99 Reasons Why: an unseen ending

March is the month for hosting it seems! There will be a Q&A with Vanessa Gebbie next Friday, and this week I’d like to introduce you to 99 Reasons Why by Caroline Smailes.

Kate isn’t like 22 year olds. She’s got a job to do for her Uncle Phil. Each day, she spies on The Kevin Keegan Day Nursery across the road from her bedroom window, writing down all of the comings and goings in her notebooks. That’s how she spots her little girl in the pink coat. She likes her, and it isn’t long before Kate asks her mum to steal the girl for her. Plans are made. But then, quite unexpectedly, Kate flashes her breasts out her bedroom window at the little girl’s father. And that’s the reason why nothing will ever be the same again…

99 Reasons Why is a book with a difference, and it’s catching a lot of attention. It is only being published as an ebook and comes with 9 different endings which readers can navigate using multiple choice questions on your Kindle or via a spinning story wheel on your iPad or iPhone – ideal for those of you who started using the new iPad since the 16th! There are also two additional endings. One is the ending that will be handwritten by Caroline and auctioned for charity, and the other is here for your reading pleasure today!

If you haven’t already read 99 Reasons Why you can find it either for your Kindle on Amazon, or your iPad / iPhone on iTunes. And if you haven’t yet, but you have an urge to start at one of the possible endings…read on!

99: the reason why I was only worth ninety-nine quid

It’s been six days since the little girl in the pink coat went missing and me Uncle Phil’s in me bedroom.

We’ve been watching the little girl in the pink coat’s mam on the news. She was appealing to the public for witnesses.

‘Didn’t realise she had a mam,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Everyone’s got a mam, pet,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘She sold her story to The Sun,’ I says, looking at me telly.

‘Got a few quid,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘She wanted nowt to do with that bairn before all this,’ me Uncle Phil says, looking at me telly.

‘Do you know where she is?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Belle?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘She’s safe,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘Your mam’s keeping an eye on her.’

‘Can I be her mam?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘No, pet, you’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Can you make Andy Douglas come back, Uncle Phil?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

Me Uncle Phil shakes his head.

‘I love him,’ I tell me Uncle Phil.

‘Andy Douglas is your brother, pet. You didn’t seriously think Princess Di was your mam, did you?’ me Uncle Phil asks me.

I nod.

‘You’re a cradle snatcher just like your mam,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I nod.

‘Your mam miscarried when she found out I’d been banging Betty Douglas. Betty was expecting you,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

‘When you was born, your mam went mad and I ended up buying you from Betty Douglas for ninety-nine quid,’ me Uncle Phil says.

‘Ninety-nine quid?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘I paid a hundred but got a quid change for some chips for your mam and dad’s tea,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You bought me?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

I’m a little bit sick in me mouth.

‘It was the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me. ‘I got Betty Douglas pregnant straight away with Andy.’

‘I’m pregnant,’ I says to me Uncle Phil. ‘I’m pregnant with me brother’s baby,’ I says, and then I throws up on me purple carpet.

‘You’re a filthy whore,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘What am I going to do?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘You’re going to have the baby,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘Have me brother’s baby?’ I asks me Uncle Phil.

‘Then I’m giving it to Betty Douglas to bring up,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘You what?’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s the right thing to do,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

‘I can’t—’ I says to me Uncle Phil.

‘It’s either that or I’ll make you disappear,’ me Uncle Phil says to me.

I don’t speak.

I’m thinking, they’re all a bunch of nutters.

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Beautiful little paper miracles*

With the extra day in February and an attempt to ensure I blog at least once a month, I’m taking the opportunity to add to the discussion on the future of publishing and of the book. This is a really exciting time of exploration, experimentation  and connection, with thousands of voices interacting with this subject. With so many opinions out there and an insane research interest in this quickly evolving subject, I’ve found that I have my feet on either side of the digital vs traditional argument and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Although there are lots of articles out in the internet ether, the stance often plays devil’s advocate by introducing the proposition that the life of the traditionally printed book is at an end. Of course, a lot of media sources are going to speak in absolutes to provoke debate, however some do focus on the positives on the evolution of the e-book. I found the article “Are books and the internet about to merge?” by Damien Walter to be very interesting in the way he brings new light to the argument by focusing on the technological links between books and the internet as the electronic format is growing and the new way of defining books. “E-Books Can’t Burn” by Tim Parks also had an intriguing position, by exploring the nuances of the book experience.
However, it was the comments on both of these articles that interested me the most. With an engaged audience comes intelligent and at times protective response which opens the debate to much wider subjects such as copyright, generational gaps, the position of publishers and agents, the importance of storytelling, and books as objects.

For me, with my feet planted either side of the debate, what I’m most excited about is what is going beyond traditional AND e-books. The experiments into multimedia storytelling like the next digital project from Kate Pullinger, “Dual”, show us how literature is beginning to move beyond the constraints of traditional novels. On the other side, handmade original printed editions direct from authors and “desirable and collectable” editions from literary publishers are popping into the publishing news and circles, and both enthral me. For example, the new imprint at Bloomsbury, Bloomsbury Circus, will be shamelessly literary in unusually sized printed form, whilst Picador celebrates their 40th anniversary this year with beautiful black and white editions of classics new and old with additional resources and material for readers to explore the texts further.

I realise that the debate on traditional vs digital will rage on for some time, and whilst it does I’d love to hear what you think is the future of publishing and how are you engaging with the future possibilities for either and or both formats. Please leave a reply below!

*with thanks to Chris, a.k.a “nattybumpo” commenting on “Are books and the internet about to merge?“, for the inspiration. And to 47giraffes for post photograph!

Digital Stories: an experiment into the unknown

The title is mostly true. It was an experiment and some of it was unknown. However, the concept was something that as a story teller, I should know very well; taking elements of the world around me, imagined or real, and constructing a story from them.

The course, created by Spread the Word and Kate Pullinger, was described as:

Kate Pullinger, award winning writer for both print and digital platforms, will be running our Digital Stories workshop on Saturday 5 November exploring how digital media can help develop your creativity. Kate has written and spoken about the excitement and challenge of writing on projects that are “born digital”. She has used digital platforms to work collaboratively with other writers, has worked with game developers and even used facial recognition software for one of her projects. In this experimental one-day workshop the focus will be on thinking about new ways to tell stories. It promises to be an opportunity to stretch your imagination, harness your creative skills and explore ways to build future collaborations and open your mind.

© Spread the Word

The promises that Spread the Word gave were not idle and this course did match their description. In a room full of a mixture of creative people, there was a place for all; traditional fiction writers and poets looking for a new device or form for their work, journalists and travel writers looking for an alternative route for their crossover into creative work, even a teacher looking for a new way of getting their students to connect with creative processes to overcome learning disabilities. After discussing ourselves including our current work and aims for this course, Kate introduced us to a range of projects she has worked on, which have been helpfully collated within the Resources section of her site.

Using the techniques she used with five Suffolk schools on the Ebb and Flow project, we looked at ways in which stories can be created by a manipulation of Google Maps. This was also used in Kidmapped where Tim Wight tracked the journey made throughout Robert Louis Stevenson’s Kidnapped, adding video diary readings of the novel and opening the experience of the novel to new readers who were welcome to join Tim as he continued his journey.

We were invited to take our cameras and notebooks for a wander through the surrounding areas to find the stories of Clerkenwell. This was a daunting if liberating exercise where we wandered until we stumbled into the elements which appealed to us. For some it came quickly, a detail in a building, a face, and even overheard conversations. I overwhelmed myself with choice as I would do when creating stories in a more traditional form, however this time I hoped I would be able to incorporate the inspiration into the story by not only creating fiction from them but allowing the photos and video to become part of the story. The rules were all there, we were just going to be bending the end result and maybe doing some rule-breaking along the way. Which is no bad thing and as many of you may know, it is one of my favourite things to do. By overwhelming my senses with images and video grabbed within the hour we had to find our stories and eat lunch, I quickly constructed a story. Others created their stories which inspired by a single photo, these beautiful and often profound moments that will eventually be shared with a blue pin mark on a map, where anyone can discover it.

I will post up the link to our Google Maps story trail around the area surrounding Free Word where we were based for the day, because there are so many brilliant stories based on moments captured on film; showing all of us that when pushed creatively you can produce anything, even with limited technological skills. The reason for the delay in this link is because we have been given the week to continue the tweaks and uploading of photos. The day was not without its technical difficulties due to Apple vs Windows vs Google which is an argument that we’re all familiar with. Kate was able to provide us with the knowledge we needed on the most part, and where she couldn’t, we worked as a group to solve them.

And that was a major point of this course. With collaboration comes great experimentation but also a share of the load. We less technical creatives love to be creative, but often can get bogged down in unfamiliar ground when it comes to technical issues. Kate gently explained, we do not need to do it all. By working with someone who knows more about delivering beautiful digital stories from a technical point of view, it allows the writer more freedom to create more and bounce ideas off another person without losing your project aims. An example of this would be the Inanimate Alice series which has been created by Kate and Chris Joseph. Providing a novel as a “reading-from-the-screen experience for the “always on” generation”, this has now taken on a life of its own by the readers who have enjoyed it so much that they have created the following episodes to continue the story in weird and wonderful ways and is being used by teachers to provide additional literacy development for their pupils.

Inspired by these more technical projects, and by Kate’s mention of stories via PowerPoint, I wanted to see what I could create with the software which I’m so familiar with using but, as I’ve now learnt, I wasn’t getting enough from. So instead of posting the photos and a short story to go with them, I wanted to start to make them work together. I began by using PowerPoint to create a slideshow to produce the story, however I found this was limited in the ability to upload and embed within my own site let alone Flickr which we were using to produce the html coding or links for the pictures and stories. So, continuing the experiments at home, I tried out Microsoft Photostory 3 which would work perfectly if it would include video files rather than just photo files. Then remembering that Windows Live Essentials had some neat tricks up its sleeve, I tried out Movie Maker for the first time. I quickly recreated the slides I had on Powerpoint and I was able to overlay the story text via the caption facility, and I was able to add in the video clip I had taken to include within the final story.

This is the “final” result, so please, tell me what you think!

In the 5 short hours we spent with Kate, we all learnt how we could start pushing our creative projects into the rapidly evolving digital formats, without having the “traditional paper under glass” effect. Kate said to us all towards the end of the day “collaboration is a lot of fun” which is certainly was proved to be, allowing us to escape the necessary solitude which can be found within traditional novel or poetry creation. In this course, Kate equips writers with a new form to not only explore and experiment within but also with the skills to make real inroads into a new form that is developing at an incredible rate.

If you would like more information, Kate has also kindly provided more resources for digital storytelling on her site, so please explore them now!