When we started the Messages Project in 2003, it was all about our shared passion for writing and the creative process. We devised a simple formula over coffee one day. Using email, we would exchange 300 ‘messages’ of exactly 300 words, with each one returned within a time limit of 72 hours. Links between each message were made with words, themes, character, form, or even mood. The project took eighteen months to complete and the original Messages was published in July 2006.

From the first hit of the Send button to the final message appearing in our Inbox we enjoyed the energy attached to the project – the excitement of reading new work, meeting the looming deadlines, as well as the challenges and discoveries in language and form. With the new edition of Messages due out in January 2008 we thought we could share some of that excitement with you by creating a mini ‘Your Messages’ project. And we hope you enjoy what we enjoyed: the connections and loops, the playfulness and seriousness, the journeys through the familiar and strange.

For each day of November we’ll post a message from the book and you are invited to make your own link and write your own response. The only thing we ask is that you stick to 300 words and post your response the same day (see note below). 30 of the most interesting and creative responses will be published in an accompanying booklet, the profits of which will go to charity. All the contributors will be invited to read at a special Messages Event in 2008.

Messages was about generosity from the beginning: about gifts of writing, commitment and enthusiasm. We hope you’ll join us in continuing with that generosity. And of course, have fun because we intend to!

Lynne Rees and Sarah Salway

Note: We’ve had a number of queries about the deadline for posting responses so in order to be fair to everyone, particularly people posting from other countries, and continents, we can consider your response for publication if it’s posted on the site before 8am GMT the following morning.


  1. You are right, of course. Whenever I picture him now it is not the glint of green in his eyes or the slow curl of his mouth when he smiled that I remember, but the long length of his body huddled into the course black stuff of an ancient donkey jacket; the scuffed brown hiking boots, with that scar from descending a scree slope in the Cairngorms the year that we met. How he deliberately planted a track for me to follow in.

    You are right, of course. I don’t want to bestow the snow with symbolic significance. And yet I can’t help thinking about how the light changed, how the air took on that cold metallic taste; the same taste that he complained of when he began taking the morphine.

    He taught me everything I know about morphine. I know it is named after Morpheus, the god of dreams, who was the son of Hypnos, the god of sleep; that is the most prominent and powerful of the twenty-four different alkaloids that make up opium. I know that it was isolated in 1803, but that the chemical structure remained a mystery until 1925. I can draw it’s shape, its bonds, even write out its formula: C17H19NO3 . I know that it is white, like snow; that it changes the light; that it presents the mind with countless modifications of perception. That it is a narcotic which numbs the senses, reduces pain, and induces sleep. That this means that morphine lies, like snow.

    Yes, whenever I think of him now I think about snow. The sight of his retreating back, his footsteps getting harder to follow, even as he lay still, even though he was only semi-conscious. How for weeks I watched his slow escape as though he would melt.

  2. If I could time travel with the same constipated bear- down, closed eyes intensity of Hiro from Heroes and be at the chair side of that first psychiatrist when I was 16, I would not, even could she grant it, ask for happiness. At my rare happiest times I've been possessed of a bovine stillness. The pursuit of it, ubiquitous, seems the universal compulsive obsessive order of humanity but, like the anticipation of romance, the pursuit is what matters, not the goal. The Americans get some things right - even if you have to go back a couple of hundred years to find evidence of it. If I had a choice of pain or happiness I'd choose pain – it’s the option between being undead or mortal. Life only has meaning because it has an end. Happiness only matters in the quest for it, and so long as it eludes us. Joy is a different matter, as is pleasure and the rare attainment of physical ecstasy or enlightenment. This is not to argue for unhappiness but to argue for living. Let’s not waste precious time or breath moping about the barometer of inane smileyness. Much better to put on the headphones and clean the kitchen listening to Maria Callas singing Casta Diva, or Nina Simone singing anything. Think about it – Doris Day at the sharp-shooting beginning or yellow-dressed, simpering end of Calamity Jane? And Jo March getting her beautiful hair cut or Amy marrying Laurie? Jane Eyre or Elizabeth Bennet? Give me the mad woman in the attic any day – as long as I’m neither gaoled nor gaoler. I do not ask, in my prayers, for my children to be happy but for them to be true to their own sharp, clever, questioning inner voices wherever they may lead.

  3. Damn it Sponge Bob where are you?. Why every time I am in a rush do you hide?. Is it a twisted game?. Do you relish my shrieks of move it we’re late and then laugh in your cold plastic heart. I can see you in my mind’s eye that little four-sided yellow figure with bulging beady eyes, legs bent and arms braced in a sprint from some salty foe I have never heard of. I see you clutching my lifeline, holding the keys to my house, my car, my future. A hundred curses flash through my mind, imagined smells of twisted melted plastic, retribution for an imagined transgression. Keep me late again little man and I’ll teach you.

    It began innocently enough, Christmas with friends. A table reflecting the best that season can offer. A verdant table cloth, crimson platters, shimmering candles and for the sake of whimsy, comical crackers, to amuse and charm. What harm could it do?. What naïve fools we were. The crackers were pulled with seasonal abandon and unwitnessed by those at the table a prize fell to the floor unnoticed and unwanted, where it lay gathering the dust and I have come to realise plotting revenge.

    What seemed like a serendipitous moment was I have come to realise, a step in the machinations of my plastic foe. On the day that I had a new key, a glimpse of silver caught my eye, a sliver of silver under a dresser. How perfect a new key ring for my key. How you must have laughed at the months of furniture tossing and heated discussion on who had Sponge Bob last. I…..

    Wait I see you!. I don’t believe it, there in the bottom of my bag. You have won this round tomorrow we play again.

  4. Sorry if I'm not following protocol. Can't get my e-mail attached to the message I filed on Nov. 9 blog. I'm Valerie Gregg, and my e-mail is valgregg@comcast.net

  5. Hi,
    I just wanted to check re the deadline that just been put up. Some of earlier responses were post after the appropriate deadline because I didn't realise that was the deadline. (Sorry, I just guessed it would be 72 hours as for the original project.) Obviously, I'll keep to that deadline now but will my earlier responses still be considered?

  6. Quick query re the word count - Word seems to count dashes - as words, is it right to deduct them from the word count?

  7. Oh, thanks sharra... never noticed (or thought of that) before. I've just been going with what the word count tells me. Ooops.

  8. MS Word counts hyphenated words as one word. I have used a couple. Hope that isn't going to eliminate my entires.

    info at wolfetales dot com

  9. Hi there - we used Word's wordcount facility as a measure while writing Messages, so if you're using that you'll be okay.

    Word does differentiate between dashes and hypens. If you use hyphens instead of dashes to separate a clause - like this - then it will count them as extra words. Dashes aren't counted. This doesn't apply to hyphenated words, which are counted as one.

    My edition of Word automatically corrects a hypen to a dash, if I use it incorrectly. The hyphen is at the bottom of the key (next to the 0) while the dash (En dash) is in the Insert/Symbol/Special Characters, though there is a short cut with the Ctrl button that you can use. You'll need to have a look and see what it is because I changed mine to a key I could remember more easily.

    And our next collaborative project will be on punctuation!

  10. Thanks so much for your quick response. Good to go with Word's system. 8) Just wanted to be sure how you handled the count.

  11. wow it didn't even occur to me that there was a different between dashes and hyphens!
    Thank you :)

  12. Sarah and Lynne, I love this project. Just blogged about it on SmokeLong News (smokelong.com/news), so hopefully you'll get a few more flashers heading your way (but our news section is still in its infancy, so I'm not sure the reach we have yet).

  13. Hah, these responses have been making us smile. You can imagine now just how obsessed we got with 300 words and all its connotations during the project! It's been so good to hear from people taking part, and hearing too how - for some of you - the project has been kick-starting your own writing. You have inspired us both all over again - and thanks, Dave. Very honoured to be in Smokelong's news.

  14. I didn't include my e-mail address on my entry as I don't like it to be public. Will this make my entry ineligible? Or is there an e-mail where we can contact you separately with this info?

  15. Hello - if anyone would prefer not to add their email address but still have their writing considered for the book, then please email us both and include the date and first line of your response/s:


  16. There is a risk of balance.
    I’m not sure what could happen, it’s not a state I’ve visited before.
    Or maybe I have, perhaps it’s somewhere hidden in the white mists that are covering the valley just as I speak. The same white mists that are drifting through … ! Excellent, a listing, and to the right. Lack of balance restored, just in time, that was close.

    she brought a mask back with her
    wrapped in a square of ivory silk
    inside a blood-red wooden box
    silhouettes of coupling animals, birds and fish
    carved deep into its sides
    touched here and there with a soft, pale gold
    that gave the creatures an odd sheen
    an impression that they were perspiring
    white mists followed her like shadows
    as she …

    Beethoven’s ninth symphony …..
    It’s the phone
    Beethoven’s ninth
    Beethoven’s ninth
    Beethoven’s ninth

    Just wanted to check that you had the figures for the evaluation report
    Yes thanks
    Have you managed to scan in the print material okay?
    Yes thanks
    Good, good.
    I think we decided pie charts rather than line for the quantitative, didn’t we?
    Yes, we did.
    Good, all good. I’ll leave you to it, then. Did we say deadline Wednesday?
    Yes, we did.
    Excellent. Just wanted an update, make sure all on target, make sure you’re fine.
    Yes, thanks, I’m fine.
    Bye then.

    A listing to the left.
    seesaw marjory daw
    jenny shall have a new mistress

    A listing to the right.

    Port and starboard.
    Sip a glass of port. Drink up sequential and linear, based in reality and processing from parts to the whole.

    Or jump through the porthole
    spin cartwheels on the boards
    rotate the stars

    There is an energy in movement and a stagnation in stillness and a risk in balance

  17. Word Count (again, sorry.)
    I've only just realised there was a problem: The programme I use counts hyphenated words individually, thus "warm-wine stunt" is counted as three words.

    I now find that many of my entries will appear to have more or fewer words (when viewed in Word), even though I have obsessively stuck to the 300-word target.

    Please don't leave me out of the consideration pile because of this!

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  20. We will be as fair as we possibly can be with regard to wordcount (or should that be word-count?!) problems and will weigh-up/address discrepancies after we've made our selection.

  21. I've been using open office to do my typing, I didn't even realise there could be a problem. I hope it works out ok.


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  23. Ooops, sorry didn't mean to post that here it was meant for today's post (Nov 20th). Not sure how to delete it myself, so please go ahead and delete it for me or otherwise just ignore. Thanks!


  24. Well everyone, unfortunately I am of on holiday tomorrow so my internet connection will be patchy at best. I will try to keep up with everthing and post some more.

    Many thanks Lynne and Sarah for providing this interesting break from my other stuff, I have enjoyed taking part and reading the other responses.

    Take Care

    Jim Barron

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  27. Oops-didn't mean to post that one here, sorry!


  28. Just wanted to say that though I haven't posted a response for a while (Christmas hype and kids seem to be getting in the way of a lot of things at the mo! LOL), I've still been reading and enjoying the messages.
    I have found the whole project great, both as reader and writer. As a reader, it's been interesting reading the original messages and many of the responses. As a writer, the messages have been inspirational and motivational. Thank you everyone.

  29. Thinking about dying young certainly makes you count the blessings in your life – and maybe question some of them too:
    • Speculating with a few close friends over what we would choose if we had just one wish. Would it be about love, career, friendship or health? Do we really want it to come true?
    • Laying the table for two with candles, flowers, wine, hopes and dreams. What kind of mood will he be in tonight?
    • Taking three deep breaths in and out at the start of my favourite yoga class. Will I allow myself to relax today?
    • Laughing with my father over the Four Candles joke. Or was it Fork Handles?
    • Doing the High Five with my daughter, her face shining with enthusiasm and anticipation of a new project or achievement. Isn’t she beautiful with her whole life ahead of her?
    • Buying a six pack of beer in preparation for the build up and excitement of a big Portsmouth v Tottenham clash. Will I ever understand the off-side rule?
    • Waking at seven in the morning after a good night’s sleep and hugging a mug of tea. What did I dream? Does it hold any significance for the day ahead?
    • Discovering that eight, my lucky number, is the sign of infinity. Why did it take me 51 years to realise this? What other secrets of life am I missing?
    • Cuddling up for a 9’o’clock television programme – the chores complete and an hour’s mindless relaxation guaranteed. Are other people such slobs? Should I be trying to expand my mind?
    • Taking ten minutes in the day to listen to a meditation tape and get into a state of total peace and calm. If only I did. Why do I find it so difficult?


  30. Oh my gosh! The 30th of Nov has arrived . . . what am I going to do for the rest of my life?!

    Thanks Lynne and Sarah and everyone who took part for such a brilliant project and for so many wonderful messages!

    Happy writing



Add Your Own Message Here
If you want to take part - great. All you need to do is add your response to our message here as a comment, but remember it has to be exactly 30 or 300 words, and it needs to be posted before 8am GMT the morning after the original post for each day. Please also remember to add your Name and Email Address to the end of your message, so that we can get in touch if your work is selected.