Instead of asking the questions, I am now attempting to answer them - during and after my presentations. Instead of listening to others being introduced, I am hearing how others introduce me.
Usually, they take information from the About Us page of our website and add a couple of lines.
That is not what happened in Swift Current, Saskatchewan on September 17, 2014.
Several months ago, I was contacted by Betty McDougall, chairperson of the Write Out Loud Committee in Swift Current, to see if I would be willing to speak at their Write Out Loud event, which is part of the regular programming for the Southwest Cultural Development Group (Lyric Theatre). They wanted me to talk about writing the Never Leave Your Wingman book, my work as an author and perhaps even a bit of information about my work as a publisher.
I agreed and confirmed that Al, my husband and DriverWorks Ink publishing partner, could come as well to sell our books to anyone who was interested in purchasing them. And so it was settled.
On September 17, Al and I arrived in Swift Current and met Betty McDougall and another committee member, Terry Toews, for supper before the event. We had a great visit and, as most Prairie people do, we quickly became comfortable with each other and were laughing and telling stories in no time.
After supper, we drove to the historic Lyric Theatre building in downtown Swift Current, and took a few photos of the poster announcing my speech/reading.
One of the committee members kindly made some adjustments to the book's cover ...
We also took a couple photos of me with the sign outside the theatre, which hosts local artists, including a husband/wife musician team who performed before my reading. They were the opening act, if you will.
While Al and I were setting up our table of books inside, people were flocking over to look at our numerous titles and purchasing numerous books before Al could even get them all out of the boxes. We were thrilled! (Thank you, Swift Current! You are the best!)
After the opening act, it was time for Terry Toews to introduce me.
This is what she said:
It is my pleasure this evening to introduce the first author for our brand new Write Out Loud season.
Deana Driver is an author, editor, book publisher and freelance journalist based in Regina. She is the author of five non-fiction books and the founding partner of DriverWorks Ink publishing, which specializes in non-fiction stories, and helps authors self-publish their work. It is of special interest to us that DriverWorks recently published Bryce Burnett’s first book of cowboy poetry, Homegrown and Other Poems.
Since 1983, she has published more than 2,000 articles (while raising three kids - so she's kind of an underachiever), in addition to her non-fiction books. Her latest release is also her first children’s book. The Sailor and the Christmas Trees is the true story of a Manitoba sailor who cut down trees in Newfoundland, hid them on his ship, and surprised his shipmates and some small English children while at sea during the Second World War.
Ms. Driver has a passion for sharing the stories of fascinating Prairie people and unsung Canadian heroes. She enjoys speaking to audiences of all ages, and uses her own experiences and those of people she has interviewed to show the importance of reading and writing as the path to learning and a better future.
When I read Never Leave Your Wingman, I was impressed by the degree to which Deana Driver is willing to take a back seat to the story she is telling. Throughout the book, I was thinking about introducing Deana and what I would say about her, and then I would realize that I was accidentally introducing Dionne Warner in my imagination, so successfully has Deana written herself out of the book! It takes real skill and a willing sublimation of ego to be able to do that.
The fact that the book is definitely Dionne’s story says a lot about Deana Driver. It tells me that she is dedicated to giving these unsung heroes their own voice, without imposing her voice or value judgments. It tells me that she is secure enough to be willing to disappear into a story in order to be able to tell it with authenticity, and it tells me that she is, herself, something of an unsung hero.
It is no small thing to want to tell the stories of prairie folks and amazing people who otherwise escape the notice of the world. And it is no small thing to want to help other writers move forward with their work. When I came to the end of Never Leave Your Wingman, I concluded that it was no accident that Ms. Driver wanted to write about Dionne Warner. In many ways, they are cut from the same cloth, in their willingness to help others and their responsiveness to reactions and emotions that sometimes go unnoticed by others.
We are very fortunate to have Deana Driver with us tonight. Please join me in welcoming her to the Write Out Loud stage.
Wow. That was very high praise ... and I was a little taken aback.
Last fall, during our large tour of schools and libraries in which I made 62 presentations in 27 communities across the Prairie provinces, a high school teacher in Prince Albert introduced me as 'a humanitarian' - and I was thrilled and honoured with that reference.
In Swift Current, with Terry's introduction, I had never heard so many kind words about my work, my writing, or my person from someone who had never met me before.
Her introduction made me a little emotional ... which led to a rather emotional speech about a very emotional topic - the amazing eight-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner and fighting cancer with laughter, courage, and above all, hope.
I calmed down after a few minutes and by the end of my ad-libbed speech, the audience had heard a bit about my own story, plus some excerpts from the book, some background to those excerpts, and more. One woman kindly told us later that she "could have listened to that all night. Dionne's story is great, but to hear how Deana went from freelance writing to publishing was really good. And when she started talking about the different books, I could have listened to that about each one of them.Some of these authors just come and read from their book. This was really entertaining - but more than that, it was educational, too."
So to all you authors out there, please add those extra touches to your readings. Tell the audience something they won't read in the book. Who are you and why do you write? Where did the story idea come from for this book? What is your favourite part of the book? Was one part more difficult to write than another?
It's all about engaging the reader, at every level.
Swift Current's Write Out Loud was an amazing experience and Al and I are so grateful to have been invited, welcomed, and appreciated by these wonderful Prairie people.
Thank you, Betty, for inviting me to speak at Write Out Loud and thank you, Terry, for that remarkable introduction. It's the best!
|(L to r) Betty McDougall, Deana Driver, Terry Toews - Sept. 17, 2014.|