WESTCOUNTRY journalist and dog-lover, Beverley Byrne, has published an anthology of short stories to raise money for The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association.

Entitled “The Dog Gets It!”, the former contributor to local and national newspapers and magazines, will be donating all proceeds to the charity – so the dog really does get it!

When asked what inspired her to write fiction, Beverley explains: “As a journalist specialising in travel and lifestyle, I usually work with facts.

“All that stopped during lockdown. To combat the tedium, apart from walking my Labrador Lily, I tried using my imagination for a change.  The result was a collection of short stories in a range of genres.”

Some of Beverley’s tales were later published in magazines, anthologies and short listed in literary competitions. “I was like a dog with two tails when my story ‘Artisan Dwelling’ won a prize at the 2021 Wells Literary Festival.”

Her tale of an endearing avenging ghost was described by the judge, author and academic Sally Bayley, as “a charismatic piece of writing”.

“This vote of confidence led me to consider publishing a collection of my stories in a book,” says Beverley. “But what to call it?

“The answer came with the arrival of Dora, my fox red Labrador puppy. I’d been broody for a pup to keep Lily company when friends in my local pub, The Duck in Yeoford, recommended a new-born litter of pups in Somerset. Surrounded by somersaulting siblings, Dora sat quietly staring up at me. I think she chose me.

“Training Dora and watching her develop made me think about what it takes to be a guide dog.  This inspired the anthology’s title story told from a puppy’s perspective.  Dora is not only the story’s main character but her portrait, by artist Edwina Hannam, features on the book’s cover.”

Explaining why she’s donating all proceeds to the Guide Dogs, Beverley commented: “I’ve always had Labradors. Smart, loyal and endearing, they are synonymous with the charity’s image. And my gran went blind following a stroke in her early 60’s. While she was never in a position to benefit from a guide dog, watching her cope with increasingly fading sight was heart rending.”

Not all the stories in the anthology feature dogs.  Other than vivid characters in unusual locations, there is no theme or connection. Some are light-hearted while others are disturbingly dark.  But one thing the stories have in common is atmospheric photographic illustrations.

“I wanted each story to have a strong visual identity,” says Beverley. “So I asked my friend Karen Taylor, a Westcountry based photographer who often accompanies me on travel writing assignments and Jon Parke, an art photographer friend from London, if they’d contribute images. Complementing the written word, their combined artistic creativity makes this book a visual treat.”

Beverley chose local printers Hedgerow Print to produce “The Dog Gets It!”  “They’ve been brilliant,” says Beverley.  “Nothing was too much trouble and I’m thrilled with ‘The Dog Gets It!’”

The book is available from The Duck at Yeoford and The Bookery in Crediton or by email from: [email protected] or via PayPal. Each book costs £8.99 plus £2.50 P and P (UK).