birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

So... how did it go?

First, congratulations! Seven of the eight of us (including me) wrote 30 or more of the 40 days. As you might recall, I personally wrote 30 when I came up with this whole idea, and I'm pleased to have eked out 33. Three of you hit all 40. That's nuts.

Collectively, we wrote 270 pieces adding up to nearly 138,000 words.

I promised to tell you a little more about the logic behind the prompts in 40 Days & 40 Writes. Basically, it looks like this:


The whole theory is that nouns are easier than verbs and verbs are easier than abstract ideas. Likewise, remembering is easier than observing something new, and really analyzing something is harder than that. So, we stair-step through difficulty, increasing the time as we go. (Your flock started at 5 minutes and built up to 10, but I'm not sure that you needed the ramp-up.) Meantime I'm giving you less and less to go on in each prompt so that at the end you really have to find your own topic.

I like starting with memory prompts because they are the easiest to jump into and get people going. That said, I'm thinking about interweaving memories and observations a bit more; two weeks of memory writing does tend to set the tone for the full 40 days as a memoir storytelling project, which it doesn't have to be for everyone.

As writers, teachers, students and thinkers... if you look at this model and have any thoughts about it or ideas to share, please let me know.

In addition, please take this surveyJust do it now and then I won't have to hound you about it. Because I totally will. You know it's true.

If you're interested in talking to me on the phone or in person about your 40-Days experience, indicate that on the survey and we'll connect that way too.

In addition to your feedback, there are a few other ways you can help with the growth of the 40 Days & 40 Writes. You can:

Suggest it to your friends. The next group (of 16! Including my Mom!) is starting Oct. 2, but I am keeping an interest list for the flocks to come here. I'm also curious about moderating/ adapting this program for groups, like a class or a church group. 

Pay it forward.  I am investing in some web development work that will fully automate the data analysis and standings and provide each participant with her or her own data dashboard. If you'd like to make a financial contribution toward these efforts, well, thank you

Send me prompts. It may sound silly, but coming up with new writing prompts is the hardest part of building this. Have a random thought? Send it to me at

Volunteer. If you have time, knowledge or expertise to share, I would love that. For instance, I am considering incorporating Birds in a Barrel as a nonprofit to grow 40 Days' reach and add other writing-oriented programs. But I don't know anything about nonprofits. Do you?

Suggest a partner. In 2018 I 'll be looking for people or organizations to team up with to create writing prompts with specific aims, e.g., fiction, memoir, therapy, student writing instruction. 

Again, thanks to all of you for being such good canaries, and for allowing me to support you in your writing practice.

Onward and upward!

— Robin


The Second Day

The last day!