Publishing stories of fascinating Prairie People and Unsung Heroes

Welcome to the blog of Deana Driver - author, editor, and publisher of DriverWorks Ink, a book publishing company based in Saskatchewan. We publish stories of inspiring, fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes - written by Prairie authors including Deana Driver. We also publish genres of healing and wellness, humour, children's fiction, and rural poetry. Visit our website to learn more about our books.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Reconnecting with a special friend and unique story in Brandon MB

As an author and book publisher, I am often asked, "Where do you get your stories from?"

Sometimes, I find the stories or book subjects by researching and asking questions, the way I did when I was a freelance journalist writing for various Canadian newspapers and magazines.

Sometimes, the stories walk into my line of vision or hearing, as was the case when my daughter Lisa told me about the indomitable Dionne Warner, the seven-time cancer survivor who was about to speak at a Relay for Life rally in Regina in July 2011 (which made me think Dionne's story was worthy of a great book, which I would go on to write and publish - Never Leave Your Wingman).

Sometimes, as in the case of the book I wrote about former Royal Canadian Navyman John Hanlon of Brandon, Manitoba, the story comes to me through a friend of a friend.

In about 2011, a dear friend of mine, Dexter van Dyke, suggested that he knew of a story that his friend, Elaine Rounds of Brandon, had told him about an elderly man who did something wonderful during the Second World War. 

In November 1944, John Hanlon was a wireless operator on the HMCS Royalmount, which was docked in St. John's, Newfoundland at the time. John knew their convoy would be at sea on Christmas Day, so he and a couple crewmates walked up a hill in St. John's Harbour and cut down some evergreens. John hid those trees in the belly of his ship and pulled them out weeks later, on Christmas morning, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean - surprising his crewmates as well as some English children who were on another ship in that convoy, coming to a safe home in Canada. John's forward thinking made that wartime Christmas into a very memorable day for many people for decades to come.

John had been telling this Christmas 1944 story to his children, grandchildren, his United Church community, and Royal Canadian Legion members at Christmastime for decades after the Second World War ended.

Elaine had told Dexter about the story. Then Dexter told me. We all knew it would make a great book. So I asked Dexter to connect me with Elaine and, thus, John Hanlon.

I met Elaine Rounds in Brandon in May 2012, based only on an introduction via Dexter. Elaine became an instant friend and we have spoken and seen each other several times in the years since then. That first day, she took me and my husband Al to the care home in which John Hanlon was a resident. John's wife Audrey told me the story while John, unable to speak at times at age 90, nuzzled in beside me and bumped my leg when the story got interesting.

Before I left John's room that day, I promised him and Audrey that I would write his special Christmas trees story before that Christmas and I would donate some money from each book to the Royal Canadian Legion (Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund, which helps veterans and their families). John Hanlon passed away a few days after our meeting.

I fulfilled my promise and wrote The Sailor and the Christmas Trees book a couple months later in a style as though John was telling his Christmas trees story to the reader. When I phoned Audrey to read her what I had written, to make sure I had the details correct, she said, "I can hear John's voice." This brought tears to her eyes and to mine. A nonfiction writer cannot receive a bigger compliment.

I added a biography of John to the back of the book and invited artist Catherine Folnovic to illustrate the first half of the book, with family photos completing the biography. In a spur-of-the-moment decision that first day in Brandon, I had asked Al to take a photo of me with John, Audrey, and Elaine in John's small room. That photo has been a precious memory ever since.

This past weekend, I was storm stayed in Brandon after a successful weekend at the Brandon's Big One Arts & Crafts Sale. Deciding to not take a chance on driving back to Regina in bad weather, I opted for a hotel room and I also made a phone call to Elaine Rounds to see if we could connect again. We met for supper and spent three glorious hours bringing each other up to date on our lives, relishing in our friendship, and celebrating the wonderful people who brought us together.

Thank you to Dexter, John, and Audrey. But thank you, especially, to Elaine, who knows a very good story when she sees one.

Elaine Rounds and Deana Driver
in Brandon, MB - Oct. 24, 2022

Friday, September 9, 2022

Angel Signs and a new Spiritual Healing Book

Hello, beautiful souls.

I thought I'd share some fascinating angel signs that happened to me/ for me this week.

I don't ask for angel signs often. Maybe a couple times a year.

Perhaps it's because my daughter Lisa Driver is a spiritual healer and angel card reader, among other talents, or because of my own intuition and spiritual views, or the things I've learned in editing and publishing Lisa's first three amazing spiritual guidebooks. (This is also a hint that her fourth book, You Are Enough: Activate Your Angels & Magnetize a Soul-FULL Life - being released in October - will blow your mind! Here's a link to her Kickstarter crowdfunding project, where you can preorder the book at a discount and receive other offerings including channelled meditations and private readings -

Anyway... Angel signs have just kind of appeared in front of me randomly since my mom passed away in 2011 and Lisa began training in spiritual healing the following year. Coins, feathers, dragonflies, butterflies...

But back to this week.

I've been pondering something for the last few days, overthinking it as usual (cause that's what I do and it isn't annoying at all).

So I finally decided to ask for a sign while I was driving one day and listening to the radio.

"If I'm meant to go this way, I need to hear a song about an angel," I stubbornly thought. "Good luck with that, Universe," was my follow-up thought, putting no pressure at all on the Universe to deliver.

So I kept driving. I changed the radio station a couple times, then I zoned out and began daydreaming about this and that and this again...

Then I noticed the song playing on the radio...
"My blood runs cold
My memory has just been sold
My angel is the centrefold
Angel is the centrefold..."

In that uptempo song by J. Geils Band, the word "angel" is repeated many, many times.

Well played, Universe. Well played.

The next afternoon, I was standing in my backyard, watering my flowers, when a big, gorgeous blue-green hummingbird flew in. It landed on one and then another zinnia flower, then flew over to a second patch beneath my sunflowers to touch on three more flowers!

I haven't seen a hummingbird in my yard for at least 10 years!

I didn't have a camera, so I'm sure it flew slower than usual and stayed longer than usual so I could imprint the images in my memory.

(Below is a photo of my zinnias and sunflowers. Imagine the lovely bird enjoying the end of this year's flowers.)

I guess I got my answer, huh?

P.S. Lisa Driver's first three spiritual guidebooks can be purchased from this page -

Saturday, August 13, 2022

Our books won Next Generation Indie Book Awards

Three of our books published by DriverWorks Ink in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada have won Next Generation Indie Book Awards!

Such exciting news!

Fun On The Farm 3 - True Tales of Farm Life, compiled and edited by Deana J. Driver, was a finalist in humor/ comedy.

The book shares more funny stories of growing up on, working on, visiting and/or living on a farm. Twenty Prairie writers including author/ publisher Deana J. Driver tell their tales of annoying cattle, overly curious farm kids, stubborn pigs, confusing technology, and more. This is the third and final volume of the popular Fun On The Farm series and has been described as "even funnier than the first two!"

(A donation form books sold is being made to the Lung Association of Saskatchewan in honour of the Driver family's history of respiratory illnesses.)

Humorous book on farm life

Flight - Stories of Canadian Aviation, Vol. 3, by Deana J. Driver and Contributors, was a finalist in anthology.

This third volume of the Flight series shares stories of dangerous landings, mid-air optical illusions, hidden airstrips, irritating passengers, and long-distance flights carrying rehabilitated birds and other animals. There are 33 short stories plus an introduction – 6 stories and introduction written by author / editor / publisher Deana J. Driver and 27 stories written by 14 other Canadian writers: Bill Cameron, Will Chabun, Richard Dowson, Peter Enzlberger, Mary Harelkin Bishop, Dave McElroy, Vincent Murphy-Dodds, Curtis Penner, Don Riekman, Ralph Tweten, Walter D. Williams, Ken Wilson, Mason Adam Wray, and Bill Wunsch.

We've been told it's a great addition to the Flight series. "What wonderful reading – astonished at the work you did in putting the book together!"

Vol 3 of Flight stories

Don't They Kick When You Do That - Stories of a Prairie Veterinarian by Dr. Gary Hoium was a finalist in career/ memoir.

If you like the James Herriot series All Creatures Great and Small, you'll enjoy Dr. Gary Hoium's amusing stories of his adventures, experiences, and interactions as a mixed-animal veterinarian in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Gary's style of writing is humorous, heartwarming, and illuminating - with fascinating insights into the people and animals he worked with during his 40 years as a veterinarian. Tales of cattle, squirrels, hogs, dogs, cats, sheep, and the men and women who love them are wrapped up in Don't They Kick When You Do That? "This witty vet is highly entertaining," said a reviewer.

(A donation from books sold is being made to the Saskatchewan Cancer Foundation in memory of Gary's sister Lois.)

Funny veterinarian book by Dr. Gary Hoium

Thank you to Next Generation Indie Book Awards for these honours!

Saturday, July 9, 2022

New Tunnels of Treachery book coming soon from Mary Harelkin Bishop

Author Mary Harelkin Bishop and I are working on our updated edition of the third book in Mary's Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure series. 

These exciting books for kids, age 9 and up, and adults share the adventures of Andrea and her brother Tony as they go back in time to the dark, dangerous tunnels below Moose Jaw in the 1920s.

Tunnels of Treachery will be released this fall. Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 7, 2022

99 Year Old Bomber Pilot an Honorary CF Snowbird

I visited 99-year-old Reg "Crash" Harrison in Saskatoon recently to learn more about his fascinating life story, including the four crashes he survived as a bomber pilot during the Second World War. I wrote about those events in Volume 1 of Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation by Deana J. Driver and Contributors.

But Reg's story deserves to be shared wider and with various audiences around the world.

So this time, Reg and I talked about some other stories that we can share for a new kids' book I am writing about him.

In this video, Reg talks about his first Moose Jaw air show and his special connection to the CF Snowbirds aerobatics team.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

Publishing books and sharing the stories of others is no ordinary thing

I’ve spent most of my adult life writing or editing or designing newsletters or book layouts, or publishing and selling books, and I sometimes forget how cool that is. 

So far, I've written five non-fiction books and contributed pieces to more than a dozen other books. And I've published more than 70 books written by 50 or 60 (mostly Western) Canadian writers. That's been my life since I wrote my first book in 2001.
My adult daughters sometimes remind me that “most people don’t do this, Mom. They don’t go to a bookstore to sign the books they’ve written.”
I've also been reminded that most people aren’t interviewed by the media about what they wrote or published either. Because I was a journalist doing the asking of the questions for 30 years, it was a little strange to suddenly be on the other side of the interviews when I began writing and publishing books, but I quickly got used to it. And since I prefer to put together books that are either fascinating true stories or based on such, members of the media regularly invite me or my authors to talk about our books. Which is wonderful. But, I suppose, not "normal". 

Again, I forget this sometimes ... until I receive a rather panicked call from an author who is facing their first media interview. I then take them through a "pretend interview", with me being the interviewer, and we both relax a little. Usually, it works out well.

So this is the unique sort of world in which I live and work.

But once in a while, I have an interaction with an author or one of the contributing writers for one of the anthologies I've been publishing recently, and I remember the importance and impact of my work again.

Case in point: At a recent open house for the Regina Flying Club, Mason Adam Wray came up to me and introduced himself. We'd talked by email and by phone last year when I edited and published his story (in Volume 3 of the Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation book series) about sneaking out of a cadet camp in Alberta to check out a derelict aircraft in a nearby "boneyard". 

Mason is a smiley, positive guy who hosts a YouTube channel called Wings of the Prairies. He LOVES aircraft! It was great to meet him in person. We took some photos together and visited off and on throughout the afternoon. 

Mason Adam Wray (left), Deana Driver, and Canadian Aviation Historical Society president Gary Williams at the Regina Flying Club, June 2022

Then Mason told me something that made me stare at him, mouth open, in awe.

He said his complimentary copies of the third volume of Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation had arrived in his mailbox on the day of his wedding.

On his wedding day, people! What kind of crazy timing is that?

He added that his family passed the book between themselves for that entire day and remarked on how proud they were of his achievement in being a published writer.
Let me never forget that story and the beautiful trickle effect of my work.

What I do for a living is not ordinary. Not even close. 
The books that others and I write and that I publish add significant substance, historical record, and pleasure to readers and to the fabric of Prairie and Canadian culture.

I am often humbled by the people whose stories I share through my writing and publishing efforts. I am honoured that they trust me to do that storytelling. 

I never forget that!

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

How I published a book by Gridiron Greats Hall of Famer Jim Hopson

On May 20, 2022, Jim Hopson, a Canadian Football Hall of Famer, was inducted into Mike Ditka’s Gridiron Greats Hall of Fame at a banquet in Chicago.

Former Chicago Bears NFL coach Mike Ditka’s Hall of Fame recognizes NFL and CFL personnel for their player contributions and charitable work off the field. Jim was president and CEO of the Saskatchewan Roughriders for 10 eventful and successful years, and has volunteered for numerous community organizations including the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association.

This is the story of how I published a book written by the indomitable, inspiring Jim Hopson.

Running the Riders  - My Decade as CEO of Canada's Team by Jim Hopson with Darrell Davis

One day in early 2015, Darrell Davis, a former long-time sports writer for the Regina Leader-Post, phoned me to inquire about my interest in a book project. “Jim Hopson wants to write a book,” Darrell told me. “I said I would help him. Do you want to publish it?”

The conversation wasn’t as simple as that, and I have liberally paraphrased what we discussed, but that was the gist of it.

I was immediately intrigued.

Anyone who knows anything about sports in Saskatchewan knows the name “Jim Hopson”. Not just that he is a former football player who then led the Riders organization through some turbulent times and toward a profit and a couple of Grey Cup wins during his CEO period, but he is also known as a good guy and a fan favourite. Jim is a big man with a big, friendly personality, who gets things done.

I quickly conversed with my husband, Al, who was helping me in my publishing business at the time. Al would have to agree to this project since he would be the main person to edit this book.

You see, Al had been a copy editor in the sports and news departments of the Regina Leader-Post for decades prior to taking early retirement from his news editor position in 2008. Al was also a sports geek. He could happily spew a long list of sports statistics (alongside his sports editor colleague Rob Vanstone and others at the newspaper), and he had also edited hundreds of Darrell Davis's sports stories over the years as well as two books, Saskatchewan Roughriders – First 100 Years and Regina Pats – A Winning Tradition, for which Darrell Davis was a co-author. I was not surprised when Al quickly signed on to help with this book, which we would come to call Running the Riders: My Decade as CEO of Canada’s Team by Jim Hopson with Darrell Davis.

I had met Jim Hopson briefly at one point prior to this project, but Al knew him on a more personal level. They had both gone to the same high school in Regina and were on the same football team, with Jim a few years ahead of Al. When Jim and his wife Brenda later sent me photos to include in the Running the Riders book, it was a delightful surprise to find the teenage Al peering out of a 1968 Thom Trojans team photo, sitting two rows back and to the left of Jim, who was happily occupying the centre spot in the front row.

1968 Thom Trojans team photo. Jim Hopson is front row centre, #60.
Al Driver is third row, fifth from the right.

By the time Darrell called me in early 2015 about this proposed book project, he had already worked with Jim on creating an outline of the book and Jim had written several chapters in longhand. This handwritten method worked best for Jim, and as Darrell later typed Jim’s words into a computer, Darrell was able to adjust them where needed and add some sports statistics to complete the story.

Shortly after Al and I agreed to take on the project, Darrell provided me with a synopsis, which became the description on the back cover of the Running the Riders book: 

The Saskatchewan Roughriders were mired in mediocrity, a decent football team that couldn’t advance to the Grey Cup as the franchise worked its way out of financial distress and tried to reconnect with its fan base. In 2004, offensive lineman-turned-educator Jim Hopson was hopeful that the Roughriders directors would hire him as the team’s first full-time president and CEO. He believed that the team, with its incredible fan base, could become a successful business that consistently posted strong annual profits while playing in and winning multiple Grey Cups.

And it happened. After a decade under Hopson’s leadership (2005 to 2015), the Roughriders became the Canadian Football League’s strongest franchise, appearing in four Grey Cup games (winning twice) and selling more team merchandise than the other eight CFL franchises combined. They obliterated their debt and posted a record-setting profit of $10.4 million after winning a hometown Grey Cup in 2013, which has been described as the biggest moment in the 105-year-old team’s history.

Hopson’s book, with the assistance of Darrell Davis (an author and long-time sports writer and Roughriders beat writer at the Regina Leader-Post), describes Hopson’s business plans, the resistance to change within the organization, the interplay with the fans of Rider Nation, difficult decisions made, and the euphoria of winning two league championships.

An emotional man with a firm disposition, Jim Hopson describes the highs and lows that went along with the job and the path he took, professionally and personally, to the biggest office with the franchise known as ‘Canada’s Team’.”

A few months after that initial phone call, Al and I met with Darrell and Jim at a nearby pub to sign our publishing contract and talk more about the project. These three men regularly veered off topic and exchanged tales of the good old days of playing the game, who they each knew, and how those people are doing these days. I didn’t mind. After all, I’d lived with Al for almost 40 years, so I was used to frequent forays into the sports world. He’d taught me all about high school football early on in our marriage, when he was covering that sport for the newspaper, and we’d had season tickets to Riders games in the 1980s – when I found that the most interesting thing on the field was often the players’ butts. Yes, I said it, and it still holds true. The 1980s were not the best years for the Saskatchewan Roughriders. And we were paying a babysitter at the time too – but that’s another story.

Now, back to the meeting with Jim and Darrell…

It was swell. It was a fun get-together that also accomplished our goals of sorting out details of the book’s style, format, selling locations, and more.

DriverWorks Ink publisher Deana Driver with Jim Hopson, Darrell Davis, and Al Driver, ‎June ‎20, ‎2015

The timing was right to publish a book about Jim’s career. He had just retired from the Riders organization and had left the team in a strong position, financially and on the field. We wanted a book out by that fall, in time for Christmas gift-giving, so we worked hard and fast.

I contacted Ian Hamilton, another Leader-Post sports writer, to help Al and me edit the book. He agreed and we were grateful for his additional eyes on the manuscript. Bill Dubecky of Royal Studios had been the Riders’ photographer for decades, and he graciously supplied many photos to use in the book. Erika Folnovic, a local artist, created the beautiful cover design. The Saskatchewan Roughrider organization gave us permission to publish some of their photos and use their team colours, and they later sold books in their stores across the province. Creative Saskatchewan provided us with a book publishing grant to assist with costs. To all these individuals and organizations, we are grateful.

Bad news came in August 2015, at the height of production, when Al was suddenly diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. He – and we – decided to fight it and to stay positive. Amid his stints in and out of hospital, our work continued on the book.

Al Driver editing the Running the Riders book Oct 2015

Al edited the final manuscript in early October as Ian and I met and compared notes on the typos or other details we’d each found that needed correction. I put all the pieces together and sent the layouts to Houghton Boston Printers in Saskatoon, a printer we work closely with on most of our nonfiction books. We had a book in our hands on October 30th, 2015!

Jim Hopson and his wife, Brenda Edwards, and co-contributor Darrell Davis see their new Running the Riders book.

The Running the Riders book was a big hit!

We had to order a reprint after selling 3,400 softcover books in only two months – an extraordinary accomplishment for a little publishing house, but not surprising given the story Jim and Darrell told. We also created hardcover and e-book editions of Running the Riders, which puts our book into the Canadian national bestseller category with more than 5,000 books sold.

Bad news struck again last year when Jim Hopson was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. Strangely, it is the same illness that took Al in early January 2016, but their cancer stories are not the same.

Jim Hopson recently spoke publicly about his cancer diagnosis to Murray McCormick of the Regina Leader-Post in this article about his Gridiron Greats Hall of Fame induction. 

I’ve chatted with Jim a few times in this last year, and I continue to wish him and his family all the best. Anything I could have said that would be helpful, I have said to Jim.

Cancer sucks. That’s a supreme understatement.

Jim Hopson signing more Running the Riders books, Sept. 2021

It has been and is fun, lots of laughs, and quite an honour to work with Jim and Darrell and their Running the Riders book. None of us could have imagined the journey this would take us on, but I know we are all grateful that we came together for this project. Oh, the things we have enjoyed, learned, and shared.

The last words in this blog post go to Darrell Davis and Jim Hopson, as I quote from the epilogue in their Running the Riders book:

Hopson understood his position put him in the forefront of a franchise whose every move is scrutinized, yet he never ducked a question or avoided an issue. When Hopson said he wanted me to help him write this book, I asked him why he chose me, considering that we often had conflicting viewpoints during the years we worked “together.” He said he wanted to write an honest book, but he also wanted to be challenged while relating his uplifting, positive story of growing up in Regina to become the Roughriders’ president. He ultimately gave the book to me on hundreds of hand-written pages for typing and “embellishing.”

That’s how I describe my contributions, considering that I had already written about many of his Riders adventures as part of my newspaper work.

“It was important that when the book was done, people would say it was credible,” Hopson says. “I didn’t try to gloss over the bad stuff by just talking about the good. We had our challenges and there’s no way I would present myself as always making the best decision. I made more good decisions than bad decisions, but if you’re going to be a leader, you had better expect that you’re going to have challenges.”

(Signed copies of Running the Riders by Jim Hopson with Darrell Davis are available here.)