Tag Archive | Writing

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.

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

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.

Grandmas Poetry Book

COVER PICWhat 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 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 carry out 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 on show, 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 picture should be used.

Lesson two was to look carefully at the publisher’s website. Matador has a sample quote which was useful as I knew immediately what costs would be involved. Some of these attract added VAT and, I have to admit, 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 authors’ Facebook pages including members of the Independent Authors Association. Feedback indicated 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 as polished and pristine as possible. 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 webtransfer, a file sharing program, and while I did manage to view the files on screen, I asked for hard copies which they do offer to send out. 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 you get a view of what the reader will see on turning the page.

I have paid for a proofreader and this copy is still to come. I am told I can wait and mark up corrections according to both sets. I only have to post back hard copies of pages requiring corrections.

It would seem we are almost ready to roll.

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