"BigChinMan moved towards the figure in the distant orb of light. 'Arthur, is that you? How can this be? Help me find Zoe!'" This baffling and intriguing tweet by @AliaK is the latest line in a collaborative story that's being created by 365 different writers in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust charity. Each day a different author adds the next line to the story, and every single line is being illustrated by designer Dave Kirkwood. So far 3hundredand65 features the characters Arthur, Big Lad and a giant eagle.
"Just before Christmas our friends discovered their young teenager has cancer," explains Kirkwood. "They've always been there for me. They need space to cope with this thing in their own way, meanwhile I wanted to do something - anything. Selfishly I wanted an outlet for all of this drawing I won't deny that a big chunk of this project is for selfish reasons too."
Alongside Kirkwood, writer and designer Dom Conlon is also working on the project. Stories written in a collaborative way like this can sometimes take strange twists and might lose their way, but the unexpected nature of of 140-character instalments it is what makes it interesting. So far things have been lovely, delightful, scary and intriguing. But just in case one of the contributors wants to go nuts, Kirkwood and Conlon are pointing them towards a series of tips that will, without wanting to steer the storyline, at least help keep it sane. When it concludes, the writer who wrote the first tweet will also write the last one.
As for the artwork, Kirkwood seems to be having a ball drawing it even though it will be challenging to produce something smashing every day. He nearly lost his eyesight a couple of years ago and this has inspired him to draw as much as he can. "For me it's about ideas and bringing characters to life. It's become a bit of an obsession," he says. "I'll never tire of making work, I'm doing it while I can so every day - literally - is a joy for me. As long as I can see to work, you can't stop me."
Meanwhile, Conlon is working on an app that will bring the images and text together in a format that makes it easy to read the story and enjoy the illustrations sequentially. Encouraging people to donate to the project is crucial. "The app, or version one at least, isn't like a book. Not in the Kindle sense of the word anyway," says Conlon. "It uses a very simple interface which enables the viewer to shift between days and see what's been going on. They can take a look at details of who wrote each day's tweet and share any of it through Facebook and Twitter."
He continues: "As marvellous as the story is, we need to raise money for Teenage Cancer Trust. So everything we are doing is designed to encourage that. The app will have the option to donate at any time but we are also restricting access to anything after a specific date. After that you'll need to make an in-app purchase to unlock the story."
The response has been terrific already, according to Kirkwood. There are still slots available for writers. Be sure to visit the website, check it out, and drop them a bit of cash for this worthy cause. When the project is complete, watch out for a book that will bring it all the artwork and the story together.