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.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

Starting the new year in Cuba

Varadero, Cuba was where I rang in the new year. Technically, I watched a movie in my room at our resort instead of partying, but that's beside the point. I was in a warm climate with people I love, taking a break after a busy year of work and other activities.

My youngest daughter, Dani, had invited me to travel to Cuba with her and her family (who don't share family photos on social media). I was delighted to accept the invitation. I've travelled a lot over the years, but I'd yet to go to Cuba. I had heard responses from other travellers who either loved Cuba or really disliked it, with not much in between. We, fortunately, chose a great resort and had a lovely time at the Iberostar Bella Costa. Our resort had friendly staff, comfortable and clean rooms, a great pool and beach, local musicians entertaining us at mealtime and in the evenings, and a variety of foods for every meal. The New Year's Eve buffet was exceptional!

Here's a glimpse at my Cuba vacation - in photos...


The beach in front of the Iberostar Bella Costa, Varadero - Deana J Driver photos


A wall of photos inside the Bella Costa resort, Cuba


Wall art

Cuban musicians entertained us at mealtime

More local music, including some Santana faves

Countryside on the way to Havana

Banyan (ficus) tree in Havana

I met a friend in Havana who loves books as much as I do! Too bad I didn't bring a sampling of my own books for him to read.

I did not understand this statue in Havana of the nude woman riding a chicken. Turns out I'm not alone in wondering. The artist has not talked about its meaning, but there are some interesting theories (see  https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/viaje-fantastico).


A town square, Havana

Old cars in Havana are maintained with whatever parts can be found from washing machines, etc. that might work.

Revolution Square in Havana

This was American novelist Ernest Hemingway's favourite bar in Havana. Many famous people stop by, and some who are not as famous too.

They invented the Daiquiri here at El Floridita.

This pelican landed near us before taking off on another flight and dive for food.

Ocean swimming was not allowed on days when the tide brought Portuguese man o' war animals onto the beach. It's technically not a jellyfish, and its sting and tentacles will leave large welts and worse.

A full sand dollar washed up on the beach beside some coral.

We joked that this sand sculpture we saw on the beach was the Cuban version of our Saskatchewan snowmen.


Hibiscus flowers

A New Year's Eve tree made from wine bottles

The Royal Palm tree is Cuba's national tree and one of my faves.

The New Year's Eve buffet at the Bella Costa had many wonderful food sculptures.

The cold meats section alone went on and on.

The bread selection was amazing and I didn't even take a photo of the hot foods!

When the delicious chocolate cake clock strikes midnight... (in my belly!) This was only one of the many scrumptious desserts offered on New Year's Eve.


We walked on the beach at least twice a day, enjoying the sun and sand in Varadero, Cuba.

The sun setting on the last night of our great vacation.

If you choose to visit Cuba, I recommend that you book your trip through a travel agent (we booked through CAA and were pleased we did). Check the online reviews of the various resorts and locations, and pay a little extra, if you can afford it, for a higher-rated resort. Read about the country and its history and amenities, as you should for all of your travel destinations. Before you go to Cuba, pack some of your favourite Canadian snack foods in your suitcase along with crackers, peanut butter and jam (for those who have specific diets). We were glad we did. Happy travelling!



Sunday, January 7, 2024

Writing with a Purpose

The other day, I took one of my writing journals to a grandchild's soccer game so I could do some journalling while I waited for the game to begin.

The only person in the stands near me was a woman... who all of a sudden said, "Hey, look!" as she pulled a copy of the exact same journal out of her handbag.

What are the chances? And how cool is that?

"You've met your journal twin," she said to me.

We both smiled.


Some spiritual people that I know tell me there's no such thing as coincidence, that things happen for a reason. So I wondered why this unusual event occurred. 

It didn't take long for me to figure it out.

I write in a journal to help process my thoughts and emotions. I would have shared most of those with my husband when he was still alive, but he died eight years ago from cancer, so I have been figuring out a new way of life since then - one that involves a lot more time alone. Writing helps me release the ideas and emotions - of all varieties - that well up inside me. Once I've put them on paper - writing them out by hand over a longer time versus typing them up quickly - my soul feels lighter. More at peace.

I've reminded myself, in this past year especially, after receiving such nice responses to my latest book, that I write because that's what I am supposed to be doing. It's my calling on this earth. It's one of the things that makes me happy and brings a sense of purpose to my days and nights. 

I enjoy writing about other people and their fascinating lives and accomplishments. As a retired journalist as well as a book publisher, editor, and author, I enjoy sharing true stories and documenting them for historical purposes, and for entertainment too.

In thinking more about the journal I brought to that soccer game, I wondered where I got this particular pink journal. At first, I thought perhaps it was given to me by a dear friend or family member who knows about my need to write down my thoughts to release them from my mind. Then I remembered that I bought this journal at a discount store because of the words on its front cover.

So, in this new year, I feel like this moment of meeting my "journal twin" was a reminder of how I should proceed in 2024 in this different, new life of mine:
 Act, Show, Prove (although when I glanced at the journal cover just now, I thought it said Love instead of Prove, and that's good too).

I'm also reminded that words are important, and I'm grateful to have the ability to use them in my personal life and my profession. 

As Polish-British novelist Joseph Conrad said, “My task...is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel - it is, before all, to make you see. That - and no more - and it is everything.”


Saturday, November 25, 2023

You know they like selling your books when...

One afternoon in October, I was delivering more stock of our terrific books to a local store here in Regina, Saskatchewan when I was overcome with gratitude.

I had just stepped inside Local Market YQR (at 1377 Hamilton Street) when I noticed a brand new, handbuilt book stand that was holding a collection of books I publish! I was surprised and thrilled!

I then sought out co-owner Tim Shultz to let him know I was dropping off more books for their store to sell. He asked if I'd noticed the new bookstand. I definitely had. "Did you make it?" I asked.

He grinned and nodded. I was thrilled and told him so.

"I thought we should have something to display the books," he said.

Wow. It's not every day that a store owner builds a bookshelf to house your pride and joy! Sure, there are a couple of cookbooks and cards on the stands that my company did not publish, but still. Most of the items on display are books I created. How cool is that? 


Tim Shultz with the bookstand he built for Local Market YQR

I had met Tim a few months earlier when I attended a Business Network International local chapter meeting for which my son, Dave Driver, is the president. I enjoyed the Local Market YQR's meeting space and was pleased to see the attached retail spaces with many locally produced products such as food, household supplies, and personal and decorative items.

In a state of unusual forthrightness but not-unusual excitement at seeing handmade items and the efforts of like-minded entrepreneurs, I said to Tim that day, "You should sell my books here." He listened to my descriptions of the types of nonfiction Prairie stories and fact-based kids' fiction books I publish and replied with, "Yes, we should. We should put your books in our Founders Market."

Wow. Me, a founder. I was honoured. I don't usually think of myself in such terms, even though it is true. I did found my publishing company, and I do take the words written by myself and other Prairie authors and turn those into books, but I think of myself as more of a collaborator with my authors and consultants. Together, we make great books. But sure, I'd happily participate in the Founders Market.

Anyway, this lovely surprise happened on a Friday. The next day, something else incredible happened.. on the same theme...

I drove out to Emerald Park, about 20 kilometres east of Regina, to deliver more books to the Farmer John's Local Market & Kitchen shop. And what greeted me just inside the front door? ANOTHER amazing new bookstand!


The bookstand at Farmer John's Local Market & Kitchen shows off DriverWorks Ink books

And this one holds only the books produced by my company!

Wow, wow, and wow! I just stood there in awe, then collected myself and managed to take a photo of this large new bookshelf.

The shop's owner Audra Hill wasn't there that afternoon, but if she had been, I probably would have hugged her - or maybe just jumped up and down in happiness.


This all reminds me of the terrific support and attractive displays which DriverWorks Ink books have been receiving for several years at the Handmade Saskatchewan gift shops in Regina and Saskatoon. Owner Janelle Anderson has made sure that our books are visible in appealing ways, alongside those of other Saskatchewan authors and do-it-all publishers like me. My authors and I love Handmade Saskatchewan! (And we're excited for their new stand-alone store to open in Regina next year too!) 


Our books at Handmade Saskatchewan gift shops in Regina (Cornwall Centre above left) and Saskatoon (Midtown Mall and Lawson Heights Mall above right)

It's rare to receive such special treatment when you are a book publisher. I am honoured by this local support of our books. My authors and I work hard to draw attention to our locally produced books, and we are delighted by the care taken and the support given by these local shops.

Yet another reason to Shop Local and support entrepreneurs and small businesses.

Books make great gifts, you know. Just saying.


Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Collaborating with Thomega Entertainment's Canada Remembers DVD Commemorative School Project

DriverWorks Ink is proud to collaborate with Thomega Entertainment Canada Remembers Documentaries to share stories of service and sacrifice of Canadian War Veterans. 

Endorsed by the Royal Canadian Legion’s National Poppy and Remembrance Committee for use of Poppy Fundsthe Canada Remembers Commemorative School Project invites Royal Canadian Legions across Canada as well as other organizations to purchase the set of 13 educational documentary DVDs for use in schools in their regions. Each order will also receive one complimentary copy of the inspiring new book Crash Harrison: Tales of a Bomber Pilot Who Defied Death by Deana J. Driver.

The book contains page after page of details about Canada’s involvement in the Second World War and Reg Harrison’s experiences, as well as Fun Facts about Reg “Crash” Harrison, a Timeline of Events, and Helpful Resources. The Teacher's Guide that accompanies the Canada Remembers DVD series has been updated to include a list of questions about this book, which educators may use to further encourage learning and discussion. 

Five of the 13 Canada Remembers documentaries filmed to date by Thomega Entertainment include interviews with 101-year-old Reginald "Crash" Harrison, the subject of this new book. Crash Harrison has been featured in: Canada Remembers A Veterans Reunion 2000, Canada Remembers It’s Time to Say Thanks 2005, Canada Remembers Festival for Heroes 2011, Canada Remembers Our Heroes The Liberators 2022, and Canada Remembers Our Heroes Service and Sacrifice 2023Another documentary featuring Reg Harrison is planned for release in 2024.




Reg Harrison is one of Canada's last surviving Halifax and Lancaster bomber pilots from the Second World War. He was given the nickname "Crash" in 1944 after surviving the second of what would end up being four aircraft crashes - none of which were his fault - while completing 19 missions as a Royal Canadian Air Force bomber pilot in England. The Crash Harrison book details Reg's life story - told in his own words - from his early years on a farm southwest of Melville, Saskatchewan through his wartime adventures and life after the war up to the present day. At 101 years of age, Reg "Crash" Harrison continues to honour and remember the men and women who served in Canada's military, noting that those who did not come home from war are the real heroes and should never be forgotten.

Thomega Entertainment initiated the Canada Remembers Commemorative School Project to share the message of the significant service and sacrifices of so many. Their program has reached over 15,500 schools, libraries, and related organizations nationwide. The primary goal is to give as many students as possible access to over 10 hours of engaging, informative, historical programming, which includes a Teacher's Guide that brings attention to the fact that freedom in this country did not come free. The Teacher's Guide has been updated to include information and classroom exercises related to the Crash Harrison book, which educators may use to further encourage learning and discussion.

Your Royal Canadian Legion Branch and other organizations are invited to order sets of these educational documentary DVDs here.


DriverWorks Ink is grateful to Creative Saskatchewan for book publishing production funding.




Monday, October 9, 2023

Thankful today and every day

There are many people in my life for whom I am grateful – old friends and new, family and those I call family, authors, book buyers, coworkers and colleagues, and so much more.

My work life as an author, editor, and book publisher has been greatly enriched this past year, so I have a few new blessings to add to my already blessed life.

I am grateful to have met and become friends with 101-year-old Reginald “Crash” Harrison of Saskatoon, who survived four plane crashes while serving as a bomber pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force during the Second World War. Reg grew up on a Saskatchewan farm and went off to war in search of adventure and to serve his country, like his father and uncles did before him. He flew 19 missions and survived four crashes – none of which were his fault.

Upon his return to Canada, Reg stopped in Ottawa to visit the fiancĂ©e of a fallen airman friend. Reg’s dramatic war story turned into a beautiful love story – all of which I’ve documented in my new book Crash Harrison – Tales of a Bomber Pilot Who Defied Death (available on my website). To Reg, for painstakingly recalling all the details and trusting me to share his fascinating life story, I am grateful. I also appreciate the assistance of many people who helped me see this book through to fruition, including Lisa Driver, Mary Harelkin Bishop, Dani Driver, Don Acton, Laurie Harrison, Sylvia Acton, Susan Harrison, Pete Colbeck, Thomega Entertainment, and Creative Saskatchewan.



Reg "Crash" Harrison and author Deana J. Driver, August 2023

I’ve had the privilege of talking about the Crash Harrison book alongside Reg Harrison at numerous events in Saskatoon and to Saskatchewan media – including CTV News Saskatoon, CBC Radio Saskatchewan Weekend, and the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. Plus, he’s been interviewed twice on the John Gormley Talk Radio show! (See the links on our News & Events page.)

My Crash Harrison book has been #1 on the Bestsellers list at McNally Robinson Booksellers Saskatoon, and I recently found out from a friend that the book has been nominated for Best Book in the Prairie Dog Magazine’s Best of Regina 2023 contest! For these honours, I am grateful.

Those who know me personally will tell you that the last seven years have been a time in which I’ve been rebuilding myself after the unexpected death of my husband Al from cancer. Grief will always be with me and my family. We are learning to grow and find happy moments alongside it. And we are eternally grateful for the life and love of Al Driver.

As a retired journalist, I admire those who are gifted wordsmiths. On the topic of gratitude, one of my favourite pieces was written by the late Ron Petrie, whom I was privileged to work with while publishing a collection of his Regina Leader-Post newspaper columns. His Running of the Buffalo book was one of the first of about 100 books I have created since I started on this publishing journey.

So Ron gets the last words here about being grateful.

(His "Giving Thanks for a Great Life" column was published in 2007 in the Leader-Post and again in 2010 as the final chapter, "Thankful," of our book. The newspaper column was also buried in the 100th anniversary time capsule at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building in December 2012.)

Enjoy!

 

Thankful 

Whether one day of humility makes up for 364 of selfish bellyaching is a question best left to theologians and ethicists. The point of this weekend is to take stock.

So let it be known that I am grateful.

Grateful to be where I am, for starters.

As a younger man, brash and full of swagger, I considered my calling to be Vancouver, Montreal, even New York. Only now do I appreciate that what I actually fancied was merely the idea of my farmboy self destined for the big city that, in reality, traffic jams, restaurant queues, cut-throat office politics, six-dollar cups of coffee, shoebox apartments and crammed elevators are not for me and never were.

Where I am is Saskatchewan. Thank goodness. With the possible exception of the Maritimes, nowhere in Canada can one find folks with a keener feel for the absurd, with a  more grounded sense of purpose and place, the confidence to enjoy the gift that is a good laugh at one’s own expense. The job description calls me a Saskatchewan humour writer. Hardly. I am a stenographer. I simply take notes.

That my Saskatchewan grows the food that feeds the world makes me guilty of a deadly sin. Pride.

Chances are that in the coming weeks and months, Saskatchewan will be called upon to install both a provincial and federal government. Unlike in too many other parts of the world, this will be accomplished through words, not blood. I am thankful for our British system of parliamentary democracy, for its longstanding tradition that holds my role, political satire, as an indispensable safeguard against the threat of pompous and overbearing authority.

I give thanks for my home. Droopy eavestroughs, cracked driveway and ill-fitted door jambs notwithstanding, I live in comforts unknown to three-quarters of the people of the planet and with conveniences unimagined before the 20th century, not even by kings, emperors and czars. A hot shower, on tap every morning remains, for my money, one of the greatest accomplishments of mankind.

I am grateful for a wife who, after early shopping for a Halloween supply of miniature Kit Kat bars, hides the bags where only she and I can find them. Also for pretending that she doesn’t know that I know where.

To the men and women of the Canadian Armed Force, I say thank you. The mission our soldiers accepted halfway around the world is reminiscent of the dangers of two world wars that my parents’ generation and my grandparents’ generation had no choice but to face down. Canadians of my own pampered vintage, conversely, have known nothing but peace.

I am indebted to the 2007 Saskatchewan Roughriders, for posting an 8-5 win-loss record and relieving me of the usual journalistic obligation every fall to write snarky wisecracks about my lifelong favourite football team.

For those moments I spend with my kids at our favourite fishing hole, at dance and music recitals, in hockey rinks or on the golf course, I am beholden. It is fashionable among experts in child-rearing to lecture that parents ought not to live vicariously through their children and shouldn’t derive their own happiness from the activities of their sons and daughters.

I am thankful my kids do not read books written by child-rearing experts.

I am grateful for the wherewithal that allows me to provide my children with everything I know they need, if not always for everything they think they want. Putting a child to bed with an empty stomach and with nothing humanly possible to dry the tears must be a parental nightmare beyond all scope of the Canadian imagination.

Likewise, I am thankful for a rising group of young work colleagues who challenge each other through excellence, not gossip or backstabbing; for refrigerated transport, putting fresh asparagus on my plate where, as a boy, there would have been, blech, canned peas; for good friends who laugh too much; for a westside address with its view of the Prairie sunset; for the memory of my mom and dad; for our land of variety, of four seasons, even if the white one is a tad on the long side; for pain-free dentistry; for disposable contact lenses, for, for…

As a professional bellyacher, perhaps I should be most thankful that, on this rare occasion of listing what’s right in life, not wrong, I’ve run out of space.

There’s too much. Here and now, there’s just too much.

 

October 6, 2007




Thursday, July 6, 2023

Crash Harrison Bomber Pilot Book Coming Soon

My newest book is almost here! Crash Harrison: Tales of a Bomber Pilot Who Defied Death will be released at the end of July, and I am SO EXCITED!

It's been 12 years since I wrote a full-size book.

Since my last full-size book (Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner's Story of Hope) was launched in June 2011, I have written and published The Sailor and the Christmas Trees (which is an inspiring 48-page Christmas story) and pieces in seven other books about farming and aviation. Writing and putting together this 176-page Crash Harrison book, however, has been its own unique and interesting journey.

The story is about Reginald "Crash" Harrison, a 100-year-old gentleman in Saskatoon who was a bomber pilot during the Second World War. He's had many fascinating adventures, including surviving several crashes and close calls, and has made some lifelong connections because of his time as a Second World War bomber pilot.

The printed proof of Crash Harrison arrived last week, and I am still a little overwhelmed by the reality of it all. The book is being printed! It will be here in late July!


Meeting Reg in May of 2019 when I interviewed him for the first volume of the Flight: Stories of Canadian Aviation series was an experience I’ll never forget. I’d talked to him by phone to find out some details of his story, but sitting across from him and watching as he thumbed through his Pilot’s Flying Log Book from the 1940s to fill in details of his missions was really special. I’d also never interviewed someone of that advanced age (he was 96 at the time).

Reg is a gentle, kind man. He doesn’t consider himself to be a hero. That alone makes him more worthy of the honour than most. For the first Flight book, I wrote about Reg’s wartime adventures and a little about his life after the war. Over the last couple of years, as I was contemplating which book I would write next and who it would be about, I couldn’t get Reg and his life story out of my mind. I knew I had to write his story and share it with a wider audience.

We spent many hours talking in person and on the phone, adding more details to my first interviews about his wartime and after-the-war activities. We also talked in depth about his growing-up years on the Prairies and what it was like to walk three miles to school, herd cattle in the dust storms of the Dirty Thirties in Saskatchewan, and do homework by the dim light of a coal oil lamp. He told me about the first airplane ride he ever took – as a teenager – and how he paid for that flight with weasel skins, how his parents kept their family fed during the Great Depression, and how he was never scared while doing his job as a bomber pilot.

Reg became one of the few Canadians in the famed “Guinea Pig Club” after receiving reconstructive skin graft surgery during the war. And he was named an “Honorary Snowbird” by the renowned Canadian Forces’ Snowbirds aerobatics display team, which flies under the same squadron number as Reg served during the war.

I wrote the book in Reg’s voice, as thought he is telling his own story.

The book is educational, with captivating tales of Reg’s adventures and his life. I am certain that Crash Harrison: Tales of a Bomber Pilot Who Defied Death will be enjoyed by readers from teens to seniors and I’m looking forward to launching it this summer and sharing it with all of you in the days and months ahead.


Book cover of an elderly man in a Canadian air force uniform







DriverWorks Ink is grateful to Creative Saskatchewan for Book Publishing Production grant support of this title.





Thursday, June 29, 2023

The Power of a Chance Meeting

 One evening in mid-May, I started a conversation with a young man at a gas station. We were both filling our vehicles with gas on a blustery night.

I said, "The weather turned cool quickly."

He said, "It's not winter, so I'm good with it. I'm counting my blessings."

I agreed. 

We continued pumping gas into our respective vehicles.

At one point, he walked over to his passenger side window to talk with his wife, who as sitting in the car, looking at me. Then he came over to me and said, "My wife loves your licence plate holder."

My plate holder says, "MY FAVOURITE PEOPLE CALL ME GRANDMA."

I told them it was a gift from my daughter and that I didn't even notice the top part of it for awhile - "MY FAVOURITE PEOPLE". I only saw the bottom phrase "CALL ME GRANDMA" (because it's bigger and more obvious), and I thought that was terrific.

As I finished filling my vehicle's tank, the young man came over again and said, "I don't know what you believe or if this is okay, but do you believe in Jesus?"

I said, "Yes, I do."

"Do you need a prayer?"

I replied, "Always." (Because really, who doesn't need a prayer?)

He was surprised and pleased with my answer. He asked if there was anything specific I wanted him to pray for. I said, "No."

He asked if he could lay hands on me. I said, "Sure."

He put his hand on my arm, took off his hat, and began to pray for me. He thanked God for me and my life, for my heart, and my gifts. He asked Jesus to bring joy, and joy and joy into my life, and he prayed for my kids and grandkids.

It was such a nice, comforting surprise.

I thanked him and told him that his prayer was lovely. I asked if I could give him a hug, and we embraced.

Young Dillon, wearing a "Demons Fear Me" T-shirt, put a big smile on my face that night.

A testament to being kind to others, to the power of prayer, and a chance meeting at a gas station on a windy Prairie evening.