Archive | January 2015


No, not Downton as in the Abbey but something many of us neglect in our lives.

In Mslexia magazine, Adrian Magson observed that an overworked brain is not creative. This is important if we are trying to write. How many of us find that we become absorbed in what we are writing only to find that when we read it through the last paragraph demonstrates that we have become blunted.

The same day that I read Adrian’s article an email popped into my inbox from a friend who mentioned having a free day and asking if I had free days. Hmmm yes, I said. I have free days, free evenings, PJ mornings, sofa days and plenty of down time. What I do in between is productive and creative.

I also have exercise mornings and outings which have nothing to do with writing. Well, I have to keep the non-writing partner in my life happy.

In fact, I am so pleased with how I balance my life these days that I am reminded of my 35 years of teaching when I felt guilty not getting up on a Saturday morning. I was exhausted. I had few hobbies other than writing and walking my dog and my writing muse was notably absent through those years. Often I felt I had not recovered enough to return to work on a Monday but my inner voice told me that ‘life’s like that’ and that is what happens when you are working.

But I did spend time on my garden and during the summer months I sat at a picnic bench on my lawn working my way through Open University material catching up on what I had not done during term time. As I was on contracts I had little teaching between early June and mid September so I squashed reading and drafting of assignments into four months. When I finished, I told myself, I would write.

What a mistake! I should have seen the value of writing for writing’s sake, and not ‘for an assignment’, as a necessary part of my health plan. Now, as a full time (just about) writer I wonder why I stayed so long in the profession instead of turning my talents to writing. What a waste of time ………………….. or was it?

I don’t think so! Instead of seeing it as wasted time in earlier years of not writing, I prefer to think that I was in a period of non-writing for a reason. Call it experience or down time, these years were a necessary part of the formation of my identity and interests. I learnt so much from colleagues, in service training, studying with the OU and from the students and I can still recall many humorous times stored up for when I make a start on ‘that one’.

For now I need to polish my next book of poetry as the illustrator has made a start on the drawings. Should I wear Floral and other poems on Life, Love and Leaving will be my second humorous poetry book. Grandma’s Poetry Book is doing well and takes time with its promotion. My 1950s memoir is in the editing and fleshing out stage and there is a large chunk to put in the middle of Deaf not Daft (growing up with a deaf sibling).

And when I have done all that I shall return to my book on my teaching career. Whether I continue the fiction idea or whether I make it a self-help book I am still to find out.

For now I am off for a walk and some down time before my yoga lesson tonight.

The two hours I do on my return should, if my thesis is correct, be startlingly creative and brilliant! Well, it might.


My book, Grandma’s Poetry Book, self published by Matador came out in November. Officially the publication date was 28th November but the books arrived a month early and I began doing signings and taking it around to outlets and cafes to rustle up interest in signings.

I had 500 copies printed, 300 for the publisher and 200 for myself. Five hundred is a cost effective number as the unit cost of the book is lower, the more copies that are printed. If the publisher holds more than 300 copies some shelf storage costs are incurred so it makes sense to have some come to me.  Around mid November I was running short so I asked for another 100 to be sent to me and then at the beginning of December I requested a further 50.

That is when I realised how successful my book had been. The head of the warehouse told me they were running short of copies so I deferred on the 50 I had requested and, as he suggested, arranged for a further print run of 500 copies.  There is still considerable interest in the book and it makes an ideal gift for birthdays and Mother’s Day as well as Christmas. Also many purchases have been for ‘new grandparents’ and these are popping up all the time. However, I am aware that at the moment I have about £800 of expenditure sitting doing not much. There has not been the opportunity to do much promotion and signing at the beginning of the year and there is a lot of illness about.

When I tell people I am on a second print run they assume that I made 500 sales which is not entirely true. A few were sent out for review by the publisher, I gave complimentary copies to each of my seven grandchildren and to my two step grandchildren, the twins in the book, as well as a couple of complimentary copies to my illustrator and one to my partner. As our local adventure farm is featured in the book, I took one complimentary copy to them and gave a few cafes and our local dentist copies for display with their reading material. I sent out some books for review and when I asked outlets to stock the book I always left a copy so about ten copies have been left in shops and stores with the order information. The National Trust have responded by sending me forms to complete so hopefully sales there will follow.

Another route I took was to leave ten copies in local bookshops on a sale or return basis. Our local bookshop has sold almost twenty copies that way but I am not sure she will stock now that the Christmas season is over and the first flurry of sales has passed, especially as shelf space is short. An idea to donate free copies for local charity raffle prizes was welcomed in my home town and about eight found their way to the table of raffle prizes for all to see before the raffle was drawn. This has generated interest wider afield.

I attended a few of the larger Christmas fairs and local Christmas lunches and usually sold between 8 and 10 at each event. It is surprising how this mounts up over a period of a week or two.

The remainder have been sold at signings and through the post. My illustrator has a wide network of fans. They have bought the book because they know the illustrator and want a copy of her work in print which I now see has opened up the market.

Obviously friends and family have been the main purchasers but the field has widened since the book came out with Amazon orders doing well and reviews on Amazon and Goodreads showing five stars with a couple only giving 4. One or two of the comments, while giving praise in part, make points which, if the whole book had been read, they would see do not apply. One comment was that it is too personal to my family and yet this is what other readers love. Also I make it clear that the book is inspired by my love of A A Milne and his Christopher Robin series was based on his own family.

An unexpected outcome has been that the book is being bought in twos: one for each grandmother. This was not something I had anticipated. Of course, I am delighted.

I have not calculated my takings as yet but I pay in money about twice a week to my ‘writing’ account. I always have two or three books on my person and can sell if they ask. I am still getting requests on email and as a result of my Christmas round robin letter which included details.

The promotion of the book has brought much work and takes time but we are looking forward to brisk sales in 2015 and by next Christmas I hope the book will be well known.

We press on!

Signed copies of Grandma’s Poetry Book are available from the author by post. Send an email to for instructions.  I can post to America, Canada and Australia and other destinations overseas.

My website gives more information

Grandma’s Poetry Book by Di Castle

So thrilled about this review.



TITLE: Grandma’s Poetry Book

AUTHOR: Di Castle


PUBLISHER: Troubadour Publishing Ltd

DATE READ: January 13, 2015

SYNOPSIS: *my own*

A collection of poems and illustrations about a grandmother’s life from the moment she finds out she’s a new grandma to the moment she realizes all her once little grandchildren are now grown.

REXY’S RATING: 5 stars

View original post 334 more words


In MsLexia issue 64 Adrian Magson suggests not to overwork an idea but to go back, adding to them from time to time. Rather than sit and sweat over an idea and will it to become something more, he reckons it is best to let things lie, quieten down. His view is an overworked brain stunts creativity.

Adrian uses the term ‘writing in layers’ and on reading his super piece in my favourite writers’ magazine I immediately identified with his purpose. For that is how I write. I jot down an idea and at some stage go back to it in my notebook and add something to it. Then I put it on the computer and more creative juices flow to find more to add to something that is now perhaps a paragraph or a few lines of a poem.

Grandma’s Poetry Book began in just that way. I would jot down in my writers’ notebook an idea or a chance remark and sometime later, the next day or even a few days after some more words would spring to mind. I would add another layer to what was a fairly short verse. I am a great believer in printing out drafts however short and however bad they seem. I carry the print out around and on the bus or the train I might pick it up and scribble further ideas on it. When I thought Grandma’s Poetry Book was ready to go to the publishers I found many poems incomplete and sparse. Again I printed the needy ones out and took them around with me. I don’t know where my writing comes from. It is said writing comes from the sub-conscious which is why we can never be sure why we have written what we have put down on paper. This is said to account for the healing power of writing and why writers will say they ‘have to write’. I have written about writing as therapy for depression on my blog

I have never been a writer who can plan and plot and work from A to B and I tend to write my books ‘all over the place’. I write something I have thought of in the place where it is the most appropriate and it fleshes out my previous draft and ideas. Never more so than on writing my memoir, Red House to Exodus, growing up in Harpenden in the 1950s, which should be completed by this spring. I wrote memories down in a log as and when they came to me and then researched around the dates, the ideas and concepts so that I could make links with the state of the country, society and family life around that time. Even now, at the editing stage, I am finding more crucial, life changing events, which have made me the person I am.
One aspect I am writing about is my interest in the Second World War and the plight of the six million Jews who perished in the concentration camps. Some of the war films I saw in my teens at our local cinema affected me deeply and I have, since then, held a deep interest in the affairs of Israel and the anti-Semitism that still persists today. It has led me to book a trip to Krakow in March and include the trip to Auschwitz and Birkenhau. I am firmly of the belief that everyone should make this trip or a similar one to remind them of a horror that must never be repeated.
I know that when I return there will be more layers to add to my memoir and not necessarily directly related to the event. The visit is about re-engaging with emotions and stirring ideas and hopefully putting them across in a way that will delight and interest the reader.

I do hope you enjoy my memoir when it comes out. Watch this blog for more details.
Meanwhile, Grandma’s Poetry Book, is available from me by post. Email me at with your address and the number of copies you want. Yes, they have been selling in twos – one for each grandmother in the family.

Now to get back to some more layers. Thank you, Adrian, for such a lively and thought provoking article. You made me realise that what I am doing is OK. So I will keep going in my rather chaotic fashion, adding and layering my writing until I am satisfied it is fully fleshed out.

MsLexia comes out four times a year.
Visit my website

What happened

What Happened

What’s happened to this life,
in rubbish tip, in bags?
A bag of Christmas paper,
card boxes and some tags.

Some photos and a frame or two,
showing happy faces.
Views and beaches, parks and walks
in all her favourite places.

One card reads ‘Mum we love you,
we’ll be down Christmas Day!’
There’s other cards from people
You’re 80! Happy Day!

A Christmas list, names are crossed.
A few are marked ‘deceased’.
Friends have gone, are sorely missed.
Grim Reaper’s been a beast.

A silly hat, a blower too.
Some tinsel for the tree?
These remnants of a life well-lived
it could be you or me!

A starry decoration
still folded in its pack.
No use this year as Santa Klaus
appears to have the sack.

A card to ‘someone special’
waiting for the pen.
For someone Christmas time this year
will not be round again.

© Di Castle