The Mystery Machine

Author Anne Corbitt on Squarspace's role in 'The Disappearance of Eliot Wiley' (Sponsored)

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Photo credit: Courtesy Squarespace
PERFECT MYSTERY: 'The Disappearance of Eliot Wiley' author Anne Corbitt.

This fall thousands of Creative Loafing readers participated in a new arts project: A city-wide mystery. The Disappearance of Eliot Wiley was a four-week project that took Atlantans on a clever journey around town looking for clues to uncover what happened to Mr. Wiley. Participants followed the ATL Mysteries website, a collaboration of local writer Anne Corbitt and Creative Loafing to uncover clues placed around the city and unlock this episodic mystery. The winner of this unique contest won a prize pack provided by CL and was written in as a character in the project’s epilogue.

Corbitt, an Atlanta native and a John Grisham fellow teaches fiction and non-fiction creative writing at Kennesaw State University located in Cobb County, Georgia. Her first novel, Rules For Lying, was released in September 2016. You can learn more about Anne Corbitt from her website, www.annecorbitt.com.

Recently we sat down with Corbitt and CL’s marketing director, Nick Tapp to discuss the genesis of the project and how Tapp utilized Squarespace to build and manage ATLMysteries.com.

 How did this project get started?

Anne Corbitt: My first novel came out last September. I was busy at work on the next one and hit a patch so needed to work on something else. I needed a new way of thinking about what I was working on. I’ve always loved mysteries and I love Atlanta, so I thought it would be fun to create a project that people in Atlanta could get into.

What inspired you to create this unusual project?

AC: I wanted there to be audience engagement.  There are clues in the stories, but we also have clues hidden all over the city with picture clues we uploaded. We wanted a place where people could look at everything we put out there – all the pictures, all the chapters – a hub where people could jump in at any time and catch up and engage themselves.

How was the response to the project?

AC: At last count it was nearly 3,500 unique visitors, which blows my mind! It’s so cool to see so many people are engaging in this project. It has been a great inaugural run, considering we had no model and we ended up having “superfans,” which is really cool!

Is it a scavenger hunt?

AC: No, its not a scavenger hunt – this is about fiction. I’m creating a world, so this is more like a public arts project. I wanted it to be engaging and have people do stuff, but I want it to be good writing that is engaging as well. You can have a scavenger hunt with just clues, but it doesn’t have a larger story, it’s the fiction that sets it apart – it’s a good story, not just a game.

What is your fascination with mysteries?

AC: I find them cozy and comforting. I live the puzzle. I like trying to figure things out and I admire the plotting – the work it takes to go into a mystery. Things that come up early have to tie up and work in some way without advertising it too much. I love the sense that someone is building a puzzle for me and me trying to figure it out – its fun!

The website design is very simple

AC: We did that on purpose. The plan for next season will be different and easier to navigate. We wanted it to be so simple we needed something that was very clean and very easy to navigate around it. Graphic designers created the logo and the overall look of it.

Nick Tapp: With an uber complex promotion like ATL Mysteries, I knew we needed a site that was easy to update on the fly, but could also communicate complex concepts in a simple way. Unfortunately, I am definitely NOT a web designer, so I turned to Squarespace because they truly make it easy to execute on your visions when your aptitude comes up short. I used a pre-built template provided by Squarespace and simply “painted by numbers” to create a site that did everything I wanted it to. 

You used Squarespace to build and host the site.

NT: Yes, I did. Thankfully! I’d used Squarespace on a few other projects I’ve worked on in the past, so as the concept for the promotion became clear and it became apparent that we’d need to make daily updates, I knew that Squarespace was the ONLY option we had to execute the promotion with excellence. One thing I didn’t realize when we started, was how easy Squarespace made it to find detailed analytics on your site. That functionality is beyond compare … seriously, it’s so easy it’s almost fun to use. 

The ATL Mysteries was updated daily, what were some of the challenges?

NT: As with anything that requires a team that is working independently on multiple different pieces of the same puzzle, a clean and efficient process is paramount. With this, we used Slack for internal team communications, and had different channels for Anne’s chapters, the graphic designs, and social media strategies. I pulled form those channels and was able to easily execute them on the Squarespace website. Nothing is worse than knowing what needs to be done, and not knowing how to do it. Especially when thousands of people are awaiting and analyzing every bit of information you put out.

AC: We upload chapters early morning and I would use the Squarespace site to make the edits. The interface was easy to use and makes it simple to update in seconds.

Finally, what can you tell me about season two?

AC: I’ll just say the Elliot in season one and many of the beloved characters from this season are not gone for good. The rest of it will be a surprise. Closer to summer 2018, there may be some teasers so stay tuned.Go to Squarespace and use coupon code CREATIVELOAFING for 10 percent off your first purchase.