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.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Eight-Time Cancer Survivor’s Beauty Gives Back

Inspiring eight-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner of Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada is the face of a new campaign of Look Good ... Feel Better Canada called ‘Beauty Gives Back’. And we could not be more pleased or proud to call her our friend.

Dionne’s story is one of overcoming the odds, beating cancers of the breast, then brain, and then two bouts of liver cancer before spending seven years volunteering at the Allan Blair Cancer Clinic in Regina. During that time, she helped hundreds of patients through their treatments by sharing her positive, never-give-up attitude, and encouraging them to continue to fight this disease.

In December 2009, Dionne was diagnosed with Stage IV cancers in her liver, lungs and bones. She began dressing up in costume each week for her chemotherapy treatments and before long, she and her husband – her wingman – Graham, began to both dress in costume and dance into chemo as music played to accompany their themes.

Dionne Warners first costume/theme, Dec. 2009
I met Dionne and Graham in June 2010 and knew instantly that both of them were worthy of a book. It would be an inspiring book about this amazing couple and their never-ending, positive attitudes that showed their commitment to doing all they could to beat this disease and bring hope and laughter to others in the process.

Buy the Book

I promised Dionne and Graham at our first meeting that I would write their story and publish a book about them and their journey by the following June – which I did. The result is Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner’s Story of Hope.

The book has become a national best-seller in Canada, with copies also being purchased by readers in numerous countries around the world. It’s also in an e-book format, available from your favourite e-book retailer. Never Leave Your Wingman won an Honorable Mention in the Biography category of the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival in Chicago, and continues to sell well and spread the Warners’ story of hope with all who read it. We repeatedly hear stories of how the book has helped cancer patients and their families, and many readers who have no connection to cancer, live happier, healthier lives by focusing on the positive and taking control of their own health.

Dionne has been a fan and supporter of the Look Good ... Feel Better campaign since shortly after she beat her second cancer. Here’s an excerpt from the Never Leave Your Wingman book:

In October 1997, a little more than a month after her second brain cancer surgery, Dionne attended a half-day workshop with the Look Good … Feel Better program, an initiative of the cosmetic, toiletry and fragrance association to help cancer patients feel better about themselves. She was also interviewed and photographed for a story in the Summer 1998 issue of Images Magazine, which was available through the Shoppers Drug Mart stores. In the photos, the beautiful bald-headed Dionne showed how to wear hats and scarves to feel more comfortable as a woman undergoing cancer therapy. Her husband was beside her in one of the photos and the headline read: ‘The Power of love – Dionne faced cancer twice in two years and beat it both times’. 
Dionne spoke about her struggle to feel attractive after her initial hair loss with the breast cancer chemotherapy and how she gave up all attempts to try to improve her appearance. “I felt so unattractive. I thought, ‘Why bother with makeup?’ So, if I had to go out, I’d just put on a hat and that was about it.’ The support and love from her husband, family and friends helped her to overcome her own insecurities as she healed from her surgeries, she said in the article. “Dionne decided to attend a Look Good…Feel Better workshop because she knew she needed something to make herself feel better. And, in October 1997, actually on the day before she was photographed for the Look Good…Feel Better magazine, she went,” said the magazine article.
“At the workshop, I put on one of my hats because my head was cold, and everyone commented on it! It’s a real thrill that I was asked to be the hat model for the magazine, because I’m a hat collector – I have about 30 different types of hats,” she says. “I feel so much better about myself; the workshop really made a difference to me.” 
Dionne had learned about the Look Good … Feel Better program through the cancer clinic. In the article, she encouraged all other cancer patients to attend a workshop, use the products in the gift box provided for participants, and start feeling better about themselves. “Thanks to Look Good … Feel Better, my skin is incredible, I feel great and everyone tells me I look good, too. It’s a wonderful program, and I know that anyone who participates will feel the same way!”
Dionne has supported the program since then and credits it for helping her to maintain a positive attitude while she goes through her cancer treatments.

In November 2014, Dionne was called upon again by her friends in the Look Good ... Feel Better program to share her story in a huge, inspiring way – through their new Beauty Gives Back campaign.

Once you’ve recovered from watching the inspiring video above, we invite you to view the City TV Toronto news clip of the launch of the campaign at the 2014 Mirror Ball charity fundraiser in Toronto, Ontario. 

We’re sure you will agree that Dionne Warner is an amazing, inspiring, walking miracle.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Award-winning Books & Their Foil Sticker Problems

Of all the problems for an author or publisher to have, this is a good one. Should you put a gold foil sticker on your award-winning book’s cover or not?

I’ve been saddled with this pleasant conundrum several times in the last eight years – ever since the second book I wrote (Never Give Up: Ted Jaleta’s Inspiring Story) won an Honourable Mention in the Biography category at the 2007 Hollywood Book Festival. That now out-of-print book was also shortlisted for Publishing In Education and for Reader’s Choice at the 2007 Saskatchewan Book Awards.

It is pretty exciting when a book you’ve written or worked on wins an award of any kind, so my business partners and I purchased gold foil stickers locally to announce the Hollywood Book Festival award. We were excited and decided to save time by carefully placing the stickers on the covers of most of our books, trying hard not to cover any part of the face of the book’s subject or any of the book’s title words. We thought we had made some clever decisions about sticker placement on that dark blue and black cover. A while later, we discovered that not only does a black, glossy cover show every mark and fingerprint, but a lower-quality foil sticker can show signs of handling, too, with scratches quickly appearing and some of the wording disappearing with the handling. Argh. Lesson learned, I thought.

A couple years later, Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story by Mary Harelkin Bishop won several awards (Finalist in Children's Literature at the 2009 Saskatchewan Book Awards, Honourable Mention in Teenage/Young Adult at the 2009 Nashville Book Festival, and Honourable Mention in Teenage at the 2008 London Book Festival). Again, we purchased foil stickers. I can’t remember whether they were purchased locally or through one of the award competitions, but they were foil and presented similar problems. Although we placed stickers on only a few books at a time, the lettering would come off if we weren't careful with the books. Some of the permanent adhesive stickers also eventually showed signs of wear.

In following years, we added more books to our stable of award-winners:
-          -  The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story by Alan J. Buick received an Honourable Mention in the Biography category at the 2010 Hollywood Book Festival
-          -  Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner’s Story of Hope by me, Deana J. Driver, received an Honourable Mention in the Biography category at the 2013 Great Midwest Book Festival
-       -     Letters to Jennifer From Maudie & Oliver by Sharon Gray received an Honourable Mention in the Cats category of the 2013 Animals, Animals, Animals Book Festival.


We did not purchase stickers for any of these books. We announced our wins via media releases and social media, with posters, and small Post-it notes on the covers at various selling venues. A temporary sticker seemed to do the job just as well, but we did add the words ‘National Bestseller’ to the cover when we reprinted The Little Coat.

We recently entered our five newest books in the 2014 Great Midwest Book Festival, and were absolutely thrilled that ALL FIVE books received awards. As a Saskatchewan Publishers Group e-brief stated, DriverWorks Ink “cleaned up” at the awards festival:
-          -  Opening Up: How To Develop Your Intuition and Work With Your Angels by Lisa Driver was the Winner in the Spiritual category
-         -   Homegrown and other poems by Bryce Burnett received an Honourable Mention in the Poetry category
-        -   After the Truck Hit: Jennifer Kuchinka’sTrue Story by Jennifer Kuchinka received an Honourable Mention in the Wild Card category
-          -  Gina’s Wheels by Mary Harelkin Bishop received an Honourable Mention in the Children’s Books category
-         -   Jamie and the Monster Bookroom by Kerry Simpson with Jamie Simpson received an Honourable Mention in the Children’s Books category.

So that’s a LOT of awards ... which is wonderful, but it brings us to the current conundrum of whether to put stickers on those book covers or not.


I admit that I am a bit of a purist when it comes to covering up our book covers. We work hard to try to ensure that our book covers tell the stories of what’s inside while enticing potential readers to pick up the books and take a closer look.

Which part of the artist’s creation or the carefully chosen photograph should be covered permanently to announce an award?

Do award stickers even matter? Do people make decisions to purchase a book because the book has won an award?

I’d love to hear your feedback on this. 

At our recent DriverWorks Ink Open House/ Christmas Party, a friend commented that she appreciates gold foil stickers to announce awards and we should definitely be purchasing some and placing them on all our award-winning books. She said she recently purchased an award-winning children’s book from a Winnipeg author. She told us that the author had one gold sticker on her display book and then, once our friend had purchased the book, the author placed a foil sticker on our friend’s book. Clever, I thought. But a bit time-consuming if you are at a busy signing or event.

What do you think?

Stickers or no stickers? Do they matter to you when you purchase a book?

While you’re at it, please tell me where you would place an award sticker on our newest award-winning books. I look forward to your response.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Our SuperMom children's book is not weird - or is it?

Two little girls about seven years old made me laugh out loud this weekend. They came to our booth at the craft fair in Lloydminster, SK/AB running ahead of their moms and enthusiastically grabbing our SuperMom and the Big Baby book (written by Dave Driver and illustrated by Guy Laird).

One girl called it 'Superhero Mom'. Then they walked away.

Then they came back and grabbed it again.

I told them the book is about a little boy who has a temper and the madder he gets, the bigger he grows.

I showed them the picture of the boy becoming a giant baby who runs down the street, which scares everyone.

Then I said that his mom grabs a mask and cape and becomes SuperMom to the rescue.

One of the girls looked at me solemnly and said, "That's just weird."

I burst out laughing.

I didn't ask which part she thought was weird. It didn't matter.

They walked away again, then came back a few minutes later and looked at the book again - this time, with their mothers. 

They showed the book to their moms, one of whom corrected them on the book's title. Then the girls and I had a discussion about which of Robert Munsch's books are weird and which are silly.

"This book is like a Robert Munsch book in its style of humour. It is silly," I said. "Have you read The Paper Bag Princess?"

"Yes," said one girl. We have that one at home!"

"That's pretty silly, isn't it?"

"Yes. And Mortimer," she said

"That's a silly one, too," I agreed.

"Yes. We read that at school!"

"Well, this SuperMom book is a silly one," I suggested.

The second girl looked at me and repeated her friend's initial pronouncement, "That's just weird."

"It's not weird. It's called imagination, silly," I teased.

They and their moms all laughed.

I love the honesty of children and their openness to new ideas.

The moms didn't buy our 'weird' book right then but, by the looks on their faces as they left, I had a feeling that SuperMom and the Big Baby just might be under their Christmas trees this year.

That will be a weird Christmas, won't it?

(See my blogs about the creation of the SuperMom book and how kids love the book.)

Friday, November 7, 2014

Remembrance - Bob Elliott and The Little Coat book

Every November, I spend a lot of time thinking about our award-winning, best-selling book The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story, written by Saskatchewan author Alan J. Buick. This biography tells the true story of Canadian soldier Bob Elliott, who enlisted in the Second World War in Calgary, Alberta when he was 15 years old. (He told them he was 20.)

Bob became a tank commander and was fighting the Nazis in the Netherlands, near Alphen en Maas, when he met 10-year-old Sussie Cretier.

Her real name was Everdina, but her younger brother called her Sussie - which means 'sister' in Dutch - and the nickname stuck.

Sussie's family had escaped to the safety of the Canadian soldiers. Sussie was a feisty little character and she quickly became an adopted little sister and a good-luck charm for the Canadians.

They took her under their wing and decided they would like to give her a Christmas gift. She had a threadbare winter coat, so they took a wool Canadian Army blanket and asked a seamstress in that Dutch village to make the blanket into a coat for Sussie. The soldiers took buttons from their own tunics for the seamstress to use on Sussie's coat.

Bob Elliott, who was already Sussie's hero as the leader of this particular troop, presented the gift to Sussie on Christmas Day 1944.

The coat was the most precious gift she had ever received.

The war ended. Bob returned to Canada. Sussie carried on with life in the Netherlands.

Almost 30 years passed.

Bob travelled to the Netherlands to visit Dutch families he had met during the war, including Sussie's parents. Bob and Sussie reconnected as adults. They fell in love. She still had her little coat. She brought it with her to Canada and married Bob.

Sue and Bob Elliott with Sue's little coat in the 1980s.

The Elliotts lived in Hamilton, Ontario for many years, then moved to Edmonton, Alberta, where they lived for 20 years before moving to the Netherlands permanently so Sue could be near her ailing mother. Before leaving Canada, however, Sue became a member of the Royal Canadian Legion and, alongside Bob, participated in numerous Remembrance Day ceremonies.

Every year on VE Day in Holland, Bob and Sue would don their uniforms and honour those who had sacrificed so much for the freedom of others. The above photo was taken in the Netherlands in 2009.

Before they left Canada, Bob and Sue donated their special coat to the Royal Canadian Legion branch in Olds, Alberta, where Bob lived as a child. The Legion put the coat in a case and hung it on the wall with other war memorabilia. Alan Buick, a carpenter and singer/songwriter living in Pense, Saskatchewan, was performing one night at the Olds Legion when he started asking questions about the coat. He was delighted to learn that not only were the two people behind the coat alive - but they were married and available to be interviewed!

Alan spent hundreds of hours talking to Bob and Sue by email, by Skype and by letter. He brought his book to DriverWorks Ink in 2009, and I helped him turn it into the award-winning book it is today. (He tells people that I sent him home with three months of work to do on it - which he did, and which made the book even more amazing.)

Watch a video of author Alan Buick talking about his book, The Little Coat.

Our publishing company, DriverWorks Ink, gives back to the community by donating a portion of the proceeds from many of our books to various charities. See the full list on our website. More than $4,000 from The Little Coat books sold has been donated to the Royal Canadian Legion Dominion Command Poppy Trust Fund, which helps veterans and serving members of the military and their families.

Since 2013, $1 from every The Little Coat book sold is being donated to the Canadian War Museum, the new home of the 'child's coat' in this inspiring war story/love story.

Sadly, our hero Bob Elliott passed away in February 2013, but my husband Al and I were fortunate to visit Normandy in August 2014, and then to meet Sue Elliott in the Netherlands and share in some memories and laughs with this fine lady. She is still as feisty as ever!

We will never forget the sacrifices of Canadian soldiers like Bob Elliott and so many others around the world. They gave much for our freedom.

We all need to be thankful. Not just on Remembrance Day, but every day.