Neil Gaiman sets Twitter ablaze with fan collaboration

Reaching for a creative-juicy BlackBerry

BlackBerry, long known as business-phone stalwart Research In Motion, restyled itself with the launch of the entertainment-oriented BlackBerry 10 operating system. "We created BlackBerry 10 to help people achieve amazing things," said Frank Boulben, CMO of BlackBerry, in an email interview. "A great way to prove our point is by giving artists the opportunity to show the power of creativity in BlackBerry style by connecting with their communities and collaborating with them to make something unique."

In the third video episode, Gaiman uses his BlackBerry Z10 to show artist Amadea Bailey something that makes her smile.

BlackBerry gave Z10 phones to Gaiman, director Robert Rodriguez, and recording artist Alicia Keys. Each of these BlackBerry Ambassadors is working on his or her own Keep Moving project.

Andrea Phillips immediately sees the appeal for the company. "They're trying to build a base of Neil Gaiman fans who will look more positively at BlackBerry than they already do. They're trying to make themselves look cool with reflected glory."

Gaiman is a unique figure. It's a rare author who writes graphic novels, novels, short stories, teleplays, and young-reader books. It's an even rarer one who wins awards for all of them and lands on the New York Times bestseller list to boot. Gaiman's success has never endangered his indie cred. His characters don't have Happy Meal toys, but thanks to Gothic perfumer Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab, some of them do have their own fragrances.

Cat Mihos
Gaiman didn't write the tales with his BlackBerry Z10, but his assistant Cat Mihos did use it to snap this shot of him writing the flash fiction with a fountain pen.

Each of the BlackBerry video episodes features Gaiman interacting with his Z10. He scrolls through tweets, flips through images, snaps photos, and checks BlackBerry Hub. He chats on a video call.

That doesn't mean Gaiman uses the phone for everything. "He honestly was going to try to write the stories on the BB10, but he writes longhand," explains Cat Mihos, one Gaiman's assistants. She borrowed his Z10 to take a photo of him writing the old-fashioned way.

The 'Calendar of Tales' doesn't end with December

Van Court enjoyed the opportunity to work with an author she admires. "It involves so many people at the same time. This is like an open letter every few minutes." She was excited when Mihos contacted her about using her tweet as the basis for "May Tale." Allowing the tweet's use required signing a release form that BlackBerry sent, but Van Court didn't mind. "I signed away rights to media that haven't been invented yet," she says with a laugh.

Librarian Janis Van Court harbors no dreams of becoming a professional writer, but the 'Calendar' did make her think about writing for her own enjoyment.

BlackBerry's Boulben notes that all the Twitter collaborators reacted with enthusiasm: BlackBerry obtained a release form from each one the company approached. Gaiman got his first-choice tweet for every month's tale.

"It's a great way to connect with your fans," says Miranda. "Neil doesn't need to be in such close contact, but he does [stay close], and that's a lot of what makes him awesome." She hasn't seen an increase in her own book sales due to the tweet that inspired "November Tale," but she didn't expect one. "I have had some lovely Twitter conversations because of the Calendar."

Van Court noticed an uptick in Twitter followers, and she followed some back. "There are some interesting things in my feed that weren't there before." Overall, "I don't think it's changed anything in my life, but I think it has nudged me a little more toward writing as a pastime again. I spend a lot of time on a computer passively reading information, and now I think I would like to spend more time blogging."

Gaiman prepares for the next part of the 'Calendar of Tales' project.

Although A Calendar of Tales is closed to submissions, the project's Keep Moving hub states: "Neil would still like to hear from you. Tweet him your thoughts on the stories and your experiences creating the videos and images. Let him know what you think of the project so far." BlackBerry will announce the finalists for images and video in April, when the digital version of Calendar goes live.

Phillips has many thoughts about the project. "What we should care about is what emotions we're evoking—what is the experience, is it enjoyable, should it be emulated? It's what people are taking away from it. People are having an amazing, amazing time and getting something valuable. They're getting both enjoyable art and the process of working with someone they greatly admire."

"I think it's going to feel really strange leaving this project behind," says Gaiman in the fourth video episode. "Somebody once said that a painting is never finished, it's only abandoned. I think that's true of all art. There comes a moment when you just have to leave it behind and move on to the next thing. But you do it really happy, because whatever you leave behind you has taken on a life of its own."

Gaiman asked readers for inspiration, and some of them received inspiration in return. Just as Gaiman moves on to the next project, his collaborators move on and continue to create. A Calendar of Tales sits open for exploration, ready to spur visions and ideas in anyone who reads it, looks at it, listens to it, and watches it. Like Gaiman, like all artists, the Calendar keeps moving.

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