Tag Archive | Grandma’s Poetry Book

Nanny and New Technology

 

Part memoir/part short story

It was raining heavily. So what, you might say but for someone still stuck in the Eighties, babysitting requires mastery of new technology not to mention the bravery of using public transport.

They did offer to collect me but their town house sits resplendent, devoid of parking and one journey out of Band D on a Friday evening ensures a lost spot for the weekend.

Why don’t I drive, you may ask? I hold a blemish-free licence and a not-too-old car but these days I easily decline.  Driving is no fun anymore.  Drivers are getting younger, have less hair and shiny heads which dazzle one in the headlights.  This same breed drives faster and switches lanes without warning. Tailgating is illegal but how does one shake off these nuisances when they persist in filling the rear mirror?

The one-way system in the town centre requires three circulations before I find Linden Gardens. Finding no parking space, I am unable to turn back and am then required to drive headlong into a maze of narrower one-way streets, with those irritating small humps every five metres and myriad No Entry signs.

Even if I do, on a rare occasion, find a space near enough to their home, parking is not a straightforward ‘jump out and slam your door’ job, as completing the scratch-off details on their residents’ parking permit is impossible if you have a) forgotten your glasses and b) forgotten the permit. No wonder I have little compulsion to use my car,

The first time I used the train, I arrived bright-eyed and fresh at the station, marvelling in my discovery of stress-free travelling, only to be confronted by an ‘Office Closed’ sign. How, I screeched at the blank glass, am I to get a ticket?  No problem said the greasy-haired cyclist leading me to a large machine on the platform.  Having disclosed my destination, name and address (now sure to be burgled and bereft of my analogue tv), he forces cash from my hand, feeding it into the contraption’s hungry jaws.  “How much?” I squawk as the ticket drops down minus any semblance of returned loose change.

“It’s cheaper online” he says as he pedals away.

My heart sinks at the reference to technology. At this rate, the car could return to favour, but, no ……, the prospect of driving headlong onto the pier haunts me.

This time, despite the rain and the dark of winter, I have conquered the internet but am informed my ticket can only be collected from the same self-service machine. There is no escape.  Neither is there a manned office, a guard with a flag (as in olden times) or the greasy haired cyclist of last week.  However, I manage the ticket machine, the trip and the taxi ride to be met at the door by the departing parents keen to see the start of the show.  I hear words like oven, microwave and dishwasher as Hannah provides a lightning tour of her new kitchen, a wall of white behind which these items lurk.  Then it’s mobile numbers, Sky, baby alarm (she won’t wake up they say), automatic sliding doors, windows, kitchen cupboard doors and entry phone each with its own separate hand control – “It’s all very simple” Hannah assures me, and they are gone.

I am left in a sparsely but expensively furnished room with a blank TV screen, a white wall at one end behind which somewhere is my dinner and the curtainless wide patio doors. Another door leads to the hallway and the baby’s bedroom.  Baby will not wake up was manna from heaven to my ears.  I attempt to locate my lasagne using the remote control on the breakfast bar.  After several failed attempts at tracking down and starting the microwave, the oven is purring and the dishwasher door is opening and closing only not slow enough for me to grab a cup and plate.  I give up the idea of eating and try to obtain BBC 1 via the TV remote.  What I get is not BBC 1 but a recording of Deal or No Deal, my television pet hate.  My attempts to change channel result in volume overload and unbeknown to me the baby alarm can work in reverse – not a good thing with an eight-week-old.  Blaring TV, crying baby and failed attempts to stop oven and dishwasher working in tandem result in an element of panic during which I pick up the wrong hand control which operates the sliding patio doors.

As I said it was raining heavily and little did I know that the control for the doors also activated the windows (open) and the interior lights (off) – easily done without my glasses to read the display. I decamped quickly to the nursery where for I sang nursery rhymes and was rewarded with a smile.  The simple things in life don’t change do they?

 

Grandma’s  Poetry Book is available by post via dcastle32@talktalk.net or on my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk

This poetry collection spans sixteen years capturing the experience of a first-time grandmother on her sometimes wobbly journey in her new role. It includes many facets of unmissable moments and childhood milestones, some humorous and others more poignant, even sad.  Such treasured times can easily be forgotten so the book acts as a nostalgic memoir. Touching and funny in turn, readers will be reminded of the joys of witnessing childhood development and the effect on their own lives. Even those yet to reach grandparenthood including fathers, aunties and primary school children have already enjoyed reading this book. Grandma’s Poetry Book makes an ideal gift for new grandparents, birthdays, Christmas and Mothers’ Day and many readers have returned to buy more copies for friends and relations. Each poem has its own laugh-out-loud illustration by an artist who has been likened to E H Sheppard.

Some comments have included ‘Pam Ayres meets Winnie the Pooh’, ‘made me laugh, made me cry’, ‘charming book’ and ‘every grandparent should have one’.

 

Our new book, Should I Wear Floral? And other poems on Life Love and Leaving will be out shortly. Follow me on twitter @dinahcas and on Facebook – Di Castle – Writer to hear of updates and see sneak previews of illustrations and poems.

 

cropped-grandmas-poetry-book-cover.jpg

 

MOTHER TO MOTHER

On 10th of March 2002

I send this little rhyme to you.

To thank you in a special way

as we celebrate Mothers’ Day.

 

This message comes right from the heart.

Through prayers and travel from the start,

from daughter, sister, girlfriend, lover,

you found yourself as Amy’s mother.

 

Now you know a mother’s pleasure

interacting with her treasure –

listening to each coo and sound

fun and laughter all around.

 

Motherhood is life’s first-class,

as every day new milestones pass.

A special smile, a special word.

She’s talking now – what’s that you heard?

 

Those sleepless nights, the teething tears

Helping them dispel their fears.

The jabs, the spots, each dirty nappy,

so strange all this can make you happy!

 

But childhood passes in a flash,

as through our busy lives we dash,

to earn a crust, keep fit and feed,

homework to do, books to read.

 

 

 

 

Mothers’ Days will come round fast.

Quicker each year than those long past.

They evoke in us a reflective mood,

gazing proudly on our brood.

 

So make the most of all those days –

let her linger in childlike ways.

Remember she’s on loan to you.

In God’s great plan she’s more to do.

 

First give her roots and wings she’ll grow

and very soon before you know,

she’ll fly the nest like you before

and you’ll not have her any more.

 

Grandma’s  Poetry Book is available by post via dcastle32@talktalk.net or on my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk If you pay with PayPal it is free postage.

This poetry collection spans sixteen years capturing the experience of a first-time grandmother on her sometimes wobbly journey in her new role. It includes many facets of unmissable moments and childhood milestones, some humorous and others more poignant, even sad.  Such treasured times can easily be forgotten so the book acts as a nostalgic memoir. Touching and funny in turn, readers will be reminded of the joys of witnessing childhood development and the effect on their own lives. Even those yet to reach grandparenthood including fathers, aunties and primary school children have already enjoyed reading this book. Grandma’s Poetry Book makes an ideal gift for new grandparents, birthdays, Christmas and Mothers’ Day and many readers have returned to buy more copies for friends and relations. Each poem has its own laugh-out-loud illustration by an artist who has been likened to E H Sheppard.

Some comments have included ‘Pam Ayres meets Winnie the Pooh’, ‘made me laugh, made me cry’, ‘charming book’ and ‘every grandparent should have one’.

 

 

Grandma’s Poetry Book – the book signings

 

‘Did you write this?’ Another shopper stands with a copy of Grandma’s Poetry Book, eyes shining, mouth twitching with giggles. She removes her purse from her bag and I lift my pen.

‘How shall I sign it?’  There is the usual pause but quickly I am told whether to write To Nana with one ‘n’ or To Nanna or to Granny from Lewis and James or to many other combinations. Last week I was asked to write ‘To Nana from Benson’. Benson is the family dog.

This is my first, full Christmas season of taking my book to Christmas markets and fairs and I am so busy with events I cannot remember when I last did any housework. I have chosen a selection of local fairs to support schools and charity organisations and also attend those further afield where the area may bring more visitors of the type who will buy the book.

The promotion of my self-published book was not something I looked forward to a year ago but the book has been so well received, the comments via face-to-face and email are warm, the reviews 5* and many of last year’s buyers are returning for more to buy for new grandmothers, friends and relatives that I am proud to display the product. I chose red table covers as my website has a scarlet background specifically to show off the cream cover and to complement the red balloon. In the summer as I attended summer fetes and fairs I bought two hessian bags. One holds the books, up to 20 if necessary, and the other one holds stands, plastic wallets of business cards, flyers and the slip that asks the buyer to leave a review on Amazon. So many buyers don’t do this, especially as they often give the book away as a present. I now suggest they read it before wrapping it and leave the review themselves. After all, the recipient may leave one too if I am lucky.

When I enquire to book at an over-subscribed event, I can often squeeze in by saying ‘I don’t need much space. Half a table will do.’ A further joy is that I can set up my table in 10-15 minutes. We see crafters who arrive at 8am for a 10am market start while we have had an extra hour in bed. Likewise, taking down my display takes minutes. As I live on the first floor of a Victorian building, the lack of boxes, crates and other paraphernalia, makes me pleased to be a writer rather than an artist or ‘maker’ especially as OH and I are of the ‘older generation’.

We have met many interesting, lovely people at our events this season. My memory is sorely tested each time as stallholders I met at a previous venue stop to say hello. Others attending our events are always willing to share their wisdom on where my book may sell and venues I can try. I always return home with a notebook of ideas and websites to Google. What I have learnt is that the book signing experience is a never-ending journey. The only problem is when to find time to write the next and subsequent book. While I am willing the next book to be available, I know that I should not take short cuts. Grandma’s Poetry took many hours of polishing and editing over a period of sixteen years with a final frenzy in the spring of 2014 before I uploaded the final manuscript. To hurry the process of our next book, Should I Wear Floral, and other poems on Life, Love and Leaving, could leave us with a less-than-perfect product which would disappoint our existing readers who are now eager to see the next book.

Hopefully, when Christmas has passed, I can get down to some serious editing. Once ‘Should I Wear Floral’ is with the publisher, I will be able to concentrate on the final work on my memoir of growing up in the Fifties, another gift for my grandchildren who think we have always watched tv, used the internet and had mobile phones. I can’t wait to deliver the surprises that Red House to Exodus holds for them.

Today, one buyer asked, ‘Is this just one book?’ and I realised that the sooner I can have two books on my table the better. Meanwhile, I have ideas for making my table more interesting. I will be putting ‘free poems’ on A5 or A4 sheets as I have seen the interest from youngsters, especially those around 9 or 10 years of age and I am keen to engage children with poetry.  I also have some wonderful snippets from the reviews which I will be framing.

For now, it is back to Facebook and the internet to find more dates and events.

Hope to see you there!

Grandma’s Poetry Book, written by Di Castle and illustrated by Denise A Horn, is a humorous, sometimes wobbly, journey of a first-time grandmother charting childhood development and family life from the grandparent’s perspective. It is available through bookshops and on www.dicastle.co.uk with free postage for orders via PayPal.

A sad day for Grandma’s Poetry Book

Cover of Grandma's Poetry Book by Di Castle

Grandma’s Poetry Book is collection of poems charting a nostalgic journey taken by a first time grandmother as she adapts to her new role and views her daughters becoming mothers and witnesses the changes in parenting styles when compared to the 1960s and 1970s.

The book begins in 2 years BG (before grandchild) with the author and her friend sharing shopping outings, meals, coffees and undisturbed chats as they disclose confidences such as their reluctance to have their lives changed in any way, particularly with regard to grandchildren. Tongue in cheek the first verses illustrate a time when we could not imagine how addictive the whole grandparenting experience would be.  The three illustrations for the first three poems reflect this reluctance which, of course, is soon set aside once the babies arrive. The third poem – All Change – was inspired by the day when my friend announced her daughter-in-law’s pregnancy.The poems refer to ‘my friend Mo’ and readers of Grandma’s Poetry Book will know the character. Mo was actually a real life friend but I will call her Mo here as she was and is such an important part of my life especially in the days before I became a grandmother myself. When I was seriously ill in 2013 she asked me to go to stay with her but I could not drive and would not have managed to pull my wheelie case on the train. So she came to me and we shared precious times over a few days. She asked about Grandma’s Poetry Book and she read the early drafts, giggling appropriately. ‘I remember that day’ she said. When the book was published last year, hers was the first complimentary copy I posted out. She was always smiling, laughing, feisty and witty. Her daughter-in-law described as ‘nuts’ which is probably why we got on so well.

At the time of publication (November 2014) my friend had been fighting ovarian cancer for well over a year, a struggle which she appeared to be winning. Hair loss did not bother her and did not temper her shopping habit as she accumulated several hats and wigs for the last two winters. Her positivity was unbounded, her humour untarnished, her love and affection for me unstinting. She was the friend everyone should have. We could pick up the phone and the intervening months or years would melt away. It was as if we had spoken only yesterday. Despite great distance we met up a few times a year and were in touch on email. After her diagnosis I telephoned more often. I sought out humorous emails I had stored on the computer and sent them to her. I posted the occasional bar of chocolate.

Over the last six months there was less contact and several hoped-for meetings did not happen as she spent more time in hospital. We did exchange emails and I would try to imagine her smiling at something silly I wrote that had happened. ‘You always make me laugh’ she answered not so long ago and she referred to the strong love she had for me. At the time I did not realise she was having ‘the conversation’ but I too began unwittingly to unwrap our friendship in my emails, praising her for her positivity and humour. I told her that, should I be struck down with something similar, I would be led by her example and buy hats and wigs. It was early summer, very warm and she answered that it was now too hot to wear them. ‘A scarf’ I suggested and without asking I sped down the road and browsed an array of lightweight scarves in a local shop.  I chose one I felt would go with most outfits, stuffed it in one of the padded envelopes I use for posting Grandma’s Poetry Book and headed back to the post office.  In my hurry I forgot to say who it was from but she remembered that I had mentioned it and texted me to ask if it had come from me. Whether she wore it or not I am not sure but I like to think that she did like my choice and wore it when out and about.

Mo lost her fight quite suddenly on 10th October this year. I was on holiday when she passed but knew that she was failing fast and not eating so I expected to hear the sad news on my return. I dreaded to hear that I had missed the funeral but I needn’t have worried. Ten days ago Other Half and I travelled up to say our final goodbyes. My body was racked with sobs punctuated with laughter as her son related humorous incidents from his mother’s life. I learnt things I had not known about her and a friend and I exchanged alarming looks when he mentioned some whacky photographs he had found in an album dating back to the late seventies and eighties.

Afterwards the son told me his mother ‘thought the world of you’ and my voice cracked when I said ‘I thought the world of her too’. There are photographs in the albums of our children playing when young he said. I promised to write at length to the two brothers but have only just felt I could put words on the page with this blog. I think of my friend every day and she will always be in my life. I picture her as she was

But, more than that, her memory lives on in the first three poems of Grandma’s Poetry Book. I have her to thank for those experiences.

 

Grandma’s Poetry Book is published by Matador and is available on http://www.dicastle.co.uk or direct from the author

Follow me on @dinahcas

THE KEY TO MARKETING – FIND YOUR READERS!

When Grandma’s Poetry Book was published by Matador in November, I must have been the greenest, most self-absorbed, self-published author on the planet. So I had a website www.dicastle.co.uk and my book was listed on the Troubador site. I had paid for basic marketing packages on both paperback and ebook and I just thought …..

It would all happen …………..

Ha ha, big joke. Briefly, I mused how much better it would have been if I could have secured an agent or a publisher. Then it would have been so easy. They would have done it all wouldn’t they?

Well …. actually no, that is not the case. Even mainstream traditional publishing houses cannot give close attention to every book they publish and it is up to authors to do their own promotion and to ‘get out there’ and sell books.

So there I am last October with some books delivered to me and some waiting in the publisher’s warehouse. I have a website and I do twitter much to the amazement, scepticism even abject horror of my friends. I actually have about 150 followers at the time but I don’t understand hashtags, other author posts with weird abbreviations and I have never seen a DM – isn’t that something to do with being tied up? Well I had some when I was hacked about two years before. To my horror ‘porn’ messages purportedly from me went to my followers but thanks to posting an apology and explanation, several twitter acquaintances helped me out. Change your password, ignore it, get on with life. Yay, thanks all!

In October 2014 I do have a Facebook page with about 100 friends and a writer page with about thirty likes. I have tried getting on LinkedIn without success. I think I am quite a wily bird until I look at the number of followers some authors have – whaaaaat! How do they do that?

I am fortunate that staff at Matador patiently answer all my newbie questions and provide advice about how to increase likes on my writer page and how to get more followers. They tweet my website when it is launched and tell me that if I put @matadorbooks in my tweets they will RT. What is an RT? No, I don’t really understand retweets either and it is some time before I link RT to this.

I begin tweeting, and finding people to follow and my list of followers begins to grow – slowly, very very slowly that I could easily fall asleep at my computer. I follow everything! Regardless.  A few days pass. Suddenly Twitter stops me following anyone. No reason given. Ugh.

Then I remember 2012 at Winchester Writers’ conference when I attended a workshop run by Sally Tickner http://www.sallytickner.co.uk/workshops.html . I had been in contact soon after. I resume contact and she looks at my twitter page. I can only guess at her initial reaction. I suspect she may, in her next workshop, use me as an example of the dumbest way to use Twitter.  I am following too many people. I need to prune my following and up my followers, produce good content and interact with potential readers. So I trawl my tweets and unfollow all those I deem unnecessary. Oh all those holiday places, tourist offices, publishers, famous authors, actors, Jonathan Ross, Stephen Fry!! Hoards of accounts which are NEVER going to follow back. A daily trawl takes time. There are about ten accounts connected to the Edinburgh Festival, several for the Lake District, more for the Peak District and anything to do with Swanage doh. I am also following several accounts connected to the Deaf community. I AM passionate about raising deaf awareness but in October I wanted to get people to buy my Grandma’s Poetry Book. I need to get followers who may spread the word, read the book or buy for a relative. Sally gives me a link to justunfollow.com which tells you who is not following you back. I spend evenings tweeting some, pleading ‘pls follow back’ followed by a link to my website. Much later, I learn it is important to provide the link to the BUY page on the site. Keep learning. Gradually my following numbers drop. Good thing as Twitter stopped me following new people once I was up to 2001. I have to get more followers before I can add. So shed a few and add a few.

I am now in twitter fog, my head spinning, my rear end stiff from sitting on my chair. I dream about the @ symbol. I haven’t found notifications. I can’t find my way around my own twitter account let alone someone else’s. Whatever happened to writing? I haven’t written anything for weeks. My blog is about to die. But I want to sell books. Ha! I read that to sell books I should write a second as quickly as possible. I have millions of words on my computer in various manuscripts, drafts and redrafts. But I have lost the will to live where writing is concerned. Actually I have a severe case of Writer’s Block. My life is consumed by Twitter.

Training. I need training. I put myself on any available social media course. A morning here, a full day there. I learn what social media means and write snippets in my notebook which might be useful. Good for networking and handing out my author cards if nothing else. I learn about interaction!  Hmm. I read blogs about spreading the word and using social media. I read advice that I should start conversations but I am not quite sure how to do it. There is a reply button, yes? Where? One of my followers on twitter begins a conversation about my book and Amazon. Interesting but what do I do about it?

Ah the Purbeck Literary Festival, February 2015; an opportunity for a morning course in the hotel a few doors up the road from where I live in Swanage. I sit numbed and braindead. I don’t understand this Twitter stuff and what is ‘Call to Action’? Oh that’s on Facebook, But the speaker Andrew Knowles begins to get through my fog and his wife explains about scheduling tweets on sites such as https://hootsuite.com/. I leave with her words ringing in my ears that one should not write a blog and tweet it only once. Waaaa that is what I’ve been doing since 2012 when I began blogging. Tweeting it once and getting a couple of likes and one follower if I’m lucky.

Scheduling? It means you can go on holiday and your Twitter feed still churns out tweets as if you are at home. Good for keeping burglars at bay if nothing else. It takes a while to get my head round Hootsuite but boy when I get going there is no stopping me. The same tweet at different times of the day, over the next week or ten days, change it slightly and re-schedule. It is such fun! I slow down when one of my much pasted tweets has an incorrect link – typo! I have to work through the schedule and delete but not before the wrong link has been retweeted to some 100K twerps. Ugh.

Andrew also teaches us Twitter etiquette. Do this or get unfollowed! Do that and get more followers. I begin slowly with a Thank you for following message that I paste into tweets of new followers. It includes reference to Grandma’s Poetry Book and gives my website.

Marketing at Matador suggest asking on twitter for people to LIKE my FB page so I try it. Twenty identical tweets sent at different times. Change the hashtags – yes I do understand them now – and do it all again.  I join a few author forums and friend a few authors. Some have twitter handles (yes I am getting the language now) and I tweet them. They begin to retweet my tweets about my book. I search local organisations, organisations of which I am a member and follow.

Sudden inspiration! An IDEA! If I can follow mothers with babies I might be able to persuade them to buy the book as a present for the grandparents. I now add Ideal gift to my Thank you tweet and I find they are favouriting my tweets as well as retweeting. What’s favouriting you ask. I don’t know. Perhaps so they can find it again? Yes!  I trawl my Facebook friends list as I have been friended by a few people who might spread the word. I message a baby photographer who puts a post and a link to my website on her Facebook page. She has 1600 likes!

Then the realisation that everyone who likes a page gets an update. So her post is reaching out to new parents and new grandparents who may also like the page. She herself buys two books from Amazon for the two grandparents for Christmas and puts glowing comments on her page. She reads them before gifting them. She puts a review on Amazon. I am getting there. I AM finding my readers.

In Part 2 of Finding Your Readers I will own up to getting rather pushy and cheeky and the fantastic results I had. And those hashtags! Great fun!

Grandma’s Poetry Book was published by Matador in November 2014. There are 16 4 and 5 * reviews on Amazon. A nostalgic memoir of a first-time grandmother’s sometimes wobbly journey with laugh out loud illustrations by Denise Horn.

I’m a Writer, yes?

Cover of Grandma's Poetry Book by Di CastleWhen I retire I want to be a writer …….

When I retired I wanted to get published, but without an ongoing project, four years later I was no nearer my goal. I had manuscripts gathering dust and more to say but I couldn’t call myself ‘A Writer’. There is a plethora of discussion on when one can be called this on writing forums.

So at a recent literary lunch, when the author, Sarah Challis, described her route to publication of ten books, all since the age of fifty, I had to ask myself what I’d been doing all these years?

‘It all started,’ she said, ‘when I retired from teaching.’

Well, that made me sit up and take notice. Yes, I’d been retired sixteen years and my aims then were the same as Sarah’s. So what happened after the day I retired and where am I now?

I’ve always had an urge to write and secretly hoped retirement would free me to put words on the page. I was determined that, eventually, I would say whatever it was I had to say.

From the time I could hold a pencil I’ve been writing in one form or another. Someone said that you are a writer if you have to write and if ‘not writing’ causes withdrawal symptoms. That’s me.

Once I’d mastered the alphabet and found letters worked together to give a range of words and that the choice or order of words could change the meaning, I began writing stories. They were lengthy – I never knew when to stop – and they served to save me from outside play on a cold winter day. I made sure ‘finishing my story’, lasted until my red-nosed, blue lipped and frozen classmates returned from the icy wastes of the infant playground before I wrote with abandon – The End.

My creativity had a bad start. After beginning My Life Story, at around seven years of age, my mother discovered my ‘book’ which contained a multitude of family secrets and shocking habits, after which she took me to one side for a ‘talking to’ of the ‘What Would the Neighbours Say?’ type. I was disappointed, having been so pleased with my humorous take on life in our house. My imagination stunted, I realised any talent would have no encouragement from that quarter.

The creative juices were again sorely sapped at Junior School when I came face-to-face with She Who Slaps Legs for every spelling mistake. Such was my fear that every Monday evening was spent preparing twenty spellings for the dreaded Tuesday test. Her regime worked. I was never slapped and became the world’s best speller, especially with family games of Trivial Pursuits, during which my children groaned ‘It’s not fair’. Well, they didn’t have teachers like She Who Slaps in the 1970s, did they?

I didn’t give up entirely, as I had what every writer should have – a den – my own private place. It was made from broken canes – the good ones held up Dad’s runner beans – and hessian sacking which, before the days of plastic bags, came in all shapes and sizes. I created a door with a make-believe lock of string and twigs. In this den I would write – anything. By now, I was more adept at hiding my scribbles in an assortment of tins buried in the mud. So no more ‘what will the neighbours say?’

I continued writing in my teens with classmates taking turns to sit next to me in French to hear the next instalment of my latest novel, usually something fashioned after the Scarlet Pimpernel. I crafted a female character – Adeline – of similar aptitude to Sir Percy, only female, and she aided the escape to England of many. Unlike many authors, whose talks I’ve attended, I don’t have these early masterpieces as at some point these disappeared from our loft, probably to my mother’s waste bin.

The sixties and seventies are a blur of babies, weaning, boiling nappies and the occasional pen in my hand writing a shopping list. But everything changed in the eighties, when, as a single parent with three daughters and a career to nurture, I found time to join a writing group. We read aloud anything we’d written which motivated me to put pen to paper and type drafts on the portable electric typewriter. The result turned out to be the opening of my first novel which was regularly returned from publishers with a large thud on the door mat.

Then my partner bought a computer – an early Amstrad – and I struggled to make sense of it, wasting much continuous stationery and temper in the process. Stimulated by this new experience, I wrote the start of a book about a young mother with toddlers who struggles with a word processor. The plot of the book matched my own tortuous learning curve but adding the toddlers meant I could make bad things happen like jelly tots in the floppy drive. I sent it to an agent whose name I’d been given and she asked for more and then for the whole script. The book went to Headline and Arrow but was not taken up.

My first book was costing me a lot of postage but I didn’t waver. Someone in the group suggested I send it to the then Watson, Little and Brown and they telephoned asking me to come to London. I’m there, I thought. Of course, I wasn’t.

‘It’s not marketable,’ said the person on the line, ‘in its present form, but we would like to see you.’

The meeting was with two of the junior commissioning editors. If I re-wrote the book into articles, perhaps diary pieces, they would market them with newspapers and magazines, after which the articles would be put together in book form. The readership, having been wooed by the diary pieces, would then buy the book. Wow!

I left the office promising I would send the work. I didn’t at the time comprehend the harsh truth that a writer should ALWAYS do what an editor asks. I was about to move house, combining two homes, mine and my partner’s and our seven children. There was much to do, not all of it nice, but worse, once we had a joint household, the freedom to write I’d had when on my own vanished.

Recently I’ve read both manuscripts and am horrified at the sloppy sentence structure, banal clichéd expression and lack of or, worse, abominable punctuation. I broke every rule in the creative writing bible. No wonder they weren’t published.

I began Open University study and for a few years wrote only coursework but I didn’t give up writing. I sent tongue-in-cheek articles about mature students juggling study and family demands which were published in the OU magazine Sesame. I also took on a Village Voice column in the local paper and I began writing press releases promoting new courses and student achievement in my college of further education.

Around 1999 I worked with Helen, a primary teacher, on the Family Literacy Programme. I taught the mothers and Helen taught their children. Once a week we had a combined session. Email was in its infancy – few of my friends had email but Helen and I did. We liaised and our email exchange was hilarious, as were some sessions. We still want to publish, under pseudonyms of course.

My early manuscripts were now a mere memory, yellowing, fading copies and brittle, stuffed in the loft. My Millennium introduction to grandparenting stimulated the latent writer in me and, inspired me to write poetry. At a poetry group, I read my poem about a deaf girl which was harshly criticised by those with no experience of the disability. It was another example of the ignorance of hearing people with regard to Deaf issues. The seeds were sown for a later book. At last, I had something to say. But the time wasn’t right.

However, there was still email. After 2001, other friends were keen to correspond on a regular basis. I was loath to delete these and for several years selected a few of my wittier sent mails each week to copy and paste into a diary. The joy of this, I thought, was that I could refer to it if my memory failed due to dementia. I also planned a book entitled ‘The E diaries of a Downshifter’ based on the e mails. I just needed to find the right voice and I’d be away.

One turning point was that, after some family history research, I was motivated to write a family memoir for my grandchildren, which still awaits completion but from this I developed the idea for the book about a hearing girl growing up with a deaf sister.

Another turning point was in 2009 when Mslexia, arrived and on tearing it open something fell out. It was a flyer advertising the Winchester Writers Conference. This was within easy reach of where I live and the speakers and topics were just what I needed. Immediately I went online to see what I could find and also wrote away for details. I was too late to enter competitions or send work for appraisal in 1-1s but I put myself down for several useful seminars, one of which was on memoir writing by John Jenkins.

So now I had two books in progress and a poetry collection as well as two older corny novels awaiting major revision.

I was back at Winchester in 2010 and took the first prize for one of the Conference competitions which inspired me to apply myself seriously to my writing. I also had a 1-1 with biographer, Bevis Hillier, who said I showed much promise as a writer and asked me to stay in touch. I felt liberated and energised.

In 2011 I attended a Novel writing weekend run by Winchester Writers’ Conference at Shawford. At the course I met a writer who was organising a competition for entries into an anthology of the Royal Wedding. My contribution was selected and in July the collection was all over Facebook and sold on ebay with half the costs going to UNICEF.

My 1-1s in 2011 were helpful but I had other ideas. As autumn approached I jotted down some sketchy plots for a possible novel to write for the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and on 1st November I got cracking. To hit the target of 50,000 words I had to achieve 1700 words a day. It was the most enjoyable month of writing I’d had for a long time. I finished it sketchily and hastily knowing that for acceptance by an agent or publisher, there is much needing development – it has a saggy middle I fear. If I finish the editing before 12 June, I can have six copies self-published, the vouchers for this being part of the prize.

Stephen King says in ‘On Writing’, If God gives you something you can do, why in God’s name wouldn’t you do it? Why wouldn’t I indeed?

I do have to write and I’m not as content if I don’t. I am happiest fiddling with words on the screen, flicking pages of the thesaurus and the slog is always worth it at the ‘eureka’ moment, be it a sentence, phrase or merely an elusive word.
The road to writing has taken many turns, roundabouts and dead ends and I still haven’t had a book traditionally published but I am getting there and now I write every day – another definition of a writer. I have no strict routine of writing 9-1 like some, but I can easily manage 1000-2000 words, usually in the evening.

Since writing this article for a competition at Winchester, I found an illustrator, Denise Horn, whose work delightfully encapsulates my poetry written as a new grandmother. Grandma’s Poetry Book took form. In 2013, my task at Winchester was to trail round the self publishing stands asking for guidance, prices, requirements – anything! Some wanted pdf documents. What was a pdf, I wanted to ask? I found myself, eventually, at the Matador stand and their only requirements – a WORD document and Jpeg files for the illustrations – led me to placing my book with them in the Spring of 2014. Grandma’s Poetry Book was published in October that year and has enjoyed healthy sales. We are now working on a new book of more general humorous poetry, Should I wear Floral? Poems on Life, Love and Leaving, which we hope to have ready later in 2015. The marketing of the first book requires a whole blog post of its own. Green doesn’t even begin to describe me a year ago. Steep learning curve doesn’t go near it; suffice to say that I have gained 1200 Twitter followers in six months!

As for fiction ….. This book about the deaf ………. someone at Winchester once said, ‘it sounds like it would work for the older children’s market.’ You know what? I might just have another go.

It’s been a while coming but I do now call myself a ‘writer’.

Grandma’s Poetry Book was published by Troubador Publishing in November 2014
http://www.troubador.co.uk/shop_booklist.asp?s=Grandma’s%20Poetry%20Book

http://www.dicastle.co.uk/book/4586441911 https://www.facebook.com/pages/Di-Castle-Writer/266866193324409
follow me on Twitter @dinahcas
email me on dcastle32@talktalk.net

What’s In A Name?

This morning on Woman’s Hour there was a lively discussion with 71-year old Virginia Ironside, grandmother of two and author of “Yes! I Can Manage Thank You!” and Helen McCarthy, historian of modern Britain at Queen Mary University of London debate how the role of grandmas has changed over the past 100-years.

One aspect was what grandmothers should be called which reminded me of the poem in Grandma’s Poetry Book (page 54) What’s In A Name.

I thought I should share this with you below.

 First, note that Grandma’s Poetry Book is available from the author, the illustrator and Troubador Publishing. It can be ordered via independent bookshops and already sits on the shelves of THREE Dorset bookshops. Bookshops are preferable to Amazon but if you really have to …… hmm It will soon be on the shelves of Dorset National Trust shops. Many readers are returning to buy more books (two or even three – one bought five for friends’ Christmas presents!) Today, 10 April, one reader bought a second book from the illustrator as her mother-in-law liked it so much she wanted one to send to South Africa.

What’s In A Name?

Nannies go by many names.

Some families sport a few.

They’re either, Nanny, Gran or Nan

Or Grandma, ‘Her’ or ‘You’.

I am known as Nanny Wo Wo.

I’m the one who has a dog.

But if I lived in Holland

I might be Nanny Clog.

So glad I’ve given up the smoke

So I can’t be Nanny Fags.

Must temper shopping habit

Or I might be Nanny Bags.

I’ve had to stop the whiskey,

So I can’t be Nanny Booze.

I’m down to only twenty pairs,

So I can’t be Nanny Shoes.

How well I do remember

My little shrunken Nan.

To us she was Small Grandma

The other one was Gran.

Grandad may be Pops or Gramps

But who cares what you’re called?

When you’ve had the chance to be a bear

And round the garden crawled!

Grandma’s Poetry Book was published in November 2014.

LOOK NO DIET!

LOOK NO DIET!

‘One thing I thank you for,’ said my daughter, ‘is that when we were children you were never on a diet, mentioned the word or suggested we should not eat/eat certain foods to lose weight.’

It had never occurred to me that this was the case. It wasn’t deliberate, but our natural way of eating healthily within our household. My three daughters were active and slim. We didn’t snack between meals and needing to economise ensured we did not overeat. My daughter continued to say that she felt that she and her two sisters had grown up with a good attitude to food. This, from a grown woman who, when she was two years old, ate little else but chips and weetabix. Shows what growing up can do for you!

It is true, though, that dieting has never been in my psyche. Brought up by a mother who maintained two pregnancies in the war and survived rationing with a slim figure – have you ever seen any pictures of the war where the people were fat? I doubt it.

It is true, I have never been on a diet, except for one phase in my life when I lacked energy and I followed the food combining diet whereby proteins and carbohydrates are not eaten at the same meal. A few weeks of this eating plan made a difference and the whole family ate the same meals sitting together totally ignorant of why certain foods were not on their plate.

While my daughter may thank me for her ‘no-diet’ upbringing, now years down the line, I see the payback. I am pleased to see my two elder daughters introducing very healthy eating and drinking habits into their homes. This means that, as a grandparent, keen to stay in favour with my grandchildren, I have to resort to other means rather than turn up with a plate of cakes, packets of sweets and biscuits. Crisps and other nibbles are also not welcome. If Mum does decide to produce crisps at a family event, she is, no doubt, balancing these with the other healthy options offered up on a daily basis. Snacks for the children comprise cucumber, carrot sticks, apples and pears and drinks are purely water and bedtime milk. The only time they have a flavoured drink is when they visit me (hmm) as I have found unsweetened peach drink by Robinsons to be very popular. But I always ask in advance if this is permissible. I have never sneaked chocolate, sweets or crisps to the children as I know some grandparents do. I believe as grandparents we should respect our children’s right to bring up their own offspring according to their own rules

My grandchildren are stick insects. You certainly can’t pinch an inch on them. But, they are not lacking in energy. In fact, the opposite is the case. They are also all doing well at school, their brains fed plenty of fish, oily or otherwise and a variety of vegetables which they have eaten as finger foods since they were 7-8 months old.

My younger daughter is following in the footsteps of her two sisters. She has the two youngest members of the family, aged 4 and 16 months and boasts a shelf full of books on babycare including many on cooking healthily for toddlers. She updates me on my visits as to the amount of sugar in apparently healthy, low fat yogurts and many other snippets of acquired information which I do try to remember.

So what do I take on my visits. Well, there are good 50p books in charity shops, the occasional comic and the very occasional small chocolate bar to share, with the parents deciding the time they can be eaten. On their visits to Swanage they are treated to ice creams like any other child but there are no pasties or sausage rolls eaten from the local bakery. OH and I save those for our child-free days.

After moving to the south west in 2001, OH was under investigation for a variety of niggling problems which raised a question mark over the health of his heart. At a stroke – excuse the pun – we stopped all cakes, crumbles, pies and other foods ridden with fat. Instead, we ate salad, brown bread and jacket potatoes, casseroles and roasts cutting down on the roast potatoes and Aunt Bessie’s. We had a border collie so exercise was plentiful or so we thought.

I attended a weekly yoga class and swam twice a week in winter at a local pool and most days in the sea in the summer. So, with the dogwalking, and chasing toddlers round the playground, I expected to lose weight. I didn’t. In fact, the weight gradually increased, some due to certain medications and a contented semi-retired life. For ten years I was puzzled at my inability to lose weight. Then at Christmas 2010, I was horrified to see five pounds more when I stood on the scales and, no matter how much I reduced portions, abandoned biscuits, chocolates or puddings, nothing seemed to work.

Even some of my less generous size 16 items failed to meet at the waist or at the blouse buttons. More and more items were taken to the charity shop as I resorted to baggy tops, loose trousers, elasticated skirts and the uniform of every larger woman, the black clothes with brightly coloured scarves to distract from the all too obvious weight.

That autumn, OH and I embarked on our first serious walking holiday, travelling to the Peak District and enjoying a week of sunny weather punctuated by some cloud but only one morning of rain. To occupy ourselves in daylight hours, we walked between 5 and 9 miles a day.

We returned energised, both of us feeling exceptionally well and ‘sharp’. Our fuzzy brains had disappeared and we enjoyed new sparkle. We therefore decided to continue walking long distances. One day we took the bus from Swanage to the Sandbanks Ferry and walked back via Studland beaches and over Ballard Down to Old Harry Rocks and then down via Ulwell back into Swanage. This walk is calculated at between 8 and 10 miles. It took most of the day with refreshment stops and a picnic overlooking Poole Harbour. Other days I walked alone over Ballard Down and back through Ulwell, the whole walk offering generous portions of beautiful views. Twice we walked together over Ballard Down to Studland and took the bus back.

By late November we were both losing weight albeit slowly but more exercise was on the cards. My friend and I joined a Country Dancing class and enjoyed it enough to make it a regular Tuesday evening activity. We then ventured together to the Zumba class one lunchtime each week. As well as losing a few more pounds over the first month or two, we both felt invigorated and it was noticeable that I could walk up the hill home without the usual stop half way up.

My job over twelve or thirteen years involved sitting working on a one to one basis with students but shortly after Christmas 2012, I decided to leave and pursue my writing. The job was involving one or two days of sitting and inactivity for a period of four or five hours with students and two more hours on the return bus journey. Instead, I volunteered in a local charity shop, responsible for the books, my passion. My four hour stints were spent on my feet either sorting the bookshelves or serving behind the counter.

My other passion is our local musical theatre company who, that year, put on Hello Dolly. Once the show went ‘on the floor’ a second evening a week was spent on my feet.

Standing on the scales soon after Christmas I had lost 9-10 pounds, a direct result of my new active lifestyle. This increased until I had dropped one stone. The best part of this weight loss was dropping a dress size and wearing size 14 clothes for the first time in nearly fifteen years. But the crème-de-la-crème was my flat stomach. I couldn’t resist a glance in the mirror as I passed and seeing my reflection in shop windows was no longer a depressing sight.

Another change in our lifestyle was when we were allocated an allotment. To get the ground in shape for spring sowing took much effort and even painting our second-hand shed helped keep both of us active.

All this without any attention being paid to diet. We were eating healthily so nothing had changed except our appetites. In fact, we now feel we can eat a large slice of cake or a few chocolate biscuits at the allotment without any damage to our figures.

One other dietary change was a reduction in alcohol consumption which, combined with our activities, contributed to our weight loss and my own lowered blood pressure and a pat on the back from my doctor.

So if you feel you are joining the ranks of the overweight or, worse, obese, don’t diet but try increasing your activity levels. We thought we were active with our swimming and walking but it is the type of exercise that is important and the amount. Three 45 minute walks a week is NOT enough either for good health or for weight loss. Zumba, Dancing, long walks and digging the allotment certainly made a difference.

When people say, ‘you have lost weight,’ I now say, ‘Look, no diet!’

Grandma’s Poetry Book is available via my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk

The Imposter

The following is one of my favourite poems from Grandma’s Poetry Book. It is from the final draft and may differ slightly to the published version.

There are approximately 57 others in the book charting the development, milestones and not-to-be-forgotten moments.

The Imposter

The first time I collected you

From nursery at 3.

Your mummy left a photograph

To prove that I was me.

I thought I’d wear my Sunday best

So wore my new fur hat,

Introduced myself politely,

Then waited on the mat.

The staff looked rather puzzled,

When you refused to chat.

But you just didn’t know me.

You’d not seen me like that!

The staff were sure this was not Nan,

Not like her picture she.

But then I saw the picture

Did not flatter me.

So I took my hat and coat off.

Your face smiled so appealing.

The staff stopped dialling 999

To report me for child stealing.

Next time I went to nursery,

I wore my jeans and scarf.

I talked to all the mothers,

Letting off my raucous laugh.

No problem recognising then

Your Nan who came to call.

Now she was looking scruffy

And not speaking in posh drawl.

So here’s a lesson from my plight

If you a Nanny are.

Just turn up in your old clothes.

Leave your teeth home in a jar!

And then you’ll be so popular,

Your tot to you will run,

Throw arms around you, shout out ‘Nan!’

Now who’s the lucky one?

Website http://www.dicastle.co.uk

DOWN TIME

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.

http://www.dicastle.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Di-Castle-Writer/266866193324409

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grandmas-Poetry-Book-Di-Castle/dp/1784620246/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1417044696&sr=1-1&keywords=grandma%27s+poetry+book