Valerie Astill, Travel Writer


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From Coconuts to Condors Temples and Tacos Rice, Rats and Rickshaws

How I became a travel writer

My husband David and I have always enjoyed exploring new places, whether in Britain or abroad, and I usually keep a photographic record of each trip. Once we had paid off our mortgage, we were able to venture further afield for our annual holidays and I began to keep a detailed diary to supplement the photographs.

After we had been on a particularly eventful holiday to Brazil, Peru and Bolivia with an organisation called Explore Worldwide Ltd, we told our friends and family about all the things that had happened to us. Several people said to me, "You ought to write a book" and once I had retired and had more time to spare, that is exactly what I did.

Signing Day at Waterstones

After completing the first manuscript, I attended a creative writing class where others in the group gave constructive criticism. I found this a devastating process but, as a result, completely rewrote the book and then included some of my photographs.

I e-mailed the documents to Pneuma Springs Publishing and was lucky enough to have them accepted for publication. This first book, entitled 'From Coconuts to Condors', was released in 2009. I was able to arrange signing days at the local branches of Waterstones and Borders and the photograph shows David and me at one of these signing days.

Once I found that people wanted to read my book, this gave me more confidence and in 2010, I wrote a second book, this time about a holiday in Mexico, Guatemala and Belize, again with Explore Worldwide Ltd. Pneuma Springs also accepted this manuscript for publishing and 'Temples and Tacos' was released in 2011.

I decided to self-publish my third book, 'Rice, Rats and Rickshaws', in order to have the photographs printed in colour. This book describes a journey through China from Hong Kong to Beijing, another Explore adventure. As well as the photographs, it includes maps of the Provinces through which we travelled and became available as a paperback at the end of August 2013.

These books are no longer in print but if you would like to purchase the paperback version, please contact me direct at the address shown at the bottom of the page. These books can also be purchased as e-books through Amazon Kindle.

If you would like to find out more about Explore holidays, please visit their website at:

How I became an artist

After the publication of my third book, I decided it was time for a change and because I had always wanted to be able to paint, I joined a local class in January 2014.

I have since had solo exhibitions in Leicester and Loughborough and about a third of my paintings have already been sold. To learn more and to see examples of my work, please visit my other website:

Creating this Website

Several people who bought my first book asked if I had a website and my publisher suggested that it would be a good idea to publicise my books in this way. Although ready-made templates are available on the internet, I decided to try designing my own website from scratch. As a complete novice, I owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Richards who provided a basic HTML tutorial on his website:

Peter explained how to construct a website in such a straightforward way that even a beginner like myself could follow the instructions (although I did need some extra help to go 'live').

Additional thanks go to Robert Darrell who also provided a very useful tutorial,including a colour chart and colour coding for HTML. His website can be found on:

If you would like to contact me, my e-mail address is: