Digital Mentor

28 January 2009 in Press The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (0)

When I was working for the Royal Literary Fund I used to have the thrilling job title of Virtual Fellow. ‘Royal Literary Fund Virtual Fellow’ - a kind of dignified, literary version of Keanu Reeves in ‘The Matrix’. I stopped being a Virtual Fellow when I took the post at DMU; there my job title is Reader in Creative Writing and New Media, which is also cool, as it suggests that what I do is lie on a sofa and read stuff off my laptop all day everyday.

But now I’ve had a request from a poet, asking if I will do some work for her as a Digital Mentor.  This is even better than being a Virtual Fellow.  So, if anyone out there needs a bit of digital mentoring, I’m your girl!!  katepullinger (at) yahoo (dot) co (dot) uk.

Proofs of The Mistress of Nothing

27 January 2009 in The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (0)

Today the proofs of my new book arrived in the post!  This is the stage where the book has been typeset by the printers (totally out of date terminology, but you get my drift).  The writer receives a sheaf of loose A4 sheets, with the book laid out as it will be once it is bound - font, page numbers, etc.  You need to read through the book, looking for typographical errors.  The proofs are also read by one or two other people who are looking for the same kinds of mistakes.

Writers can make more substantial changes to the text at this stage, but this is expensive for the publisher; contracts tend to stipulate that above a certain percentage of pages (10% usually, sometimes less), the writer will need to pick up the cost of resetting the type. It strikes me that, in the digital age, this is probably a hangover from times past, and that resetting a book should be much easier now, but I could be wrong - I guess someone, somewhere, has to input the changes. At any rate, extensive changes at this stage are frowned upon, though I do have writer friends who have decided that their book does need substantial changes at proof stage, which they have gone ahead and paid to have done.

In my own experience, reading proofs is both pleasurable and profoundly queasy-making - this is it, this is really it, this is the book, take it or leave it.  In the past I’ve tended to make only a few tiny changes to the text - a word or phrase here or there, no more - alongside of correcting any typographical errors. But maybe this time will be different and I’ll go completely crazy and feel a desperate urge to rewrite the entire thing from beginning to end.

I won’t know until I read it.  Yikes.

Lifelines and Rising Stars

22 January 2009 in Future of Publishing Mentoring | Comments (0)

Chris Joseph and I are currently in discussion with award-winnng educational publishers Rising Stars over a big new multimodal story project.  We are hoping to get the green light for this soon.  Rising Stars approach publishing in a radically different way than what I’m accustomed to; they do extensive market testing prior to commissioning all their projects.  They travel the country talking to teachers and giving seminars and presentations; they take stands at the important industry fairs; and they produce glossy brochures that outline the projects in detail.  They green light a project when they can make a seriously educated guess about how the project will sell to schools.  With our project, ‘Lifelines’, they’ve been going through this process over the past three months - so we are almost there, but not quite.

Chris and I produced a little promotional demo for them to show people; it’s up on their website now.  You can take a look at it here.

Flight Paths Story Two:  Yacub at the Airport

20 January 2009 in Flight Paths | Comments (0)

Here’s another script from ‘Flight Paths’:

I told my family I was returning to Dubai.  I spent a long time over my good-byes.

My sister could tell that something was up, but I told no one my plans, not even her.  I found it hard not to cry.

At the airport, after passport control, I followed the instructions I had been given ?? for which I had paid ?? and found the unlocked door that led outside.

From the ground, the planes looked enormous, their lights blinking in the dusk.  The air stank of petrol and tyres.

I had less then fifteen minutes after darkness fell to find the correct airplane.
But I found it, and no one saw me, and I climbed up over the giant wheels and shimmied up the landing gear and folded myself onto the little shelf which was exactly where Aamer said it would be.

Terminal:  In Search of a New(er) Digital Literature

16 January 2009 in Inanimate Alice Rising Stars | Comments (1)

[caption id=“attachment_72” align=“alignleft” width=“288” caption=“An exhitition at Austin Peay State University”]An exhitition at Austin Peay State University[/caption]

Alan Bigelow has curated this gallery-based exhibition.  He has included ‘Inanimate Alice;  Episode One:  China’ in it.  This is a thrill for Chris and me; we’ve been included alongside some wonderful work. The online iteration of the exhibition is elegant and interesting.

Alan is a talented digital writer; you can find his work at His most recent work, ‘My Summer Vacation’ is a terrific piece of digital fiction that uses audio files and multiple points of view to tell a simple, dramatic story.  I met Alan last May when I attended the ELO Conference in Vancouver, Washington; we’d been conversing online for a couple of years by then and it was great to meet him in the flesh.  I find that when you meet people for real after knowing them online the experience is almost always completely fascinating; people are always just like they are online, except better.

I have no idea where Austin Peay State University is though, apart from the fact that it is in the US.  The show is in a physical gallery space, but for me it exists only in cyberspace.

More Future of Publishing

13 January 2009 in Future of Publishing | Comments (0)

Interesting discussion, ‘Myopia:  A Tale of Two Companies for 2009’, on, Michael Bhaskar and co’s blog at Pan MacMillan.

Just to add to the mix, writers need to be innovating, or at least thinking about innovating, too. Very few of the Creative Writing MA programmes up and down the land pay any attention at all to this stuff; this is probably because, like everything, these courses are market-driven and most aspiring writers aspire to write books. This may change as the born-digital generation comes of age. Of course, not all writers pass through the MA programmes, and there are plenty of writers out there who are at home in the digital environment. But it would be good to see already established writers coming up with ideas that, in turn, push their publishers to innovate.

Flight Paths Story One:  Yacub in Dubai

13 January 2009 in Flight Paths | Comments (0)

Chris and I have been thinking about how to make ‘Flight Paths’ easier for people to contribute to.  It’s clear that most people find the format we are currently using for the project a bit impenetrable and a little confusing.  It’s still remarkably hard to find a simple system for curating multimedia content online.  Our project at the moment is to create five hot spots, or plot points, from the beginning of the story, in the hope that people will be able to respond to these.  They will be little flash movies.  The texts you see here are first draft scripts for these five little movies; the texts are brief because they will play on a screen, accompanied by sound and image.  Send your creative responses, comments or thoughts to me at kate (at) flightpaths (dot) net.  I’m also posting these stories here on my blog, one at at time, and you can comment here too.


I went to Dubai from my home because I heard I could earn good money.

There was one man in my village who had been working in the UAE; he was injured on the building site when a section of scaffolding fell on his foot.  He had a lot of stories about what life was like in the workers camps, so I knew what to expect.

I liked the look of Dubai; I liked the idea of living somewhere where everything was new.

The plane to Dubai was full of men like me, all ages, although I was one of the youngest.

When we landed we were transported to the camp where we were to live ?? the conditions were not good, worse than at home ?? too many men.

But, I was happy, and when I got to the building site the next day - two hours by bus either way - I was happier still.  I wanted to work.  Now I had a job.  Now I would be paid.

Academic ‘publishing’

12 January 2009 in Future of Publishing | Comments (0)

There are some aspects of academic publishing I find totally baffling.  First off, they don’t seem to pay anyone for anything, secondly, they demand you give up your copyright for whatever you write for them, and thirdly, the books they produce are insanely expensive.

For example, I contributed an article to the fabulously titled Handbook of Research on Social Software and Developing Community Ontologies.  The article in question was co-authored by a small research group I’m part of,  We weren’t paid for the article, and I scratched out the bit in my contract where they asked me to give up my copyright forever and a day.  The book, which will come out next month, costs $265 US Dollars.  $265!!!  Clearly only university libraries will be able to buy it.  In the world of academic publishing, this is common practice.  What’s this about?!  What does this mean?  Where does this kind of publishing fit in with the Future of Publishing?  More importantly, where’s my free copy?

Look away, while I boast

12 January 2009 in The Mistress of Nothing | Comments (0)

This came in from my editor just now, about my final rewrite of ‘The Mistress of Nothing’:

‘What a superb job of rewriting you’ve done!  I’m terrifically impressed with how your changes/ new dialogue has fleshed out the whole, and added immeasurably to the characters, and the dynamics between them.  I’ve had to read a speed and have about 40 pages to go before taking it to the copy-editor in Muswell Hill this afternoon.  But I much enjoyed living with Sally and Omar and Lady D this w/e.  So - give yourself a massive pat on the back!!’

I’m aware that this sounds like something I wrote myself, but it really did come from Ruth Petrie, my editor at Serpent’s Tail.  Yippee!!!  Does this mean I can stop worrying now, fourteen years after embarking on writing this book?  Probably not, but still, it’s a relief.

Fiction and that 2.0 thing - ‘Networked’ and Turbulence

7 January 2009 in Flight Paths Future of Publishing Transliteracy | Comments (0)

Just before Christmas I submitted a proposal to;  they are commissiong five writers to contribute chapters to ‘Networked:  a (networked_book) about (networked_art)’.  Here’s my proposal:

‘Fiction and that 2.0 thing: what the network means to storytelling’

The concept of the networked book of non-fiction is not new and there is a long history of new media fiction works that include user-generated content.  But there are few fiction projects that from the earliest, research phase attempt to harness participatory media and audience generated content in the way that ‘Flight Paths: a networked novel’ is currently, and ‘A Million Penguins’, the Penguin/DMU wiki-novel, which Kate Pullinger led in collaboration with her MA students and Penguin UK, did in 2007. With that in mind, Pullinger would relish the opportunity to write a chapter for ‘networked’ that draws upon her considerable experience in this field.

Kate Pullinger is one of the only well established print novelists in the UK who is also involved with creating born-digital works of literature. She is closely involved with debates and discussions around issues to do with the future of the book, as well as writing and the internet. She helped set up the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media, the first degree of its kind, at De Montfort University in Leicester, where she is Reader in Creative Writing and New Media (a half-time post). At DMU she facilitated a collaboration between Penguin UK and a team of MA students to manage ‘A Million Penguins’, the Penguin/DMU wiki-novel; the wiki opened for contributions for five weeks in Feb-March 2007 and had over 1500 contributors and 80,000 readers. The success of this project, and the tremendous volume of debate it engendered, showed that participatory media is of huge importance to the future of both writing and reading.

Pullinger’s work on the multi-award winning ‘Inanimate Alice’, an on-going digital fiction in episodes, co-created with digital artist and writer Chris Joseph, has demonstrated that there is a desire for good quality interactive online story-telling among readers and educators. With ‘Inanimate Alice’, and the pedagogical community that is growing up alongside it, Pullinger has demonstrated her ability to reach large audiences across the world, covering a broad range of age and interest groups. ‘Inanimate Alice’ shows there is a deep hunger for involving stories, meaningful narratives, and content online that moves away from the promotion of consumer goods.

Pullinger’s other on-going fiction project, the Arts Council England funded ‘Flight Paths: a networked novel’, also co-created with Chris Joseph, attempts to explore the potential for writing, collaboration, reading and viewing online. ‘Flight Paths’ builds upon Pullinger’s established track record; while the world of traditional book publishing has been slow to respond to the opportunities afforded by the internet, ‘Flight Paths’ is a serious literary endeavour that seizes upon the possibilities for participation and inclusion that the network can provide.

Kate Pullinger and Chris Joseph began working on ‘Flight Paths: a networked novel’ in November 2007, collecting and creating stories, fragments, ideas, RSS feeds, news items, videos, photographs, sound files, and memories through By opening up the research and creative process to this net-native participatory media project from the outset, they have invited, received, and curated a range of reader-generated contributions, while continuing to create content for the project themselves. ‘Flight Paths’ resides in and on the network; it has no true life away from the network and is as far removed from the traditional print novel as fully-featured instant messaging is from the fax machine.

However, Pullinger also continues to write books; her new book, ‘The Mistress of Nothing’, a historical novel set in Egypt in 1864, is coming out in the UK in July 09.

Pullinger has yet to have an opportunity to step back from her experience of these projects in order to reflect upon the act of writing fiction in a networked context. The commission to write a chapter for ‘networked’ would enable her to do that, within a net-native, transdisciplinary framework of peer-review and collaboration. She would examine her own experience as a writer who has made the transition from writing for print to writing online across the network while continuing to write for print; she would look at issues around copyright and curation that arise from participatory projects; she would look at what it means to create a project about refugees, immigration and asylum in the context of crowdsourcing and mash-up; and she would look at what the network can bring to the traditional art of prose fiction.

I have finished my weekly supermarket shop, stocking up on provisions for my three kids, my husband, our dog and our cat.  I push the loaded trolley across the car park, battling to keep its wonky wheels on track.  I pop open the boot of my car and then for some reason, I have no idea why, I look up, into the clear blue autumnal sky.  And I see him.  It takes me a long moment to figure out what I am looking at.  He is falling from the sky.  A dark mass, growing larger quickly.  I let go of the trolley and am dimly aware that it is getting away from me but I can’t move, I am stuck there in the middle of the supermarket car park, watching, as he hurtles toward the earth.  I have no idea how long it takes ?? a few seconds, an entire lifetime ?? but I stand there holding my breath as the city goes about its business around me until??

He crashes into the roof of my car.

From ‘Flight Paths: a networked novel’

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