New New Adventures

Trent speaking at New Adventures
Trent speaking at New Adventures

Trent Walton by Drew M on flickr

I’ve just got back from Nottingham, where I went to volunteer for a second year at New Adventures Conference. I joined the merry band of volunteers last year after Colly kindly invited me to come to the first event for free and I had a Skype conversation with him asking if there was anything I could do. After a little prodding, he said he would like a little help with registration (as I had done the honours at dConstruct for a couple of years) and there was some minor editing to do on the first newspaper if I had time to cast an eye over it. In the end it was quite a lot of editing, as we begin to read the articles back-to-back, and could see how we could bring some of themes of individual articles together but that early preview already told me that New Adventures (NA) 2011 was going to be a special event.

The day itself was amazing, hiccups around queues and the like aside (at one point we had a queue around the block in -4 when everyone decided to arrive at 9.30am!), and come 6pm pack up I was rolling up tubes of branding and already hoping Colly would put on another one. The moment he announced he was taking the plunge for 2012, I signed right back up for more editing and volunteering.

Volunteering at a small (ish!) conference gives you a unique perspective on what it takes to create an event. I saw speakers in the aptly named green room looking a bit sick as they walked towards the stage, and flushed and grinning as they walked back. I saw the Audio Visual team working away like pros. I saw Colly arrive at 7.45am on three hours sleep. I saw newspapers come out of their wrappers and ready to be devoured. I saw volunteers pull on t-shirts and gamely volunteer to swap shifts so everyone could see the talks they wanted to. I saw people taking seats, full of anticipation, chatting with neighbours and comparing notes on the night before.

I saw the amazing team behind the scenes at the Albert Hall conference centre making everything run like clockwork – including one memorable moment when towards the end of the day a couple of guys decided they might try their luck at nipping in and seeing if there was anything laying around to help themselves to. Know that your iPads and MacBooks were defended by one of the security team, who was clocking off at that point, and that he gave chase half-dressed! One of the scallies (to use the regional nomenclature) was half-way to the stage when he was apprehended. I almost wish he’d got there. Imagine 1 scummy thief vs 500 geeks. “Officer, it was the man in the checked shirt wot punched me!”

I saw attendees talking about what they had just seen on stage, about beer, about making stuff together, about being part of a community. I loved being able to give just a small bit back by volunteering. I was assigned the role of dealing with anyone difficult (Colly even had a one-off t-shirt printed just for me with ‘New Adventures in Fuck Yeah!’ on it to denote the level of kicking ass and taking names I was responsible for) but – light fingered outsiders aside – I had an easy, enjoyable day. Colly and Greg had taken a lot of the feedback from attendees, sponsors and volunteers last year, such as my request for first name registration to spread people out more alphabetically, and made it a reality. A special sort of reality that you only get with the attention to detail the two guys put in. Colly was putting in a good number of hours a day in the run-up to ensure as many people on the waiting list got tickets wherever possible, that signs were printed ahead of time, and that the volunteers had everything we could possibly need to do the best we could for attendees.

But, even as a so-called writer, I have to admit that words wouldn’t do it justice. I wanted to show people what it looked like, how special it was to be a very small part of – so, wobbily shot on an iPhone by me and edited beautifully by my husband, here’s NA 2012 from my perspective:

New Adventures conference 2012 from nicepaul on Vimeo.

Tell me a story

crowded bookshelf

crowded bookshelf

As part of my happiness project, I’ve been pondering the direction of my life and the things that make me happy. I looked to what I do in my leisure time. I bake a lot, and make various army-catering-quantity sized meals for family and friends. I also read a lot of cookery books, which I wrote about in Contents magazine, in my piece The Gingerbread Project savouring the descriptions of each dish, even those I have little intention to ever make, and the notes the author brackets them with.

I play video games, especially adventure games like the Zelda series, and read critical analysis of video games and games culture. I’ve just got started with Skyward Sword (and I got Skyrim for Christmas – damn there goes all my free time!) plus I have Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap and Ocarina of time on my 3DS right now. I adore the Ace Attorney series and its offshoots. I like interactive fiction. I just recently watched the Penny Arcade Dungeons and Dragons live games and started to explore what Dungeons and Dragons is and how it works (not as a player, so much as an interested observer).

I read books. In the last few years, after a long absence due to overkill at university (hello English degree) I have got back into reading fiction and listening to audiobooks. Audiobooks especially force me to slow down and take in the breadth of a new world; my husband accuses me of skim reading every book I own, which I don’t, but the speed at which I read can sometimes detract from the beauty of the words laid out in front of me. After years of dodging the classics, after the aforementioned overkill, I recently bought a copy of Beowulf on the Beach: What to Love and What to Skip in Literature’s 50 Greatest Hits which starts with the Iliad and works in date order through to works of the twentieth century, via The Old Testament, Beowulf, Dante, Milton, Bronte, Tolstoy, Joyce, Kafka, Nabakov and many others.

I scrapbook. I write titbits of information about our family, I take pictures of where we go, I put books together of us as a family – who we are, what we do, what we are like. I am our family’s story keeper. I am our family’s story teller.

So, what is the connection here?

It is, I think, story.

I love narratives. I love when they weave strands and come together, knot up, fall apart and realign. I love the magic of people creating a world in their hand and building it for others to explore and to understand. Yesterday I read some hilarious cook’s notes on a failed Christmas pudding and the fallout from that, played a game where a hero must set out to fulfill a prophesy, and read the beginning of an epic war poem where two men are right now stood in front of their armies proposing a dual to settle their quarry while the gods have other ideas.

I started to write a piece for Contents that was about narrative, its history and its place in our everyday lives, but I realised I didn’t know nearly enough and I wanted to explore the topic with people that create narratives – not just in traditional novel form, or even in a published long form – but to come to understand what story means to  humans.

As such, I have created a new site (not yet live,  but it will be at http://tellingtal.es) in which I am going to explore the topic of story. I hope it will be informative. I hope it will encourage people to see story as a ribbon woven throughout their lives, connecting people and things together. Mostly I hope it will be fun.

I plan to do a series of video interviews, written interviews and explorations in different mediums. I plan to stick myself in all kinds of weird situations from archivist offices to battle re-enactment, tabletop gaming to a writing class, and share what I learn along the way.

Join me?