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.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Exploring Chicago after Book Expo America 2016

In May, I attended Book Expo America in Chicago (see my previous blog), along with some other publisher friends from Saskatchewan. In the evenings and after the conference, we had some time to do a little sightseeing and exploring parts of Chicago. Here are a few photos of my experiences.

My travelling companion was my friend and fellow Saskatchewan book publisher Heather Nickel of Your Nickel's Worth Publishing. We decided to take a selfie in front of this Chicago shop because it's called Books-A-Million.
BAM! Cute.

You can't visit Chicago and not try their version of deep-dish pizza. It was fantastic!

This fountain in Millenium Park is gorgeous at night.

SaskBooks staffer Jillian Bell, me, and Heather Nickel at the start of the riverboat architecture tour.

Chicago has a diverse architectural landscape, and much of it can be viewed on the riverboat cruise. Our guide (in the red hat) is a member of the local architectural society.

Old and new buildings beside each other make for a fascinating landscape.

Many bridges, like this one, were built to be raised over the Chicago River.

This is one of the many unique buildings we saw on the tour.

We went for a walk and saw the Chicago Cultural Center, a gorgeous building on the outside and inside. 
Jillian and I wondered what it would be like to work in a building this grand.

The cultural center has amazing ceilings...

...and fantastic stained-glass domes. This isn't even the largest one. The room with the largest Tiffany stained-glass dome in the world was, unfortunately, closed for an event when we were there.
Jillian and I met Priscilla, a Chicago resident who quickly endeared herself to us with her enthusiastic descriptions of her city and the people in it. She became another happy recipient of some DriverWorks Ink books. In fact, she was so happy when I handed her some free books that she began to cry. Priscilla had some profound words of wisdom that I believe can help us all live a better life:
"I don't respond to stupidity. It makes your face grow old."

So farewell, Chicago. Thank you for a great learning opportunity and a great visit.

This mirror on exhibit at the cultural center says it all.

Exploring Book Expo America 2016 in Chicago

In May, I was pleased to be invited by SaskBooks (Saskatchewan Publishers Group) to be one of three Saskatchewan publishers to attend BookExpo America in Chicago, IL. BEA is "the leading book and author event for the North American publishing industry and is the best place to discover new titles and authors, conduct business and network, and learn the latest trends."

I had never attended BEA before and was delighted to participate, with the help of Creative Saskatchewan funding. I learned more about the book publishing industry in North America and made some great business connections towards the goal of eventually selling foreign and international rights to some of our books written by Saskatchewan and Prairie authors.

I quickly found out that BEA is definitely "the largest gathering of booksellers, librarians, retailers, publishers, rights, licensing, and book industry professionals in North America." We were told that this year's conference was smaller than those of most years because it was in Chicago rather than its usual location of New York City.

This was not only my first trip to BEA but my first trip to Chicago as well, so there was a lot for me to learn and explore. Here's a photographic snapshot of some of my experiences at BEA:

Here's Millenium Park and Lake Michigan, on a clear day's view from my hotel room.

Sask publishing friends Heather Nickel of Your Nickel's Worth Publishing and Jillian Bell of SaskBooks stand in one of the halls of McCormick Place, the huge conference centre where BEA was held.

A blogger's conference was a great start to the event, where I learned more about the importance of book bloggers in getting the word out about new titles.

Book marketing and promotion ideas were shared by these panelists.

The time that people spend on social media is constantly increasing, so publishers need to adapt to that change, says branding authority Cindy Ratzlaff. (This was my favourite presentation of the conference.)

Cindy shared a list of some great graphics tools. 

These bags were waiting for their participants' new haul of free books, informational brochures, business cards, and more.

The exhibit hall had many rows of booths.

More booths, from some of the biggest publishers.

These folks were all waiting for a book launch... Kenny Loggins, who reworked his Footloose lyrics into a children's book about animals at the zoo.

Yes, there's Kenny Loggins in the background, signing his book at the booth a few steps away from me.

Kenny Loggins and his new Footloose children's book.

NBA great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was signing his new book as well.

We met many authors, including Kwame Alexander (above centre) and illustrators, including Daniel Myares (above right). We enjoyed a little singalong with Kwame and Daniel before we could happily take home a copy of their beautiful new children's book. 

Oh yeah, I. .. did not meet the Beatles, of course, but I enjoyed these life-sized cutouts at one of the booths. Too cool to ignore, right?

I was most intrigued by this display at the booth of Foreword Reviews. We just might include a couple of our DriverWorks Ink books in their display for the upcoming Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. 

These U.S. teachers were the lucky, very happy  recipients of some DriverWorks Ink books that I had taken to hand out and spread the word about our great books.
Book Expo America was a fabulous opportunity to learn, make some connections for marketing and increased sales, and share information about our popular and award-winning books. Thank you, SaskBooks, for the invitation and thank you, Creative Saskatchewan, for the funding assistance.

And now with the conference over, there was a tiny bit of time to do a little sightseeing in Chicago.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Keeping My Chin Up After My Husband's Death

It's been five months and 10 days since my husband, soulmate and business partner Al Driver died of colon cancer. Stupid cancer! I'm so tired of even thinking about it. So I try not to.

I try to get through the days doing some work for our book publishing company, spending time with family and friends, moving stuff around inside my house, and tending to my flower garden and small, new vegetable garden. I am thankful that it is summertime and I can go outside and take short or long walks or bike rides. I can sit in the backyard and ponder or look at the sky at night and talk to the stars.

A couple of weeks ago, I went for lunch with my dear friend Nadine - my girlfriend soulmate. After lunch, we went to a wonderful local garden centre and perused the aisles before buying a few plants for our gardens. At one point, Nadine pointed out this bench:

I started to cry. Heavily.

I turned away from the bench and my attention was drawn to a wall FULL of signs and sayings.

But I only saw this one:

I burst out laughing. I recognized my husband's wacky sense of humour jumping out at me from the many quaint, tender, and funny sayings on that wall. "Come on, Deana. You can do it!"

Thanks, Hon. I needed that.

Yes, I need to keep my chin up. The days will get better, the evenings will eventually be not as long and lonely, and life will return to a comfortable new normal some day.

Our daughter Lisa Driver, who is a gifted spiritual healer and author, sent me a link to the website of another author and blogger who writes about Second Firsts. I have been encouraged and inspired by Christina Rasmussen's blogs, her social media posts, and her changed attitude toward life after loss. I highly recommend her to anyone who has lost someone dear to them.

As I sit alone in my home-based office, I think of others who have come through this and I know I will do so too.

I will get through this with the help of people like you and my friend Nadine.

Thank you for your continued caring of me and our family.

I will enjoy the rosebushes that I purchased in memory of Al.

And I will keep my sense of humour and my love of life.

I will remember all the good times - and some of the tough times - that I had with my husband during our 42 years together. And I will continue to tell his story for the rest of my life so that no one around me forgets him.

And I will hold onto my faith and know that life will again be good.

Chin up, Buttercup!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Happy Birthday, Never Leave Your Wingman book!

Five years ago, on June 10, 2011, at Relay for Life in Regina, Saskatchewan we unveiled the inspiring, life-changing book Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner’s Story of Hope

Since then, much has changed and nothing has changed.

I am Deana Driver, author and publisher of this amazing, laughter-filled true story. I continue to celebrate this book and the people I wrote about – seven-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner and her husband/wingman Graham Warner.
Left to right: Al Driver, Dionne Warner, Deana Driver, and Graham Warner - launching the Never Leave Your Wingman book at Relay for Life, Regina, Saskatchewan on June 10, 2011.

Never Leave Your Wingman has changed thousands of lives with its inspiring messages of hope, love, and living life to the fullest. Thousands of people have changed their outlook when diagnosed with cancer, using Dionne Warner’s first-24-hours approach of “Why Me?” and then shifting it after that first 24 hours to her remarkable “Why Not Me and What Am I Going To Do About It?”

Dionne is still here. In bold, beautiful, living colours! Since the book was launched, Dionne has beaten Stage IV liver, lung and bone cancers - with strength, laughter, courage, and costumes too! She is a walking miracle.


In January 2012, she was pronounced in remission. In April 2012, Dionne went back to her volunteering at the Allan Blair Cancer Centre in Regina, to help give other cancer patients hope and encouragement. Unfortunately, in August 2012, cancer was detected in Dionne's liver. Again. This was the fourth liver cancer diagnosis for her. With typical Dionne feistiness, she was signing Never Leave Your Wingman books with me at the Pasqua Hospital gift shop the very next day. She had not even given herself a full 24 hours this time to let the diagnosis sink in. Her immediate reaction had been: “It’s only one cancer this time, not four. They did not say ‘Stage 4’, and it’s not in my brain – so bring it on!”

Dionne continues to fight this latest liver cancer while continuing to inspire others with her courage, strength, and her story. She celebrated her 50th birthday last October! She’s been fighting cancer for much of the last 20 years! Dionne continues to inspire.

The book’s title comes from a phrase (and philosophy) spoken by Graham Warner, Dionne’s husband. Shortly after Graham wooed Dionne to Regina from Toronto in 2001, she was diagnosed with her third cancer – liver cancer. They were engaged to be married at that time, but Dionne told Graham he did not have to marry her now that she was sick again. She said she would return to her family and her oncologists in Ontario and he could carry on with his life. An experienced pilot, Graham quickly replied: “You never leave your wingman.”

They have soldiered on together since, through better and worse, beating her two liver cancers and her Stage IV liver, lung and bone cancers, and now fighting liver cancer again.

In August 2015, my husband and publishing business partner Al Driver was diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer. On the evening of August 20, Al had an emergency operation for what we thought would be diagnosed as a ruptured appendix. It turned out to be a tumour. Al quickly adopted Dionne Warner’s 24-hour rule and he fought his cancer as long and as hard as his body would allow. Our family shared hope, laughter and much love with him for the next four and a half months. (See my December 2015 blog post about cancer, hope, and love.) Unfortunately, on January 4, 2016, Al passed away. His body could no longer fight. 

But the story and struggle and hope and love still go on.

Much has changed and nothing has changed.

This Never Leave Your Wingman book has been a blessing to many and will continue to be a blessing and a beacon of hope for as long as it exists.

I am proud to say that I wrote it. I am proud to say that I published it. I am proud that we launched it at Relay for Life. I wish everyone at Relay for Life celebrations everywhere the best event they could ever imagine!

Our family will not be participating in Relay for Life this year. It is too soon. Too raw. Instead, we will be gathering to scatter some of Al’s ashes in the Qu’Appelle Valley this Sunday, the day that would have been his 62nd birthday, just a week before Father’s Day. We will celebrate our Al and we will hold dear to the principles in this book. Live life to the fullest, as Al did and as Dionne and Graham continue to do. No regrets.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Publishing Books in a “Widow” Way

“Marital Status:  WIDOW.” Just writing that word on a Canada Passport form startled me. It’s not that I don’t know that I’m a widow. My husband (and publishing business partner) Al Driver passed away on January 4th after a four-month struggle with colon cancer (see blog post). So I know I am a widow. I just haven’t used the word very much yet.

And I’ve always found “widow” to be one of the saddest words in the English language.

“Widow” means that the person using it has lost someone very dear to them. Someone they most likely loved deeply. Someone who shared a large part of their everyday life – otherwise they would be writing “single”, “separated” or “divorced” on that form – although I imagine each of those words conjures up a whole set of emotions in the writer too.

What “widow” reminded me of was the 42 years I spent with this man – the love of my life. And how much I miss him and the times we shared.

Al and I met in college, taking journalism courses in Alberta. We have been together since I was 17 and he was 18.

In December, a couple of days after we found out that Al’s tumour was inoperable, I told him that what he said to me in November was right – we have had a wonderful run together. They have been great years – except for the times when he was a pain in the ass, I told him.

Al laughed and replied, “So what does that total then? Two good years?”

I laughed and said, “No. Forty. Counting the times I was a pain in the ass too.”

It was uncharacteristic of me to say “ass” because I don’t like that word, but you say words you detest when someone you love is dying. You freakin’ hate what is happening at that point and saying words that are harsher than your normal language somehow helps.

So here I am – a new widow. Trying to figure out a new, changed, daily life without the person I loved most in this world.

Filling out a form so I can travel is a good step. It means there is life after death – for my wounded soul.

It means I still have purpose on this earth. Being invited to go to Chicago to Book Expo America for my publishing company is part of that purpose.

One step at a time, one day at a time, sometimes one moment at a time ... I’ll figure out this “widow” thing.

Maybe I’ll think of my now-adult children and my three little grandsons the next time I hear or have to write that word and I’ll remember how they used to pronounce the word “little” when they were young.

And I’ll think of myself as a “widow” publisher on the Prairies.

I would have smiled, but it's the passport office!
Smiling is not allowed here. Looking less than glum
is the best I could do in my out-of-focus selfie. Ha ha!

P.S. If you live in Canada, note that your passport may not be valid for international travel if it expires within six months of your travel date. The Canada Passport website says, "Your passport may have to be valid for up to six months after the date you enter the country you will be visiting. " Check details under the "Travel Advice and Passport Validity" section on this page. My sister told me of this change in rules for travel to the U.S. The Passport official told me about a man who arrived at their office with his plane ticket in hand after being turned away at the airport. So check your passport expiry date well before you plan a trip out of the country!

Monday, February 8, 2016

What I’ve learned about grief

I apologize to every person I’ve ever met who has lost a spouse to death. I had no clue.

While I knew that your spouse died, I didn’t know the kind of mind-numbing, gut-wrenching, life-altering, hole-in-the-chest pain that you must have experienced after their death.

I didn’t know until now. And I’m sorry I wasn’t a more compassionate, helpful friend to you.

I have grieved the death of my father-in-law, my father, my mother, and several close friends and family members. The pain of those losses was severe, but I did not feel the same kind of despair and complete heartbreak that I have felt since January 4, 2016, when my husband, Al, died only four and a half months after being diagnosed with Stage IV colon cancer.

Al’s illness had no warning signs and his health went downhill quickly. He woke on the morning of August 20, 2015, with a pain in his abdomen. Emergency surgery found a fist-sized tumour on his colon, which led to a high-output ileostomy and numerous complications that required repeat hospitalizations over the next few months. Al passed away in a hospice bed in January, with me and several nurses at his side. Losing him has been confusing, frightening, surreal, sad, and so much more. It feels like a large part of me went with him when he died.

I try not to dwell on the discomfort he must have felt while so courageously and gracefully going through his cancer journey. (He hated the phrase “battling cancer”, so I try not to use it.) We had many beautiful, precious moments together during those last few months, but those are hard to remember when the pain is so raw.

I think about him every day, sometimes in almost every moment of every day. I know it is still early – only a month after he died – but sometimes the pain is so overwhelming that I can’t think of anything else. And I sit alone and try not to become consumed by the ache in my soul.

I try not to think of how empty my new life is right now. I struggle with finding a “new normal”.

I know, logically, that it will get better as I grieve and heal, but the heart doesn’t always work together with the brain, so I must go through this pain in order to move on. It is obvious that my journey on this earth is not yet finished and I need to continue to do the best I can to live my life to the fullest, while honouring Al and all that we worked for in our 42 years together.

I have learned a lot more about grief in the past month – from reading materials, by talking to family and friends, by attending a bereavement support group, and from experiencing it. I have also been reminded of many things that I learned in my years as a journalist about how to help others who are grieving.

What Not To Say To Someone Who Is Grieving:
“I know exactly what you’re going through. I know how you feel.”

No, you don’t. It is not possible.

Every human being is different and every relationship is different. Every grief journey is different.

You may have an idea of some of the feelings the bereaved is having, but you could never know exactly how they are feeling.

My relationship with Al and our time together before he died is very different from what anyone else experienced in their relationships. Plus, I barely know how I am feeling from minute to minute, so how could you know?

Oh, I know. It still hurts ___ years later.

Putting a time frame on someone else’s grief journey is not helpful. Every person is different and every grief journey is different. Phrases like this may also be an indication that you have work to do in your own individual grief journey and you may benefit from some grief counselling or support programs.

What To Say Instead:
“I’m sorry for your loss.”
“If you’d like to talk, I will listen.”
 “Can I give you a hug?”
“Would you like me to come over and just sit with you?”
 “Can I call you occasionally just to see if you need anything?”

What I have learned that has helped me grieve my husbands death:
  • Breathe. Long, deep breaths.
  • Be kind to yourself. You did not choose this. You need time to adjust to this new reality.
  • Rest often or have a nap. Grieving is hard work. Do not expect to accomplish much each day, at least for the first while. Give yourself a break.
  • It’s okay to feel sad. It doesn’t mean you will feel sad forever. It means you feel sad now and that’s okay. Give yourself permission to feel how you need to feel.
  • Wherever you are and whatever you are doing, it’s okay to cry. You don’t need to explain your feelings or to apologize for them. You don’t even need to understand your feelings. You just need to feel them and express them if and when you can.
  • Give yourself time to grieve. Grief is not an orderly series of stages that lines up perfectly with any given time frame. Grief has been described as “a tangled web of emotions” and it may take months or years for you to untangle some of those feelings. That is absolutely normal. Everyone’s grief journey is different. Remember that you are doing the best you can with the situation you had or have in front of you. Let that be enough for now. Try to ignore or stay away from those who think you should be “over it” or moving on with your life before you are ready.
  • It is normal to feel like you do not want to go on. Usually, that is a fleeting feeling that will dissipate with time. It is not normal to consider suicide. Seek professional help immediately if you are considering harming yourself.
  • Seek out bereavement support, whether that be in the form of an organized support group with facilitators, a religious or spiritual leader, a professional counsellor, or books from the library. Take what you find valuable from those resources and don’t feel bad about ignoring the rest. One of my cousins started a “grief scrapbook” in which she pasted helpful newspaper articles, clippings, tips, and meditations to help her grieve her husband’s death. I use a notebook.
  • Read a good book or listen to music to distract yourself or, in my case, to bring you some happiness. This is self-explanatory, but I do happen to know of a little Canadian publishing house that has some pretty great books (wink, wink). And music can soothe the soul.
  • Watch TV or a movie to give your mind a break. I have a couple of new favourite movies that have helped me to grieve my husband’s death.
  • Write your thoughts and feelings in a journal, either daily or whenever you feel the need or desire to write. Don’t worry or feel bad if your thoughts change. That’s what thoughts do. Your thoughts and feelings are sure to change as you grieve and heal.
  • Write a letter to your loved one. This may be especially helpful if the death was sudden or there were some things that were left unsaid. I write to Al or to God almost every night before bed. Sometimes the letters/journal entries are tender and filled with longing. Sometimes they are full of pain and tear-stained. Often, they are both. Always, they help me heal a tiny bit more.
  • Make a list of the people who have offered to help you. Look at your list and choose whoever you will find comfort in during a particular moment. Then call them to chat or ask for help. My list includes people whom I can phone and ask to stay with me so I won’t be alone for the first while as I grieve.
  • Don’t feel guilty about not responding to and staying in touch with everyone who contacts you. Choose what you need to do and who you need to talk to and let the rest go for now. Focus on you.
  • Leave your home at least once a day. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Go for a drive. Give yourself a change of scenery. Remember that there is still a world out there.
  • When you are strong enough, go places in your own vehicle. Then if you suddenly feel you cannot stay, you have the freedom to leave without disrupting other people’s plans. Be careful to drive only after your mind is healed enough to concentrate on the road ahead – literally – and to remember how you got home.
  • Try not to dwell on feeling guilty. You may have difficulty accepting that it is okay for you to continue living your life. My husband, Al, asked me to promise him that I would live my life to the fullest and not let his death consume me. I replied that I would try, but that it would take time. I’m not there yet, but I’m working on it. Grief counsellor Andrea Mackay of Greystone Bereavement Centre in Regina SK explained that guilt is “the little bully that we all have inside us. When that guilt sits on your shoulder, flick it off, and tell it to F--- Off!”
  • Try to think of the good times and be grateful, but try not to let the uncertain future break you into more pieces. You will feel sadness about the loss of future good times, but keep putting one foot in front of the other and focus on getting through one minute at a time, one day at a time.
  • Allow yourself to take a break from work, if you are able to do so, whether it is for a few minutes, hours, days or longer. I am blessed to be self-employed and grateful that I do not have huge financial burdens at this time. I am thankful that I work with patient, caring, compassionate authors who have become friends and who have accepted my need to work at a slower pace and give myself time to figure out the new face of DriverWorks Ink publishing.

Thank you to all who have helped me and my family in any way during these past five months since Al's initial diagnosis.

Thank you for your understanding as I take time to slowly heal. I feel your love and it is appreciated.

Be Gentle With Yourself

(You may be interested in this post from April 2017: Living My Life After My Husband's Death - Cherishing My "Big A".)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Is Helping Me Heal

The movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,  is described as being about this: "British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than advertised, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways."

To me, the movie is about people who are my age – 60-plus – who have had to find new ways of carrying on with their lives. Some have suffered loss of a spouse, as I have. Others have had situations happen to them which have forced them to consider where they will live and how they will live comfortably. Some are simply looking to keep on living, with gusto.

The movie spoke to me on many levels. I loved the characters. They're real - sharp-witted, somewhat cranky, oddball, honest, brave, intelligent, lovable, or some combination of those traits. I loved the main actors – who doesn't love Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, and Bill Nighy?

But most of all, I appreciated the wisdom in the writing. I won't spoil the storyline for you, but kudos to Deborah Moggach, who wrote the novel (I must buy the book now!), and Ol Parker, who wrote the screenplay. Well done.

I accidentally watched “The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” last week and I enjoyed it a lot. Then my children, who are often wiser than I about these things, informed me that the first one was very good as well.

“What? There is a first one?”

So I spent more than two very enjoyable hours last night ... err... early this morning, since those are the hours one keeps after the death of a spouse ... watching and loving every minute of the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

It led me to have a good night’s sleep for only the second time in the almost four weeks since my husband, Al, died. 

The movie gave me a few smiles, some clever dialogue, and some strong, relatable characters with real-life problems and solutions. Most importantly, the movie gave me a sense of peace and more courage to carry on. It helped reinforce the knowledge that there is more for me around the corner. I will heal eventually. I will never be the same. I will always carry Al with me in my heart and in everything I do, but I will be able to do new things, have new experiences, and feel happiness again – eventually. Hopefully.