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.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

When students asked about my writing and books, it all went well until that excerpt

I enjoy speaking with students about the books I’ve written and/or published but also about the importance of reading and writing to learn, grow intellectually, and make the world a better place. I also enjoy answering questions posed by students during and after my talks. Sometimes I have an answer readily available, sometimes things go slightly awry.

I was honoured to recently talk with students at Robert Southey and Viscount Central schools. I speak about how I started writing at age eight and it grew into a lifetime of loving the written word and working as a journalist, author, editor, and book publisher. I give them some tips for reading and writing and encourage them to try to make a positive impact in the world because of what they learn while reading.

Mrs. Carnegie-Meere with author-publisher Deana Driver at Robert Southey School

I tell students that there is no such thing as a dumb question, because if they don't know the answer, it's a perfect time to find out. I'd rather they ask than assume something that is incorrect.

These are some of the students' questions (and my answers) from that day:

-          “What’s your favourite animal?” (I replied that I have allergies, but I guess dogs are okay. The younger kids often ask me personal questions instead of questions related to the books I’m discussing. Or sometimes they will simply state a fact based on something they heard. After telling them of my book The Sailor and the Christmas Trees about a man named John, two or three younger students will inevitably tell me they know someone named John – which is nice, but it's not a question and I encourage them to instead ask a question starting with Who, What, When, Where, Why or How.)

-          “What’s your favourite food?” (Chicken. I’d eat chicken for every meal every day.)

Mrs. Jantz with author-publisher Deana Driver at Viscount Central School

       "What is your favourite book that you’ve written?” (I like all of them for different reasons. They’re all like my babies and you should never choose a favourite baby, but I guess I'll choose Never Leave Your Wingman because it's an inspiring true story that can be enjoyed by almost anyone in any family. Almost everyone is affected by cancer. And The Sailor and the Christmas Trees is great for children and adults too. My other three books are out of print.)

-          “Is that coat book true?”  (Yes, The Little Coat, written by Alan Buick, is a true story about a Canadian soldier and a Dutch girl who met during the war. They gave her a coat made from an army blanket.)

-          “Did you see that coat?” (Yes, my husband and I saw the little coat in 2015 when it was on display at the Military Museum in Calgary. It was on loan from the Canadian War Museum. It’s really beautiful.)

-           Aren’t you going to ask us what our favourite animal is?” (Um… no, not today.)

-          “Who's your role model?” (My mom. She was a teacher before she had children and she encouraged me at a young age to be creative with my writing. I learned my love of the English language and writing from her.)

-          “Can you read something from the Fun on the Farm book?” (I read Mary Harelkin Bishop’s short story called ‘A Snack For Mom’. At another reading that day, I read Keith Foster’s poem ‘Thanksgiving Memory’.) 

-          “What would you change about one of your books?” (That’s a question I’ve never been asked, but most writers I know are unhappy with some part of what they’ve written. We always want our writing to be better. Even though it's won an award and been praised endlessly by readers, I’d go back and tighten up the text of the Never Leave Your Wingman book. I wrote the book and published it quickly, within a year, because I was concerned that Dionne Warner, the seven-time cancer survivor I wrote about, might die while I was writing that book. She is still very much alive and living her life to the fullest while fighting her ninth cancer diagnosis. The day I met Dionne and decided to write and publish her story, I asked her what would happen to the book project if she died while I was in the process of writing. It was a tough question but I needed to ask it. We agreed that if we could help one person by sharing her inspiring story, my book would go ahead. After the book was published, Dionne told me that if she’d known me better, she would have answered, “What happens if you die?” It was an excellent point that is typical of what her outlook on life can teach us about how to live our lives. Live life to the fullest. No regrets.)

-          “Are you writing anything right now?” (I’m working on two new books. Author Alan Buick, who wrote The Little Coat, and I are writing short stories of Canadian war veterans who could have died had they made a different decision or been in a different place during the war. I also want to write some true stories about Prairie pilots and their adventures. So if you know anyone who has a story of a Canadian war veteran or a fascinating pilot adventure, please let me know.)

-          “I want to do freelance writing? How do you recommend I get started?” (This was a one-on-one question posed after one of my presentations. I told the student to be persistent, to keep track of everything they have ever had published, even if there was no pay for their work. You must build a resumé. When I began freelancing in September 1983, I visited the public library twice a week and looked at every magazine on the racks to see which ones matched my skill set and my interests as a writer. I mailed writing samples from my journalism career to many of these magazines and made several long-distance phone calls, which were expensive in those days, but I received no responses. In early 1984, I attended a burn symposium on my own, listened to the morning’s speakers, then phoned The Medical Post in Toronto and talked to their editor about the physician speakers and their topics. I asked if the magazine wanted stories from this first-on-the-Prairies conference and they agreed to accept four or five articles. This began a 30-year freelance career with that and other publications. Be persistent, be passionate about your writing, work hard, be good at what you do.)

-          “Can you read us some of that book about horses?” (This was not my finest moment as a speaker. I have never read excerpts from Bryce Burnett’s humorous cowboy poetry to a group of students, so I picked up Bryce’s latest book, Horses, Dogs and Wives, and skimmed the pages to find a suitable poem. I saw one that ended with “farted” and decided to keep looking. I landed on the ‘Rover’ poem instead, but I should have looked more closely at the last couple lines first. I'd temporarily forgotten that cowboy poetry usually has a surprise ending. As I finished reading that poem, the entire group of Southey students gasped and then laughed, while I sheepishly grinned. I later apologized to the teachers for reading what some might have considered an inappropriate poem for the students, but the teachers insisted it was fine. See the poem below for yourself. Would you have read it to kids in Grades 6 to 9?)

Thank you to both schools for the invitations to speak and to Saskatchewan Writers’ Guild for subsidizing the Viscount reading. Thank you to the students of both schools for their attention and their questions.

Mrs. Elaine Jantz, librarian at Viscount Central School, wrote about my presentation at Viscount school:
“Deana Driver came to our school for a presentation and spoke to our students about her books, writing and publishing. She is an awesome presenter, she kept them all engaged and hearing the stories about how the books came to be was so enlightening and made them even more interesting to get and read. The story about a shy, farm girl going on to be a journalist, then writer, editor and publisher, really inspired some of our students as to how far you can go and what you can do if you try. She gave them great insight into how to start writing and keep going. We very much enjoyed her visit!”

(Read about a Robert Munsch question I was quickly able to answer.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A Robert Munsch kind of question

It came out of nowhere.

“Are you Robert Munsch?"

I was about to start an author reading at a school and a Grade 7 student asked me if I was the prolific children’s book author Robert Munsch. I've never been asked that before – for obvious reasons, including the fact that I am female.

Author-publisher Deana Driver in Southey, SK

Fortunately, I’ve presented enough author readings at schools and libraries across the Prairies that I was not flustered or stumped by this unusual question.

I simply replied, “No, I am not Robert Munsch … I don't write those kinds of books,” and I carried on with my presentation, talking about my career as a writer – of non-fiction.

A wall mural painted by students of Viscount Central School

I told the students how I began writing as a young child. A one-hour school bus ride from my family’s farm to the school in town and another hour spent on the ride home again was ample time to use my imagination and my other two favourite tools – a pen and a piece of paper – to write poems, short stories, and even notes or questions for fellow travellers. This developed into my love of the written word, my involvement in the high school newspaper, a busy two years of journalism classes at college in Calgary, a move from Alberta to Saskatchewan, and a subsequent career as a journalist, author, editor, and book publisher.

My recent presentations to the students of Robert Southey School and Viscount Central School were filled with fascinating questions from the students and, I hope, helpful or at least interesting answers from me. And maybe the Grade 7 student who asked the Robert Munsch question was just being a goofball showing off for his friends, but I am pleased to say I connected with him in some ways.

He looked serious when I spoke about the seven-time cancer survivor I wrote about in the Never Leave Your Wingman book and how Dionne Warner’s inspiring story has helped thousands of people live with courage, hope, and laughter. This includes my own family when my mother died of pancreatic cancer in 2011 and when my husband died in 2016 from colon cancer.

That same student laughed at my jokes and some of the funnier book excerpts I read. And it was great to mention to him and his classmates that I did happen to publish a great children's picture book that has a similar sense of humour to that of Robert Munsch's books. SuperMom and the Big Baby, written by my son, Dave Driver, tells of a child whose temper causes him to grow so big that his mom tries to come to the rescue. SuperMom uses phrases that were actually spoken by my daughter-in-law Kelli while she was sleep-talking.

At the beginning of my talk, the student who asked if I was Robert Munsch had jokingly asked for my autograph, but he surprised me by following through on his request after my presentation was done. So either I impressed him or he wanted to continue being silly and get my signature on a paper towel to show to his friends.

For my own self-esteem, I'm going with Option 1.

(Read about other questions asked during my presentations.)

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Christmas in February - an angel sign on a plane

On the last leg of my flight home from a recent vacation in Kauai, I was sitting in a plane at the airport in Calgary, AB. I closed my eyes and said to my dear departed husband, "Hey, babe, I'm coming home," which is weird because I feel his spirit with me wherever I go.

But I said it. Without questioning it or thinking too much about it.

Then I noticed that the background music playing on the airplane was Little Drummer Boy.

On February 28th. A Christmas song. Weird.

Weirder still is that Little Drummer Boy just might have been Al's favourite Christmas song. He especially loved pumming along as we sang this song with the ragtag group of carollers from our church.

Messages from heaven come in all sorts of ways at all variety of times. I've learned this from my daughter Lisa Driver's three books (Opening Up, Leap, and Boundaries and Bucket-filling) in reading and editing her writings about angel messages and connections to our departed loved ones.

I have learned not to doubt angel signs or question them. I have learned to accept them and be grateful that my departed loved ones want to show me they are with me.

Some angel signs are stranger than others. I have found some to be upsetting because I'd rather have my husband here than wherever he's hanging out these days. But there's nothing I can do about that except feel my feelings.

This particular angel sign made me shake my head in wonder and then smile. Christmas in February on a plane in Calgary. Strange.