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, October 31, 2013

Never Leave Your Wingman's Excellent European Adventure - Part 6 - Monaco

Hi, again. It's me, the Never Leave Your Wingman book. I haven't written to you for a long time because... well, because I'm a book for starters, but mostly because my author (who is actually helping me type this blog post) has been very busy this last while doing some travelling and speaking in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. She and her husband, whom I like to call Publisher Al, barely unpacked me from her backpack in early September when we returned from our fabulous vacation in Europe (see my first blog) ... and they were immediately on the road again to a trade show in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, quickly followed by trips to Weyburn, Estevan, Carlyle, Estevan again (a different trade show), Regina (where we live but to a trade show there), Swift Current, Brandon, Winnipeg, Vibank, Avonlea, Moose Jaw, Herbert, Saskatoon, Hague and Prince Albert. Whew! I'm dizzy just thinking about it. And they're not done yet.

You see, my publishers received a wonderful grant from the Saskatchewan Arts Board (thank you, Saskatchewan Arts Board!) to help them market and distribute their books this fall - including me, of course. I'm their 'pink book'... and I just became even more wonderful (if I do say so myself). I am now a National Bestseller in Canada, and I have been recognized with an Honorable Mention award in the Biography/Autobiography category of the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival. Nice, huh? My friend Letters to Jennifer From Maudie & Oliver won an award this week, too - an Honorable Mention in the Cats category of the 2013 Animals, Animals, Animals Book Festival. Yay!

Anyway, my publishers are marketing and distributing their books this fall through extensive book tours that include trade shows and a pile of author/publisher presentations and events at schools, libraries, book stores, seniors' homes and more. My author Deana told me she has 22 presentations to make this week alone in east central Saskatchewan. They have the Canadian Western Agribition trade show and one in Saskatoon still plus some promotion planned in Alberta still. Pretty exciting, huh?

So before I get back to talking about my wonderful trip to Europe this summer, I want to show you what my author/publisher Deana and Publisher Al have been up to this past month and a half.

Here's Deana, ready to speak at the Weyburn Public Library.

She's talking to students at an elementary school in Estevan, Saskatchewan here.

Here's Deana and Al with a customer at an Estevan trade show.

They also helped Regina author Shae Therrien launch his book Interrupted with Bipolar. Shae has received more than 150 electroconvulsive therapy treatment to help his mental health stay stable. His book includes his journal entries and tips on understanding mental illness. My publishers had a lot of fun at Shae's launch. He has a great sense of humour, so you should check out one of my new friends, Interrupted with Bipolar by Shae Therrien.

The older students at Avonlea School were an interested bunch, listening to Deana talk about her writing career, the writing process, the books that she has written and the books that DriverWorks Ink has published and helped other authors self-publish.

Deana and Al travelled to Brandon, Manitoba in October and happily reconnected with Audrey Hanlon (on the right) and Elaine Rounds during Deana's presentation at the Daly House Museum. Audrey's late husband John Hanlon is the subject of Deana's book The Sailor and the Christmas Trees. You should really put this book in someone's Christmas stocking this year. It's a wonderful true story that will bring tears to your eyes.

And last but not least.... they've spent some time with our beautiful Dionne Warner - our favourite eight-time cancer survivor. (She was fighting her fifth, sixth and seventh cancer diagnoses when I was written. She's a walking miracle, for sure.)

Here, Dionne joined Al and Deana to sign and sell books at the Moose Jaw Whistlestop craft show.

The Riders lost that day, but that didn't stop them from having fun with Dionne's head gear (she had soft balls, I was told).

Here they are in Saskatoon, where they promoted me, the Never Leave Your Wingman book. They're having a little fun before their CTV Noon News interview (above)...

... and with host Jeff Rogstad, who enjoyed their pink get-ups in celebration of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, of course. 

They signed books at Coles Midtown Plaza and then ...

... Deana and Dionne talked with the audience after Dionne spoke at an event at the Alice Turner Library.

And finally, Deana spoke to elementary students in Hague, Saskatchewan one morning. She says she is looking forward to the many other presentations yet to come this fall.

But now it's time to put the focus back on me and my Excellent European Adventure...

When I last left off, we were in Nice, France and I was loving the water and sand. From there, a day trip to the municipality of Monaco was one of the best days we'd had to that point. 

Some of the world's wealthiest people own yachts that they dock in Monaco's harbour. The fees can be ridiculously expensive, but Monaco is home to more millionaires per capita than any other place on Earth.


 I was so excited when the tour guide on our Hop-On-Hop-Off bus told us that we were travelling the same route that the Formula One race cars drive for the Monaco Grand Prix! I know that our friend Graham Warner (the Wingman of my story) loves NASCAR, so I could only think of him and how much he would have enjoyed being with us as we turned corners, went up and down the hills of Monaco... albeit quite a lot slower than the actual Grand Prix cars.

 It was pretty darn awesome!

And speaking of AWESOME... Publisher Al could hardly believe his eyes when he saw this red Rolls Royce convertible just sitting out there on the street in Monaco.

He asked my author to take a photo of me and the angel hood ornament so we could show our angel Dionne and her wingman Graham the cool car we saw. Imagine Al's surprise when he lifted his head up after this photo was taken, only to see two more Rolls Royce convertibles within a few seconds. You don't see that on the streets of Regina... or too many other places really. Wow.

Well, that's enough for this post. I'll get back to you soon with the next adventure in this series. Take care, everyone.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dionne Warner!

A little more than three years ago, I met an astonishing woman. A seven-time cancer survivor who was in the battle of her life, fighting Stage IV liver, lung and bone cancer. Her name is Dionne Warner.

 Yes, this is the Dionne I met in June 2010 and this is who she continues to be today - a fighter.

Dionne had already overcome breast cancer, brain cancer and two bouts of liver cancer before I met her. To help her get through her liver cancers, she had an amazing wingman - her fiance-turned husband Graham - at her side. Graham had just wooed Dionne from Toronto, Ontario to Saskatchewan when she was diagnosed with her first liver cancer in 2001. She and Graham were engaged and Dionne told him he did not have to marry her - she would return to Ontario to her family and her doctors. Graham is a Regina businessman and an avid pilot. He quickly replied: "You never leave your wingman." Dionne happily stayed in Saskatchewan with Graham and they have since battled her cancers together. And the rest, as they say, is wonderful, happy history.

Dionne went on to volunteer at the Allan Blair Cancer Centre in Regina for seven years, sharing with patients and staff her own personal story of hope, courage and joy. She raised more than $50,000 for cancer research by selling bracelets, rings, and other cancer awareness items. She also raised thousands of spirits in the process. Dionne will tell you that talking with other cancer patients helps keep her strong and how, when she meets a 25-year cancer survivor, it gives her a goal in her own journey with this disease.

The photo above was taken just after Dionne was diagnosed in December 2009 with Stage IV liver, lung and bone cancer. Because she had spent so many years spreading her infectious laughter and hope with other patients of the Allan Blair Cancer Centre, Dionne decided she could not go into her own chemotherapy treatments as a 'normal' patient. She put on a pink 'CANCER SUCKS' T-shirt and a bit of war paint and went in as the Warner Warrior, ready to do battle with this evil disease.

That costume led to more than 75 different themes over the next two years, with Dionne and Graham both dressing in costume and often dancing into the chemo unit, bringing hope and laughter to patients and staff alike. These are a few of my favourite themes:

The Banjo Bowl theme - where they made their own banjo.

The Saskatchewan Pirate theme - complete with necklace, earrings, and an oncologist willing to cut that nasty cancer out of the patient.

The Spring theme - with Dionne's typical silly sense of humour.

And Relay For Life, for which the theme that year was 'Fight Back'.

Oh - I should mention that Dionne's husband Graham also has a healthy sense of humour. He is quick to tell jokes, tease and make fun of himself and others - all in the course of a normal day. Dionne has a contagious laugh and Graham loves to spark and share in that laughter. They're a match made in heaven.

In June 2010, I met Dionne after my daughter Lisa introduced me to Dionne's story.
Lisa was a volunteer with the Relay For Life committee in Regina and was excited that Dionne was to be the guest speaker at that year's Relay. (Lisa is above in the orange Relay Committee T-shirt.) Lisa told me about how Dionne was fighting cancer by dressing in costume and dancing her way into chemo and how Graham was writing My Beautiful Dionne Update emails after each treatment to inform friends and family about Dionne's cancer treatments, her ongoing health and other events in their lives.

So, to make a long story short, Lisa told Dionne I'd like to talk to her about writing a book on her incredible story, so Dionne phoned me a few days later. I met her and Graham, we became instant friends and that was that. I began following them to different places... like chemo...

...where they dressed up and danced in to the song Save A Horse - Ride A Cowboy. I borrowed some of Dionne's extra props - a hat and a horse - to take part in this fun theme.

 I visited with Dionne at the CIBC Run for the Cure in October 2010, where my family walked the course after we listened to Dionne address the crowd and share her story of hope.

I'll never forget the sad faces in the audience and how they cheered for her a little too early - after she said she'd been in remission for seven years, but just before she told them of her Stage IV diagnosis. I felt bad for her listeners, but happy that Dionne could share her message and give all the Run participants a sense of her courageous spirit and endless zest for life.

I was invited to Dionnes birthday supper - her birthday is October 7th - a couple months after I met the Warners, so I could meet some of their friends and take this photo of these two awesome people. (Do you like the Foxy Roxy wig? Its one of Dionne's favourites.)

And this is one of the funniest themes I attended. So much so that I devoted an entire page of the 32 pages of colour photographs in the book to it.
While Dionne was getting her own chemo treatment that day, Graham (with his wife's permission) wheeled this cart up and down the chemo unit, offering this ‘free service’ to everyone. Happily for all (except maybe Graham), there were no takers for his offer, but there were lots of laughs!

In June 2010, I promised Dionne and Graham that I would have a book completed and ready a year later, for launch at the 2011 Relay For Life in Regina. I accomplished that self-imposed deadline and could hardly wait to see their response to the book.
Here, Dionne and Graham are looking at the Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warners Story of Hope book for the first time.

  Dionne was overwhelmed by it all, but a happy overwhelmed. 

My husband Al and I (partners in DriverWorks Ink publishing) were and are happy to have published this inspiring love story about this strong, beautiful, fun-loving warrior and her strong, handsome, fun-loving wingman.

Since the book was released in 2011 and reprinted in 2012, Dionne and I have been together numerous times (with or without our wingmen)... our book launch... various signings... numerous speaking events and fundraisers... Dionne's chemo treatments...

...and more...

This was Dionnes birthday party in 2012 - a huge surprise that her wingman pulled off successfully. And we all had a blast dressing to the Roaring 20's theme.

At that party, Dionne said she didn't know if she would be around for her next birthday, on October 7, 2013 ... But who does know their future, really?

We are beyond pleased that she is still here, alive and dancing, and still showing cancer who's boss! She's still inspiring everyone she meets - and everyone who reads our book - and she's still making me laugh every single time we get together or talk.

So here’s to you - vibrant, charismatic, caring, beautiful Dionne Warner.

A more wonderful, inspiring, fun-loving, incredibly strong person I've never met. 

Here’s to many more years of happy, inspiring, fun-filled life for you with your wingman by your side.

Have the happiest birthday ever!

And, as only you can say with real feeling... 

"Woo Hoo!!!!"

                          Deana (and Al)