I’m coming to the end of what’s been an extremely busy period of writing projects and teaching commitments, and last week was my first chance to play with words for entirely my own purposes for quite some time. At this time of the year, my imagination usually wanders back to Middle-earth.
Yesterday was the ninth birthday of a mailing list that I set up in the wake of the release of Peter Jackson’s film of The Fellowship of the Ring. The mailing list is a place where people who enjoy writing Tolkien-based fanfiction can gather to share stories. For those reading this blog who have never come across the phenomenon before, fanfiction is the name given to stories that use characters from stories, television shows, or films, written by fans of these texts in order to put them in new situations or adventures. 
I’ve spent some time this week writing Tolkien fanfiction (i.e. fiction based on the works of JRR Tolkien). Over the years that I’ve been writing it, I’ve had the excellent fortune to write in a collaborative setting with the hugely talented Isabeau of Greenlea. Our shared universe of stories has become so large that it’s earned its own nickname (the ‘Unabeauverse’) and we even have a Wiki to help (me) keep track! Two other wonderful writers have also contributed to our shared conception of the books. Our stories are centred primarily on Gondor and Minas Tirith, and the interlocking families of the Stewards of Gondor and the Princes of Dol Amroth.
I love writing fanfiction in this world, with these wonderful writers. Away from all thought of deadlines, and word count, and agents, it is writing for purest pleasure: telling stories to share with friends; hearing the stories that they have to tell in return.
 If you’re interested in finding out more, try Sheenagh Pugh’s The Democratic Genre: Fan Fiction in a Literary Context. Bridgend, Wales: Seren, 2005. Or just poke around the internet.