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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