Little Yellow Boat writing

How The Little Yellow Boat book was born

Picture of The Little Yellow Boat book by Diane Woodrow on the beach with dog paw prints above it

A question I am often asked is “How did The Little Yellow Boat book come into being?” And then the next question is “Are you going to write any more children’s books?”

In answer to the first question the idea for The Little Yellow Boat came from a series of daily writing promotes I was doing with my friend, David, a fellow writer who was encouraging me to write every day because I was struggling to focus on writing. The prompt came, from the book “A Writers Book of Days”, although I cannot now find the actual promote that started it or the original words. . But I do remember David suggesting I turned it into a children’s book

The Little Yellow Boat is very much my story. In fact I find this often when I do free writing prompts, that I explore me as much as anything. But then maybe that’s what we all write about really – ourselves?

So I am the one who was, and still is, always dashing off out to have amazing adventures but then the sea gets rough, I get scared on my own, and come back with something half finished. I have been teased about it lost confidence with it. Since moving to North Wales I have gathered round me more and more people who are real friends, who when they see me too far out and the seas getting rough come to support me rather than tell me I’ve gone too far on my own again. It is so refreshing and so empowering.

So David had suggested this as a children’s’ book but as I cannot draw or paint I put a request out on Twitter and Instagram asking for an illustrator. Interestingly the only person who got in touch with me was Danielle, who used to a friend of my daughter’s when we were living in Scotland in a Christian community. I was also friends with Danielle’s mum but we had not been in contact with each other for about 15-20 years as we’d just gone our different ways. I say “interestingly” because really the story of The Little Yellow Boat is about how she connects with friends, people she has known and not leant on, who help her to go on adventures. Having reconnected with Danielle it felt like the message of the story was being fulfilled.

I have to be honest even when Danielle had finished all the illustrations I was still reluctant to go further. My inner critic, and all the criticisms I had received in the past were kicking in, but I wanted to encourage Danielle and help her on her adventures which is the main reason I plucked up the courage and got in touch with some publishers.

I had no idea about how one went about publishing and didn’t think to get in touch with some of the writing groups I’m loosely connected with – Writers HQ, Writers&Artists, Write Day – so I just googled “children’s publishers taking submissions” and emailed the first three that came back.

This is where it starts to get exciting. All three of them got back in touch very quickly, all wanting to publish my book via contributory contracts. I pondered over them, read the contracts and then picked Olympia Publishers because they gave me the best contract and were the most communicative. I have not been disappointed with them. They are a very supportive, easy to communicate with publishing house.

It has been a long slog, especially during lockdowns, etc, to get the book marketed and out there. But I have learned so much – how to make my own website, set up two Instagram accounts, set up a Facebook page and to email various people to ask if they will sell my book. I do need to pluck up the courage to go into bookshops now they are open, and need to remember to take flyers with me when I’m out dog walking or even shopping. It has been fun signing books for people too. I love the look of pleasure in their eyes when they hold a book from an author they know. That has been a good feeling.

As to whether I’m going to write another children’s book? Well I don’t know. I never intended to write one in the first place. The prompt came in the middle of me trying to write things about female Celtic saints who get raped as part of their way to sainthood. It is female issues, voices not heard that generally fill my writing time. At the moment as well as looking into female Celtic saints I’m also exploring the things some of the mistreated women in the Mabinogion really felt when they were abandoned, raped, spent a year sleeping with a man who wasn’t their husband, were made out of flowers, etc. So exploring abandonment, lack of partnership in relationships, etc. I’m also looking at writing my memoirs but for now that is sat on the back-burner and I’m probably exploring things from it via these Medieval women.

So for me having my first published book as a children’s picture book is a bit of a shock to the system but I am loving it. It fits in with the serendipitous ways of my life

A time to plough year of the ox

The Year of The Ox

Image of a red ox with Chinese symbol of ox in red taken from

This is personal to me because this year I am 60! And I must say I love being 60! I feel like the constraints of trying have fallen off and I am becoming me without worrying what other people think. And that doesn’t mean I’m being a horrid person which is sometimes what comes over when one hears people saying “I don’t care what other people think” and then do something hurtful, rude, selfish. For me ‘not worrying what other people think’ means that I don’t have to put up guards and defences, don’t have to fit my corner, can just go and run workshops, write, etc as I want without worrying if it is what anyone else wants.

Also, for those who know about Chinese horoscopes will know that this year is the year of the Ox but also being 60 means that I was born in the year of the Ox too. I am also a Taurean bull so I was definitely made to plough!! As followers of my blog will know I am also a Christian but can happily see that God uses all things to bring his truths into play so I don’t believe that being aware of star signs, etc stops you from following God.

So this brings me to why I want to talk about the Year of the Ox. I was pondering this the other day and asking “What is the bottom line for 2021?” As not just me, but many prophetic people, believed that even before it began 2020 was going to be the year of perfect vision. I still believe that all the crap that went on, and is still going on, is about helping us all to see clearly what our world is like. But I believe 2021, the year of the ox, is about ploughing and planting. It is not about growth or harvesting but about setting one’s face to the skyline and ploughing that furrow in a straight line and filling it with seed. There will be years to come when we will see the growth but not this year.

I was talking about this whole Year of the Ox and ploughing with a friend and she had been listening to an early morning Christian broadcast over the last week which talked of seeds that had been found near Jerusalem that were 2000 years old but that when put in the right soil germinated and grew into what was an extinct date palm.

Even though this story of the 2000 year old seeds is over 10 years old I feel that it is right to be hearing it now in the year of ploughing and planting. I have seeds in my life from my years of writing, living, working with various people that really do feel like they are getting ready to sprout. I am being asked to get involved with some youth-based creative writing projects that are much more about ploughing than about reaping. Each of the projects that are either have received funding and are starting or that are in the preparation stages are about preparing something for the future.

Also don’t ever say to me that 60 is the new whatever, generally a younger age. For me 60 is 60 and it feels like the best decade I’ve ever stepped into so I refuse to dishonour it by calling it by anything other than what it is!

Awe ordinary well-being

Awe in the Ordinary

A view of Pentre Mawr park looking towards the Gopa taken by Diane Woodrow
A view of my “ordinary” park looking back towards my house and onward into the hills beyond taken by me this morning, 13th June, at 7.45am

I’ve been doing reflections on Rest and Silence with Lily Lewin’s Gift of a Sacred Summer kit These are only the first two of many more but is so much meat in them I don’t want to rush through them.

For me Silence is just taking Rest to the nth degree. Silence is mega rest! [Maybe a longer blog on this some other time?]

The key thing which has struck me so far is the importance of finding “awe” – “a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder” says Google dictionary.

I read somewhere that seeing and feeling awe calms our blood pressure, our breathing, our sense of well-being and much more. Experiencing awe is good for us so we need to do it as often as possible.

I am lucky as I live close to some amazing scenery, don’t need to walk far for some amazing views, but most days, due to various constraints, I walk round my local park. It is an ok park with lots of green spaces, trees, a couple of ponds, A55 running along the bottom of it. I could focus on the noise of the A55 and very easily miss the awe of my every day walk.

So from pondering some of the things in The Gift of a Sacred Summer and from reading through the Warrior Goddess book I am working on getting the feeling of awe into my every day, getting awe into the ordinary, and stop seeing “feeling awe” as something that only happens when I go somewhere extraordinary.

It is too easy to stomp round the park – because walking fast is good for one’s heart; making sure to say hello to all the other dog walkers I know – because I’m a polite person; to see it as just what it is, a town park. Instead I have been trying to combine these important functions of my walk with checking out the flowers, of which there are many different types, colours and hues; of listening to the bird song which is different depending which time of day I go and what time of year it is; of seeing what is going on in the ponds, the ducks, moorhens and swans, but also the growth of reeds, algae and more; of checking out the trees and how they change and alter. At the moment things are that solid green of summer whereas only a month ago the leaves were that vibrant green of excitement of springtime. I even made sure I felt awe as I walked the path by the side of the busy A55; for the amazement of the motor car, the way that things speed by and most of the time they are safe, the wonder that it is now possible to go on holiday whereas only 12 months ago it was not.

As I go round and let the awe of the ordinary take me over I am more inclined to have time to chat to the people I pass because I am no longer rushing by, even if I am walking quickly. It is possible to walk fast enough to stimulate one’s heart without rushing. I wonder too if it is possible to walk slowly but still have one’s head in a rush and not have time for others?

From doing this my ordinary has become an extraordinary awe filled place. I arrive back home much more contented and ready for my day. Feeling the awe of the ordinary place I visit every day has stimulated me creatively too. A totally creative awe-filled time that benefits my whole day.

Give it a go. Take your regular ordinary walk or drive or whatever you as a habit each day and find the awe within it. It will change you.