Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Dreams’ Category

In November of last year, I was a guest on Sally Cronin’s blog where I was asked to list two things on my personal bucket list. One of them was to attend a writers’ conference in Europe. A writer/blogger friend, Mary Smith, suggested I check out the Winchester Writers’ Festival, which I did. In June I attended this 38-year-old festival held at the University of Winchester with 300 other attendees, providing 50 talks, readings and workshops. I had a great time and thought I should share what I learned while there.

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Entrance to the University of Winchester

I arrived Friday evening in time for dinner where I met other authors over stimulating conversation. Later I attended a talk by James Aitcheson who discussed researching and writing historical fiction which was interesting.

I stayed on campus and found my little room to be comfortable. I felt every bit a student.

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My digs for the weekend. My room was on the second floor.

The next morning, after a good sleep and a hearty breakfast (there were even vege sausages!), we listened to the keynote address with Patrick Gale interviewed by Judith Henegan, Director of the Winchester Writers’ Festival. This prolific writer of 15 novels and counting, spoke about “A Life in Writing”. He offered some great advice and this is some of what I took away from the entertaining and informative discussion.

  1. Write in ink first
  2. Use setting as a character
  3. Place defines a person
  4. End with a glimmer of hope and leave some things unanswered
  5. Remember the reader in the second draft. (are they seeing and feeling what you want them to?)
  6. Children are good to have in a novel as they disrupt, are indiscreet and honest
  7. Readers respond to recognition
  8. Cut out unnecessary stuff, remove anything that reminds people that they are reading
  9. Learn to write by reading
  10. Time is a good editor
  11. Dialogue is good but can slow down the action. It’s OK to use reported speech sometimes
  12. Readers rewrite the book when they read it

I bought his book, “A Place Called Winter” and he signed it for me. He was very interested in the fact that I was raised near the area in Canada where the story takes place.

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For the remainder of the day, I attended a number of workshops. One by children’s author, Patrice Lawernce, on “Whose Voice is it Anyway”. She discussed making your characters sound authentic by listening to how people talk and being perpetually curious, knowing their backstory and culture and getting under the skin of your characters.

Another workshop on “Creating a Picture Book”, was facilitated by Andrew Weale. He explained that you have to think visually as you write, write a lot, then pare it down to a few words as you let the pictures talk. Picture book stories can be generated by asking unusual, quirky questions.

“Twitter For Writers” by Claire Fuller gave me a few more ideas on how to maximize my time on Twitter. “Myth, Mystery and Magic” with Sarah Mussi reminded us that goodness wins in the end with examples through the ages. The hero should have a flaw, even if it is a good flaw like being too kind etc. The excellent dinner came with a guest speaker, Helen Dennis, who gave an animated talk about her route to success as a children’s author.

Sunday was an all-day workshop, “Casting the Spell of Place”, with Lorna Ferguson. I loved this as we were given prompts with time to write and share our work. A few points I took away with me.

  1. Cut out unnecessary details of description to avoid making it sound like a travelogue
  2. Don’t make lists
  3. Think of the reader and what effect you want to create
  4. Setting can create mood and atmosphere and help with plotting
  5. Location often takes the character out of their comfort zone
  6. It should transport the reader out of their ordinary world (armchair travelling)
  7. It should create a perception of the culture
  8. Description needs to be broken up with dialogue and action
  9. Be careful of information dumping, it will pull the reader out of the story
  10. If it doesn’t work, try a different setting!

Another point that came up which was very helpful for me and my stories is that a character can’t always have someone help them. They need to solve their own problems, sometimes in an unfamiliar location.

We were given a list of quotes. I love this one. Place is paramount. Annie Proulx

I also had two one to one appointments with authors who looked at the first chapter of Amanda in Holland and gave me great feedback.

With limited luggage space, I only bought two books, (amazing for me!) and an Elizabeth Bennet tree ornament to remember my time.

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Elizabeth Bennett Christmas tree ornament

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Charming bench on the grounds of the university

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One of the many great buildings on site, the Business School

Staying in a historic city, meeting other writers and learning more about the art of writing made this a perfect break for me and just what I needed to continue with my writing. Thank you so much, Mary Smith, for this suggestion. Check out her interesting blog and wonderful books.

https://www.amazon.com/kindle-/entity/author/B001KCD4P0

 

When our friends inquired what I wanted to see while visiting them in France, I asked if Giverny, the home of Claude Monet, was near. They said it was only one hour away and would be happy to take us there. I am so glad we went to this magical place. It felt like I had stepped into a Monet painting.

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Monet’s garden

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The village of Giverny is storybook delightful and I can see why Monet chose it as a place to live, paint, garden and raise his large blended family.

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The village of Giverny

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The gardens are simply breathtaking. This was Monet´s happy place and it is evident he was inspired by the amazing array of shapes and colours. I gazed mesmerized at the well-known and oft-painted lily pond.

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And I stood on the same bridge I have long admired in his painting. Not only was this visit a dream come true, it felt like a living dream!

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet

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“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers. ” – Claude Monet

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A profusion of colours

His charming house is incredibly comfortable with views of the gardens from every room. As I entered, I half expected Monet to be there welcoming me as he did many guests in the past. His art and that of his contemporaries adorn the walls of all the rooms as it did when he lived there. His spirit permeates the rooms.

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Monet’s house in Giverny

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My favourite room was the sunny, cheerful kitchen. I imagined Claude, Anne and their eight children laughing and chatting as they shared meals.

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We visited the Impressionist Art Gallery on site and had a lovely meal overlooking part of the garden. I stopped at a small shop in Giverny and bought the perfect, handmade French hat to remember this auspicious visit.

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Water Lily Pond with Japanese Bridge by Claude Monet

I could have stayed all day, but alas it had to end. This is now my happy place which I will return to in my mind many times. Thank you, Alain and Cathy, for taking me here!

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Friends in the garden

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“I must have flowers, always, and always.” ― Claude Monet

The photographs by Darlene Foster, Paul Foster and Cathy Marsen 

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I hope 2018 has started out well for everyone! As is my habit, I sat on my terrace in the sun, took out a pen and paper and scribbled down my goals for the coming year. I feel I need to share them with you. So here they are

Darlene’s Goals for 2018
1. Finish Amanda in Holland -Missing in Action
2. Publish an anthology of short stories about growing up on the Canadian prairies
3. Go on a driving holiday to Paris with Paul and Dot
4. Attend a Writer’s Conference in the UK
5. Have the house painted
6. Take some mini get-aways
7. Visit places I haven’t been before
8. Start Amanda in Malta
9. Find new markets for my books
10. Promote other authors
11. Help my daughter with her pottery business
12. Create more girlfriend time (I miss this from my life in Canada)
13. Hold more dinner parties
14. Be with mom on her 90th birthday

There you have it. Wish me luck!

My three words for this year are

Create

Happiness

Friendship

I will leave you with a thought by Anne Lamott from her book “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life” 

“Oh my God, what if you wake up someday, and you’re 65, or 75, and you never got your memoir or novel written; or you didn’t go swimming in warm pools and oceans all those years because your thighs were jiggly and you had a nice big comfortable tummy; or you were just so strung out on perfectionism and people-pleasing that you forgot to have a big juicy creative life, of imagination and radical silliness and staring off into space like when you were a kid? It’s going to break your heart. Don’t let this happen.”

and from the amazing Neil Gaiman

“May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.” 

Have a surprising 2018 and thanks for following my blog, inspiring me and being my friend!

 

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I am a very goal-oriented person and require goals to keep me on track. At the beginning of every year, I write down some goals as I believe writing them down cements them in my mind and helps me to meet them. As the year comes to a close, I like to look at the goals I set for myself and see how I did.

These are the 2017 goals I posted on my blog.

Prepare Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind for publication in the fall of 2017.

Amanda in New Mexico – Ghosts in the Wind was completed in January 2017 and after a number of edits and a few beta reads, it was published and launched October 1, 2017! This is book number six in the Amanda Travels series. I am so proud of this book. Thanks to everyone who assisted and supported me, bought this book and reviewed it. Launching a book is much like giving birth, hard work, painful but so worth it!

Return to Canada in October to promote the newest book

I returned to Canada in August and September for an awesome six-city book tour and wrote about it here. I moved the date up in order to accept an invitation to present a workshop for the Vancouver Public Library’s Writer’s Camp in mid-August. It was an incredible experience. The book tour was successful and I now have many more Amanda fans. I was also able to see many friends and family members while there. 

Write Amanda in Holland, book seven of the series

I started Amanda in Holland-Missing in Action and have written over fifty percent of it. I would have liked to have been further along by now though. 

Explore places in Spain we haven´t been to before.

I visited the amazing city of Cordoba with special out of town guests as well as other small towns and rural sites in Spain. Although I had visited Barcelona twice already, I explored parts I had not seen before. There is still so much to see and do in this fascinating country.

Return to England to visit family and friends

We travelled to York in January to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary and visit some of Paul’s family. In October we travelled to Liverpool to meet friends. Both fascinating cities that reminded me of why I love England so much.

Go on at least one interesting trip outside of Spain

We spent a week in Malta and loved every minute. I wrote about that trip here.

Attend Pueblo Ingles or a similar program assisting Spanish-speaking individuals with their communication English

For some reason, this hasn’t worked out again this year but it is still on the list. 

Create a new up-to-date website

My clever brother created a swanky new website for me. I just love it and can’t thank him enough. www.darlenefoster.ca

Organize the files on my computer

I started this but need to work harder to get things organized better. 

Learn to use the new Samsung Tablet Santa delivered!

 I use my tablet daily and take it with me when I travel. It was such a great gift. It didn’t take long to figure most of it out.

Keep in touch with family and friends, including friends on social media.

I make a concerted effort to keep in touch with everyone. Social media has been a huge help with this. I even met some of my social media friends in person this year. I wrote about it here. 

Be kind, be strong and never stop being curious.

Yes, yes and yes.

In retrospect, 2017 was a very good year and I look forward to 2018.

I wish everyone who reads my blog a very Happy New Year!! 

“Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine, and at last, you create what you will.” George Bernard Shaw.

My granddaughter has started a new venture and I am so proud of her. She has always loved animals and has worked with pets for some time now, most recently managing a boarding kennel and volunteering at a shelter. She has purchased, along with her husband, a chunk of property outside of Medicine Hat, Alberta and opened her own boarding kennel called Aunty’s Place Pet Boarding. I can assure you those pets will get so much care, attention and love. I was happy to spend some time with her during my recent visit. She had just opened for business and was already busy. She is working hard and I know she will do well.

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There is a special place for cats at Aunty´s Place.

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Oscar lives there but he doesn’t mind all the extra guests

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Thumbelina making herself at home

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Another happy guest

And tons of room for dogs of all shapes and sizes

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Welcoming committee

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Dog guests having fun with neighbouring cows looking on.

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An early morning run.

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A satisfied customer

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The spacious house with the office in front.

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Fabulous prairie view from the back deck

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With helpers, a brother and daughter. A family run business.

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Many lovely fir trees from BC had been planted in the yard. We’re standing by a gorgeous blue spruce we named appropriately, Bruce.

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A very tidy office

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Professional  business cards

Animals instinctively know this is a safe place. Recently a stray mother cat appeared on the doorstep with seven little ones in tow. They were fed of course and homes were found for them.

Through hard work and perseverance, my granddaughter’s dream has come true. I couldn’t be more proud of her and her family. The property is near where I grew up and, get this, my great-granddaughter is now attending the same school I did!

Check out the facebook page and like it. Be warned, cuteness alert. She posts pictures of her adorable guests. 

https://www.facebook.com/auntysplacepetboarding/

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Remember, if you haven´t yet, there is still time to enter my giveaway

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/4e6fad2120/?

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a guest on Canadian Writer´s Abroad. Check out what I have to say about my move to Spain.

 

Source: Foster’s Dream Life

When I went back to Canada at the end of last year, I was pleased to be able to spend time at my favourite places – schools, libraries and bookstores, where I read from my latest book and spoke about my writing. It was a busy time but also a lot of fun. Here are a few pictures of my events and presentations.

I held the launch of Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music at Albany Books in Tsawwassen, BC. Ruth and the staff at this cosy, well-stocked bookstore have been so supportive of my books over the years. I was pleased to be back and to see so many of Amanda´s fans attend.

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My daughter at the book launch as well as a dear friend.

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Book launch at Albany Books, November 19 2016

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With Suzanne de Montigny, another author, who I featured here on my blog

I visited a number of schools in the Vancouver area where I showed a PowerPoint presentation I created, read from the book and answered questions about the book, me and my writing. The children were so attentive and asked amazing questions. One girl asked if she could take notes!

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At Charles Dickens Elementary

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The children liked the visuals I created from my own photographs in the PowerPoint presentation.

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Answering questions at Holly Elementary in Surrey, BC

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I thought this was such a funny poster in the library.

I also visited Webster Niblock School in Medicine Hat, Alberta, my hometown.  I read to the grade one and two classes in the library and then to the grade three to six classes in the gym. It was the largest group I have ever spoken to.

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The students loved the pictures of my dog Dot.

 

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Lots of questions from the crowd.

 

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The special thing about this visit was that it is the school my great granddaughter, Emma attends.

In Calgary, I spent a morning with the students at Red Deer Lake School in their magical library.

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Because I was travelling, I couldn´t bring my props with me. Fortunately, friends lent me appropriate things for my displays, including a nutcracker, which is featured in the book.

 

 

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I just love these school libraries.

 

The most special event for me was a presentation at The Medicine Hat Library. Although the original library  I visited as a child is no longer there, it was still a very nostalgic time for me. I took my children to this library and now my grandchildren and great grandchildren frequent it. Many friends, family and fans attended, some travelling long distances, which warmed my heart.

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Six-year-old great granddaughter attending my presentation at the local library. Who would have thought this would ever happen??

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Friends and family travelled far to attend my presentation.

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It was a dream come true for me! Yes, you can go home again. Everyone made me feel so special. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

And thank you for travelling with me on my book tour.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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