Darlene Foster's Blog

Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ 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

 

Jennie over at A Teacher’s Reflections posted this today and I just had to share it.

Check out Thank You, Superheroes and Jennie’s blog where she shares her teaching experience and the wonderful way she introduces her young students to books, reading, music, art and life. You will be impressed.

Today is National Superhero Day and this is what Jennie has to say about superheroes.

A Superhero is brave and caring, perseveres, takes risks, helps others, and saves the day.  A Superhero makes a difference.

Teachers fit the description perfectly.

I recently spent a fabulous day at an international school close to my home in Spain. I visited five classrooms of Grade 5 and 6 students, where I did a PowerPoint presentation about my writing and read from my Amanda Travels books. The students came from all over the world and enjoyed hearing about the places Amanda has travelled to. They were attentive, enthusiastic and asked well thought out questions. They were a delight to spend time with.

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Presenting to students at El Limonar International School

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A book-loving grade 6 class 

I was very impressed by the efficiency and dedication of the teachers. They are certainly ensuring that future generations are well educated and prepared for life. I consider them all superheroes.

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Display for Book Week at El Limonar International School

Miss Roll

With my Grade 3 Superhero, Miss Roll

A good teacher can make a huge difference in a child’s life.

Did you know a teacher that you consider a superhero?

I am honoured to have my story about my inspiring great-grandmothers featured on Bernadette’s blog. Some of you may have read it before but if you haven’t, please pop over and have a read and leave a comment if you wish.

Haddon Musings

“We can have feminist icons, but the real heroines are just quietly doing what is needed.”  Osyth

The following post was written by Darlene Foster who writes at Darlenefoster.wordpress.com.  It is the tale of her two great-grandmothers who made a fulfilling life for themselves and their families while enduring great hardships.  What struck me about this story, of these two real heroines, was that Darlene said that because of the legacy of these women it has given her the confidence and courage to know that she can thrive under any circumstance.

A Tale of Two Katharinas, a Legacy of Strong Women

“People will not look forward to posterity who never look backward to their ancestors.” Edmund Burke

I was fortunate to know both of my maternal great-grandmothers. They passed away when I was in my early teens but I remember them well. They were formidable women with hearts of gold. One…

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One of the joys of writing is hearing from readers and seeing pictures of them with my books. I am pleased to have many faithful followers of the Amanda Travels series. Some have been reading about Amanda’s travels since I published the very first book, eight years ago. Here are a few pictures of my books in the hands of young readers.

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This avid reader bought a set of books for herself and for her friend, with her own money!

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This young reader has been an Amanda fan from the start.

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And she is still reading the books in Trinidad!

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A sweet little Amanda fan.

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Another special fan, from Australia!

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Special visitors at a book signing.

 

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These students still attend my presentations.

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More students who love Amanda.

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This clever young woman has already written three books of her own.

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A special fan in Spain

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A blogging friend’s gift to her granddaughter

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Happy to get another Amanda book for her birthday.

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Eager readers attend a book launch.

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New fans at the first book launch, 8 years ago.

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She enjoys reading her great-grandmother’s books

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A keen fan reading to her great-great-grandmother.

I also love hearing from those who have read my books. Here is a lovely email from a young reader.

Hi, Darlene, my name is Kynnlei and Marion is my auntie. She gave me three of your books and they are some of my favourite books. Please keep writing and she will keep buying. We give you encouragement to do what you are passionate about. 

And this from a young man being homeschooled who read two of my books for his reading assignments.

Dear Darlene:

I am doing a book report on your book titled, “Amanda in Alberta”.  I liked it! My favourite part is the horse ride in chapter 6.   I have been to many of these places, mostly with my dad in the semi truck.  Did you visit all of the places in your book? Can you make a book of “Amanda in Iceland”?  I think that would be awesome! Thank you for writing these amazing books!

Sincerely; Kegan

I understand he got very good marks on his assignments.

This is why I am so passionate about writing for kids!

If you have a picture of you or someone reading one of my books, please send it to me as I love to collect them. 

 

 

This is me some days!! Thanks for this Lynn.

Lynn Thaler

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2016 has started off well. We ate our twelve grapes at midnight for good luck, viewed fireworks from our terrace, and watched Bryan Adams bring in the New Year in London on television, while he played all my favourite songs. Then watched the amazing fireworks in London. It was a Spanish/English/Canadian New Year´s Eve for us.

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12 grapes each to be eaten at midnight for good luck. A Spanish tradition

To learn more about this tradition read about it on Glamour Granny Travels  http://www.glamourgrannytravels.com/2015/12/24/grapes-and-cava-a-spanish-new-years-eve-tradition/ 

On New Years day we went for lunch with my in-laws at a fabulous restaurant called La Herradura (The Horseshoe) where we enjoyed a delicious eight course meal and a Flamenco dance performance. A great start to the New Year.

La Herradura

La Herradura

Flamenco dancer

Flamenco dancer

With my mother-in-law

With my mother-in-law at La  Herradura

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New Year´s Lunch with the in-laws

Now it´s time for me to look forward and set goals for 2016.

1.  Amanda on the Danube – The Sounds of Music successfully launched
2. Finish Amanda in New Mexico – The Ghost Hotel
3. Do more promoting of all the Amanda books and Pig on Trial
4. Connect with local schools and book stores
5. Continue to explore Spain, attend cultural events and write about them
6. Travel to Holland, France and England
7. Work hard at making new friends in Spain
8. Attend Pueblo Ingles with friends
9. Take time to read more
10. Practice Spanish
11. Keep learning more about writing
12. Enjoy my more relaxed life style
13. Look after my health by eating better and exercising more
14. Keep in touch with family and friends back home via social media and mail

15. Help other writers meet their goals
16. Be thankful for at least three things every day.

By writing these goals down and sharing them with you, my wonderful readers, I will be more committed to reach them.

Thank all of you for your encouragement and support over the years. I truly do appreciate it. May all your dreams come true in 2016!!

If you can dream it, you can do it! Walt Disney

I´ll leave you with two short videos of the flamenco show.

https://youtu.be/pSnI7MbZCf0

https://youtu.be/82DPk99wm4g

 

I am featured today on the wonderful blogsite Mother Daughter Book Reviews where I discuss how my photographs inspire my writing.

How Photographs Can Inspire Ideas

by Darlene Foster

As a writer of children’s books, I am often asked where I get ideas for my stories. I’m inspired by my travels for the most part and eager to share what I have seen and learned with my young readers. I start with a place, somewhere interesting, and include an adventure or a mystery for my main character, Amanda, to solve. Although I have the main idea, I often get stuck while putting the story together.

Read more of the article here

AmandaBooks


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