Virtual writers

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 - 6:00am IST | Place: Mumbai | Agency: dna

Wannabe authors can write stories and hope to win prizes, and accolades, on a social networking site.

What can you write in 140 letters? Probably nothing, and probably a story. And the chances of the latter are more. Twitter is back with its fiction festival and this time around, the social networking site is promising it to be a bigger, better show. "This year's #TwitterFiction Festival expands on the first one, held in November 2012. Now, Twitter and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) are to put on a bigger, more ambitious event. Anything that is good for books and reading is good for authors and publishers," says Christine McNamara, vice-president and director (partnerships) Random House.

What is it?
The Twitter Fiction Festival, which runs from March 12 to 16, invites Twitter users and authors across the world to tell stories in 140-character bursts using the hashtag #TwitterFiction. The goal, according to festival organisers, is to give "authors of all kinds a chance to bring fiction to life with Twitter, and gives readers a chance to experience fiction in a brand new way." Writers can use the medium to crowdsource plots, tweet pictures and videos to build narrative, use multiple handles to weave tales, and invite feedback from Twitter followers.

Who can write
Any Twitter user can play along by using the hashtag #TwitterFiction on relevant posts, but a predetermined group of authors will be highlighted on the festival's official site. Some of those participants — including Megan Abbott, Benjamin Percy, Ransom Riggs and the comedian Jim Gaffigan — are already on board. The first Twitter fiction festival included 29 'showcased projects' and more than 25,000 tweets published with the hashtag #twitterfiction, including some very innovative entries.

The authors
Altogether 24 authors have agreed to participate, and they'll be joined by 23 winners of an open competition that encouraged anyone to submit entries over a one-month period, with a select group of editors and publicists serving as the judges. As part of the festival, Random House India writer Meghna Pant, author of "Happy Birthday and Other Stories" and "One and a Half Wife", will be retelling the Mahabharata in 100 tweets from Thursday. Using a collection of screenshots from a variety of films, writer Ankur Thakkar will be recreating a Bollywood movie through visual tweets. As in every movie, there will be dancing, love, heartbreak, and comedy. But unlike any other Bollywood movie, this one will be entirely on Twitter.

Show me the talent
The festival is part of a larger trend in which aspiring and established authors test the benefits and limits of telling tales on Twitter. "What's new this year is that we are also taking the online offline -- working with our partners to produce a live event. It will blend in-person and digital performances, with video of the event streamed live globally. Expect to see innovative Twitter fiction from the festival's 52 + official showcase participants (includes New York Times bestselling authors, bloggers, poets, and everything in between) from 11 different countries. The public can follow on where we will provide a curated account of the festival as it happens," Christine adds.

Some gems
In the last fest, British author Lucy Coates told 100 Greek myths in 100 tweets including: Sly stableboy slays king in waxed waggon wheel fiasco. Olympic Games will be 'Dad's undying legacy' vows brave Hippodamia #twitterfiction
Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan told "Black Box," a science fiction story for The New Yorker that ran both on Twitter, one tweet at a time, and in print.


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