threesixfivestart dice

three hundred sixty six
Younger, faster, smarter, I’d started writing threesixfivestart when it became clear that The Polaroid Press had to die. Hunkered down in an icy flat in Muswell Hill, I swear the ghost of HST had been screaming at me through that first night of fractured sentences and whisky. “Get something honest down, you swine. Mean what you’re doing or don’t do it at all!”

threesixfivestart was a project from 2009/2010 in which I wrote the first passage of a book every day for a year. The passages themselves linked to one another and looped a lot, and a bunch of themes emerged that I still use a lot today.

It was a great exercise, and a very good way of getting that kind of writing out of my system.

I met Aiden Smith at a comic show in 2010, and bumped into him again at Comiket, where he had some storytelling prompt dice for sale. At the same time I was wondering how to revisit threesixfivestart, and the two concepts gelled nicely.

I ran the entire contents of threesixfivestart through a programme to discover how often different words were used. From that I selected the first fifty ‘meaningful’ words and whittled that list down into four groups of six to give me a die about locations, one about actions, one about themes and one about people. Roll the dice, write the story.

With those prompts Aiden set about creating illustration for each of the thirty six concepts. He also bound them in a book, with short explanations below each image.

Ultimately the dice are a prototype of a product that I don’t think I’ll actually take into production, but it was a great process and I’m pleased we found a way of bringing threesixfivestart to life that wasn’t simply a matter of chucking it into InDesign and printing it out. This is much closer to the spirit in which I started writing it, and I’m very pleased with the results.

That’s All In The Past

I’ve given up a lot of projects this year, but one that hasn’t been surrendered to the great bonfire of thoughts in the sky involves commissioning Aiden Smith to do some square-format illustrations for me.

Aiden’s a bloody lovely bloke, one of Dan Berry‘s motley crew over at the North Wales School of Art & Design. He sent through some of his drafts today and I thought I’d repost this, one we won’t be using moving forward.

It’s of Kate Jackson (or, The Idea Of Kate Jackson), formerly of The Long Blondes, and I wanted to post it today because it’s been two years since they split up.

Mister Higgins reminded me of a post I wrote shortly after the split. It uses a lot of words to say very little, but there are some good bits in there.

The band, if anything, mean even more to me now. They were a great crutch in the winter of 2008, and the perpetually-retro nature of their music makes them an ideal band to turn to every time the new gets too much and the old feels too far away.


It is a red and purple paisley scarf. Someone, presumably a woman, has hung it in the window, instead of a curtain. The scarf flutters up against the screen, briefly presses itself against the metal grid, then falls back and disappears into the shadows of the apartment. – Summer by Amy Klein

One of the things I miss about The Polaroid Press is the sense that I used it to write little photographs, little bursts of images in words that I’ve since stepped far far away from. Even threesixfivestart dwelt more on dialogue than location and images. It’s one of the things I hope to get back to with the Audioboo project, but it’s going to take time to get a rhythm going on that.

Amy Klein is Titus Andronicus‘ bassist; a bright and joyous presence that stalks the stage with a crazy-big grin on her face. We saw her mooching about Primavera throughout the weekend after their Friday night set, and if I’d have known she was a writer beforehand we’d definitely have stopped to say hello. Her blog is one of about a dozen in my RSS feed that nudge me bit by bit towards starting a Polaroid Press-esque project up again, but that might have to wait a while.

Take Back The Polaroid Press

Take back tweet

I showed little discretion about my plan for Montreal: write Notes Towards A Short Film About Flying, a fractured love story about escape told in the unfinished parts and notes of a screenplay. Formally it was bang on, a lovely little mixture of straight prose and script, leaving room for improvisation and a mess of ideas. The problem was the content just wilted, vapor thin as it was. It took the work of an afternoon to see that the medium and the message just didn’t gel.

I thought about the time I’ve got open to me here, and besides realising I can really blitz through threesixfivestart it occurred to me that I’ve never really gone through my last project, The Polaroid Press, either to tidy it up for the purposes of a permanent archive or to just think about what works and what doesn’t.

It’s been six months since I finished Her Wilderness And Waves, the final Pressing of the project. There are words and phrases in those stories that even now I cringe at, but many many more I’m stunned actually came from me. New favourites have billowed up, Nostalgia & Before The Dawn Heals Us in particular spring to mind, and in going back through it all I’m starting to learn the things I am better at, and the moments of distance I need in a text for it to really sing.

Another surprise was appreciating just how small the pieces of myself and the people I know in there are. When I talk about The Polaroid Press I often risk making it sound like a diary project, but it’s really a body of fiction. I’d be wary of anyone taking an idea of me from it, not least because I hide myself a lot better than I hide my impressions of others.

The big realisation is that, as a complete project, The Polaroid Press means too much to me to restart it. From the stab in the dark moments it started with to the very complete final entry it actually works, and I’m very proud of it. As a format I have no doubt I’ll use it again – Liz Greenfield has received one in the post about a photo from Team Comics trip to Stockholm, and My Sentimental Melody, my first contribution to Julia Scheele’s How Fucking Romantic, already demonstrate that – but they won’t be Pressings, just stories in the shape of The Polaroid Press.