November 21, 2011 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
This weekend I attended a two-day event, part of Creative Scotland’s Creative Futures programme: 360 Narratives. This brought together a few dozen creative people who work in narrative – novelists (for adults and kids), screenwriters, playwrights, game designers, graphic novelists – and mixed us all up to create cross-genre ideas in a variety of platforms. There were also useful talks, and some smaller sessions with various case studies, and two excellent lunch buffets. (A tiny little oven holding baked potatoes! I am so easily entertained.)
Here are some of the things I learned:
Always check train times in advance. This allowed me to realise that, er, the earliest Sunday train from Edinburgh arrives in Stirling one minute before the programme is due to begin. I told the conference organisers that I’d be slightly late, and as a result, they made sure I was on site before starting. I even had time to grab a cup of herbal tea.
Always apply for the hardship fund. Two cheap day returns were less than £20, and even with my rapidly deteriorating employment situation, that was not going to break the bank. However, I saw that there were funds available, so I wrote a brief e-mail politely explaining my situation and asking whether I could be considered for them. And lo, my train fares were reimbursed.
Put your photograph on your business cards. One of the best sessions was a speed dating event – all of the excitement, none of the soul-crushing rejection! – where you spent two minutes (each) talking to everyone else in the room. Even though the icebreaker involved bringing an object of significance (more on that later), it was still difficult to remember exactly who everyone was. I use Moo cards, and as my book cover annoyingly didn’t scale appropriately to be used as the opposite side, I put my professional photo. I lost count of the number of people who thought this was a fantastic idea, and I really appreciated the other folks who did similar things.
Be willing to sing. One of the exercises involved being randomly given a genre, a location, and a platform. My group of five received manga, hospital, folk song. We needed to pitch it. We ended up with a two-verse adaptation of ‘Hotel California’ which we did in fact sing. (Badly, but entertainingly.) The audience loved it and the judges awarded us first place. I was so far out of my comfort zone that I needed a passport to get back in – both in terms of the singing and the collaboration, which is not something I have done much of creatively – but it was huge fun, especially since I was with four other people also willing to make fools of themselves. (The prizes were varied. I got – appropriately enough, given the weekend’s title – a 360 pen. I shall use it to write with, and when I am bored, I shall spin it.)
People love cows. For my special object, I brought Moocow. She has traveled with me to Iceland, Spain, Japan, Washington DC, and Chile. Here she is on Easter Island, pretending to be a moai:
The official photographer loved her, and she turned out to be the star of the other pitch, which required us to use three special objects. It was a time travel story in which she is sent back in time after being – well, I won’t give away the plot, in case we end up developing it. But in general, bringing a stuffed cow is a good idea. (A real cow, maybe not so much.)
I am not sure I’ll be applying for the week-long residency, as I don’t have any particularly collaborative ideas at the moment – but I shall be interested in hearing about what everyone else comes up with!