download-2JAMES ATTLEE FOR “THE CARTOGRAPHER’S CONFESSION” wins the if:book New Media Writing Prize, announced January 2018 at a special awards evening at Bournemouth University.

The 3rd Dot Award for Digital Literature has been won by Lou Sarabadzic , French poet, novelist and blogger living in the UK. She writes:

“Since 1960s, literary criticism has discussed in great depth the role of the reader in the creation of texts and stories. 21st Century technologies made this role even more visible. #NERDS [Never Ending Retelling through Digital Stories] is a project that celebrates and investigates the infinite interactive territories offered by recent developments.

We all have representations coming to mind when thinking about a given story – be it a book, a legend or a TV show. For instance, if someone tells you: ‘Les Miserables’, ‘Catch 22 or The Handmaid’s Tale, regardless of whether or not you’ve read/seen/understood said work – images will immediately spring to mind. These images contribute to, and form part of, the collective imagination.

My idea is to set up and manage different social media accounts (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook) to invite everyone to contribute to the development of one big collective brain (= a website) holding all of these images to encourage new transmission and storytelling practices.”

(photo: James Attlee, Chris Meade, Justine Solomons, James Pope, Andy Campbell, Stella Wisdom, Emma Whittaker)


It is a great honour to win the New media Writing Prize. Chris has asked me to describe one particular ‘creative moment’ that happened during its genesis, so here goes.

Several of my previous books are categorised under ‘travel writing’ in bookshops and have depended on wandering, chance encounters and observation of the landscape. The Cartographer’s Confession, however, is fiction— locative fiction, that releases parts of the story dependent on the participant’s geographical position. Unlike a conventional novelist, who has no idea where his or her story is being read, I was choosing a particular London backdrop for each chapter; it was therefore incumbent on me as the author to answer various questions: was it a safe place for someone ‘doing’ the app to pause, take out their phone? Equally importantly, would GPS trigger there effectively? During the testing process I walked the route the story takes through the city countless times, along with the app’s producer Emma Whittaker and on my own. As I was doing so, an unexpected thing happened. My travel writer’s eye started noting details in the physical locations my characters inhabited; details they might have seen themselves. These began entering the text, shaping it and driving the plot in new directions.

One example of such a mutation took place in the West End. It is the early 1950s. My protagonist, a teenage boy who has arrived in London as a refugee after the Second World War, is forced by his guardian to come and busk the cinema queues waiting to enter the Empire Theatre, Leicester Square. Standing in the same place three quarters of a century later, the Empire’s grand architecture is partially obscured by the gaudy signage that rebrands it as The Imax Empire Casino and a vast hoarding for one of the Fast and Furious movies. Some Islamic evangelists have set up a table, handing out leaflets to the constant stream of tourists and office workers passing by, while a busker performs Ed Sheeran songs through a small portable PA.

I imagine the boy, on a break from his duties passing round a hat, seeking refuge from the crowds in the gardens at the centre of the square, at the feet of the statue of William Shakespeare. I do so myself. I must have passed this statue a thousand times and never noticed the inscription to which the playwright is pointing: THERE IS NO DARKNESS BUT IGNORANCE, it says, a quotation from Twelfth Night. I imagine my hero noticing the words too, the effect they might have on him, and the plot takes a lurch sideways. The words resonate with him, inspire him to action, and recur towards the story’s end in a different setting. I am writing for a new medium and the technology is shaping my text, but not necessarily in the way I expected. If I had not needed to test the app I would not have been here, now, seeing through my protagonist’s eyes, standing where he stood and where my reader, too will find themselves, embedded in and surrounded by his story.

The first winner of The Dot was J.R. Carpenter who gave a talk about why she hadn’t quite done the project she’d proposed and then went on to win the if:book UK New Media Writing Prize for her beautiful web-based artwork The Gathering Cloud. The second winner was Greek poet Theodoris Chiotis for a proposal to make a multi-media performance in real time mixing autobiographical journal with machine-created data. To read more about all the New Media Writing Prizes, go to www.newmediawritingprize.co.uk

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