Tag Archives: Darlene Foster

Are Children’s Books Just for Children?

By Darlene Foster

I write children’s books. Actually, I should correct that. I write books suitable for children. But they are books any age can read and enjoy.

            Recently I listened to an interview with Lawrence Hill, author of the award-winning novel, The Book of Negroes.He discussed his latest release, Beatrice and Croc Harry, which he describes as a story for children and adults. He mentioned there should be no separation between children’s and adults’ books. He mentioned that as authors, we should not shy away from including serious and painful issues in children’s stories as they can handle them. He also mentioned, and I agree, many adults enjoy reading from a child’s point of view.  

            As a young reader, I devoured everything in the children’s section of our small prairie library, so I started reading from the adult section. I read Gone with the Wind in three days when I was twelve years old and loved it. Obviously, some books are not suitable for children. I recall my mother hiding books like Peyton Place and Tropic of Cancer, because she knew I would read anything I could get my hands on.  

            Recently a neighbour mentioned that he was sad that his daughter was now able to read on her own, as he could no longer read all the wonderful children’s books, including my Amanda Travels series. I replied, “Why not? You can still read them on your own and then discuss them with her.”

            There are no reading police that watch out for adults reading children’s books. If there was, I’d be in jail or fined heavily as I read a lot of novels written for children. I just finished reading Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin. Although it was written over a hundred years ago and the writing might be difficult for modern day readers, it was wonderful to follow the delightful Rebecca as she adapted to her new surroundings. I re-read Anne of Green Gablesevery few years.

            Reading is how we learn and grow, at any age. Children’s books often explore themes such as identity, injustice, misunderstanding, family crisis, friendship, disappointment, and death, among other contemporary issues. Things adults confront on a daily basis.

            I am always pleased when adults read my books and comment on how much they enjoyed them. One adult reader, planning a trip to New Mexico, got ideas of things to see and do on an upcoming visit by reading Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind. I am delighted to have many wonderful reviews from adults who have read my books.

            Once on a crowded ferry from Vancouver Island to Vancouver, I sat with a family of five. Two adults and three elementary-aged boys. Each one of them was reading a different Harry Potter volume. I commented on how nice it was to see a family reading the same series together. The mother explained they purchased one complete set and share the books amongst them. She said they didn’t mind reading the series out of sequence. I can only imagine the lively discussions between the kids and the parents.

            Much can be learned by reading children’s and young adult fiction and non-fiction. When adults say they don’t understand young people today, perhaps they should read more from a young person’s point of view. Children’s books written by C.S. Lewis, E.B. White, Enid Blyton, and Kate DiCamillo, to name a few, can be life changing for readers of all ages.

            I don’t believe children’s books are just for children. I think I need to change my tag line to—I write books for everyone to enjoy!

            Because, let’s face it, we are all children at heart.

“A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children

is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”― C.S. Lewis

1. Amanda in Arabia: The Perfume Flask
2. Amanda in Spain: The Girl in the Painting
3. Amanda in England: The Missing Novel
4. Amanda in Alberta: The Writing on the Stone
5. Amanda on the Danube: The Sounds of Music
6. Amanda in New Mexico: Ghosts in the Wind
7. Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action
8. Amanda in Malta: The Sleeping Lady

Darlene Foster’s Amazon Author Page

Darlene Foster’s Website

Darlene Foster grew up on a ranch in Alberta, Canada, where her love of reading inspired her to see the world and write stories. She is the author of the exciting Amanda Travels series featuring spunky Amanda Ross, a twelve-year-old Canadian girl who loves to travel. All ages enjoy following Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in unique destinations. When not travelling, meeting interesting people, and collecting ideas for her books, Darlene enjoys spending time at her house in Spain with her husband and entertaining rescue dogs, Dot and Lia.

Darlene Foster


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books, Special Events

Do you write about your travels?

DSC00977I have traveled quite a bit, but have not always made a habit of writing about my experiences. Many of my travels have no documentation, just memories.

Though one trip to Maine I kept a diary and took pictures. I also kept the maps and guide books. I did the same while on a trip to Germany.

My mom traveled to Wales and England, and she kept a diary and took pictures (yes, I have the diary and the pics!). I hope to make that same trip one day.

Research with travel books

When I go to yard sales, I look for travel books and books about geography and different states and different countries. I may not be able to visit all these wonderful places, but I can sure read about them.

Small notebook

While traveling, keep a diary. Or if you have a laptop, knock out your day-to-day experiences when you get back to your hotel that evening. Write not just what you see, but how you felt.

Take photos

Photos can refresh your memories and help you better describe the people, places, architecture, scenery, colors.

Local people

Talk to the locals. Trade email addresses in case you want to contact them again.

Write about attitudes – every place you go, there are attitudes and ideas that are specific to that region, state, or country.

Ask about the history

When you chat with the locals, ask how long they have lived there, where they came from, why they are there now.

Visit cemeteries

I wish I had taken more photos at the cemetery on Chebeague Island, Maine. There were stones there that went back more than three hundred years.

Don’t do it all in a car or bus.

Can you rent a bike? Can you hike? You would be surprised how your visual perspective changes as you are pedaling or walking.

Have you considered the train?

Amtrak has a new program called Amtrak Residency for writers. I have applied, but they haven’t called me, yet. When were you last on a train? Did it inspire different thoughts and ideas?

For a different perspective on travel writing, with guests Esther Miller and Darlene Foster

Travel writing Q&A with Esther Miller DSC00990

My travel writing has been mostly a journal I kept for our family, but the long blog last year was a little more polished than that, knowing that friends and strangers would be reading it. The bottom line is that it was still a record of where we’d been and what we were experiencing. For us, “travel” equals “car travel.” Flying somewhere is simply about getting there as soon as possible. Travel is seeing what’s along the way and that involves a car or truck and usually an RV of some sort.

How do decide where to go?

The destination is usually pre-determined. Going to see grandparents has been replaced by going to see children and grandchildren. Which route to take depends on several factors:

  • When the kids were little, routes had to include places they would enjoy.
  • As they got older, they helped decide what we would see along the way.
  • Now that it’s just the two of us, the route is determined by where we haven’t been before, or the fastest route or what’s available given possible bad weather.

How do you research your intended destination?

I haven’t, since the destination is whoever it is that we want to see.

Do you start a notebook before the journey begins?

Not usually, but somehow the preparation for travel triggers the writing process in my mind. If I find myself coming up with a phrase or a feeling that I want to elaborate on later, I’ll jot it down.

How do you keep notes while traveling?

I have a small, fat notebook that fits in the center console of the truck. When I’m not driving, if something catches my attention, I’ll observe it as carefully as I can and try to describe it as I’d want to write it. Otherwise, I jot down the key words and work on it later. One example I remember: I jotted “snow outlines roads” and it became High on the ridges an otherwise hidden mountain road is outlined with the last of the early snow.

Do you take pictures?

I take some, but I’m not a good enough photographer for publishing. I didn’t post many with my blog because I couldn’t figure out how to do it for quite a while! (Posting them isn’t hard but cropping, getting the right size, all that jazz…that’s the hard part for me.)

DSC00933What sort of specific places or events do you look for at your destination(s)?

  • We have always enjoyed museums but by now we’ve been to so many that we are really hard to impress. Still, we discover some surprises every so often.
  • We’ve enjoyed factory tours…Crayola, Blue Bunny Ice Cream, Forest River RVs, can’t remember any others right now.
  • Our favorite places though are usually historical…old mills, old factories, ghost towns, old mining areas, tracking down old railroads, Indian inscriptions…

Do you talk to a lot of local people?

Yes…if we’re traveling to see family! The people we usually talk to are docents in museums or historical sites or other like-minded folks we meet along the way. Since I haven’t written about places for pay, I haven’t been out asking people what they like about their town or why they are at the festival.

What are some of the more interesting local customs you have experienced?

In British Columbia, we were on a logging road with the logger’s radio frequency posted. Our ham radio covered their frequency (we couldn’t transmit, only listen) and we heard the movements of all the trucks on all the roads in the area. We finally decoded their “lingo” and realized that one of them was coming down the same road we were and was gaining on us. We had no idea if he was hauling logs or a big hunk of equipment or what, so when he was a couple miles behind us, we found a place to pull over and let him by. Turns out it was a pickup no bigger than ours, but he was really coming down that road! A state park ranger in North Dakota was as interested in genealogy as I and it turns out we had researched some of the same areas. But his most memorable comment was that ND was basically a desert. We asked him about all that snow. His response was that the snow in ND doesn’t melt, “It just wears out.”

Esther MillerExperience Esther’s travel blog at At Home…On the Road and her current reflections – those moments that change our lives – at Moments in Time.




Travel writing Q&A with Darlene Foster london

How do you decide where to go?

I often decide to travel to places because I know someone there. For instance, I travelled to the United Arab Emirates because my good friend was working there at the time. When you know someone who lives in an interesting spot, they can show you unique places which are not often frequented by tourists. I find I get to see the real place and meet more of the locals that way. Once in England, I got a private tour of the crypt under the York Minster because a neighbour of my husband’s uncle worked there. I always chose places that are interesting and full of history.

How do you research your intended destination?

I read many books about the place and go on line to learn as much as I can before I go. I find that part of the fun.

Do you start a notebook before the journey begins? How do you keep notes while travelling?

I don’t normally start a notebook before the journey but I always bring one with me and start writing things down immediately, even at the airport. I have a special journal for each trip and love to reread them when I get home.

Do you take pictures?

I take tons of pictures. They are my best souvenir. I enjoy reviewing them when I get home and sharing them with friends and family. I often return to my travel photographs and relive those precious times. I use them as research material when I’m writing books, short stories and travel articles.

What sort of specific places or events do you look for at your destination(s)?

I look for places with a rich history, sites that tell me about the people and the place. Learning the history helps to understand the culture. I don’t typically plan my trip around special events but sometimes I luck out. While in a small town in Spain last year, we stumbled upon a religious festival which included a procession which we followed back to the church. It was an amazing and moving experience.

Do you talk to a lot of local people?

I talk to the local people as much as possible. I always ask their name and often ask what it means. It enhances the journey by getting to know the locals. They have great stories to tell and information to share.

What are some of the more interesting local customs have you experienced?

Tapas in Spain, high tea in England, outdoor music anywhere, a religious procession, wonderful markets, a baby’s christening in Madrid, to name a few.

Darlene FosterAbout Darlene – Brought up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, Darlene dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She is a writer, an employment counselor, an ESL teacher, a wife, mother and grandmother. She loves travel, cooking, reading, chocolate, music, the beach and making new friends. Darlene lives on the west coast of Canada with her husband Paul and their black cat Pumpkin.

Darlene Foster is the author of the exciting Amanda travel adventure series for middle readers featuring 12 year-old Amanda Ross who loves to travel to interesting places. Readers from seven to seventy enjoy travelling with Amanda as she unravels one mystery after another in countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Spain and England. Connect with Darlene on her website, blog, Twitter, Facebook.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers

Kids’ Week – Tweens Author Darlene Foster

Writing for ‘Tweens’

Article by Darlene Foster

“Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world, too many people grow up. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.”
– Walt Disney

What inspired me to write children’s books?  In some ways I don’t believe I have ever gone much past 12 years old myself. I relate well to children. Perhaps you have heard the saying – “You are only young once, but you can be immature forever!”

I travelled to the United Arab Emirates a few years ago to visit a friend who lived there at the time. I had an amazing time and felt as excited as a child visiting the circus for the first time. Everything was so unique, exotic and ancient. My friend even commented that I behaved like a twelve year old. When I returned home eager to share my experiences, I started to write them down through the eyes of a twelve year old, who I named Amanda.

I love the 8 – 12 age group, currently called the ‘tweens’ or middle readers. They aren’t yet teenagers but they are no longer little kids either, so they are in between. They still have that eagerness for knowledge but are starting to question things. It is really the end of innocence, I guess. Writing stories from the point of view of a ‘tween’ has been a lot of fun.

However, the journey to publication has not been easy. Fraught with many obstacles and self doubt, I often thought I should just forget the idea of having a book published. I work full time as an employment counsellor and also tutor ESL students evenings and weekends, so my writing time is limited. It took me three years to complete the first book, Amanda in Arabia – the Perfume Flask. Then it took five more years to find a publisher. I had no idea that would be the hardest part. I was often discouraged but I persevered.

In those five years, in between sending the story out to many, many publishers, I wrote the second book, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting. When I eventually found my wonderful publisher, Central Avenue Publishing, I had one book completed and another almost finished. Amanda in Arabia was published in 2010 and Amanda in Spain in 2011. Now I just can’t seem to stop. Amanda in EnglandThe Missing Novel will be published this fall and I have started on Amanda in Alberta. Amanda may have many more adventures around the world before I am finished.

Was it worth it? You bet! When I held that first printed book in my hands, it was like holding my first born. Sheer joy! When someone tells me how much they enjoyed one of my books, I have to pinch myself to make sure it isn’t just a dream. Although my books are written for the ‘tweens,’ many adults enjoy them also. Perhaps they are the adults who remember what it is like to be 12 years old.

Some people think writing for children would be easier than writing for adults or young adults. I don’t think so. You have to remove yourself from the adult world and think like a child would. I like to hang around kids, listen to the words they use currently, the gestures, the looks, the trends. I read a lot of kid’s books too. In my latest book I feature a couple of teenagers from London that Amanda befriends. I had to use words and terms young people from England would use. With the help of my English husband, his niece and a number of British friends, I feel I got it right. I also watch a lot of British TV. My husband thought it was amusing when I watched TV with a pen and paper in hand and wrote down a word or phrase that I might use.

My hope is that my books will encourage children to travel and see the world one day, and in doing so, accept other cultures. I believe if you have the heart and spirit of a child, you can write for them. It may take a while to become published, but never ever give up if you believe in your story!  A kid wouldn’t.


Darlene Foster

Darlene Foster is a writer, employment counsellor, ESL teacher, wife, mother and grandmother. Brought up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives with her husband on the west coast of BC with their black cat Monkey. She has written three children’s travel/adventure books, Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask, Amanda in Spain – The Girl in The Painting, and Amanda in England-The Missing Novel. She believes everyone is capable of making their dreams come true.

See Darlene and many other authors at Central Avenue Publishing.

Connect with Darlene at her website, blog, Twitter, and on Facebook.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books

Cowboy Wisdom, by Darlene Foster

My Dad was a cowboy. Not the Hollywood type, but a real cowboy – a man who tended cattle. A hardworking man of integrity, loyalty and determination; he would always be seen in his signature cowboy hat and boots, jeans and western shirt. He lived the code of the cowboy where a man’s word was a man’s word and you never broke a promise once made. He believed you should do what has to be done without complaint, take pride in your work and always finish what you start. He was a man of principle; tough but fair. I learned so much from him.

His education included grade seven. Responsibilities on his father’s farm in the spring and fall took him out of school, which put him behind.  By the time he turned fifteen he didn’t bother going back to school being so much older than the rest of the class. In spite of his limited schooling, he was the smartest man I knew. A curious man, Dad believed in continuous learning. His gift of the gab enabled him to start a conversation with almost anyone and he always came away wiser. “You can learn at least one thing from everyone you meet,” became a lesson I never forgot.

Dad read the newspapers and kept up to date on current events, but his busy schedule didn’t permit him to read much else.  At age seventy-five, he finally retired and moved into the city. His love of the outdoors and fresh air, took him on walks to the local library on a regular basis.  Once there, he chose about half a dozen books on a subject he had always wanted to learn more about.  He took the books home, read them front to back and returned with a new subject in mind.  At seventy-five he educated himself and expanded his world. I found this to be most admirable.

There wasn’t much I couldn’t discuss with him.  He taught me the art of conversation, negotiation and debate; valuable lessons that have served me well over the years.  He served as my confidant, financial advisor, political guru, mentor, and he was my hero.  He always had time to listen to my woes and to provide encouraging words.  I didn’t make many major decisions without discussing with him first.  But he wouldn’t tell me what to do; he just helped me look at all sides of the situation.  He encouraged me to be an independent thinker, creative problem solver and not to always look for the easy way.  He claimed, “You make your own luck in this world.” I believe that to be true for the most part, but I sure was lucky to get him for a Dad. His confidence in me and my abilities enabled me to reach higher and not give up on my dreams.

Always a perfect gentleman, he could also swear a blue streak if the occasion called for it.  Like the time he hit his thumb with a hammer while fixing a piece of farm machinery.  He forgot I was in hearing distance.

Life wasn’t always easy for a cowboy but Dad’s amazing sense of humour and positive attitude got him through the tough times.  He loved a good practical joke and April Fool’s was his favourite day.  I can still see the twinkle in his eyes when he knew he got one over on us.  He didn’t mind laughing at himself as well. There were many times he would tell a story and have everyone in stitches.  From him, I learned the value of a good laugh and how to look on the bright side.  He often said, “Others have it worse.”

A tough cowboy on the surface, he was really a big softy.  Dad always found the best in everyone, was a helpful neighbour and a good friend to many.  His love for his animals was evident as was his unfailing devotion to his family.  A generous, loving father, grandfather and great-grandfather, he made an impact on everyone. When I see traits of him in my children and grandchildren, I am comforted knowing his legacy lives on.

It’s been five years since we lost Dad.  There isn’t a day I don’t think of him, quote him or seek his advice.  He was a true cowboy to the last.


Darlene Foster

Darlene Foster is a writer, employment counsellor, ESL teacher, wife, mother and grandmother. Brought up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, she dreamt of traveling the world and meeting interesting people. She lives with her husband and their black cat, Monkey on the west coast of BC. She believes that everyone is capable of reaching their dreams.

Connect with Darlene on her website, blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Books available here.

Opening photo – Myshellyroo, Photobucket


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers