Thursday 31 March 2011

A bit rainy and all sorts of other things

Here's Rachel, holding her lovely book. And here's how she felt about receiving it. 

Jennifer is starting a month's worth of poetry prompts today, based on Personal Mythology. You can read her first post here and there's an accompanying group at WOWH here

If anyone else would like to use WOWH to set up a group of their own for your own project, do feel free - we have plenty of space there, and (like magic) it'll increase with the number of people who arrive. Email me if you've got any questions. 

What else? More than 60 people are signed up for the July challenge (I know, it's only March still...). My April Writing as Spiritual Practice e-course starts on Monday, and another one is running in May. I wrote a free essay about slugs. Oh, and all sorts of other things. 

It's a bit rainy in Malvern today. Let's hope the sun remembers where we are at the weekend.

Tuesday 29 March 2011

And the winner is...(and two more free books)

And the winner of the prize draw, receiving a copy of Alexander Master's book Stuart: A Life Backwards is Ana Gonçalves.

Congratulations Ana!

After pulling Ana's name out of my (virtual) hat, I clicked on her profile and it took me to her lovely small-stone/photo blog expressive world. It's really well designed and definitely worth a look

In other book give-away news Margo Roby who blogs at Wordgathering is giving away a copy of No Bones to Carry, an award winning collection by internationally published poet, James Penha and a copy of pay attention: a river of stones.

Margo's blog is really very good, with or without free books, she writes poetry prompts and advice on writing poems. Click on over to this post to be entered into her draw.

Fiona is giving away one copy of the hardback version of pay attention: a river of stones. She's also written a new article today which "looks at how often we ignore the things we shouldn't, what happens when we do, and how you can get better at paying attention to them instead. You might want to read it if you've ever ignored anything ever."

Head over to this post to read more and find out how to enter: Fatty, slugs and win a free hardback

Saturday 26 March 2011

Free e-book and other lovely stuff

Johannes S. H. Bjerg has created a beautiful e-book from his January small stones - do go and have a look.

And Chris Galvin (whom, I note approvingly, enjoys good dark chocolate) has written a beautiful piece about the river here - well worth tweeting and sharing on your Facebook pages as a way of encouraging your friends to get involved. 

The River (which contains blogs that only publish small stones) has more than forty drops already, and the blog here on the right (with anyone taking part) has more than fifty. More than a trickle. You can start writing small stones whenever you like - email me your blog address (and whether you're posting only small stones or not) and I'll add you to one or both of them straight away.

Oh, and don't forget to leave a comment on the blog below before the end of Sunday if you'd like to be in for a chance of winning 'Stuart: A Life Backwards'. 

Have wonderful weekends. We watched Inception last night - I'm still trying to work it out!

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Free book prize-draw, and how you can help us

As part of World Book Night (which, although grandly titled, was, this year, just in the UK) Fiona volunteered to give away 48 copies of one of her favorite books. In total, volunteers gave away one million books across the UK to encourage people to read something new, or in many cases just to read.

We've got one copy of Alexander Masters' Stuart: A Life Backwards left, and we'd like to give it to one of you.

Stuart is the real life hero of this story, a homeless person that Masters meets and decides to tell the story of. Stuart advises Alex to tell the story backwards, and this book is the result, although it's as much about their relationship as about Stuart's life. It's moving, and funny and sometimes heartbreaking. I read it a couple of years ago when a friend recommended it and couldn't put it down.

If you'd like to be entered into the draw to receive our last copy of this World Book Night edition of this fantastic true story, please leave a comment below (we're happy to ship it to wherever you live). I'll pull a name out of the hat a week today.

In other news, we've added a page called How you can help us - any of these things would be wonderful, but we are also very happy for you to be here and benefit without ever hearing from you. Keep writing the small stones!
The first is to share the word about our work. Tell your friends about writing small stones, or Fiona's free e-book, or our free community.

The second is to buy our book, 'pay attention: a river of stones', or check out ouron-line e-courses or Fiona's other books.

The third is to put a few coins in our tip jar by using the Paypal button below. Every little counts.

Monday 21 March 2011

Win a free copy of the book and an interview

Here's another copy of 'pay attention: a river of stones' in the wild - this time modelled beautifully by Laurie of Conversations With A Cardinal. We don't get cardinals over here... I'm jealous. 

Sara has posted an interview with me at her blog, here we were, and is generously giving away a free copy of the book. To be in with a chance, leave a comment on her post

Here's a lovely review of the book by Deborah Rickard, and here's another by James at Coyote Mercury. Kaspa & I were drooling over the hardback again today. There's nothing like a well-made hardback...

Nearly 40 people are in The River now, and to keep things simple here are the instructions again if you'd like to be in The River and/or on the blogroll on this blog. And those badges are starting to appear across the blogosphere!

Happy Monday : )

Email and tell me your blog address and whether you're posting just small stones (in which case you'll be added to The River and the blogroll here) or other things too (in which case you'll just be added to the blogroll here). 

Saturday 19 March 2011

A new space for The River, and get your badge for July

Our next write-a-small-stone-a-day challenge will be taking place in July. In January, over 350 bloggers across the world took part. This time, we'd like to encourage even more people to discover the joys of paying attention to one thing every day and writing it down.

Like last time, we'll be very happy if you want to write your small stones in your notebook and nobody ever sees them, or if you want to share them on your blog, on Twitter, on Facebook, with your neighbours etc. One of the things a lot of people enjoyed in January was reading other people's small stones, supporting each other and making new friends.

We have two different blogrolls.

One is a brand new space called The River which is for blogs that only contain small stones (no need to use the 'aros' tag this time.) If you post your small stones on your usual blog and you want to join The River, you could always create another blog and upload your small stones to it once a week or so. (If you have a Wordpress feed which will filter your small stones from your usual blog, feel free to send us this too.)

The other will appear here, and is for anyone who's planning on taking part in the July challenge, regardless of what else you might post in your blog.

Both blogrolls are open for business as soon as you're writing small stones. If you'd like to join them:

Email and tell me your blog address and whether you're posting just small stones (in which case you'll be added to The River and the blogroll here) or other things too (in which case you'll just be added to the blogroll here). 

I'm trying to keep things very clear because we're determined to spend less time doing admin than we did in January. And we'll hopefully have more blogs to add! If you need more detail, let me know and I'll make these instructions even clearer. Thank you!

If you want to keep up with the news, you can join the mailing list here - we won't be collecting any other details about participants than their web address this time. There's also a group for July small-stoners on the Writing Our Way Home forum.

And, as you can see from the previous post, our new badges are ready. Get them while they're hot and let's start spreading the word...

PS In January, we created a book (the beautiful pay attention: a river of stones) from our favorite stones. In July, the whole project will be online. 

Roll on July!

July '11 Badges for your blogs

To add one of these badges to your blog/webpage here's the html you'll need. Different blog platforms have different ways of adding badges. If you're not sure see the help pages for the blog platform you use. 

This one for the black border:

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

This one for the white border 

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

Wednesday 16 March 2011

Share the good stuff around

Here is Robin, holding her copy of "pay attention: a river of stones". She looks almost as happy as we felt when we received our first paperback. Do send us your photos - I love to think of the book travelling around the world without us. 

And I love the idea of small stones travelling too - tell your best friend, tell your sometimes-miserable colleague at work, tell them about my free e-book, tell them about the river, review the book on your blog, come and visit us at our free friendly forum. With frogs. (no frogs really. I just got carried away).  

If you found anything else when you were finding stones, keep looking. And share it.

Friday 11 March 2011

Instructions for living a life

"Instructions for living a life:
Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." ~ Mary Oliver

I found this quote at Robin's very lovely small stone blog leaf, stone, feather, sky. I have blog envy.

Oliver does praise SO well. She reminds us in her poetry over and over that we just need to look more closely if we want to fall in love with the world. Look at this pansy - the colours, the design - we have two pots of them outside our front door, and I don't look at them often enough.

With our small stones, we are doing exactly as Oliver suggests.

Thank you to Cait O'Connor for interviewing Kaspa about the river project at her blog. If anyone else would like to talk to us, do let us know.

In a couple of not-strictly-river-related notes, I have an article about not-being-perfect up at Tiny Buddha today, and if you'd like to get the early bird discount for my April Writing as Spiritual Practice e-course and join our current seven lovely participants, just send me an email before the end of Sunday.

Kaspa & I were talking earlier about the July write-a-small-stone-a-day challenge, and getting all excited. I wonder how we can broaden our river from 350 participants to ten times that? If anyone has any ideas, it'd be lovely if you wanted to share them. I've just started a group for that purpose (and any other purpose we can think of) here on the WOWH forum.

I'm off on my adventures now - see you when I get back!

Monday 7 March 2011

...tell what it is plainly

The greatest things a human soul ever does is to see something and tell what it is plainly.
John Ruskin 1856

I copied this into my journal in February 2009, whilst visiting Sheffield. I'd spent a week in silent retreat in a cottage in the peak district. That February we had heavy snow, and as I boarded the train I didn't know if I'd be able to make it to the cottage.

Sundari, who owned the cottage, and I took as bus as far as it would go and then walked for about a mile. It was already very dark. She said goodbye at the door, and I got the wood burner going.

This was before I'd met Fiona, and I hadn't heard of a small stone. Each day I'd go out into the winter and walk for about three hours. I carried my journal with me, and my camera, and noticed how the light caught the side of the stone buildings, the sound snow made when it hit the ground, sloughing of a roof, and the contrast between the natural world and the iron and steel of working farms.

On my way home from the retreat I visited the Millennium Gallery and their exhibition about Ruskin. I don't ally myself with him completely, I appreciate expressionism much more than he ever did, but there is something about his philosophy I find striking.

What Ruskin championed was artists going out in to nature (rather than re-creating a scene in their studio, and then painting it) and finding the truth of what is really there. The image on the left is his study of Gneiss Rock.

Go out in to the world, and find the truth of the rocks, of the clouds the rain and the sun, and tell it plainly.

Saturday 5 March 2011

A message for our book contributors

When Kaspa & I started the river of stones project, we had no idea where it would lead. Over time, as we read the wonderful observational writing springing up all over the internet, we decided it would be a good idea to make a book to showcase your wonderful pieces and to help spread the word about using small stones to engage with the world.

Since launching the book, we've had feedback from a few people who've been unhappy that we didn't offer them a free copy.

We've thought hard about this feedback. This project is important to us, and we've put our hearts into the blog, the river, the community, and the book.

As a result, we would like to offer all of our contributors a free PDF of the book - just email me or Kaspa and we'll send you one through.

If you're a contributor and you've already paid for a PDF and you'd like to be reimbursed, do email us and let us know. Lulu take half of the money you pay for each PDF, and as there's no way of getting this back, if you do want a refund we'll personally refund you the full amount.

Alternatively, you can know that the money that we receive from your PDF (and any hard copies you decide to buy) will go towards supporting us in our daily life and enabling us to continue doing what we're doing.

I'd also like to thank everybody who's given us positive feedback. We've had some really lovely emails and messages about the book and throughout the whole project.

Thank you for reading this, and for everything else. We do appreciate working with you.

Fiona & Kaspa

Bob Hale and Laurie Kolp interview us & 20% off book orders in the UK and US

20% off all books at Lulu 

Great News - have just sent us an email. We've got a discount code for you all to get 20% off all book orders in the UK and US. The code works once per person, and expires on Monday. 

Here's the text from Lulu:

This is the UK code:
Enter coupon code GIANTUK305 at checkout and receive 20% off your book order. The maximum savings for this offer is £100. Sorry, but this offer is only valid in Pounds and cannot be applied to previous orders. You can only use this code once per account, and unfortunately you can't use this coupon in combination with other coupon codes. This great offer expires on 7 March, 2011 at 11:59 PM, so don't miss out! While very unlikely, we do reserve the right to change or revoke this offer at anytime, and of course we cannot offer this coupon where it is against the law to do so.

The code for the US is: GIANT305. Terms and conditions apply.

Here are the links to the different formats: the paperback, the hardback gift edition, and the ebook (pdf)

We've been showing our copy off to our friends today, we're both really pleased with how it looks and feels. Reading it again reminds me how many pieces of wonderful writing there are, and how rich and varied all our worlds are. Keep writing. 

Interview with Bob Hale

small stoner Bob Hale keeps a blog called The Hitting The Road Blues. Fiona and I answered his questions about the river of stones project and, the book, and it's online now:

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!
Read the whole thing: A River of Stones on The Hitting The Road Blues.

And here's another lovely piece just up, on Laurie's Conversations with with a Cardinal.

If you want to interview us for you blog do let us know, we're happy to answer questions. Email me (Kaspalita) or Fiona.

Friday 4 March 2011

On creating a book...

It’s here, it has hundreds of contributing authors, and it’s beautiful – and I don’t just mean the cover, because I have my download copy already and the content is stunning.
~Martha Williams 

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)

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Pay attention! The river of stones book is OUT NOW!

'pay attention: a river of stones' is NOW AVAILABLE! (for a preview, see the bottom of this post...)

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

You will receive 320 amazing small stones written by all of you lovely talented people, short prose pieces written by Kaspa & me, longer quotes by several small-stoners and an appendix with lots of information about how to write small stones. It's packed full of beautiful writing.

We've kept the prices deliberately low as we're hoping that you won't just buy one for yourself but one for your mum and one for your brother-in-law and one for your local library. You could also give your friends the gift of paying more attention and connecting with the world.

Lulu charges more than Amazon for postage, but if you buy three books it's almost the same postage as buying one. The book will be available on Amazon but it'll be a little while before it appears there. I don't know about you but we can't wait that long...

Kaspa & I would love it if you could help us spread the word. You could interview us about the process of making the book on your blog, or you could write a piece for your local paper (with a nice photo of you holding the book). Share the links on Facebook and Twitter. And if anyone else has any ideas, do add them to the comments section before.

We're really proud to have produced such a beautiful book - and to have been involved in this project - you've made us very happy with your enthusiastic participation and with all your supportive comments.

Here's to us. Let the river flow.

Tuesday 1 March 2011

Pens down! (Keep Writing)

Project 365 Day 133: What I Read Yesterday

What a month! It's been amazing reading through all the small stones everyone has sent us for the book. I think I've replied to everyone now, so if you haven't heard anything do let me know.

I've learnt how many things there are to notice in the world and I've learnt how many of us notice the same things: a beautiful sunset, a robin on a fence, and lots and lots of snow. 

I've learnt that everyone has something to say and something to offer.

I've been reminded that I can be judgmental, that Fiona and I like different things and that sometimes we find the same things grating (writing that misses out articles and prepositions just to sound 'poetic'). 

I imagine that if someone else were in our shoes they would have chosen differently, and I expect we've missed some really good pieces of writing out there in the blogosphere, and in people's journals and notebooks, but that's okay. 

The next job is to transform what we have at the moment, one long list of everyone's stones, into a book manuscript, including the other little pieces of writing we have, introductions and appendices.

We're no longer accepting submissions for pay attention: a river of stones  but I encourage you all to keep writing - keep your small stone blogs going, and keep writing in your journals. Join the Writing Our Way Home forums if you want support and encouragement from other writers. 

If you want to learn about writing then read lots too: devour poetry, savour each word, find out how what you like works; collect beautiful prose. Ask 'how do others write about the world?'

I've been reading David Mamet's South of the N. E. Kingdom. It's slow and delicious, I've learnt as much about the craft of writing as I have about life in Vermont.

Keep an eye out for more book news, and for the July river of stones. We look forward to seeing you there.