Alexander Averin

Friday, 11 March 2011

pay attention: a river of stones

From small stones a book has been produced.  This is how it began with the words of writer Fiona Robyn.

Fiona Robyn is on a mission to help people connect with the world through writing. She is a novelist, a blogger, a creativity coach and a Buddhist. She writes a weekly inspirational newsletter & runs e-courses. She started writing small stones in '05, launched a handful of stones in '08, & started a river of stones with her fiancé Kaspa in '11. She is very fond of Earl Grey tea and homemade cake, her cats Fatty and Silver, & the lovely Malvern hills (which she can gaze at from her home office window). 
This is how  it began. Fiona's words:

If you’d like to feel more at home with yourself and with the world, then you’re in the right place. Write small stones. You don’t need any previous experience of writing or any special equipment. You just need to notice one thing properly every day & then write it down.

Pay attention: a river of stones.

This is a book I shall be ordering and I would like to recommend it to you. The excellent idea was spawned by Fiona Robyn and I am pleased that there may be a future collaboration.  I think I shall try and write something myself  if possible; I have no excuses as I am lucky enough to live beside a river of stones.

Below is a little interview I had with Fiona's partner about the book..

For those who have not heard of this creative writing project can you tell people a little about it?

Years ago Fiona started writing small stones - one per day. A few lines of writing based on an observation in the world. She's been encouraging people to write them for a while and has an e-zine at Towards the end of last year we saw the potential of using writing small stones to encourage people to really connect with the world - to really pay attention.

Somehow the idea of encouraging people to write one small stone a day for the month of January entered the conversation and a river of stones was born. We had lots and lots of people taking part, all over the world, and received lots of lovely comments and emails. When we started to see how many people we writing, and how many people were writing well - we had the idea to collate lots of our favorites in to a book.

Was it relatively easy to self-publish? Would you recommend this route to others?
We  received  submissions all through the month of  February, more than three thousand pieces of writing, (most only a few lines long). About once a week, we'd print a batch out, sit down together and read through each one. We chose based on what fitted the 'form' of a small stone: how observational was the writing? occasionally we suggested edits to create a stone that was more focused on the world, than on the writers experience of themselves, or ask contributors about repeating words, or capitalization.
This meant that not long after our submission deadline we knew what was going in. We'd also collected and written some prose pieces. We then worked in to the night for a couple of days, creating the order of the chapters and so on, creating the documents in the correct format. It helped that Fiona had used lulu before to publish and had book templates on hand.

I designed the cover and the insides of the book, and we had to proof read everything ourselves.  I know some writers who publish with 'small press' publishers and although much of the support, in terms of editing, is much less than it used to be, you still do get your manuscript read by a professional, and a cover designed and typeset. And depending on the size of the publisher they often have different routes to sales than an individual might have.
I think if you are writing something very specialist, and you want to create a hard-copy for yourself and people who might be interested in that area then print-on-demand is not a bad way to go. But it does take time and energy. On the other hand you can end up with something really beautiful at the end of the process.

I do hope the River will keep flowing. Will there be any future editions?
The main focus of the River was never the book for us, although recently it became an all consuming process. What is central is encouraging people to go into the world and really pay attention,  to see and hear and smell the things we usually miss, the wildflowers growing in the cracks in the pavement and so on. 
We're going to run the river again in July 2011 asking people to observe and write one thing down each day.
About half way through the process of reading submissions, sitting in a local coffee-shop, we talked about how much work the book had been and how we'd love to do something 'low maintenance' in July. I'm going to have another go at collating .rss feeds of people's blogs (the technology failed me in January) so that we have a webspace where anyone can log on and see the river. As I said I tried that this year with the Yahoo! Pipes widget and it only worked intermittently.

We're both away in July as well, in the second week we're running our 'Connecting with Others' workshop in France, a week long workshop using writing, and using psychical theatre to connect with the world.
After July? Who knows.... Next year maybe...

Remind us how we can buy copies of the book.
Currently available to download, in paperback and hardback at - soon to be available at Amazon. Watch this space.


Fennie said...

Sounds an excellent idea. Observe, observe, observe. And don't guess. If in doubt examine someone else's observations. Would be interested to know more.

Norma Murray said...

Oh Cait, I came within a whisker of joining in with the January 'small stones' when a friend told me about all about it.How I wish I'd been involved.

CAMILLA said...

Dear Cait,

Thank you so much, what a wonderful idea a river of stones is. I have saved the link to website, I would love to contribute for future writing.

You are such a gifted writer Cait, think you should definately write daily stones and have it published yourself, know the self publishing site has been a great help to other writers too.

Toni aka irishlas said...

Absolutely love this!

I've been doing something of this nature for years and this will be just a wonderful read to see others observations.

Mark said...

And Fiona is the guest reader on my blogging course at the Ty Newydd writing centre this October. Strangely, when we first met I wasn't a writer at all; it was her who first encouraged me.