I’m always pleased if I am lucky enough to meet another ‘glamourgranny’ and if she shares my tastes and passions, that is to say, travel, history, writing and all things beautiful, so much the better.
Darlene Foster, a Canadian writer of children’s’ books who, since just over a year, has made Spain her home and has become a cherished neighbor and friend, is just such a person. She graciously agreed to answer a few of my questions and I’d like to share what she has to say with you.
GG: What inspired you to write for children’
DF: I tend to relate well with children. Perhaps I have never moved past being a twelve-year-old myself! I have always been around children. With three younger brothers, dozens of younger cousins, a mother of two, grandmother of four and great grandmother of two, I have spent many hours telling stories and reading children’s books to them. So it comes naturally to me to write for kids.
GG: Looking at Darlene, all I can say is: being around kids sure keeps you young. You would never guess that she is a great grandmother!
GG: What is your personal background?
DF: I grew up on a ranch in Southern Alberta, Canada and was the oldest of four children. We all worked hard helping out parents to run the ranch. Milking cows, gathering eggs, feeding the pigs etc. Whenever I found a bit of free time, I would have my nose in a book or would be making up stories in my head. The prairies are fascinating and a great place to inspire imagination.
GG:We’ll come back to the pigs later.
GG: Why did you decide to move to Spain?
DF: I have always had a desire to live some place different, preferably with a warm climate and have been intrigued by European history for a long time. We visited Spain a number of times and felt comfortable here. The people are as warm and friendly as the weather and I enjoy the healthy lifestyle, good food and little stress. I feel like I’m living in a fairly tale!
GG:I couldn’t agree more, that’s why I have made Spain my home too.
GG: What is your professional background?
DF: I have been fortunate to have had interesting and rewarding careers. I worked in retail management where I managed ten gourmet kitchen stores across Western Canada. I then moved on to recruitment where I assisted large corporations finding suitable staff. From there I went into career counseling, teaching unemployed individuals job finding and life skills. I also have a Teaching English as a Second Language Certificate and worked closely with immigrants, teaching them English evening and weekends.
My two favorite jobs have been working with youths-at-risk, helping them integrate into the work force and tutoring immigrant children to improve their English. You can learn so much from children and young people.
GG:An impressive CV, if I have ever seen one.
GG: How did your love of travel come about?
DF: I have to thank my grade three teacher for that. She introduced us to distant lands and books about other countries. When she taught us about Mexico, Miss Roll gave everyone a Spanish name, sombreros and serapes to wear, played Spanish music and treated us to Mexican food. It was so much fun.
Later, when working with immigrants, I learned about the countries they came from, motivating me to visit these places. Learning about other cultures has been a life-long quest and the best way to do so is actually to go there.
GG:Hearing about Miss Roll made me remember my own teachers, all of them nuns. I just imagined Sister Immaculata with a sombreo on top of her habit. Now, that would have been fun!!
GG: Tell me about your visit to the Middle East
DF: A friend moved to the UAE to work for a couple of years and invited me to visit her. It was an opportunity of a life-time, so I saved my pennies and made the trip. I was so amazed at the scenery, culture and people. When I returned home, I felt compelled to write about it. The stories I wrote didn’t quite project the excitement I felt when there.
Then, one sleepless night, I started to write a story from the point of view of a twelve-year-old visiting the UAE which felt right. Amanda in Arabia – The Perfume Flask was born. A woman born and raised in UAE living in Canada, bought the book and after reading it said. “it felt like I was back home”. The best compliment I could ever get.
GG: Any favorite country?
DF:That is a hard question to answer as I have found something wonderful about every place I have seen. The UAE are probably to most fascinating.
GG:Another thing we have in common. Turkey and Oman are my personal favorite countries.
GG: What are your hobbies?
DF: I enjoy cooking, especially dishes from other countries. I just recently learned to make paella. I also made my own clothes for years, collecting fabrics from my travels. I have made costumes for my children and grandchildren as well as for the local theatre in the past. Does eating chocolate count as a hobby?
It certainly does and this reminds me of our trip to the lovely mountain village of Altea. Darlene and I have gone on a few trips to the surrounding areas together and Altea was one of them. We got off the train a stop too early and had to walk towards the town center which lead us past the most wonderful chocolate shop where we were treated to their specialty: chocolates topped with a few grains of sea salt. Delicious.
A few more trips are planned for the coming year.
Learn more about my friend Darlene Foster by reading her blog and take a look at her Amanda books.
The most recent is about a Pig on Trial and it’s also her first bilingual one.