And the good news is...

We have now received some early copies of our debut book as a small press publisher - Dorset Shorts: Winning Entries From The Dorset Writers‘ Prize.

Dorset Shorts Cover and Spine.jpg

Seventeen writers from all parts of the county are having their work published in this collection. We are very proud of that achievement, and of the fact that it looks great.

Only a few copies have arrived with us so far because our printers having been facing problems with glue seeping through onto the cover. Hopefully, that will be resolved (on their third attempt) sometime this week.

We have not settled on our launch date as yet (we are hoping we may be able to link it into another event), but we will announce it soon.

In the meantime we plan a pre-launch get-together with our authors on March 30. We are looking forward to that.  Strange to think, but we have only met one of them so far.

On another piece of good news, for me at least, I feel I have finally settled on where to focus with this blog.  It has been bugging me for months. Now, after receiving those first, pristine copies of Dorset Shorts, and feeling that we can now actually call ourselves small publishers, has made it more concrete.

While drafting a short talk, I wrote that I wanted to chat about: short stories, long tails, small press publishing, little-read writers and how we spun a book out of coffee beans, perseverance, a whim and a prayer.

At last.

No Clowning Theodora

I was talking to someone today (again!) about coincidence.

Amazing how often it comes up.

Coincidence?  I said. I’ll tell you about coincidence:

I am on the train, right? It’s late. I’m thinking about clowns, I mean writing down notes about them and everything.

And I am thinking: this is perfect for the main character in this thing I am writing, right?

I need her to be happiest when hidden behind a mask. Disguised.

Then I step off the train. And it’s nearly midnight, remember And who should step off from the next carriage?Only two people dressed as clowns, that’s all. You wouldn’t credit it. Red noses, yellow and red check scarves, polka dot hats, big flappy shows and everything, right?

But that’s not all. No.

I develop this character further, in this thing I am writing, you know? I know, I told you all that before. And I make her a clown, see; who visits children in hospital. To make them smile

(I need her to be able to move about the hospital, But not like a nurse, or a doctor or anything. Something more casual, but still with a ‘mask’ And popular)

Anyway, that’s not relevant. Craig, the dramaturg, is a bit doubtful. But I keep going with it anyway. Then I go on a train again. This is weeks after. And it is a different train from last time.

And I sit down in the last carriage. And I look up. And I see this advert. Never seen it before. I’m stunned.

Its for this charity that (I’m telling you… no kidding) provides clowns to visit sick children in hospital. And make them smile!

You wouldn’t credit it, would you?

It made me smile.

And this charity  is called the Theodora Trust. First time I have heard of it. Must look it up, I think. Perfect job.

Theodora, eh? That’s not a name you hear often, is it?

So, then, I turn up for this dinner Loads of others are there, well 23; Lebanese Place

The others are all writing stuff as well, like me. Not writers yet. Just writing. Stuff. And this young woman sits down opposite. From Bulgaria, she is. Seems nice. (Nods and shakes her head in all the right places).

And, anyway, she introduces herself. And says her name is…No, I’m not kidding… Theodora! Bloody Theodora. Pronounced without the H. Call me Teddy, it’s easier, she says, seeing the look on my face.

No, I just wanted to check the spelling, I say.


You couldn’t make it up. Well, you could. But I haven’t.

I don’t think I have ever met anyone called Theodora before.

No, she wasn’t dressed as a clown. That would have been odd.

An heroic life

So many stories. While visiting our book printers in Cornwall on Friday, I was struck (not for the first time) just how many books are being published every week, on so many various subjects and in so many styles.

Jo and I were sitting in the sales director’s office looking at the various titles piled on top of the filing cabinets by the wall. It was then I noticed a large pile of hardbacks carrying the distinctive covers of Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series of adventure stories for children.

It reminded me… Back in 198, I either wrote or, more likely, edited an obituary about a recently deceased Syrian-born physician (Roger Altounyan) on whom one of the characters in the stories (young Roger Walker) was based.

The fictional Roger Walker was involved in many engaging and beautifully-written adventures around the Lake District and Norfolk Broads.

But beyond that, the real Roger Altounyan lead a life that was, if anything, even more amazing.

As well as becoming exceedingly accomplished bomber pilot and trainer of other pilots during World War II, Roger went on to discover a treatment for asthma and to invent the Spinhaler inhaling device (inspired by the vibration of the propellers in the aircraft he flew).

What I found remarkable about his story is that Roger Altounyan self-induced more than 600, often frighteningly severe, asthma attacks on himself in order to self-test his asthma treatment.

There were dozens of stories printed between the covers of the books piled up in the sales director’s office, but there could not have been many that were more heroic or inspiring than the one that wasn’t there at all.

The Satyricon

It is good to see the country united at last.  We seem, at least and at last, to be agreed that the whole Brexit debate appears to have resulted in a complete bugger’s muddle.  I tell myself I shouldn’t slow down and look at all the chaos, but I can’t help myself. It is a quite enthralling, unfolding, real-life drama, with a train rushing towards a cliff edge and the passengers and crew arguing about what to do.

In contrast, here at home we have been facing our own quiet dilemma.  Our 11 years old dog, Jack, was found to have cancer during a recent, separate operation.  We haven’t been able to decide on the best course of action: Leave it be, let him enjoy his life (which he seems to do), or agree to another operation (which he would hate)?  Would the cure be worse than the illness? No one can tell us.

It has been such a difficult debate that, in desperation recently, I turned to a book to help provide an answer.  Should we do it? I asked. I then read an opened-at-random page to see which of two words would be first to appear - yes or no? The final word on the first page said: “No.”  

I am thinking of suggesting it to Mrs May as an alternative to a People’s Vote. 

For book club this month, we are all reading The Satyricon, by Petronius (translated by P.G. Walsh). All very grand. It is not my (or our) usual fare - but, then, that is why the book club exists: to introduce us to writing and writers we might not otherwise read.  

This can present some difficulties in that we are often exposed to writing we do not enjoy as much as that offered by our favourite authors. I can find myself reading something (usually a novel) for book club while staring longingly at another book I have waiting, invitingly, on the shelf. 

On the other hand, I have certainly been introduced to, and enjoyed the company of many writers I might not otherwise have chosen to read, from Isabel Allende to Haruki Murakami.

I have yet to decide about The Satyricon. It is reputed to be the first novel ever written. At the moment it seems to me to be something of a cross between Fanny Hill and I Claudius - but much more shocking in it’s depiction of sex, rape, greed and lewdness in an extremely sleazy, ancient Rome: the great and the good fiddling while their city burned. Which reminds me of something.

It's hotting up

I won't bore you with just how cold it is here in my little office, but it is hotting up on the competition front.

I am just waiting for a little more feedback on a few entries and we will be able to finalise and communicate which entries have made the shortlist.  

We are aware that means good news for some, and not for others, but veryone should receive an email within the next day or so.

It may have seemed something of a long process to some, but we want to do it thoroughly and we do rely on volunteers to help us.  They have done a wonderful job.

Their selected entries will now go forward for further consideration by a small panel, and we will decide on the final stories for our anthology of Dorset shorts within the next few weeks.

Thank you again to everyone who has entered. We have been offered up a great range or styles, topics and ideas - and we feel ever more confident that it will result in a book to be proud of.

Shortlist coming soon

Hello folks.  Sorry it has been a while since we posted, especially as I know a few of those who entered stories are anxious to know how we are progressing.

Well, we are still busy reading through all the entries we received from across the county, and the good news is that we are right on schedule to have our short list ready - as promised - by the end of February.

We have allowed plenty of time for this task as we want to ensure that every entry is read  and assessed by at least two of our readers independently before reaching a  decision on whether to put a story forward for the next stage.

Our greatest concern was that would not attract enough material good enough for publication. Thankfully that is not the case.  We have a good number of stories that stand out for publication, and many where the readers have some divergence of opinion - which will be the subject of some debate.

Once upon a while ago, when I used to publish a short story magazine, the decision to place a submission of the “Yes” “No” or “Maybe” stack could be pretty much instant - often based on an impression made within the first few sentences.

However, for the Dorset Writers’ Award, every submission is being read once, twice, three times - sometimes more, such is the care our readers taking and the responsibility they feel for giving every tale a fair chance of being included in the final mix.

We will be in contact soon with everyone again to soon with the latest information.

Can we capture the literary spirit of the county?

The Local Books section of bookshops across the county are full of the nostalgic and photographic evidence of people’s love for the county - but there is little evidence of the current literary passions inspired by the county in which we live - its towns, as well as heaths and shores.  

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