Fiona Robyn’s ‘Small Stones: A Year of Moments’

Readers of this blog will be all to familiar with my own attempts at flash fiction, which I try to keep as ‘flash’ (i.e. short) as possible. Fiona Robyn, however, goes one better. She goes for the ‘f’ of the ‘flash’ like Linford Christie used to go for the ‘b’ of the ‘bang’.

Fiona runs a blog over at A Small Stone in which she writes about, well, stuff. Life. The sudden appearance of a pigeon. The taste of green tea. It’s difficult to describe. I’d suggest you go and check it out. Fiona recently put her ‘small stones’ into a book called Small Stones: A Year of Moments. To mark its release, Fiona is doing a blog tour, and This Writing Life (that’s me) is hosting a day (that’s today) of it. Fiona also does some teaching, and will be running a writing masterclass on 30th August in an abbey just south of Oxford.

I thought it would informative to ask Fiona some questions about herself and the book. Here goes.

You refer to the process of creating your poems/vignettes/flashes as ‘paying proper attention’. Can you expand on this?

Good question… I think firstly there’s an attempt to pay more attention to anything and everything I’m doing. This can be a ‘narrowing’ of focus, for example concentrating on the taste of my tea rather than making endless lists in my head about what I’ve got to do next, or it can be a ‘broadening’, for example looking up above the shop-fronts at the old buildings when walking through a city. This general-paying-attention seems to lead to more ‘aha’ moments, when I notice something that I turn into a ‘small stone’, or maybe a poem.

What makes a moment worth recording with words?

I’m likely to write something down when I get an ‘aha’. I’m not sure how to describe ‘aha’s. You see children doing it – when they are looking at something they maybe haven’t seen before, and their eyes widen. There’s something fresh, even if what you’re looking at is very familiar. There’s a connection between me and the thing. It might be beautiful in some way, but it also might be terrible. I’ve a hunch that the whole of our lives have the potential to become a string of ‘aha’s, but maybe only Zen masters get close to that!

Do you see yourself following a particular poetic tradition? If so, who are your favourite exponents?

I’m not following any traditions, but I suppose you could make comparisons between my small stones and Japanese poetry – haiku etc. I’m just writing what I want to write. I am, of course, hugely indebted to many many writers over the years after eating all their glorious words and being nourished by them.

How did you come up with the phrase ‘a small stone’ to describe your work? Does it have a specific meaning?

I was driving home from the seaside and trying to find a name for a new blog I wanted to start, and the phrase simply floated up from the ether. I was thinking at the time of going on a walk and picking up something small and holding it in your hand – a little fragment you could take home, a memento. Writing ‘a small stone’ helps me to find my own small stones. My hope is that people who read my blog or book will be inspired to find their own.

Fiona’s tour continues at East London Writer.

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Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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