MIDDLE GROUND: AN ARCHIVE

This project has been concluded. This page is preserved for sake of reference.

Long ago, in forgotten times, writers did their research “out of doors.” They left the house and went to the library down the street, the place around the corner, sometimes even to a different city in a different state. Sometimes we still discover things through these techniques, but now, we’re just as likely to get on our computers and turn to Google. We read articles, find images, and cruise ‘street views’ of places we’ve never been.

This new approach allows us to ‘visit’ more places and geographies than ever historically possible, but it’s only because we’re spending more time in a single space: the Internet. And yet, despite our tenancy in this virtual world, we’re increasingly more cognizant of the ‘real’ places around us: local food, culture, neighborhoods. With these notions in mind, along with the success of Anobium’s first collaborative writing project (Rescription), we got a bright idea: what does it mean to explore these geographies in a literary space?

And this is how we’ve arrived at Middle Ground: An Archive (or, simply, Middle Ground). Middle Ground will be a five-month collaborative writing experiment serving to explore different types of ‘real’ geographies in a literary way. The intention will be to shed light on how we approach the idea of ‘place’ in our writing, and in turn, how our words affect our experience of place.

Middle Ground will involve a team of no more than 20 writers from different places, with different experiences and styles, leaving their collective mark on particular places and geographies—like taking Sharpie to a rest stop bathroom, but more elaborate. Using the term ‘middle’ as a unifying concept for our selected geographies, the group will compile a list of places—from The Middle East Restaurant & Nightclub in Cambridge, MA to the town of Middle Inlet, WI—which each writer will anonymously visit and leave his or her own mark before moving on to the next place.

The way it will work is simple: Writer 1 will write up to 500 words inspired by her first ‘place.’ Writer 2 will then ‘visit’ that place, with the opportunity to expand the story by up to 500 additional words. Writers 3, 4, and 5 (and so forth) will do the same. The catch: you can’t remove anything that has previously been written. You can strike it through, you can footnote it, you can rearrange it, you can re-punctuate it—but you can’t erase. Like graffiti, the marks left are permanent. All places get their meaning, after all, less from an individual interpretation than from the jumble of people who pass through. That is, once Kilroy was here, he’ll always be here.

The project will then culminate in a published book, titled Middle Ground: An Archive. No one writer’s name will be attributed to any one story, but rather, the entire collection will be attributed to all. For writers looking to put their name on the map (pun intended), this book, like Rescription, will be awarded to all participants and sold through Anobium’s normal channels, including Amazon. Because this is an exploration of place and placelessness in both the physical and virtual realms, we’re looking for a geographically diverse set of writers. A core group in Chicago—the middle of the country and home of Anobium—will be encouraged to meet in person so they can discuss the project, work through issues, and share libations. All writers, no matter how dispersed, will be encouraged to keep the conversation flowing on our Google Group.

If you’re interested in participating or have any questions, please contact group facilitators Benjamin van Loon (benvanloon01@gmail.com) and Pat Chesnut (pchesnut@gmail.com). If you would like to apply, please also include your location, a short bio (including a description of your writing and publication history, if you have one (it’s fine if you’re unpublished)), and an explanation of why you want to participate in the project. Feel free to also suggest your own ‘middle’ place. We will also be encouraging a project fee of $50 to offset printing costs of the completed publication.

[Benjamin van Loon is the managing editor and co-founder of Anobium. He lives and writes in Chicago. Pat Chesnut is an editor of The Bad Version and also lives and writes in Chicago.]

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