Blog News

1. Comments are still disabled though I am thinking of enabling them again.

2. There are now several extra pages - Poetry Index, Travel, Education, Childish Things - accessible at the top of the page. They index entires before October 2013.

3. I will, in the next few weeks, be adding new pages with other indexes.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

A River of Stones

Throughout January I, along with a lot of others, participated in a project called "A River of Stones" organised by Fiona Robyn and Kaspalita.  They have now selected some of the work produced during the project and made it available as a book. Details of how to obtain a copy can be found at the end of this interview with Fiona and Kaspa.

For anyone not already familiar with the project, what exactly is "A River of Stones"?

Kaspa: "A River of Stones" is the name for the project we ran in January, encouraging people from around the world to have a daily writing practice - using a form that Fiona created a few years back called a small stone.

Fiona: A ‘small stone’ is a short piece of writing which describes something we’ve noticed – something we’ve seen, touched, heard, felt, tasted or smelled – as precisely as we can.

Kaspa: We asked people to create a blog for their small stones, or to use the #aros hashtag on twitter - the idea being that I could collate the .rss feeds from people's blogs and create a huge stream of everyones writing...a river of stones...
In actual fact the technology I used for collating the feeds Yahoo! Pipes, couldn't cope with the amount of data going through it, and only worked intermittently. It would collect, and broadcast to our twitter feed @ariverofstones about five stones an hour, much less than the number of stones that were being published.

Where did the idea originally come from?

Fiona: I don’t know really – it was one of those ideas that just appeared from the blue. I thought it’d be nice to encourage more people to write small stones, and people like a challenge, so one-a-day during January felt like the right thing!

Did you expect to get such a large response when you started?

Kaspa: I honestly had no-idea. Fiona was optimistic, and as the numbers of people signing up kept going up and up, I caught her optimism. By the beginning of January we had over 300 people that we knew about taking part, and as time went on we would see people using the hash tag, or writing on blogs, that were completely new to us.

Fiona: We were both very encouraged by people’s response – I think we could all pay more attention in our day to day lives, and writing small stones is a practical way to do that.

Just how varied were the "stones" that people created?

Fiona: Very. Some people had never written creatively before. Some people were used to writing haiku and their small stones were very haiku-ish! Although having said that the same subjects did crop up again and again – snow, birds…

Did the things people wrote about match your expectations or were there any surprises?

Fiona: We enjoyed reading the more surprising small stones – about an empty crushed can of beer, or the sweat on a bud in the winter sun… the best small stones encourage us to look at something that we usually don’t look at properly, or to look at something familiar in a fresh way.

Was it always intended to gather the best into a book or did that idea come later, when you realised how good the writing was?

Fiona: I think it came about half-way through January? Something like that - we began to imagine how beautiful a collection might be, and also wanted a way of people showing support for the project, we toyed with the idea of a 'donate' paypal button but wanted to offer something really lovely in return as well.

Kaspa: And much of the writing really was very good. Once the idea of 'curating' a collection occurred it begin to take shape in our imaginations, it's only a small step to reality from there...

How did you go about choosing what to include?

Kaspa: We were looking for a couple of things, I suppose. The most obvious was length - although there's no word count we were writing small stones. Some pieces were huge boulders. Although we were often able to quote something from a longer piece of writing and use that as a small stone.

We were also looking for writing that observed what was 'other' in the writers life, something they noticed in their world, or an observation about another person. The book is called pay attention, and what we were encouraging people to pay attention to is the world. We did sometimes include a writers observations of themselves in the world... but we noticed that it seemed much harder to write about oneself without becoming indulgent. Whereas a really good 'noticing of something in the world' always makes a good stone.

Fiona: Yes, what Kaspa said! And what I said above about small stones feeling ‘fresh’.

Overall, how do think the whole thing went?

Kaspa: Really well. I'm looking forward to the next one in July.

Fiona: Yes, we’re both very heartened. People have told us that they got a lot from the project, and so have we. It also gave me the inspiration to write my free e-book (at so that’s been a big plus for me.

Any plans to repeat the project?

Kaspa: We'll be encouraging people to take up their pens again (some people haven't put them down) and to join us in committing to writing one small stone each day during July. For those of us in the Northern Hemisphere January is a cold dark month, for writers on the other side of the equator it was the middle of summer. Wherever you are - July will offer quite different things to notice.

Fiona: We’ll do things slightly differently in July to cut down on the time we spend administrating the project, but I hope even more people will get involved. Our river will be even wider!

The book is currently available as a paperback, hardback or download from Lulu.

You can buy the gorgeous paperback
, the ultra-stunning hardback
 and the marvellous download
 from Lulu right now.

It will soon also be available from Amazon.

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