Last week authors from all over the world collaborated on a short story with Joanne Harris. The week before, they worked on one by Simon Brett. And before that, Sarah Waters and Ian Rankin. Why have these world-renowned writers sought co-authors?
It’s the Society of Authors Twitterthon.
The BBC have decided to cut back on the number of short stories broadcast on Radio 4, in order to make room for news. They will drop from five a week to one. More news is obviously just what we need, rather than diversity, an opportunity to stretch our imaginations or, perish the thought, a chance to relax.
The cutback reduces even further the number of outlets for an endangered art form. The Radio 4 spot exposes short stories to the maximum possible audience. And it exposes the Radio 4 audience to a wide range of viewpoints, voices and imagination.
There is a vigorous campaign to oppose the cuts and at the forefront of the protest is The Society of Authors. As part of the campaign, for the past five weeks the SoA has been running a weekly Twitterthon.
Each Wednesday morning, at 11 a.m. BST, the SoA posts an opening line written by a famous writer. Twitternautes have 30 minutes to compose the next line. A jury of wise authors then picks the winning line. At 12 noon, that line goes up and the story continues.
There are five lines in all so each story is succinct, punchy and can shoot off in any direction. Last week’s certainly did. The bedroom clown scene was all my fault.
Entries are coming in from all over the globe. UK and French media outlets have written about the Tweetathon and Stephen Fry is tweeting about it to his 6 billion followers. And from 19th October the winning entries will be read out by actors Brenda Blethyn, Bill Nighy, Maureen Lipman and Hugh Bonneville.
The campaign is already having results with BBC Radio 4 executing a partial u-turn, by doubling the proposed number of weekly short stories from one to …um… two.
It all ends tomorrow with a grand finale. The guest writer will be offering two opening lines - at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. (North American writers and those who sleep in, please note).
On a personal note, I've always had an ambition to illustrate a Neil Gaiman story so I’ll be blogging a cartoon for each winning line as it is posted on Twitter.
To join in and collaborate with Neil, follow The Society of Authors on Twitter and use/include the #soatale tag in your tweets.
And when you’ve done, go sign the petition and fight the cuts.
To read more about the grand finale, go here
To read the stories so far, see here