About James

James is the Literature Editor of LeftLion magazine. He is also an academic and a writer who has been published in various magazines and books. This means he spends most of his time in front of a computer screen writing about life instead of living it. Therefore, do not trust a word he says.

Digital storytelling at Game City

gamecity-titleOctober has been a pretty stressful and bizarre month so far that has involved a bwain eating contest, interviewing Will Self (a man whose brain is so large it could feed a starving nation), collecting Jon McGregor’s old desk for the Nottingham Writers’ Studio (and resisting the temptation to sell it on eBay), LeftLion going monthly, sourcing patrons for Nottingham’s City of Literature bid, dealing with various tantrums in the world of digital comics and attempting to read the Booker shortlist before a friend at book club (pleasure).

But now my attention is fully focussed on Game City, or rather it will be after this blog. Game City is just gorgeous fun. Over the years it’s seen a SEGA Recital on solo piano in 13th Century Church, turned Market Square into a desert, and proved that gaming isn’t just about consoles by creating a playable meal. It’s nine years old this month and I’m well chuffed to be involved.

On Wednesday I’ll be giving a blather on ‘digital storytelling and Dawn of the Unread’ and discussing how multiple narrative threads enable a more complex understanding of literature as well as providing various routes into a text. Technically, Dawn of the Unread is not a computer game but multiple narratives are a theme of gaming culture and so this gets me a free pass. Dawn of the Unread does have a gaming element to it in that readers have to perform certain tasks in order to progress through the comic, but there aren’t any end of level bosses – unless you include illiteracy as our equivalent of Bowser.

I could harp on about why Game City is so brilliant for ages, but here’s two reasons. Firstly, anyone can give a talk. They have an open submissions system online where you pitch ideas. This makes it incredibly inclusive to the local environment. Secondly, it uses a simple scheduling tool called Sched which enables users to easily plan out their week, add events to calendars, and download to your phone. Sched also enables you to view all of the profiles of people attending your event so you have a good idea of numbers (23 signed up so far) as well as an awareness of who your audience are so that the talk can be adapted accordingly.

The Nottingham Festival of Words has just finished and I’m slowly starting to relax again. Although the literature audience is very different to the gaming audience, I think there is so much that we (the organisers) can learn from Game City, particularly the fun and simplicity that seem to define their approach and project management.

I’ll be dragging Paul Fillingham along with me, so if you have specific technical questions you’d like to ask about producing work across platforms, don’t be scared to put your hand up. Wed  29 Oct, 2-2.30pm. Game City website

Festival of Words highlights

Illustration: Raphael Achache

Illustration: Raphael Achache

It’s Nottingham’s second Festival of Words (13-19 October), below is a few highlights to get you in the mood. We’ve got a real international flavour this year with bloggers and writers from as far afield as Afghanistan, Syria and Leicester. This is a particularly important festival as it also ties in with Nottingham’s bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature. So we really need bottoms on seats. This year we were successful in getting a £15,000 Arts Council Grant as well as extra funding to bring over international writers (the first festival was done out of sheer rage and love) but it won’t mean anything if nobody turns up. So please dab in and spread the word or else your city will be nothing more than a refuge for Poundstretchers, Tesco Express and American coffee chains…

Telling Tales: Nottingham kids’ festival of imagination
Pack the kids off to their own literary festival where they can join in animation sessions, drama workshops, or create their own cartoons. If none of this interests them, they can overdose on Ribena and just run around screaming.
Saturday 11 October, 10am-5pm, free, Lady Bay

Writing from China
When a Starbucks gets changed into a noodle bar and a pub becomes a karaoke bar, you know the city centre is changing. Will Buckingham is joined in conversation by Beijing author Karen Ma (Excess Baggage) and Rhiannon Jenkins Tsang (The Woman Who Lost China) for a discussion about life with the dragon.
Monday 13 October, 7.30 – 9pm, £4/£3, Nottingham Writers’ Studio

 Lina Ben Mhenni

Lina Ben Mhenni

Faultlines
The world’s in a right shitstorm at the moment, which means a lot of writers are in exile. Belfast playwright Gary Mitchell was forced into hiding following his depictions of life in Loyalist communities. Poet Suhrab Sirat is unable to return to war-torn Afghanistan and blogger Lina Ben Mhenni joins us from Tunisia where she continues to document the Arab Spring despite intimidation. They will read and discuss their work with Jo Glanville, Director of English PEN.
Tuesday 14 October, 7.30 – 9.30pm, £5/£4, Sillitoe Room, Waterstones

Lyric Lounge
The East Midlands’ travelling spoken word festival offers some gobby goodness from Shonaleigh Cumbers, Joel Stickley MC, Sophie Snell and Mark Gwynne-Jones, the poet once described as ‘Quentin Tarantino on milk’. There’s also a chance to give it some flannel in the Storytelling Open Mic.
Thursday 16 October, 6pm, £5, Nottingham Contemporary

Ali Smith in conversation with Jon McGregor
The author of The Accidental, Girl Meet Boy and Artful, her most recent novel, How To Be Both,is shortlisted for this year’s Booker. Joining her for a natter is Jon McGregor, author of If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things. There is a book signing afterwards for anyone hoping to make a few bob on eBay.
Friday 17 October, 7.30pm, £12/£10, Lakeside Arts Centre

Commonwealth_Short_Story_Prize_Jennifer_Makumbi_2014

Jennifer Makumbi
Having grown up in Uganda, home of Joseph Kony and some atrocious human rights issues, her writing is largely based on oral traditions. Her debut novel, Kintu, explores the ancestry of a family and the history of her country, as heirs survive the loss of their land, the denigration of their culture and the ravages of war. Her short story Let’s Tell This Story Properly won the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2014.
Saturday 18 October, 1.30pm – 2pm, free, Lecture Theatre 5, Newton Building, Nottingham Trent University

Kavya Rang: Ghazal
International star of Indian music, Dev Dutt Joshi, will take you through musical genres including Bollywood, Ghazal, Bhajan, Qawalli, folk and fusion. He will be strutting his stuff with Sunil Gossai (tabla) and Siddharth Singh (guitar). Ghazal is an ancient form of Arabic verse, around central themes of loss and love.
Sunday 19 October, 3.30pm-5.30pm, £10/£7, Council House

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Dawn of the Unread presents: MasterBrainzzzs!
In the tents on Slab Square there’ll be a Mastermind with a difference as four dead writers are brought back to life and quizzed on their literary relevance. Lydia ‘Magnus’ Towsey will be asking the questions, arranging a bwain eating competition, and our former editor Al Needham will be made up as a zombie.
Sunday 19 October, 3pm-4pm, £3/£2, Word Tent 2, Market Square

Tickets can be purchased from the Nottingham Playhouse Box Office (Tel: 0115 941 9419) or on the Festival of Words website.

Festival of Words website

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