Vera Castleman is a Durban-based writer. She has had an illustrious career in education; she taught Maths and Computer Studies at Brettonwood High School for twelve years, coached the External Computer Studies classes under the education departments banner (eight years), lectured Computer Studies at Edgewood College of education (eight years) and taught at New Forest High School for eight years. Although she wrote IT and Computer Application Technology textbooks, she had an unrealised desire to write fictional pieces. Castleman’s inspiration came in the form of her granddaughter, Della, who was visiting from the UK. Della asked her to write to her when she returned home and this helped get Castleman’s creative juices flowing.
From 2012 to present, she has published literature (using the pen name “Vera Alexander”) with a thematic focus on youth and their experiences. This includes the Della and Easter series, a set of five fairy-tales aimed at young children. She has released a teen graphic novel entitled In the Twinkling of an Eye and a short story called Red Flag. The majority of these works have been published online through Smashworks and Amazon and are also available at Adams Booksellers.
In 2013, she debuted her first novella, Full Circle, at the Pavilion branch of Exclusive Books. It explores the life of an ordinary boy, Bandile, who is involved in an accident and becomes a paraplegic. Here, Castleman pens his rise above this tragedy and determination to take on life with a renewed sense of determination. Full Circle was inspired by her experiences as a temporary teacher at the Open Air School in Durban, a school which caters to children with physical disabilities. In an interview with Artsmart, Castleman acknowledged her admiration for the student’s “acceptance and joy for education” and their drive to succeed despite their physical challenges. Her novel received high praise from Manuela Cardiga, author of Guilty Pleasures, who commended Castleman for possessing the “impassioned and unpretentious simplicity of a true story teller” and successfully capturing “the African culture, its very tone and cadence and attitude with great tenderness and admiration”.
At present, Castleman works for UmSinsi Press as a typist, editor, typesetter and sometime computer maintenance /support person. She teaches Ballroom and Latin dancing, helps adults come to terms with computer technology and enjoys blogging. She is in the process of completing her next novel, Darkest Before Dawn, which will be published as both an e-book and hard copy. According to Castleman, it is about a young, innocent woman who comes from a sheltered family in a tiny sea side town on the south coast of KZN. She is a refined girl who has studied art and gets a job as an illustrator in a Johannesburg company and meets up with a charming “lout”.
Website: DeLectably Cool C.A.T.S
Facebook: Vera Alexander
Excerpt from Full Circle (2013):
Bandile started the lawn mower and let his mind wander as he mowed the lawn.
He was no longer Bandile mowing the lawn. He was on the Albert Hall Stage. He was an honoured guest entertaining Her Majesty the Queen. He looked around at the crowds screaming and shouting … No that wouldn't happen at a command performance.
He turned the mower and started on the next strip.
He had just completed his concert at Wimbledon. The perspiration was running down his face. The crowds were screaming his name and begging him to sing and dance just one more song. The lights were blinking on the large Christmas tree at the side of the stage… No, that wouldn't work either. If it was Christmas it would probably be snowing in the UK.
Up the next strip, Bandile was entertaining a crowd at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. It was summer in Durban. No scratch that, it was too hot in summer and in summer it often rained at night. Okay. So it was winter at the Moses Mabhida Stadium. He was a famous international star who had come to entertain people in his home town. Cirque du Soleil had honoured him by agreeing to send some of their artists as a supporting act. (He had been watching them on the TV and the performers enthralled him!)
During his last number, trapeze artists were suspended from the famous arch and were swinging – mostly in time to his music. The crowd was going wild. His supporting dancers were the team of guys from his school who were now internationally recognised. The dance coach had choreographed a fabulous number for his finale! Girls were streaming down on ribbons from the arch and stopping themselves just above the audience's heads and then wrapping themselves in the ribbons as they ascended to the arch. Each girl had a different coloured ribbon. Clowns were performing on a smaller stage in front of the main stage. Streamers, confetti and angel dust were released to fall on the audiences upturned faces.
Ah well, he could dream!
1998. Tenderfoot Guide To Word Processing: Using Microsoft Word '97.Durban: umSinsi Press
2012. How Easter met Della. Durban: umSinsi Press
2012. In the Twinkling of an Eye. Durban: umSinsi Press
2012. Easter's Fairy Adventure.Durban: umSinsi Press
2013. Easter’s First Christmas.Durban: umSinsi Press
2013. Easter at the Bird Park. Durban: umSinsi Press
2013. Della's Birthday Surprise. [Online] Smashwords: Felicity Keats Morrison
2013. Computer Applications Technology Grade 10 Theory (Cool C.A.T.S.). Durban: UmSinsi Press
2013. Full Circle. Durban: UmSinsi Press
2014. Red Flag. Smashwords: Felicity Keats Morrison
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