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, 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, I thought, "Why not give it a try?"

Signing Day at Waterstones

As I began to word process the book, I found that the diary and photographs brought back more memories that were not recorded. Once I had completed the manuscript to my satisfaction, 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 first couple of chapters to Pneuma Springs Publishing, whose details I had found on the internet, on the off-chance that they may be interested. They asked to see the rest of the book and much to my amazement, accepted it for publication. This first book, entitled 'From Coconuts to Condors', was released in 2009. I was fortunate enough to be able to arrange signing days at the local branches of Waterstones and Borders, the latter sadly since having gone into liquidation. 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. Pneuma Springs also accepted this manuscript for publishing and 'Temples and Tacos' was released in 2011. However, as was the case with my first book, the photographs were reproduced in black and white.

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.

If you wish to purchase the paperback version of any of these books and find that they are no longer available through your local bookseller, please contact me direct at:

As more and more people now seem to be choosing to do their reading on portable electronic screens, all these books are also available 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

In 2013, when I had nearly completed my fourth book, my computer crashed and I lost everything. I thought I had back-up on a memory stick but found that only the titles had been saved. Faced with starting work on the book all over again, I lost enthusiasm for writing.

I had always wanted to be able to paint and joined an art class in 2014. I sold three paintings in the first year and since then, I have had my own exhibition in Leicester and have sold more than a third of the paintings I have produced. In November 2019, I had two paintings selected for exhibition at the Sock Gallery in Loughborough where they will be on display and available to purchase until 11 January 2020.

To see examples of my work, please visit my other website at

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. I searched the internet and found that many ready-made templates were available but decided that I would prefer to try designing my own website from scratch. As a complete novice, I owe a debt of gratitude to Peter Richards who provided me with a basic HTML tutorial on his website:

Peter explains 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: