The Bristol Literature festival anthology “The Kraken Rises”, featuring stories by Scott Lewis, Rosie Oliver and Ian Millsted, is available to buy now from Amazon :
This is an interesting project because all the stories were written from scratch on the first day of this years Lit Fest. I spoke to Lit Fest organiser Peter Sutton and asked him to tell me what the squidly-doo-dah was going on…
1. How did the idea for “The Kraken Rises” come about? Could you explain the concept behind it?
It all started, as most good things do, as a random conversation at an event, in this case a Kitschies event. I spoke to Jared Shurin of Pornokitsch & Kitschies fame about doing something at the Bristol Festival of Literature. Jared sent me a list of possible ideas one of which was called “Kraken Attacks” which was basically a large scale exquisite corpse game. Over the months this slowly morphed into the Kraken Rises! event which was somewhat different from the original pitch. BFL already does an exquisite corpse style event called “The Citywide Story” which we run in conjunction with Bristol libraries over 3 days with 3 authors at 3 different libraries. We wanted to do something different to that and decided to run a short story competition in 24 hours. I gathered a bunch of fine authors to take part as story consultants and got the venues and we were set to go. Our idea included having a fun activity available in each of the venues so that there was something to do whilst waiting to talk to the authors. The very first activity was for each entrant to make a handmade book to write the stories into. By all accounts the activity in the Central Library was so fun people spent hours doing it rather than the 15 minutes it was set up for! Jonathan L Howard, David Gullen & Gaie Sebold were the creative team who came up with the brief and Gareth L Powell, Tim Maughan and Emma Newman were also on hand during the event to give writing tips. The competition was to write a story in 24 hours using the brief, the story prompts and the advice of the consulting authors. The brief is included in the ebook so you can see what the writers had to work with.
We sweet talked Angry Robot into publishing the ebook and someone came up with the mad idea of publishing the ebook whilst the festival was still on so we could launch it at the Speakeasy exactly 1 week afterwards. We had around 30 people take part, including two families but not all of them met the deadline to submit a story.
2. How did people get on with writing a story in a day?
Not everyone who took part was a writer, some people may not have written a story in a long time, but everyone found it tough. I’ve heard that some people worked through the night to get the story in on time. I think although the stories aren’t totally polished, due to our self-imposed time constraints, everyone who submitted a story did extremely well.
3. Is it true you have the world record for the fastest time between writing and publication? What logistical problems did that cause?
Angry Robot have applied to the Guinness book of world records for fastest anthology, which if they make it we’ll just have to break next year! The logistical problems were what you’d expect – our judges had to read all the stories, choose which ones would go in the anthology, proofread them all, compile the ebook. ISBN’s were needed etc, luckily we chose the winner of the cover competition before the writing competition began. Angry Robot are to be commended in turning the anthology around in the short time they had!
4. Would you do it again?
Since something like this had never been tried before we were bound to get some things wrong. I’ve learned some good lessons from doing The Kraken Rises! and could do an improved version if given the chance. There may just be something slightly different, but oddly similar, brewing for next year. I’ve had a number of conversations with a number of people at a number of events and I may have the beginnings of a plan….
Ah, a cunning plan… I love it when a cunning plan comes together. Thanks to Peter for answering my questions. All the money raised from sales of the anthology will be put back into the Bristol Literary Festival, so it’s for a very worthy cause.