About half way through the January river of stones project, when we had seen what lovely things people were writing, Fiona and I had the idea of creating a collection, in book form, of small stones at the end of the project.
People sent their favorite small stones to us during February, and about once a week or so we'd print a sheaf of them out, head to a coffee shop and read through them all. We read over three thousand small stones (plus many more online, on blogs and twitter, just to see what people were writing). By the end of February, our submission deadline, we had a pretty good idea of what was going in the book. We'd written a few prose pieces ourselves, Fiona wrote an appendix about collecting and writing small stones, and I had created a cover based on a illustration by beast from east draw.
Curating a gallery of small stones
We then had the task of ordering everyone's small stones. We talked about ordering them alphabetically by name, or keeping them in the order in which they had arrived in our inbox, but in the end we wanted to create something more considered. Someone had called us 'curators' of the project early on, and ordering the small stones in the book felt like creating a journey through an art gallery. We wanted to give each stone the best place it could have, and give the reader an experience to remember.
After having printed out the 320 stones and cutting each one out, we went down to the shrine room. (It's the only room that the cats aren't supposed to inhabit, and we were going to spread out all the bits of paper in order on the floor, you can imagine the fun our two feline monsters would have had....)
We grouped the pieces of writing into sections quite instinctively. Each group was seeded with one of the prose pieces of writing, or one of the quotes about the process of writing. We then took each stone in turn and placed it in one of the sections. Slowly, themes started to appear. One 'chapter' has more domestic stones, one has more about the relationships between people, and another had a more humorous feel.
The next stage was to order the small stones within each chapter. We were quite thoughtful here, looking at stones which seemed to speak to one another, or touch on similar themes or imagery. We asked each other questions - was it right to have a stone in which it's raining heavily followed by a stone in which the ground is covered in snow?
It was a really lovely process and I think we'e created something special. All the stones are already out there in the world, on peoples websites, and in their journals - this is a collection of our favorites. They express something about the world freshly, they are well observed and well written or they appealed to us in some mysterious way. I hope you like it as much as we do.
You can preview the book below, and it's available to buy in three formats: the paperback, the hardback gift edition, and the ebook (pdf).
If you enjoyed an appreciated taking part in the January river of stones, and the time that Fiona and I gave to the whole project and want to express your support, or if you'd just like a beautiful collection of small stones, please do click on the link above and order a copy - or one for you, and one for a friend ;)
(This post also appears at my personal weblog - Purple Clouds)