There have been some opportunities to do that in my 28-year (so far) journalism career, writing about fascinating Prairie people and programs or innovations they've created. I've beee told that Prairie grain growers and various organizations considering building an inland terminal learned something from my first book Just A Bunch Of Farmers: The Story of Weyburn Inland Terminal 1976-2001.
My second book Never Give Up: Ted Jaleta's Inspiring Story - Running For His Life received awards and many positive feedback from readers who said they learned so much from Ted Jaleta's strong positive attitude and wisdom and they enjoyed the way in which I told his story. Ted was born in Ethiopia and survived a brutal civil war to make a new life for himself in Canada and become a world-class masters long distance runner, despite the challenges he faced in Africa and Canada.
Just A Bunch Of Farmers (far right) tells how the Weyburn Inland Terminal changed the way all Canadian farmers are paid for their grain. You can purchase it from our web site
Never Give Up (second from right) is now out of print but we still hear from readers who loved it and learned from it
(The other two books are great, too. Check them out on our web site)
With my latest book, Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner's Story of Hope, my opportunities to help change the world have taken a phenomenal leap forward. Dionne is a beautiful seven-time cancer survivor who lives her life with courage, love, laughter and - above all - hope. Her wingman, her husband Graham, is beside her all the way. The two of them together dressed in costume and literally danced into Dionne's chemotherapy sessions for two years since December 2009 as she battled Stage IV liver, lung and bone cancer. In January 2012, Dionne was told she is in total remission! Amazing!
Dionne and Graham Warner dancing into one of her chemo treatments in 2010 to the Arrogant Worms' song The Last Saskatchewan Pirate
The Never Leave Your Wingman book chronicling the Warners' story of hope, love and courage was released in June 2011. (You can buy it from our web site or check a local bookstore.) Since then, it has been a whirlwind of book signings, attending speaking engagements with Dionne, and talking with the media - whose members have been wonderful in helping us share this fabulous positive story of living with cancer without letting cancer run one's life.
The book signings are emotional events. Dionne and I hear a personal cancer story from almost every individual who comes up to us to get a book signed. It is gut-wrenching at times. At recent book signings, we heard about two young mothers who were diagnosed with cancer while they were pregnant. One lost her life, choosing her child's life over her own, and the other is still ill but has her infant and husband to keep her hope alive. We met a woman who is devastated by her diagnosis but her siblings are doing what they can to lift her spirits, including bringing her by to talk with Dionne. Two young men came to us, scared and wondering how they will get through radiation and chemotherapy. It was heartening to share Dionne's experiences and knowledge with them and to laugh and joke together, lessening their fear and giving them a release from the stress.
Most of these patients or caregivers are recipients of a Dionne hug. It always brings a smile to their faces and a warm memory into their future.
These kinds of interactions are not new to Dionne Warner. She has spent many years listening to other cancer patients - not only as a volunteer at the Allan Blair Cancer Centre in Regina SK for seven years (and again now that she is in remission - go figure!), but as the beautiful person that she is, sharing her own cancer journey with others and encouraging everyone to live each day to the fullest whether sick or not.
For me, this type of interaction with readers or potential readers is new. It is difficult, sometimes draining, often rewarding ... and always an honour.
Strangers stand there in front of us, telling me and my friend Dionne their deeply personal stories. I am blessed to have the opportunity to possibly help them through one of the most difficult periods of their lives. What more could any writer who fancies herself as a bit of a teacher ask?
By the way .... Dionne's coming to Toronto to promote the book from June 10 to 16th.
Look out, Toronto and area! Your world is about to change!!