River of Stones - Jan 30th

sleeping in deep on a Sunday morning
bliss-drowsy under a body-toasted blanket
let the day go on without me

River of Stones - Jan 29th

every day I try to catch
the moment when day becomes night
and always I find myself
in the dark

River of Stones - Jan 28th

deep into the night
only Jupiter and me
still awake

Random Exercise #44

Use these three words in a short story: dim, rubber, pond.

(I'm sorry, guys. I feel like I'm not posting as many prompts as usual. Things will get back to normal when January is over and the River of Stones project ends. But writing a stone every day is giving me lots of new ways of thinking about creativity, so hopefully that means new prompts!)

River of Stones - Jan 26th

After the squeeze of rush hour on the subway
I walk slowly home through the park
my soul unfurling.

Week #117

Children often have hiding places and adults often have secrets, and this is how nine year old Christine, crouched and barely breathing amongst the musty coats and boots in the front hall closet, came to overhear her mother's whispered conversation on the basement stairs.

River of Stones - Jan 25th

then the winter afternoon was over
and all that remained was my own face
staring back from the now darkened window

River of Stones - Jan 24th

mint tea
and snowflakes cascading
through the darkness
- this is tonight's lullaby


"Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart."

~William Wordsworth

River of Stones - Jan 23rd

trying to decide what to cook for dinner
as I watch the red sun
melt into the horizon.

River of Stones - Jan 22nd

walking on a winter night
amidst the falling snow
I reach out a hand
and try to catch what may be
raining stars

River of Stones - Jan 21st

beyond a veil of cloud
the ghost of a full moon

Interview with Laraine Herring

I want to welcome the fabulous Laraine Herring to the First Line blog! Laraine is the author of the novel, Ghost Swamp Blues, as well as Monsoons, a fiction collection blending prose and poetry, the non-fiction work, Lost Fathers and the two great books for writers that I reviewed here yesterday, Writing Begins with the Breath and The Writing Warrior.

1. What is your favourite word?

Cat. Followed closely by chocolate and monkey.

2. What was the best advice you received as a writer?

Believe it or not, it was that I should stop writing. This was from a teacher I had in grad school and it made me so angry that I think I have written more than I might ever have. :-) To answer more what I think your question was aiming for, the best advice I ever got was to shut up and write. Not to over-think, over-plan, over-outline, but to listen to the writing itself and to get out of its way.

3. What book do you think every writer should read?

Tao te ching.

4. If you weren’t a writer, what would you want to be?

I honestly cannot imagine what else I would do. Since I already teach as well, those are the two things I’m half-way good at on this planet. Although, if I had the talent, being a blues singer like Janis Joplin would be a pretty cool thing.

5. Describe your work habits. When do you write? Where?

I write mostly over winter and summer breaks since I have a full time teaching job that takes up a lot of my time during the academic year. There are ebbs and flows to a semester though, and I try to take advantage of the times when there’s less grading to do. I write at home and at the library. I’ve got a separate room at home and then one of the schools in my area has a beautiful library where you can get a whole view of the town and the mountains, and there’s a stream below the window. The building is made of real wood and smells like a forest. It reminds me of North Carolina, I think. :-)

6. You write both fiction and non-fiction. How does the process differ for the two?

To me, they are not any different from one another. I approach both of them from a pretty even place of not knowing what the heck I’m going to write about and then I see what happens. Nonfiction often goes a bit quicker for me, once I figure out what I’m trying to say, because it’s easier to figure out the purpose, audience, etc. Fiction is just one big mysterious dream for me.

7. What inspires you?

Animals. Other writers. Science. Remembering that I am going to die (that’s not as morbid to me as it might come across). I have a note taped to my computer: Memento Mori — which means basically remember you will die. That helps keep things in perspective and helps keep me moving forward.

8. If you could have dinner with any writer, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

Truman Capote. You have to ask why? :-) I would probably be afraid of him, and he would probably say something snarky about me, but he was a force of nature, not to mention wickedly talented, and I would have loved to be in the same room as him.

9. Do you have any other creative talents? Do you paint? Play a musical instrument?

That’s hotly debated. :-) I enjoy dancing and calligraphy and watercolor, but certainly it’s only in the “wow, I love doing this” place. I took piano lessons for many years as a child, but I don’t have a piano now and although I can still read music, I can’t really make good music. I also really love fashion (not the $4000 per sock kind, but putting together fun and funky outfits.) I think I express a lot of myself through clothing.

10. What are you working on now?

Quite a few things actually — two young adult novels, one adult novel, and another book in the same vein as Breath and Writing Warrior on sustainable creativity.

To learn more about Laraine Herring visit her website at:

River of Stones - Jan 20th

empty blue sky
atop fields of snow
as though the clouds have floated down
and are resting

Book Review - Writing Begins with the Breath & The Writing Warrior

(Be sure to come back tomorrow for my interview with Lariane Herring.)

I recently read two wonderful books for writers: Writing Begins with the Breath and The Writing Warrior, both by Laraine Herring. What fascinated me most about Herring’s books is her premise that writing is a whole body experience as opposed to simply an intellectual one. Herring is interested in what she calls, ‘deep writing.’ Deep writing is what appears on the page when the writer’s voice is rooted in their most authentic self. Herring believes that deep writing comes from the body, not from the brain. She presents the intriguing idea that though language comes from the mind, our stories are stored in our cells, in our bodies. It is a fresh approach and one I agree with, as will anyone who has ever been in love, grieved, or felt butterflies in their stomach. Both Writing Begins with the Breath and The Writing Warrior are intended to strengthen this connection between our heads and our bodies and to enable each of us to access our own deep writing.

In Writing Begins with the Breath Herring focuses, unsurprisingly, on the breath. She teaches how to use the breath to quiet the mind so that inspiration may bloom and also so that the writer may learn how to follow and focus their own mind. The book is divided into three parts: Focusing the Mind, The Deep Writing Process and Embracing What and Where You Are. Interspersed throughout the book are simple exercises intended to help you stay grounded during the process and at the end of each chapter writing prompts and exercises can be found. The book is well-written, well-organized and different enough from most of the books for writers that it is worth seeking out.

The Writing Warrior grows so naturally out of Writing Begins with the Breath that the two books blend seamlessly if read together they way I did. In The Writing Warrior Herring acknowledges the courage it takes to be a writer. I found myself nodding in agreement to much of what Herring offers up in both these books, but I particularly agreed with this sentiment. It does take bravery to be a writer. To write your own truth (yes, even when writing fiction), to expose yourself and hope that your words resonate and connect with readers takes courage. Herring has travelled this path and in this book offers guidance and reassurance to those who feel uncertain and stuck in their writing. The breath continues to be a focus in The Writing Warrior and a fun movement practice is added. And there are plenty of writing exercises in this book as well.

My favourite part of The Writing Warrior was Part Three. Titled, ‘Dissolving Your Illusions’ this section alone is worth the price of the book. Here Herring succinctly tackles many of the obstacles writers commonly face, such as: Illusion of Time, Illusion of What a Writer is, Illusion of Control, Illusion of Distractions, Illusion of Money, Illusion of Publication, Success and Fame. Herring slays popular myths about the writer’s life and offers commonsense advice along with encouragement.

These two books, like all my favourite books on writing, are not simply about how to write, but are manuals on how to live. Herring is not only a good writer but she is also a gifted teacher, and for this we are lucky. To have her warm, knowledgeable and thoughtful voice on your bookshelf is something I wish for all writers.

To find out more about Laraine Herring visit her website at: wwwlaraineherring.com.

River of Stones - Jan 19th

My feet slip on the ice
and the sidewalk rushes up so quickly.

Week # 116

Over their twenty-four year marriage Dot had had plenty of hobbies, but this newest one had Doug alarmed.

River of Stones - Jan 18th

I dance with the falling snowflakes
because, really,
what else can I do?

River of Stones - Jan 17th

Winter morning -
I open the curtains
on a still starry sky.

Musings from the Desk

There is a controversy brewing. I can feel it the same way you feel a thunderstorm brewing on a hot August day long before you feel the first drop of rain. Okay, maybe I am the only person who finds this controversial. But there seems to be some discussion in certain quarters over whether you should leave one space or two after a period. (I know, it was a slap in the face for me, too.)

Apparently, some people find it old-fashioned to leave the traditional two spaces after a period. And I have noticed some magazines are asking writers to submit their manuscripts with just one lonely space after each period.

I am old enough that when I learned to type I was taught on a manual typewriter. (If I had all those manual typewriters from my old high school now I could probably sell them for a small fortune on e-bay, but I digress.) So I had it drilled into me to hit that space bar - HARD - twice with my thumb before my finger dared land on that period key. I'm not even sure I can retrain myself to only hit it once. It is so automatic. And besides, I like the satisfying bump, bump of my thumb hitting the space bar at the end of each sentence.

Truthfully, I just can't see the sense in this one. And once again I feel I am being left behind in this world gone mad for technology. I thought the two tiny spaces following a period were safe, but I guess nothing is sacred anymore.

River of Stones - Jan 16th

daylight slipped so sneakily from the room
I did not notice her absence
until the page grew too dim
to read

River of Stones - Jan 13th

Watered-down late afternoon sunlight
too weak to cast my shadow.

Dialogue Exercise

Use this line of dialogue in a short story. The line can be at the start of the story, in the middle or at the end.

Here's the line of dialogue:

"Who would kill a swan?"

River of Stones - Jan 12th

Beyond the streetlamp
a half moon winks.

Week #115

Travel Journal - Day One

When my mother warned me about the evil in this world masquerading as men, about the silky-tongued insurance salesmen, the preachers with tattoos and those blue-eyed criminals with a sense of humour, she forgot to mention travel agents.

River of Stones - Jan 8th

The trudge through snow
gives way to the flight of ice skates
across the pond.

River of Stones - Jan 7th

North wind in my face on the walk to the subway -
better than an alarm clock.

I can finally tell you!

I've been bursting to tell you this! A few months ago The First Line blog was contacted by The Writer magazine wanting permission to print some of my first lines in their magazine. I am so happy the issue is finally on newstands. The First Line blog is featured in a sidebar alongside an article by Jim Shepard, entitled, Off the Cuff: Writing as a Form of Play. I am super thrilled to be included in such a great magazine. So the next time you're at a newstand check out the February issue of The Writer!

River of Stones - Jan 6th

Maple tree stretches its branches into the winter sky - remembering its leaves.

River of Stones - Jan 5th

As I wait for the tea water to boil
the silence fills with the tick of the clock and the bumpy hum of the refrigerator -
my domestic symphony.

Week #114

Lucinda kicked off her high heels in the back of the limousine and congratulated herself on fooling them all.

River of Stones - Jan 4th

New snow overnight silences my boots on the sidewalk.

Random Exercise #42

Choose two or three different fragrant items. (Ideas: flowers, perfume, rotting garbage, tea/coffee, old shoes, incense, a car interior, the basement, etc.) Write a description of each item.

River of Stones - Jan 3rd

After many grey days, finally the sun -
I had forgotten the beauty of shadows.

River of Stones - Jan 2nd

Falling snowflakes outline the wind.


"It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see new meaning in it."

~Anais Nin

River of Stones - Jan 1st

I am taking part in the River of Stones project so every day this month I will be posting a sentence or two. I love this project and the way it asks you to be present and aware. Usually I just give exercises to inspire you, but this is a chance for you to read some of my writing, to see what touches and inspires me. Feel free to comment!

Here is today's stone:

Through the steam rising from my tea mug I watch the fog.