Archive | October 2014

A MAKEOVER OR JUST TAKING SOME TIME FOR OURSELVES

I pride myself that I have always taken time for myself even in the days when three children under six consumed my every waking hour. On waking I gave them a hot drink in their bedrooms, put out toys and jumped in the shower. I told myself if I didn’t do it then, I would never get the job done. Also I felt better for it. Then I put cereal in front of them and used that time to put on my makeup. It was hard and I had to work fast but I did it and vowed that I would repeat the exercise every day until I was too old to care. Even when I woke from a hysterectomy I had laid out my mirror and makeup to be within arm’s reach and I struggled to fabricate a glow in time for visiting. It is a matter of attitude, after all. Easy as it is to bemoan the plight of staying at home with children, your offspring fare better when you feel positive about yourself and self-care and grooming is key.

A few years ago, as my writing burgeoned and threatened to blow the top off my old computer, I took a long hard look at myself in the mirror and was overcome with dread at the thought that I might have to show myself at a book signing, radio interview, library talk or, worse perhaps even do a tv interview. I had curled my fingers to hide my raw bitten nails and kept my mouth closed when smiling to hide my protruding and uneven teeth. My jaw was so misshapen that the bones in my mouth made a clonking noise when I ate a simple piece of toast. How, I asked myself would I possibly manage to meet an agent or editor over lunch. My hair was a mass of layers, frizzy with failed colour attempts leaving it grey-tinged with irregular blonde streaks which were definitely NOT highlights.

My clothes were ill fitting as my weight did roller coasters between 11 and 12 stone. I had never had a proper bra fitting, my mother fearing the effect would bring upon a surge of boys at the door. Half the time my stomach overhung my jeans. My skin was also lacking in any glow or sheen and my choice of make-up was the cheapest I could buy in Boots.

On a whim I removed a few thousand pounds from my ISA and took myself off to the orthodontist. Within two appointments he had identified the problem with my jaw and provided a removable appliance which would make my jaw work correctly. It took 6-12 months for the clonking noise to disappear but vanish it did. A few months later he inserted the first fixed appliance on my bottom teeth. Within two months they had begun to level out to the point when I could run my tongue along the back without feeling the rise and fall of uneven tooth enamel. The teeth I could only describe as resembling Old Harry Rocks now sported a flat front edge. The top fixer was not so quick. The gaps and protrusions were so bad that two years on we are still waiting for the gaps to close and the teeth to be totally back in line with the bottom set. However, on the last visit my favourite man of the moment did some infilling and, despite the braces, I am tempted to open my mouth and smile broadly so changed is my appearance. This has to be the best four grand I have ever spent and, as the ISA was not performing on the stock market, it has not been missed.

When I was a child I was told my nails would never grow nicely as they had been so badly bitten but I have proved every miserable aunt and parent wrong. My nails already began to improve some 3-4 years ago when I found that my passion for writing produced a calming effect and keeping my hands occupied on the keyboard prevented gnawing my nails and cuticles. The braces also made nailbiting impossible. I invested in emery boards, coloured nail varnish and promised myself a manicure when I had achieved sufficient growth. I do believe that, not only did the use of the keyboard prevent my nailbiting but the process of writing and self-expression was relaxing. I was in ‘flow’ and at last doing something I had always wanted to do. Joining a writing group and reading my work to a welcoming audience also helped my self esteem and contributed to the absence of nerves and subsequent nibbling.

For my hair I decided to let it grow and lightened it and conditioned it with more expensive products. I had previously made a colour treatment last two months but now I set a monthly routine trim followed by a colour treatment at home.

Fashionwise I have discarded my old bootleg trousers and bought skinny jeans. The craze for tunics means that I am able to show off my figure which endures despite some tummy flab and I have capitalised on that.
While celebrities such as Bridget Jones actress, Renee Zellweger, are berated for looking artificially younger despite their excuse that changing lifestyle and diet has contributed, I can vouch for the fact that it is possible with only a small amount of cash to make yourself into the woman you once yearned to be. I do spend more on make-up than I did when my children were tiny and the priority was meat and two veg with fruit in the bowl. Good Clark’s shoes are no longer my concern and clothes have, in general, reduced in price over the last few years. So it is not difficult to have a makeover and achieve a look that once was out of reach.

Why don’t you try it.

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SOCIAL MEDIA, MY JOURNEY THROUGH THE WILDERNESS

I’ve never been a social media geek like some. I’ve only had a Facebook page for just over 2 years and a writers page for much less but I haven’t a clue how social media works. Around the same time I started a twitter account but now when I look at the massive number of accounts I am following I’m left wondering why I followed half of them in the first place.

Apparently I followed a multitude of accounts when holidaying in the Lake District, Peak District and the Gower. Then there were all the Edinburgh sites after visiting the Festival a couple of Augusts ago. Then I followed any site with Dorset in its name. Then I followed all the newspapers when I went through a political phase. Then I followed all the tv stations when I went through a ‘sitting on the sofa watching tv and trying to be intelligent’ phase. It seems that whatever I am doing or whatever is the flavour of my month, I begin to follow people who have absolutely no interest in me and I certainly cannot keep up with the tweets that fly into my feed at the rate of about 3000 an hour.

In desperation I emailed a social media consultant, Sally Tickner, who gave a workshop at the Winchester Writers Conference some two or three years ago. She gave a brilliant presentation and, as you can guess, she is not short of work. But she took the time to look at my tweets and told me to get rid of as many tweets as possible.

Also, she said I must concentrate on tweeting good content. I am not quite sure what she would class as ‘good content’. She gave me some links and kindle books on how to do twitter and increase your followers. You see I am following about 1500 people but only have just under 700 followers. The aim, I am told, is to get people following me especially those who might re-tweet about my soon-to-be-published poetry book, Grandma’s Poetry Book. After a few hours trailing through my ‘following’ list I discovered a quicker way to unfollow people. I now watch the tweets coming into my feed about once or twice a day for a short period. I click on the account and see if I really want to keep getting their tweets and unfollow them. After all I can always find them again if I want to.

So I am now pruning my list down to authors, organisations associated with the Deaf (this is because my main WIP is a book about growing up with a deaf sibling) and bloggers. I have also begun to follow organisations and people connected to older people in an attempt to create some buzz around my new book which, of course, is aimed at older people, although younger people do like it and even children enjoy some of the verses about the baby. I follow Mums and grandmas and older people organisations in the hope they will follow back. Often they do and I thank them – yes I have learnt Twitter Etiquette – and I re-tweet some of their tweets and send them an individual tweet about my book.

This year at Winchester I went to a workshop by Emily Benet @emilybenet and the room was packed. I think most writers have the same problem as I do. What to do on social media and how to do it? She told us to tweet only one promo tweet in ten so I have tried to think of things to say on twitter that can lead people to my book information without seemingly being promotional. So I have started blogging more frequently about the process of self publishing and mentioning my book in the process.
Hashtags are only just getting into my brain! But there are some good ones #amwriting #selfpublishing #newbook and even more. Just try the hashtag and a subject and you will see the choices pop up. I found OlderPeoplesDay last week and they favourite my tweet about Grandma’s Poetry Book. I am also following several areas of AgeUK and a few are following back. Then there is #grandparentsday. Whatever your theme, try the hashtag. There you will find posts that are linked to your own area of interest.

Having found some accounts that might be interested in poetry about being a grandparent I have tweeted some individually with news of the outing of Grandma’s Poetry Book in November and I have had some good results. Re-tweets or following back are happening.

Now at last I am getting somewhere I think. I have been pleasantly surprised that some of the people I have tweeted have ‘favourited’ my tweet and some are re-tweeting my tweets which is brilliant. It can all be only for the good.

Not only twitter but the marketing contact at Matador Books told me to get on to LinkedIn. Easier said than done as I had long since lost my password and been refused access for about the last year. I persevered, found a password in my special book of passwords (aaahh that would be another post entirely. Has anyone managed to organise her passwords in any way that saves time. Poring over scribbled entries in my little pink book is not always helpful as later on I find an updated password. Probably a scare or a phishing email which made me change my password.) Anyway as far as LinkedIn was concerned my marketing contact gave me the link for the Matador Authors group. I then found I could join another Writers group. I found that LinkedIn has improved since I was on it before. It brings up names of people who live in my town, businesses and those working in educational institutions that I have worked in in the past. It was through LinkedIn that I found a girl I met in a local open mic night. She admired my poetry and I admired her singing voice. We are the epitome of a mutual admiration society and will encourage each other. We both suffer angst regarding our own talent.

Once on LinkedIn I updated my profile. Oh dear, not another profile!  I am getting rather bored of trying to remember all my BIO information so now I have made a WORD document with a short bio, a longer bio and an even longer bio as well as a passage about my book. Now I can go to that and do a quick copy and paste. Anything to save time, methinks.

So now I have several platforms as I believe they are called. I have a blog on WordPress, my author website – ww.dicastle.co.uk, my author page on the Matador site and then when I asked on the Indie Authors page on Facebook about Goodreads I was told I could put my book on there and become a GOODREADS AUTHOR. WOW! So I did and I am!

I have an author website hosted by Matador and I keep emailing the web designer with new links to social media and she patiently adds buttons to my site but sometimes I want to scream,

‘I CAN’T KEEP UP’

But I know I have to if I am to publicise my book as well as I can.

So, if you are still sitting there with a self-published book that you can’t distribute, my first advice would be that you should have published with a company who did distribute the book for you. It is the major complaint of self published authors that it is difficult to get their book recognised and distributed. Somehow with my website, Troubador’s website, Amazon and Goodreads I don’t think that will be a problem for me.

But watch this space. I might not be so confident after a few months.

But ………. I don’t give up easily. You won’t get rid of me that quickly!

September Daze

This is rather late but prompted by another teacher blog

A brand new year in Further Ed

Enrolment joys in store.

Interviewing students,

And meetings with furore.

The Leader’s gone – they know not why.

Rooms locked and desks gone too.

No-one told the teachers

Prep must be done in loo.

Staffrooms moved, what a state.

No admin bod in view.

Have to teach, but understaffed.

CRBs aren’t through.

Desks left dumped in the gym,

A heap of files to sort.

Where to sit? Chairs all gone.

Tempers are quite fraught.

No-one to help, all too busy,

Interviewing wannabees,

With grades too low for other place,

But think they are bees knees.

Few students speak the language,

But nothing can be said.

Must go to in-house classes,

And learn their tongue instead.

New students with long beards and hair,

Not sure if girls or men.

Equal ops means mustn’t ask,

Just tick the box again.

Managers in abundance.

Teachers are quite rare.

Outnumbered by asylum seekers,

And staffroom now all share.

New staffroom sees a battle

For window seat with view.

Of staff cars with their rust and grime

And students’ cars brand new.

Humping desks Jean and Jane,

Are side by side again.

Moaning about H and S,

Retirement with back pain?

Hunt is on for course assignments,

But the writer left last term.

Taking masters with her,

To teach at her new firm.

Nothing on the floppies,

Hard drive wiped by techs.

New to education,

Unused to trailing flex!

The IT rooms aren’t ready.

They’re being decorated.

Inspection coming shortly.

Guv wants us five-star rated.

So give the kids a handout

With the keyboard picture on.

Inspectors won’t know different.

They’ll think it’s good ‘hands on’.

Forms to fill, ticking boxes

Takes priority.

Another glossy cover-up.

A new year in FE.

© Di Castle (retired!)

Grandma’s Poetry Book – the characters

Reading through the Type Set proofs of Grandma’s Poetry Book in September last year it seemed hardly more than a week or more since the ‘little ones’ inspired me to write such verse and yet it all started in 2000. Here we were getting published in 2014 and much was changing in Grandma’s family.

I wrote the following blog in October and reading back over it now I can hardly believe that all the children are now in their last term of whatever year it is that they are in at the moment.

Last year, 2014, was a big one for changes. The ‘Teenager’ started her two-year course for GCSEs, having chosen Media, Geography and Textiles. She has decided to keep drama as an out-of-school hobby despite her talent. In February I sat proudly watching her sing and act the part of Maid Marian in Robin Hood.

Accident prone ‘James’ arrived with a bandaged hand when the family visited at the end of the school holidays. A fall on some rocks at Hayling Island was the cause I believe. He also goes to secondary school and has already shocked his mother by spending more than an hour in his bedroom doing his homework, a phenomenon not previously seen in that household. Let’s hope he is inspired and challenged by the secondary curriculum. He was looking forward to DT (Design and Technology) so maybe he will find his niche there.

In the poem ‘Techy at Ten’ my second granddaughter gives me the low-down on the technical details of her new iPad and earlier this summer she tried to explain the limitations of my iphone and why I could not take a ‘selfie’. Apparently I do not have a front facing camera. She has also been excited at the prospect of going to Grammar School so a very proud Nanny awaited her first news which included being selected for the school’s B team at netball.

How different it is to when I started Grammar School in 1957. Then, we walked to the bus and assembled in the school hall on Day 1 not knowing a soul. These days there are tutorial meetings for both parents and new entrants starting in June and July with a social occasion held in a park on the last Sunday of the holidays. She has already made friends and couldn’t wait to start. I have to say I was rather horrified at the cost of the uniform which was in the region of £400 before the new shoes and trainers and the bus pass is another £500 at least.

Fewer changes are ahead for two of my grandsons with one going into Year 5 and another going into Year 4. Both love their football and other sport so many events lie ahead.

The major change is with the little one who is the subject of the poem ‘Brighton Babe’. She has just turned four years old and started ‘Big School’ two weeks ago doing mornings, then morning plus lunch and then a full day til 3pm. Alongside her cousins she seems too tiny to be making such a big step but I am sure I won’t recognise her after a few days there.

Lastly the ‘baby’ of the seven grandchildren celebrated her 1st birthday last week. How the time has flown since we sped down the A27 for a first hold this time last year!

Grandma’s Poetry Book written by Di Castle and illustrated by Denise Horn is out in November. Published by Troubador

Grandma’s Poetry Book. What I’ve learnt so far

So it seemed so easy … and it was, eventually. After a year of agonising and researching how to self publish my poetry book I thought I was ready.

I am self -publishing with Matador. Why Matador? While they are the only self-publishers recommended by the Writers and Artists’ Year book, I had other reasons. My decision was partly based on the fact that, for a beginner and someone with little computer expertise save for basic social media, internet, email and Word, Matador undertakes as much or as little of the publishing process that you require. While other self-publishing companies or printers want PDF files and ready-to-go layouts, Matador will accept a Word document uploaded by email and take it from there.

After talking to staff on the Matador stand last year at the Winchester Writers Conference and browsing their sample books, I was impressed by the superb quality of their finished product so there was no doubt that I would use their services.

So what have I learnt? The importance of seeing in advance what a finished product is like is at the top of my list. I have seen several other self-published books which appear amateur and cheap. Matador like professional covers and do not guarantee to use author-provided images. Fortunately, after a nail-biting wait, they agreed to use my illustrator’s drawing after a plea from myself that if my illustrator had 57 illustrations in the actual book then her cover picture should be used. Initial feedback about this cover is excellent and I know this was the right choice.

Lesson two was to look carefully at the publisher’s website. Matador has a sample quote which I found extremely useful as I knew immediately what costs would be involved. Some of these attract added VAT and, I have to say, I initially forgot this when doing my maths. My final quote, when it did arrive, was identical save for the number of pages and unit cost. Other costs such as marketing packages are standard.

Lesson three </was to post questions on author’s Facebook ages or pages linked to the Independent Authors Association. I received plenty of feedback indicating good experiences with Matador even if the author had not used them subsequently. I also looked through their list of publications to see if I recognised any author names. I did. There were a few who were linked to some of my author friends via Facebook. This seemed recommendation enough.

Lesson four was to have a list of questions to ask prior to the signing of the contract. Also, I have been proactive about asking questions during the process. Matador staff respond quickly and helpfully.

Lesson five is to have the manuscript polished and pristine. If using their marketing services the publication date is set six months down the line, something to bear in mind, although my own copies should arrive earlier. While I have obtained offers for book signing venues I am advised to wait until my books arrive before making firm dates.

Lesson six was to allow plenty of time to read through all the written information, procedures, and guidelines. Once I had uploaded the final document and signed the contract indicating which services I would use, I received acknowledgements and further information. Being of a certain age, I do not trust my memory so I printed out all the attachments and emails.

Another milestone is when the Type Set proofs arrive. These initially came via wetransfer, a file sharing program, and while I did manage to view the files on screen, I asked for hard copies. Paper copies enabled me to see how the final pages will look with the left hand page aligned with the right hand page. This is particularly helpful when images are placed in the work as get a view of what the reader will see on turning the page.

The final lesson and probably the most important. I paid for a proofreader.

It would seem we are almost ready to roll.
Ps As I post this blog, the proofs are at the printer’s!
Grandma’s Poetry Book, written by Di Castle and illustrated by Denise Horn is out in November.

Remember?

I remember, I remember,

My Dad when I was small.

Sitting in school audience,

Distinguished, handsome, tall.

Digging in the garden,

Building rockery.

Growing scented flowers,

That my mother loved to see.

Building me a swing,

Toy theatre, dolls house, cot.

What my heart was ever set on,

You could be sure I got.

Through his teeth a unique whistle

Told us exactly where he stood

In a crowd, or off exploring

Beach, common, forest, wood.

Then when my mother passed,

On pedestal he placed me.

For years he treated and he spoiled

Kindness, goodness graced me.

He was never to be old,

Or needy like some,

Or dependent on homecare

Waiting for carers to come.

He died too far too young.

Nicotine took the blame.

But it stopped me from smoking,

And life was never the same.