November 2020

Ernest Sheppard Poetry  Competition

At our next meeting (Thursday 19th November) Geoff Evans (AKA Toby Wren) is going to join us (all the way from France) on Zoom to announce the winners and runners-up of the Ernest Sheppard Poetry Competition.  

Geoff will also give us his thoughts on this years’ entries. Whether you entered or not, you’ll find lots of ideas and learn about poetic technique.

See more, including last year’s winning poem by Yvonne Warwick


Pompeii AD 79

The key is heavy
The cellar door obeys its mastery
Aurelia enters, selects the precious wine
She knows exactly what her Marcus likes
The very best from Caius’ vines

Later she’ll slowly pour it for him
Add water, honey from the garden hives
No slaves to wait on him tonight
She knows just what he’ll like
To share with her alone a glass of wine

They’ll eat together on their favourite couc
Then he will choose the octopus and squid
And when she asks him ‘Garam sauce?’
She knows exactly how he’ll smile 
And say ‘Of course’ 

She’ll offer him the bowl of fruits
Ripe apricots and pears
And plumpest peaches picked today
She knows he’ll choose her honey cakes
‘I can’t resist’ he’ll say

And then she’ll tell him of her visit
To Bona Dea’s shrine
To pray for the child they both desire
He’ll hold her close and stroke her hair
‘Patience, Aurelia, it’ll all be fine’

She’ll show him the gaudy necklace
Amica’s Good Luck gift to her
Her slave’s devotion has no end
And Marcus surely will agree
‘Dear Amica truly is a friend’

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford 2019AD

Here among familiar Pompeii life
Mosaics, statues, couches, bread and wine
Lies the body of Aurelia
With her cellar key, Amica’s necklace 
A luckless talisman 
Impotent against the sacrificial gods
Who liberated the vitriol of Mount Vesuvius
You sleep Aurelia. But do you Rest in Peace?

NaNoWriMo is the National Novel Writing Month and is a challenge that runs for the month of November each year. Authors are challenged to write 50,000 words over the course of the month, which is a daily average of just under 1,700 words. But, there is lots of support to help you set your own goals, which can be higher or lower than this figure. This challenge now operates worldwide and you can easily find a support group within easy reach of your location. Horsham Writers Circle support group is in Brighton ( and signing up for the challenge is relatively simple:

You might think that writing 50,000 words in the course of a month is pretty daunting, and I must admit that I tried the challenge for the first time last year and gave up pretty quickly. 

My suggestion would therefore be to use the challenge to set your own goals. A simple goal might be: that by the time you have got to the end of the month daily writing will be something you’ve found the time to fit into your busy routine. Anyone who currently makes the time to write every day will agree that your writer’s muscle is a genuine thing. You do become a better and more skilled at writing if you practise each day. If you set yourself a small target of say, 500 words per day – roughly an A4 sheet of paper – you will quickly find that beginning your writing will involve less procrastination and the writing itself will flow more quickly and easily.

NaNoWriMo insists that you don’t do any editing to your writing for the whole of November – the challenge is simply to write. Many authors use this ‘no editing’ system for writing and there are a number of reasons for not editing as you write: you end up endlessly polishing your first chapter(s), editing stops you from writing, you can lose your flow by going back over your work. Here’s an article

 writer and editor, 

Crafting a Novel Opening: 

During the month – motivational tips:


More great tips for success: 

If you choose to join me then I’ve also set up a support group for the month through Author’s Pen Facebook page, where you’ll also find lots of daily tips and inspiration: Author’s Pen – A Community of Authors

Good luck and happy writing,


Book Review


This one is for the fans, by the fans. Does it matter? Not in this case. As a life-long gamer, I’ve played World of Warcraft since its launch; this book is written for me. It’s not like a normal fantasy saga, though it is over sixteen years old, you need to know who everyone is to get the best out of this novel.
There is none of the expected character building, there is some, but they do not live long enough for it to come to fruition. The story takes place between the current Battle for Azeroth and game expansion and the forthcoming Shadowlands (mine’s on pre-order). Whilst I enjoyed the book, I knew nothing was going to be fully resolved, more of a positioning of pieces on the board waiting for the dice to roll. The story centres around Queen Talanji and the fight to protect the loa of death, Bwonsamdi, from the plans os Sylvanas Windrunner.
The story is simple enough, if not predictable. I only say this because, as a player, I know what is coming and therefore what must happen. In some ways this makes the storytelling follow a predetermined path. Much like following a questline in the game.
The book is enjoyable, in-keeping with the lore tied to its characters and previous events. If you are not familiar with this, you will struggle to get the most out of it. I would have preferred something deeper and soul searching. Something exploring the heart of the characters as every great fantasy does. The close ties to World of Warcraft limit this. After all, it is essentially fan fiction, and there are moments of this, which I enjoyed. Because of this, I am unable to recommend the book to anyone who does not play the game. It is not a standard novel, but still a good one, with the aforementioned caveats.
It’s a short solid read, sadly. But as I said at the start, for fans only.


Woman at a window
Edgar Degas


Following the discussion about writers’ block, we agreed that we would have a go at the following task (including, of course, any Short Form members who weren’t there, but who are coming along to the November meeting).

Task:  Respond (story, description, poem, song to the painting of Woman at a Window, by Edgar Degas.

Rules: Maximum of 500 words.
Complete in one sitting. Present (finished or unfinished) at the next meeting.                                                                               Bryan  

A Couple of Links from Jane

BBC Four – The Secret History of Writing, Series 1, Words on a …

Presenter Lydia Wilson and calligrapher Brody Neuenschwander set out to explore history’s most important technology – the technology of putting words on a  ..

Sara Cox on her new BBC2 book club Between The Covers

And a couple of links from Sarah

NaNoWriMo – write a novel in November – excellent

(see Lesley’s article on Page 3) first 1,000 words of a novel entry fee £7 deadline 30th November

This annual prize, generously funded by Nicholas Allan, author of The Queen’s Knickers, is awarded to an outstanding children’s original illustrated book for ages 0-7 Free entry deadline 30th November.