Friday 31 December 2010

On the brink

(If you're new here, start here)

These are the Malvern hills, which we can see from our house windows. Isn't this path just begging you to follow it?

Our river begins tomorrow. 

I've already decided on the word that will guide me during 2011. We've bought the ingredients for the bread pudding we'll be taking to our New Year's Eve gathering. We've arranged to meet friends to walk on the hills later today. 

The New Year is just around the corner. Full of opportunity, bursting with the unknown. There will be hazards as well as wonders. There will be everso-steep parts of the hill as well as stunning views. 

We can make sure we notice it as it rushes past us, one small stone at a time. 

We're all in the river together. I'm very happy to be in such good company.

Enjoy your days - I'll see you on the other side : )

Thursday 30 December 2010

For when you get scared

Writing can be a thorny business.

I've been doing it for many years now. I have four completed novels behind me, a book of poetry, a book of small stones, and a book of questions

The blank page still scares the bejesus out of me. I sit down to write my work-in-progress and think 'what am I doing thinking I can write? of all the deluded (mumble mumble)....' I have avoided writing poems for almost a year now. 

Maybe your small stones will leap eagerly and willingly into your laps, but if you're like the rest of the human race you might also have occasional thoughts like this. 

How can we continue when we're convinced the whole project is pointless and that everything we ever write is utter rubbish?

By taking a pen and writing a single word. And then another.

Thank your doubts kindly for their input, and continue anyway. Reassure your critic that you WILL allow them out, when you have written your small stone and you want to start polishing it, but not until then.

Writing can be a thorny business. But then so is life.

We are all in it together. The river of stones, and the river of life. We can encourage each other (do visit each other's blogs next month and say what you like). We can take comfort in the knowledge that every single writer ever has had terrible doubts about what they're doing. We can learn how to encourage ourselves, and get better at this as we go along. We can eat chocolate. We'll be JUST fine.

What does your lover smell of? (the fun begins the day after tomorrow)

(if this is your first visit, start here)

"Your lover, does he smell of cedar or pine, or lemon? Or tobacco? Have you ever washed an ashtray and wondered why it is so much more pungent when wet?"

This is Martha, telling her readers about our project. As she says, "...what started as a meditative process could well be a gold mine of writing prompts… or was it the other way round?". We hope some of you might find inspiration for longer pieces in your stones, and we'd love to see them when they're done.

Elaine has also signed up with her rather lovely blog - what peonies!

And Olivia wrote such a gorgeous piece, I'm going to share it all here. It heartened me because it describes exactly what I'm hoping for from this project. Do share your experiences of writing small stones with us.

And you know, it doesn't have to be small stones. That's just a label. Haiku, short stories, we're not fussy. Sketching, taking photographs... whatever. Just pay attention.


"I am going to be writing a ‘small stone’ each day in January – taking notice and observing and writing. On my way to the tube station today, I decide I need to practice. It is a 7 minute walk to the tube station, maybe 6 minutes today, as I run small parts of it, as I don’t want to miss my train. Even so, I notice – the wet, soft brown leaves, mushing on the pavement, concrete resisting their composting; the stump where there used to be a cherry tree that blossomed pink in the spring; the bright red wool hat and luminous yellow jacket of a council worker, giving out and attracting light on this gray day; the yellow lettering on the road in the bus stop bay worn away so that it now reads ‘us stop’; a baby in the warm clear bubble of his pram, incubated as he is perambulated, the father turning around to smile proudly at his – wife? - behind, catching me in the arc of his smile. And I smile back.

Until I am sat on the train, and start writing, and the sounds of words start bumping off of each other, I didn’t know that was how I saw those things – they were just leaves, a stump, a hat, worn-out road signs, a pram. In the writing, I appreciate what I have seen, and what I have been part of. I am confident now that I will be able to pick up and polish at least one small stone a day."

Wednesday 29 December 2010

...crumbling back into soft clay and tiny stones...

(if this is your first visit, start here)

Jessica at everything feeds process made this exquisite little journal for her small stones. I'm very jealous. 

People are still signing up for the river and some are getting rather excited about it. I'm glad. We should be excited, because this project is about engaging the world. 

It is not about creating wonderful writing, although that is sure to be a by-product. 

It is not about beating ourselves up if we miss a day or can't get our small stone to look right. 

It's about attempting to put all that aside, and be curious in our object, the 'other'. What does his voice sound like? What is the texture of that crinkled leaf? What does the colour of that bird remind you of? 

What we're aiming for is to grow small, as Caroline has written below. Let's dance!

"The world grows. We grow small. Like violets on an old path, the world fills the cracks of our being. We are invaded by life in all its complex beauty and weather into relationship with the material world. We soften. Just as bricks lose their hard edges, their constituents crumbling back into soft clay and tiny stones, so too, we find our resting place in the greater processes of life. No need to defend now. We are surrounded by the light of life, and in it we dance."

(From Caroline Brazier's The Other Buddhism)

Two days... an exercise, and your experiences

Not long to wait now.

If you'd like to get some practice in, here's an interesting exercise I found via Matt at Morden Haiku - the author has given me permission to link to it here.

If anyone would like to make some notes about the experience of writing small stones, I'd be interested in seeing them - email them through, or blog them, or both. It might be interesting to use some quotes from you all in the introduction to the book we make.

There's still time to join us... you don't have to let us know, just start writing small stones on the 1st!

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Three days... reaching out beyond our small selves

(if you're new here, welcome...)

At the moment I'm reading The Other Buddhism by Caroline Brazier, which speaks about Pureland Buddhism - the biggest school of Buddhism in Japan, but still relatively little known here in the West. 

Pureland encourages us to connect with what is 'other' - to reach out to that 'mysterious something' - what whispers to us when we encounter an awe-inspiring landscape, or a small unexpected comfort. 

What does this have to do with small stones?

Writing small stones is another way of reaching out beyond our small selves to what is 'other'. 

After encouraging us to investigate a small piece of ground, which will contain an infinite variety of objects (only some of which we can see), Brazier says:

"...even on a material level, the other is a great mystery. When we struggle to relate to it, we fall back into personalised approximations. Keeping our sense of wonder and our willingness to encounter the other requires a special kind of reaching out."

Whatever your spiritual leanings, we will need 'a special kind of reaching out' to find our small stones

And what else might we find?

Monday 27 December 2010

Four days to go... or five if you're just waking up (and your help needed)

I hope you all had marvellous Christmasses. We were both feeling a little peaky but we're on our way to recovery. And we have lots of chocolate-eating to catch up with.

There have been a healthy number of hits on the site today, and we're getting new people signing up all the time. It's only four days before we start. How did that happen? 

So for the last push...

Do follow us @ariverofstones on Twitter if you're not already, and keep letting people know what you're doing on Facebook etc.

Finally it'd be a great help if you could send this email to ten writers and ten non-writers - choose a few people you think would be interested and a few you're not so sure about - you never know! 

Thanks for your help, we much appreciate it - it wouldn't be a river without you, it'd be a little trickle. We'll be back tomorrow with an exercise to get your writing juices going.  


Hello – I’m taking part in a new project starting on January the 1st and I thought you might like to join me.

In an attempt to pay more attention, I will be noticing one thing properly every day (a bird eating berries, a child playing in the street) and writing it down. People from across the world will be joining me and we’ll be creating a ‘river’ of these short pieces of writing.

You can write them down in a notebook or on a blog – and it doesn’t matter if you’ve done any writing before or not. The purpose of the project is to help us to pay attention, and to start the year as we mean to go on.

If you’d like to join us find out more at or email for more information.

It’d also be lovely if you could forward this email to five friends you think might be interested.

Thank you!

Friday 24 December 2010

Happy holidays....

Me and Kaspa would like to wish you all a VERY merry Christmas or non-Christmas.

We're going to be out and about for a few days, eating and opening presents. 

We'll return next week to let you know how the river is going. 

Until then, Namo Amida Bu (that's the Pureland Buddhist form of Namaste, or a little bow - substitute your own greeting/paying of respect/au revoir!)

Thursday 23 December 2010

9 days. "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.”

This is one of my heroes, Brenda Ueland. She wrote the cult book about writing - If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Brenda believed that "Since you are like no other being ever created since the beginning of time, you are incomparable", and "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.”

She believed in the importance of moodling for all creative people, and she believed we should approach our creative tasks without egotism and without fear of failure. She said a lot of very sensible and fiercely encouraging things.

I'd like to offer a little of the spirit of Brenda today, to those riverofstone participants who haven't been writing for very long, and who feel all wobbly like a just-born calf. It's perfectly normal. Writing does that to you.

We must learn to write through it - the times we feel we'll never write anything worth reading, or that we don't have anything exciting to say. Remember what Brenda said. "Everybody is talented, original and has something important to say.” That means you.

Keep your gorgeous small stones coming. We're so enjoying reading them.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

10 days. Fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor.

And the snow continues.

Walking on the white Malvern hills a few weeks ago, we were struck by the stark beauty of a crowd of skeleton rosebay willow herb plants (Kaspa took this photo).

Writing small stones is a bit like taking a photo. When you carry a camera, you are also carrying a particular 'way of looking'. Would this work? Which angle would I approach it from? How does that colour look against the sky?

When we are carrying a notebook, we are trying to open all of our senses at once - to be open to receive whatever is before us. Fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor. Denise Levertov speaks about this 'way of being' in her poem, below.

We're not going anywhere today. You can only see the very tops of the wheels of my red Fiat 500, Rosie - and even if we dug her out she's not very good in the snow. I'm staying by the fireside with my cats and laptop and earl grey. And my notebook. And my small-stone-seeking eyes/tongue/ears/nose/fingers.


Looking, Walking, Being

"The World is not something to
look at, it is something to be in."
Mark Rudman

I look and look.
Looking's a way of being: one becomes,
sometimes, a pair of eyes walking.
Walking wherever looking takes one.

The eyes
dig and burrow into the world.
They touch
fanfare, howl, madrigal, clamor.
World and the past of it,
not only
visible present, solid and shadow
that looks at one looking.

And language? Rhythms
of echo and interruption?
a way of breathing.

breathing to sustain
walking and looking,
through the world,
in it.

Denise Levertov

Tuesday 21 December 2010

11 days. Judicious use of the f-word, and waking up

"The small stone is the briefest of poems, somewhat related to the haiku and the American Sentence forms (only without the strictures of syllable counting and whatnot). But process is what’s important here — knowing that there’s a moment out there in the day that waits your noticing it puts you in a state of hunter’s receptivity. And then the writing of it becomes a meditation on intensity, simplicity and presence."

This is how Corvapriya describes small stones on her gorgeous blog, InkSeeds, and I must say I couldn't have put it better myself.

I'm really pleased with how the spirit of small-stone-writing has been resonating with you folks out there.

As Sami says on her blog, 'sami, curiously', "i have but one resolve: BE PRESENT. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ (for f*** sake! why is it so damn difficult!?!)".

It is difficult. It's why serious spiritual practitioners spend 10 hours a day on their derrières or months in a cave or years in the wilderness, trying to let thought after thought (after thought after thought...) go.

We can wake up, one small stone at a time.

Join us.

If you haven't already, check out The River of Stones at the top of the blog. Isn't Kaspa clever. It's all done with pipes, you know. And do follow us at Twitter @ariverofstones, where you'll also be treated to a stream of lovely stones. And do keep telling your friends (thank you). We're getting around 700 hits a day, and 1100 on Sunday alone, which is very heartening. And keep in touch!

(Thank you to Carolee for today's beautiful image. Hop along to her blog for more gorgeousness.)

Monday 20 December 2010

river of stones - the book (12 days to go)

We're very excited about the small stones that will soon be appearing on websites and in notebooks across the world. 

We have lots of fine experienced writers already signed up, and we'll also be discovering lots of brand new authors... what a scoop.

It seems like a terrible waste not to preserve some of these stones for posterity. 

What we're suggesting is that when the project is finished, anyone who'd like to be considered can send us their ten favourite small stones. We'll choose our very favourites, and compile them into a gorgeous book. 

Whether we can include a small stone from everyone or not will depend on how many people become involved, but we promise we'll pack lots of corkers in. 

Excited? We are...

(here's more info about my book of small stones. the river of stones will be MUCH better though.) 

Sunday 19 December 2010

The River of Stones

(if you're new, go see this post first...)

Hello lovely stone writers,

It's been wonderful to see people start writing already, and to taste the anticipation of those yet to write. I wanted to be able to see everyone's writing all in one place so I spent a couple of hours yesterday creating The River of Stones.

As of today (19th December 2010) it includes everyone who has created a new blog just for their stones, and everyone who has started posting in their existing blogs and has put those posts into a category.

If you are using you own blog please do create a category for your "small stone" posts - that way I can filter out the stones and add them to The River of Stones. It will make my life easier if you all use the same name for your category - so I'm going to suggest aros.

I created this using Yahoo! pipes. To get the river of stones widget go to Yahoo! pipes 'a river of stones' and click get widget.

Twitter feed
You can follow The River Of Stones on Twitter: @ariverofstones
and look out for posts tagged #aros

If none of this makes any sense, or you have any questions, please do leave a comment below.

13 days to go... new improved badges (again)

(if you're new here, pop here first)

No, it's not another spelling mistake.

We originally used 'NaSmaStoMo' so our river of stones was instantly recognisable to people as a writing project.

We think this has worked, and we've had a very enthusiastic response so far from people across the globe.

However, Na is short for National, which of course the project isn't. So after prompting from a new 'river of stones' participant we've redesigned the badges to reflect this.

We'll use #aros as our hash tag on Twitter from now on.

I'm already excited about 'a river of stones 2012' so it's worth taking the time to get this right.

If you would LIKE the new badges please feel free to help yourself, but it really doesn't matter - they're just as recognisable in the old form.

The other change I've made is to 'officially' add Kaspa as a curator of the project. He's doing just as much as me, especially on the techy bits, so it seems only fair ; ) It's lovely to be working on something together.

An exciting announcement tomorrow....

Happy Sunday!

Saturday 18 December 2010

14 days.... 100 of us so far

100 of us so far.

Madeline shows us a stone she's had for a long time here. And Rosemary writes more about paying attention.

More of us are starting early - here's one from Kelly, here's one from Susan, here's one from Vanessa. Is it just us women who are impatient?

Extra chuffed today that we will be enticing jem from -a sound of splinters- to start writing again... her blog will be the sound of shingle.

Keep in touch, let me know if you've started practising, and how you're helping to spread the word.

Enjoy your Sundays.

Friday 17 December 2010

15 days - an actual small stone

(if you're new here, have a look here first...)

Isn't this beautiful? 

It's from the odd inkwell, who will be swimming in our river. I look forward to seeing more.

We have some impatient folks (in the best sense of the word) who have started posting their stones - keep an eye on the blogroll on the right to see them. Once we're started I'll choose a few a day to post here.

After we're finished, I might make something with our small stones - an e-book or something - I'll have a think. And I'm hoping to have a good stock of shiny stones for my blogzine, a handful of stones. You can join the group on Facebook, you know, or just come and say hello to me

So, things are going swimmingly, thanks to you, and your badges, and your sharing-the-link-on-FB-and-Twitter. Lots of non-writers are getting involved too, which is extra-lovely. 

We're working on something special over the weekend... we'll be back on Monday, enjoy your last weekend before Christmas!

Thursday 16 December 2010

16 days to go - my compulsion, and what's better

Yesterday I got a bit caught up in compulsion - how many people will get involved? Where are visitors coming from? How can I make it more popular? Do people like it? Do people like me?

It helped to remember my reasons for starting this project.

I wanted to inspire people to notice the world around them.

That's it.

I'd be happier if three thousand people did this secretly, in their notebooks, than if three people did it publicly.

I'll get caught up in chasing the statistics again - it's who I am. But it was  such a relief to remember that it doesn't HAVE to be popular. It's just my offering. It's up to you what you do with it.


There are some lovely new homes for stones - here's one James has made, and Avril will be placing her stones beautifully here.  Dorothee has written an article about us here. People are using our lovely badges (which are now spelt correctly!) and tweeting about us and sharing our link on Facebook. Let me know what you're up to. And thank you to everyone.

I'll leave you with something Ted Kooser beautifully observed - via the wonderful Writer's Almanac. Happy Thursday.


Walking beside a creek

Walking beside a creek
in December, the black ice
windy with leaves,
you can feel the great joy
of the trees, their coats
thrown open like drunken men,
the lifeblood thudding
in their tight, wet boots. 

Ted Kooser

Wednesday 15 December 2010

17 days - three methods, and spot the deliberate mistake

Finding small stones is a lot like beach-combing.

There are three methods.

The first is to become available.

Tune in to the world, and small stones will present themselves to you everywhere. You'll notice the precise blue of the sky, and the music of the wind in the long grass. You'll notice the exact words that woman in the shop used with her child. You'll feel a nagging urge to write them down.

The second is to go seeking.

Put your small-stone-seeking senses in and look/listen/feel/smell/taste around you. What can you find? What strikes you? Put the choicest examples into your notebook.

The third is to trawl your memory.

This is a cheat, really, for when you remember you haven't written your small stone just before bedtime. What did you notice today? How much of it can you remember? In my experience, these small stones are never quite as vivid as the ones caught 'live', but it still means you've paid some attention to your day.

Do write and let me know how you're getting on.


Spot the deliberate mistake. 

Elizabeth was the first to alert me to the spelling mistake on the badges (participating).

Did you see it?

If you did, this means you'll be a very good small stone spotter.

If you didn't, you have a way to go, just like me ; )

The correct badges are now up on the right hand side, and the correct html is here. If you've got an old one, feel free to replace it or keep it and see how many people have their observational skills switched on!

Tuesday 14 December 2010

18 days - magic and porridge

(If you're new here, go here first.)

Porridge. I just ate mine, drizzled with (compulsory) golden syrup. My cat Silver has a very sweet tooth, and so she's been staying close.

Now I've finished she's given up on syrup and is sitting on the table next to the lap-top and has turned her attention to the birds in the garden outside. There's something very exciting going on out there, if her tail-swinging is anything to go by.

Magic. That's what friends are, and the internet is.

More people and more people are signing up for NaSmaStoMo - joining with us as we write a little piece of observational writing every day during January.

There are some beautiful small stone blogs appearing - here is Melissa's, and Sharon's, and someone I know quite well.

There are some fantastic writers signing up - some you may have heard of - Sarah Salway, Dorothee Lang, Deb Scott, and some of my personal favourites - Jessica Kramer, Mark Holloway, Kirsten Noorgard (who will be posting mostly in Danish).

And I'm extra-pleased that people with no history of creative writing are also signing up - people who will be writing along at home in their notebook.

And people are using the badges, and talking to their friends, and getting excited just like we are.


Keep in touch. Let me know what you're up to. 18 days to go.

Monday 13 December 2010

Day 2 - a flying start (and a confession)

Since launching the NaSmaStoMo project yesterday afternoon, I've been overwhelmed with people's response.

More than forty people have signed up to join us in writing a small stone every day during January.

Blogs are now sporting our smart badges, and people have been writing about NaSmaStoMo on Facebook and on Twitter. Much gratitude.

I would also like to confess. This morning I discovered that someone else had a very similar idea before me. Great minds think alike, there are no new ideas under the sun, and other clichés.

Luckily they've chosen February as their month. So now you can start the year as you mean to go on, and then go on...

Saturday 11 December 2010

Welcome to a river of stones!

(If you’re reading this after the 1st of January, it’s not too late to join us. Just notice one thing properly today and write it down in your notebook, or on your blog. You can either carry on until the end of January or do 31 consecutive days. You can then submit your writing for inclusion in our ‘river of stones’ book in the middle of February. Read one for more information!) 

Novelist Fiona Robyn and her fiance Kaspa are curating a new event beginning on January the 1st 2011: a river of stones.

Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to pay attention to one thing every day during the month of January and write it down. We call these pieces of writing small stones. We're especially interested in both 'writers' and 'non-writers' taking part - it's not about the finished product, it's about the process.

What is a small stone? 

A small stone is a polished moment of paying proper attention.

You can see many fine examples at our sister blogzine, a handful of stones. You can read more about the birth of the concept of small stones here and how to write them here. There are some examples of my own below.

Why would you want to join in?

Because choosing something to write about every day will help you to connect with yourselves, with others, and with the world. It will help you to love everything you see - the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the beautiful and the ugly.

You don't have to be a 'writer' to get involved. The PROCESS of paying attention is what's important. I'd especially like 'writers' and 'non-writers' to get involved. If you'd rather not publish your small stones on a blog, you can write them in a note-book. It could change your entire year...

Will you join us?

How you can get involved: (all optional - I'd love it if you just wrote along at home!)

1. Any help with spreading the word would be much appreciated. Put the badge on your blog, pass this blog address on to your friends, interview me or mention the project on your blog, put details about 'a river of stones' on Facebook and Twitter, email your friends or tell them what you're doing over coffee and cake. Write 'a river of stones' in the sky with your little aeroplane.

2. Let me know the web address where you'll be posting the small stones and I'll add you to the blogroll here.

3. I'll be sending out occasional emails to let everyone know how we're getting on - if you'd like me to include you in these, send me an email (telling me which blog is yours) to


11 month old Florence says look!
every ten minutes there is something new to fill her up with awe


today I saved the life of a pocket-sized mouse -
he had twitching whiskers and trembled in my hand

the moon is so transparent you could slip a thumb-nail under the edge and peel it from the sky


Three days later the sleeping fox is still stretched out on the same patch of grassy verge. The wind makes waves in his pale biscuit fur.

The buds on the magnolia trees are pink-tinted and fat. Pull up a chair; wait for them to go bang.

Adding a river of stones badge to your blog


If you'd like to add one of the badges to your side-bar, here's the html you'll need:

This one for the dark stones:

<a href=""><img src="" /></a>

This one for the pale stones: 

<a href=""><img src="" /></a>

Let me know if you get stuck! (thanks Kaspa)