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.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

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