Publishing the true stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan, Canada.
We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by
Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also assist authors in self-publishing their work. Visit our website and buy our books at driverworks.ca.


Tuesday, August 20, 2019

I found a dime - an angel sign in Newfoundland

On a recent vacation in Newfoundland, I and my author friend Janice Howden visited the village of Woody Point, across the bay from where we were staying in Rocky Harbour. We listened to a local musician, looked in several gift shops, checked out some sites of the Writers at Woody Point events, enjoyed lunch and a visit to the library, then walked along the waterfront.




About half an hour before we had to be at the dock to catch the passenger ferry back to the village of Norris Point on our side of the bay, I said to Jan, "We should walk down this way. We haven't gone there yet." (I'd unintentionally caught on to Newfoundland sayings and dialect, in which everywhere you want to go is "down" even if it is actually north of you. 😊)

So we walked in the direction we had not yet been and I noticed a small pier made of rocks and such. It felt like a nice place to walk out onto and listen to the water lapping against the shore, so that's what I did, as did Jan.




On our way back to the street, I suggested we sit down on big rocks near the road to wait until the ferry came. Jan agreed, so we sat down and stared out at the bay.

For no reason at all, I looked down at my feet and saw a dime between my shoes. I knew it was an angel sign from my late husband, Al, to tell me that he was with me on this journey.



The  Bluenose ship on the dime was facing up - a ship Al and I saw in dry dock during a trip we took to Nova Scotia many years ago.

I couldn't believe my eyes, but yet I could. I had found coins in the strangest, most unusual and unexpected places many times since Al passed away in 2015, but this was the first coin I'd seen during this vacation.

I'd seen other signs of his presence on this trip. I saw 13 dragonflies fly in front of our vehicle one morning as I was driving beside a river. Thirteen was Al's favourite number. A single large dragonfly flew right in front of my face more than once on this trip in different locations - an unusual experience for anyone, but being "in my face" is in keeping with Al's strange sense of humour.

I'd been travelling for two weeks with my friend Janice. She is lovely, funny, smart, and kind, but she is not Al. There have been many times when I have missed him and even a couple times when my brain sent me a thought that "I need to tell Al about..." before it registered the fact that I cannot do that in the way I once did.

Another writer friend once told me that since her beau died, she believes that he sees everything that she sees. It is a comforting thought for her and it has helped me many times since she shared that idea with me. 

On this day in Woody Point, I know that Al sent me and my friend Janice a message. He was with us, sharing our vacation and the things we saw and did. It was a good moment. We smiled.





Saturday, August 3, 2019

A woman on the plane and our talk about life after loss

My seatmate on the flight from Medicine Hat, AB to Calgary was a wonderful, gentle 85-year-old woman. She impressed me in many ways.
www.driverworks.ca airplane and clouds

She only became a widow a few months ago, after 65 years of marriage, whereas I've been a widow for three and a half years after 40 years of marriage to my soulmate, Al.

This was her first flight without her husband. I've been on many trips since my loss, but I'm also younger and still working too.

She visited family on this trip and had some fascinating experiences, including being sent to an emergency shelter while the town of Irvine, AB  was evacuated due to a train derailment. And she went whitewater rafting with some of her children, grandchildren, and maybe even great-grandchildren.

Yes. Whitewater rafting at age 85. As a new widow. Talk about inspiring.

We chatted about our families and how grateful we are that they've been so helpful and supportive to us after the deaths of our main men. We spoke with gratitude that we had great husbands and how meaningful, funny, and wonderful their memorial services were. We were proud of ourselves and our families.

We talked about where we're living and what is different about our daily lives now. We are learning how to live alone after decades of being a couple. Eating alone all the time - not by choice - is not fun. I told her how I don't eat at the table. I eat in the living room most of the time. She thanked me for telling her. The newly bereaved need to hear that it is okay to change the routine to feel a little more comfortable in this new life. Once again, I was grateful for what I've learned in bereavement support groups.

We talked about what we do to keep ourselves busy and I mentioned my work as a writer and book publisher. She was curious about my work and took a pre-order card for the Flight book with her.



When it was time to leave each other at the airport, we hugged and wished each other well.

I will think of her fondly and aspire to - maybe - go whitewater rafting myself in another 20-some years.

Yes, I will remember this sweet little lady from British Columbia who also lost her husband Al.



Sunday, July 7, 2019

A lot of fun and a little work at the Moose Jaw Air Show

Yesterday was a hot, but productive and fun day for me at the Moose Jaw Air Show. This was the first CFB Moose Jaw air show since 2005. The weather co-operated with a temperature of 26 Celsius, an occasional breeze, and no rain.

My late husband and I and our young children used to attend shows years ago with Al's dad, who loved everything connected with airplanes. (He was one of the first people in Regina, Saskatchewan to fly radio-controlled model planes. The excitement on his face and his vast knowledge of planes added tremendously to the experience.)

I attended yesterday's show with my son Dave, daughter-in-law Kelli, and their three young sons - who were part intrigued, part excited, part bored, but mostly hot during the five-hour show. (That's a long time for anyone to be in the scorching heat, even with loads of sunscreen and short breaks in the shade of umbrellas or displays.) 



Air Show organizers had expected a crowd of 10,000 but had to turn people away after they reached 25,000 guests! I'd call that a huge success.



Some of those in attendance had obviously done this before. They found shelter from the sun under the wings of some of the aircraft on display. (Note to self: Do this next time.)

I was anxious to attend this year's show for three reasons - because of the memories attached to my husband and father-in-law, because I enjoyed the shows so much in the past, and because I was hoping to connect with people who could help me with my next book.

I'm co-writing (with contributors) a series of books called Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation. The first book in the series will be released this fall. I spent more than an hour walking around the displays and tarmac area, talking with pilots and other interesting folks. I handed out the postcard below and asked them to consider submitting aviation short stories for the series or contacting me so I could interview them and write their stories. (You are welcome to share the information and your own story. You can also pre-order Volume 1 on my website.)





My young grandsons had not seen me working before. They were excited to hear that I had success in finding some potential stories. The 11-year-old was especially curious about who I'd spoken to (rescue crew, helicopter pilots, air museum and history buffs, flight school folks, emergency crew). He shared in my excitement about these new potential leads and also asked me what I knew about the planes flying overhead - not much, but I shared whatever details I remembered of some of the acts I'd seen and enjoyed before.

The fighter jets make the most noise, of course. They capture everyone's attention every time.




The RCAF Snowbirds aerobatic demonstration team's performance has always been my favourite. The plane below was on display during the show. 





Near the end of the show, as we headed back to the vehicle to avoid the claustrophobia of walking in a big crowd, I snapped this photo of the RCAF Snowbirds crew heading to their planes to begin their act. I've interviewed a couple of the Snowbirds personnel for Volume 1 of my book, so now I'm even more interested in their work than before. 


From our spot in the parking lot, we watched the Snowbirds taxi onto the runway:




Our grins say it all. My son and I think these pilots are AWESOME!


I loved seeing the planes' shadows in the clouds.


And that's it from the Moose Jaw Air Show 2019. I can't wait to hear from some of the fine folks I met at this show. Stay tuned this fall for the release of Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation, Vol. 1.






Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Grief is a tunnel - you have to go through it


A few times a year for the past two years, I have volunteered as a peer helper at spousal bereavement support group sessions. After each session, I have been moved by the stories I've heard, the pain and sadness that I've seen, and the struggles of the bereaved to carry on with their lives alone - as most of the ones I help are widowers or widows like me with adult children who live away from home.

These sessions affect me. During and afterwards.

During the sessions, I struggle with talking. I want to be sure that I listen and only speak when my perspective might be helpful to the others in the room. I speak based on my own experiences but not in any way to give advice.

Afterwards, I struggle with the triggers that hit me from what I saw, heard, and felt during these sessions. I find myself reliving the events of my own loss, the painfulness of my husband's sudden illness and subsequent death three and a half years ago, and the deep grief I felt for a long time and I am still feeling to a lesser degree.

To get through these feelings, I often sit in my vehicle after each bereavement group session and I think about some of the discussion that unfolded. I sometimes feel sad, for myself and for others (notice the order there). I sometimes cry. And sometimes I'm okay. Often, I just need some quiet time away from my home and work to reboot before returning to my daily life.

Often, I will go to a park in the city (our city has many beautiful parks) and take a walk or just sit in my vehicle and stare at the trees and water. Trees and water are calming for me. I need them in my life.

I'll take photos of what I see. It helps me mentally return to and stay in the land of the living.




 

Hundreds of books have been published about grief. I published one of them. (In fact, the Dear Me: The Widow Letters book compiled by Dianne Young was recently shown at a session by a group participant as an example of a book that has really helped her learn what it's like to be a widow and carry on. I was one of the 20 widows in Dear Me who wrote a letter of support and encouragement back to her newly widowed self.)

What I've learned through reading and the bereavement counselling I've received is that we cannot go around grief, only through it.

Grief is like a big, dark tunnel with a mountain on one side and a cliff on the other. The only way forward is through it. 




It helps to have others alongside, supporting you on your journey as you go through the tunnel. If you're lucky, they'll even pick you up and give you a ride for a bit so you don't have to go through it all alone.

As hard as the grief journey is, I am grateful for the amazing people who have supported and continue to support me as I make my way through my grief tunnel.

Some tunnels are longer than others and some people go through faster. We are each unique, our relationships were unique. Our journeys are thus different yet similar.

I've been asked why I continue to put myself through the emotional upheaval of being a peer helper at bereavement groups and at times, I consider not continuing.

But I know how important bereavement support has been to me. I could not have gone through that tunnel nearly as quickly or with as much strength without the information and assistance I received from others. 

So I give back, in gratitude for what I've received. One of the richest blessings of my life was 42 busy, fun, crazy, frustrating, wonderful years with my departed husband Al. It feels right to continue to say his name and share our story in a way that can help others celebrate the love they've lost, while giving them the tools and strength to carry on.



P.S. The next all-day grief retreat in Regina, SK for newly bereaved persons is July 27/19. See poster below and please share with others.


P.S.S.  Other blogs I've written to help others who are bereaved:

         -  http://driverworks.blogspot.com/2016/02/what-ive-learned-about-grief.html
         -  http://driverworks.blogspot.com/2018/12/getting-through-holidays-while-grieving.html



Tuesday, April 2, 2019

How music can speak to the soul


When you've lost someone you love, music can be either heartbreaking, a welcome distraction, helpful, healing or something else entirely. There is no predictability to what will happen when you turn on the radio or TV and hear a favourite song or even one you've never heard before. You have to have strength, be prepared to feel your feelings, good or sad, and carry on.

This is especially the case when you are a widow or widower. More than half the songs ever written are love songs. When you've lost the love of your life, this can be an exercise akin to walking on broken glass.



Today, Grief stopped by to visit for a few minutes as I was listening to music. A ballad on my iPod made me think of my departed husband, Al, and the love I've lost from my daily life. Tears flowed. My broken heart bled a little more. I gathered myself together and kept on working, kept the music playing, and heard an unexpectedly beautiful surprise.

Santana. Al's favourite artist.

I felt Al's spirit with me, his hands on my shoulders, asking me to smile. Reminding me to think of the best concert we ever attended - Santana in Saskatoon a few years before Al got sick and died. It was an amazing night.

I looked at my iPod to see the name of the song since it wasn't one I've memorized.

Europa.

Its subtitle: 

Earth's Cry Heaven's Smile.

Thank you, Al. You're the best.



Wednesday, March 27, 2019

When students asked about my writing and books, it all went well until that excerpt

I enjoy speaking with students about the books I’ve written and/or published but also about the importance of reading and writing to learn, grow intellectually, and make the world a better place. I also enjoy answering questions posed by students during and after my talks. Sometimes I have an answer readily available, sometimes things go slightly awry.

I was honoured to recently talk with students at Robert Southey and Viscount Central schools. I speak about how I started writing at age eight and it grew into a lifetime of loving the written word and working as a journalist, author, editor, and book publisher. I give them some tips for reading and writing and encourage them to try to make a positive impact in the world because of what they learn while reading.


Mrs. Carnegie-Meere with author-publisher Deana Driver at Robert Southey School

I tell students that there is no such thing as a dumb question, because if they don't know the answer, it's a perfect time to find out. I'd rather they ask than assume something that is incorrect.

These are some of the students' questions (and my answers) from that day:

-          “What’s your favourite animal?” (I replied that I have allergies, but I guess dogs are okay. The younger kids often ask me personal questions instead of questions related to the books I’m discussing. Or sometimes they will simply state a fact based on something they heard. After telling them of my book The Sailor and the Christmas Trees about a man named John, two or three younger students will inevitably tell me they know someone named John – which is nice, but it's not a question and I encourage them to instead ask a question starting with Who, What, When, Where, Why or How.)

-          “What’s your favourite food?” (Chicken. I’d eat chicken for every meal every day.)

Mrs. Jantz with author-publisher Deana Driver at Viscount Central School
-          “What is your favourite book that you’ve written?” (I like all of them for different reasons. They’re all like my babies and you should never choose a favourite baby, but I guess I'll choose Never Leave Your Wingman because it's an inspiring true story that can be enjoyed by almost anyone in any family. Almost everyone is affected by cancer. And The Sailor and the Christmas Trees is great for children and adults too. My other three books are out of print.)

-          “Is that coat book true?”  (Yes, The Little Coat, written by Alan Buick, is a true story about a Canadian soldier and a Dutch girl who met during the war. They gave her a coat made from an army blanket.)

-          “Did you see that coat?” (Yes, my husband and I saw the little coat in 2015 when it was on display at the Military Museum in Calgary. It was on loan from the Canadian War Museum. It’s really beautiful.)

-           Aren’t you going to ask us what our favourite animal is?” (Um… no, not today.)

-          “Who's your role model?” (My mom. She was a teacher before she had children and she encouraged me at a young age to be creative with my writing. I learned my love of the English language and writing from her.)

-          “Can you read something from the Fun on the Farm book?” (I read Mary Harelkin Bishop’s short story called ‘A Snack For Mom’. At another reading that day, I read Keith Foster’s poem ‘Thanksgiving Memory’.) 

-          “What would you change about one of your books?” (That’s a question I’ve never been asked, but most writers I know are unhappy with some part of what they’ve written. We always want our writing to be better. Even though it's won an award and been praised endlessly by readers, I’d go back and tighten up the text of the Never Leave Your Wingman book. I wrote the book and published it quickly, within a year, because I was concerned that Dionne Warner, the seven-time cancer survivor I wrote about, might die while I was writing that book. She is still very much alive and living her life to the fullest while fighting her ninth cancer diagnosis. The day I met Dionne and decided to write and publish her story, I asked her what would happen to the book project if she died while I was in the process of writing. It was a tough question but I needed to ask it. We agreed that if we could help one person by sharing her inspiring story, my book would go ahead. After the book was published, Dionne told me that if she’d known me better, she would have answered, “What happens if you die?” It was an excellent point that is typical of what her outlook on life can teach us about how to live our lives. Live life to the fullest. No regrets.)


-          “Are you writing anything right now?” (I’m working on two new books. Author Alan Buick, who wrote The Little Coat, and I are writing short stories of Canadian war veterans who could have died had they made a different decision or been in a different place during the war. I also want to write some true stories about Prairie pilots and their adventures. So if you know anyone who has a story of a Canadian war veteran or a fascinating pilot adventure, please let me know.)

-          “I want to do freelance writing? How do you recommend I get started?” (This was a one-on-one question posed after one of my presentations. I told the student to be persistent, to keep track of everything they have ever had published, even if there was no pay for their work. You must build a resumé. When I began freelancing in September 1983, I visited the public library twice a week and looked at every magazine on the racks to see which ones matched my skill set and my interests as a writer. I mailed writing samples from my journalism career to many of these magazines and made several long-distance phone calls, which were expensive in those days, but I received no responses. In early 1984, I attended a burn symposium on my own, listened to the morning’s speakers, then phoned The Medical Post in Toronto and talked to their editor about the physician speakers and their topics. I asked if the magazine wanted stories from this first-on-the-Prairies conference and they agreed to accept four or five articles. This began a 30-year freelance career with that and other publications. Be persistent, be passionate about your writing, work hard, be good at what you do.)

-          “Can you read us some of that book about horses?” (This was not my finest moment as a speaker. I have never read excerpts from Bryce Burnett’s humorous cowboy poetry to a group of students, so I picked up Bryce’s latest book, Horses, Dogs and Wives, and skimmed the pages to find a suitable poem. I saw one that ended with “farted” and decided to keep looking. I landed on the ‘Rover’ poem instead, but I should have looked more closely at the last couple lines first. I'd temporarily forgotten that cowboy poetry usually has a surprise ending. As I finished reading that poem, the entire group of Southey students gasped and then laughed, while I sheepishly grinned. I later apologized to the teachers for reading what some might have considered an inappropriate poem for the students, but the teachers insisted it was fine. See the poem below for yourself. Would you have read it to kids in Grades 6 to 9?)



Thank you to both schools for the invitations to speak and to Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild for subsidizing the Viscount reading. Thank you to the students of both schools for their attention and their questions.

Mrs. Elaine Jantz, librarian at Viscount Central School, wrote about my presentation at Viscount school:
“Deana Driver came to our school for a presentation and spoke to our students about her books, writing and publishing. She is an awesome presenter, she kept them all engaged and hearing the stories about how the books came to be was so enlightening and made them even more interesting to get and read. The story about a shy, farm girl going on to be a journalist, then writer, editor and publisher, really inspired some of our students as to how far you can go and what you can do if you try. She gave them great insight into how to start writing and keep going. We very much enjoyed her visit!”


(Read about a Robert Munsch question I was quickly able to answer.)



Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A Robert Munsch kind of question

It came out of nowhere.

“Are you Robert Munsch?"

I was about to start an author reading at a school and a Grade 7 student asked me if I was the prolific children’s book author Robert Munsch. I've never been asked that before – for obvious reasons, including the fact that I am female.

Author-publisher Deana Driver in Southey, SK

Fortunately, I’ve presented enough author readings at schools and libraries across the Prairies that I was not flustered or stumped by this unusual question.

I simply replied, “No, I am not Robert Munsch … I don't write those kinds of books,” and I carried on with my presentation, talking about my career as a writer – of non-fiction.

A wall mural painted by students of Viscount Central School
I told the students how I began writing as a young child. A one-hour school bus ride from my family’s farm to the school in town and another hour spent on the ride home again was ample time to use my imagination and my other two favourite tools – a pen and a piece of paper – to write poems, short stories, and even notes or questions for fellow travellers. This developed into my love of the written word, my involvement in the high school newspaper, a busy two years of journalism classes at college in Calgary, a move from Alberta to Saskatchewan, and a subsequent career as a journalist, author, editor, and book publisher.

My recent presentations to the students of Robert Southey School and Viscount Central School were filled with fascinating questions from the students and, I hope, helpful or at least interesting answers from me. And maybe the Grade 7 student who asked the Robert Munsch question was just being a goofball showing off for his friends, but I am pleased to say I connected with him in some ways.

He looked serious when I spoke about the seven-time cancer survivor I wrote about in the Never Leave Your Wingman book and how Dionne Warner’s inspiring story has helped thousands of people live with courage, hope, and laughter. This includes my own family when my mother died of pancreatic cancer in 2011 and when my husband died in 2016 from colon cancer.

That same student laughed at my jokes and some of the funnier book excerpts I read. And it was great to mention to him and his classmates that I did happen to publish a great children's picture book that has a similar sense of humour to that of Robert Munsch's books. SuperMom and the Big Baby, written by my son, Dave Driver, tells of a child whose temper causes him to grow so big that his mom tries to come to the rescue. SuperMom uses phrases that were actually spoken by my daughter-in-law Kelli while she was sleep-talking.

At the beginning of my talk, the student who asked if I was Robert Munsch had jokingly asked for my autograph, but he surprised me by following through on his request after my presentation was done. So either I impressed him or he wanted to continue being silly and get my signature on a paper towel to show to his friends.

For my own self-esteem, I'm going with Option 1.

(Read about other questions asked during my presentations.)