Darlene Foster's Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Mary Smith

I was pleased to see that everyone enjoyed my list of book recommendations, so following my previous post, I wish to share three more books I read and enjoyed this summer. I have included a children´s book as I believe everyone should read a children´s book once in a while. It is amazing what you can learn.

No More Mulberries

No More Mulberries is a story of commitment and divided loyalties, of love and loss, set against a country struggling through transition.

British-born Miriam’s marriage to her Afghan doctor husband is heading towards crisis. Despite his opposition, she goes to work as a translator at a medical teaching camp in a remote area of rural Afghanistan hoping time apart will help are see where their problems lie. She comes to realise how unresolved issues from when her first husband was killed by a mujahideen group are damaging her relationship with her husband and her son – but is it already too late to save her marriage?

My review
I bought this book because I love reading stories that take place in the middle east. I was not disappointed. Mary Smith has written a wonderful story about cross-cultures, family, relationships and Afghanistan. The detailed descriptions of the land, people and culture are fascinating. The story is told through the point of view of Miriam, the main character, who is a wife, mother and medical practitioner. It is easy to identify with her as she struggles to maintain a home for her family in a culture so different from her life in Scotland. Miriam also has to deal with ghosts from the past and the feelings she has suppressed for too long which are having a negative effect on her marriage. This well-written book takes place in a troubled time just before the Taliban take control. Since the reader knows what will eventually happen, but the characters don’t, it keeps you on your toes and turning the pages. I highly recommend this book.

A Marriage of Convenience

Gerrie Hermann, aspiring rock star from a rich South African family, has an unusual proposal for Sophie Woods when he meets her for the first time in their university canteen. Strait-laced Sophie has never done anything out of the ordinary in the whole of her 19 years. When she decides to take Gerrie up on his offer she has no idea that her decision is going to affect the rest of her life in ways that she could never have foreseen, even in her wildest dreams.
My review
Sometimes one hasty decision can affect your entire life. Sophie doesn’t know what she is getting into when she agrees to marry wannabe rock star Gerrie Hermann so he can stay in the UK and pursue his music career. Can a marriage of convenience survive a botched up kidnapping, harboured secrets, lost dreams and undeniable heartache? An easy read with real-life characters set in the exciting London music scene and exotic Rio de Janeiro.

I Am David

David’s entire twelve-year life has been spent in a grisly prison camp in Eastern Europe. He knows nothing of the outside world. But when he is given the chance to escape, he seizes it. With his vengeful enemies hot on his heels, David struggles to cope in this strange new world, where his only resources are a compass, a few crusts of bread, his two aching feet, and some vague advice to seek refuge in Denmark. Is that enough to survive?
David’s extraordinary odyssey is dramatically chronicled in Anne Holm’s classic about the meaning of freedom and the power of hope.
My review
This is an amazing book. One that makes you think. It is cleverly written from the point of view of a young boy who has been raised in a concentration camp. He escapes but has to make his way in a world he knows little about. He gets by with his resourcefulness, honesty, and unique problem-solving skills. The book is written for children but is perfect for adults as well, as the topics of hope, forgiveness and sacrifice are universal and timeless. A must-read for all ages.
I know that TBR list is growing but here are three more to add!!

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

 


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