In May 1995 I was teaching creative writing in the English Department at Nottingham Trent University when, quite unexpectedly, I fell into the internet. That moment redirected the course of my life, and the most instrumental part of that change was the birth of the trAce Online Writing Community.
trAce was born at the cusp of a new world. The Internet was 26 years old by then but the World Wide Web was still very new.
I set up the CyberWriting project, later to become trAce, in May 1995 at Nottingham Trent University, England. The idea was to explore writing on the internet. trAce’s first-ever publication was in paper, a word-processed photocopied booklet, and it was produced by Simon Mills, at that time a student on the MA in Writing. To collect the information, Simon spent his summer vacation online trawling the net for links. He surfed through hundreds of sites, sorted the best of them into categories, and wrote a short review of each. That October in 1995 he collated his results and photocopied them in booklet format for internal distribution to writing students and faculty. It formed the basis of the first trAce website, launched May 1996, and here it is. I wonder how many of the sites are still live?
What had begun as a personal quest had grown into a very promising research project, and by May 1996 Simon had taught himself HTML and uploaded the booklet into trAce’s first website.
Now, 2015 marks the anniversary of the first year of what would turn into a decade of collective innovation for trAce members around the world. To commemorate their fantastic creativity, I’ve set up a Facebook group where writers, artists, coders, and other members of trAce can share memories of that hectic time. I hope you’ll join us there. I’m going to post something from trAce every month, starting this month with The Noon Quilt, a gorgeous project which still shimmers with beauty wherever you click.
The Noon Quilt is an assemblage of patches submitted by writers from around the world. Together they form a fabric of noon-time impressions. The two quilts were made over a period of approximately five months during 1998-1999. They were designed,’stitched’ and maintained by Teri Hoskin from an idea by me. Ali Graham wrote the perl scripts needed to frequently update the quilt.
In 1999 we built the Eclipse Quilt http://tracearchive.ntu.ac.uk/eclipse-quilt/scripts/eqQuilt.html We created the three trAce quilts in close succession, then later the British Council commissioned two more, both of which were sadly lost when the Council moved its website to a different server. The Dawn Quilt was made for participants in South Asia, and the Road Quilt was made for Russia.