work that is ‘digital born’ representing both a strategy and form of new writing that sets out to make use of the non-linear narrative capabilities of digital language. Veering away from the constraints of singular, linear cause and effects narrative relationships to more complex, network neonarratives. The latter can be said to represent the a paradigm shift in the way we understand the world and seek to make sense of it through stories. [An amusing and interesting aside – http://youtu.be/nJmGrNdJ5Gw]

Here’s an article from the NEW YORK TIMES  that provides a good introduction to e-literature. It is published in 1992 – so practically ancient history – but very interesting both for its description of what this ‘new’ art form is and could be – but also as a historical object.

http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/09/27/specials/coover-end.html

The form began with hypertext

“”Hypertext” is not a system but a generic term, coined a quarter of a century ago by a computer populist named Ted Nelson to describe the writing done in the nonlinear or nonsequential space made possible by the computer. Moreover, unlike print text, hypertext provides multiple paths between text segments, now often called “lexias” in a borrowing from the pre-hypertextual but prescient Roland Barthes. With its webs of linked lexias, its networks of alternate routes (as opposed to print’s fixed unidirectional page-turning) hypertext presents a radically divergent technology, interactive and polyvocal, favoring a plurality of discourses over definitive utterance and freeing the reader from domination by the author. Hypertext reader and writer are said to become co-learners or co-writers, as it were, fellow-travelers in the mapping and remapping of textual (and visual, kinetic and aural) components, not all of which are provided by what used to be called the author.” Extract from above article in NY Times.

Early Hypertext fiction used a writing environment called Storyspace – which you can have a look at here

http://www.eastgate.com/storyspace/index.html

A significant trend in more recent work in this field explore the narrative possibilities that exists in the convergence between new multimedia and writing. Exploring exciting new storying possibilities as sound, image and text combine to make new story worlds that reflect our own increasingly complex, multi-connected lives.

See

http://pinepoint.nfb.ca/

and

http://www.inanimatealice.com/about.html

and

http://www.chrisjoseph.org/

On Chris Joseph’s site I recommend tube lines [first left on grid] and i wake at eight [near the bottom far left] – lots of other great work on their too.

It is clear to see how the experimental and new writing writing strategies we have studied on the course lead us here…

Week 7: Psychogeography / Inner and Outer Journeys

psychogeography[1]This week we’ll be reading and thinking about psychogeography with a view to writing your next project [Project 5].  As a form or style or genre of writing it is, as with many of the forms we’ve explored so far, hard to define but it is characterized by the writer taking a solitary walk through a particualr environment. It is often a journey taken on the edge of places or that explore places on retreat or in decline. With this in mind much psychogeography is concerned with documenting loss or change. The 18th cnetrury poet John Clare is often cited as setting the precedent for this kind of writing – famous for his celebratory representations of the English Country side when enclosure legislation threatened an end to country life as was then known with its freedom to roam. More recently Will Self and Iain Sinclair have both – and with idiosyncraatic colour – made this style of writing a central part of their writing and intellectual practice.

Please read and watch the following and be prepared to come with responses and ideas for your own exploration of this for next class.

Sinclair on ‘motiveless walking’

Sinclair ‘On London’ extract

Sinclair ‘London Orbital’ ‘look inside’ chapter 1

Self – South Downs Way [extract]

The uses of Psychogeography – Self

What is Psychography?

Psychogeography has its soots in situationism of which Guy Debord was a key member Psychogeography was defined in 1955 by Guy Debord as “the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals.”[. If you haven’t already read Perspective for Conscious Alterations of Everyday Life [see Week 2]  [Highmore Everyday Life reader] then do!

Watch [at least] some of this film:

There is a translation of French Voice Over available by following the link to a blog on the You Tube page. it’s very interesting to observe the way the camera’s eyes sees. With the v/o processes specific ideas and interpretations about ‘the seen’.

And for another fascinating filmic response to psychogeographical approaches to ‘landscape and journey writing have a look at Andrew Kottings Gallivant [UK 1995]. if you have a look at Sinclair’s web site you’ll see they’ve worjed together quite a bit.