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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.)

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