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, September 19, 2021

A Moose, A Fence, A Farmer, and A Power Saw

While interviewing my brother, Alan Pacholok, months ago about funny things he's experienced on the farm  so I could include those stories in the new book Fun On The Farm 3  Alan told me about an encounter he had with a moose. I wrote the story and then decided it didn't quite fit for the Fun on the Farm book series. It seemed like the perfect story for a blog post. Enjoy!

Two of my younger siblings, Alan and Leanne Pacholok (far left and far right),
 laugh at the antics of some cousins during a Pacholok family reunion, 2015


The farm I grew up on is in a forested region of central Alberta on land that required my ancestors – and me as a kid – to clear away trees to create usable farmland. Wild animals, especially moose, are common there.

My brother, Alan Pacholok, owns and operates that farm now and he has been known on many occasions to improvise in the maintenance and repair of farm equipment and buildings. For decades, my sisters and I have teased him that he’s a “duct tape and binder twine” kind of repairman. 

This use of ingenuity and adaptability is common among farmers, who have limited time in which to get their crops or cattle production accomplished due to weather, finances, and distance from other resources. So farmers sometimes have to make due with what is in the garage, barn, or vehicle just to get the job done. It’s a skill every working farm kid learns early on.

One sunny Saturday afternoon in the late 1990s, my brother was returning from a road trip he took to a farm near a neighbouring town, where he had gone to do some prep work on a granary he’d purchased. As Alan drove back towards our town, he saw a young moose stuck in a barbed wire fence that was beside the highway.

Vehicles were passing by this scene and my brother did too, but only for a split second before he turned his half-ton around, drove into the ditch, and got out of his truck to peruse the situation.

This wasn’t the first time Alan had seen such a predicament. He’d rescued a couple other moose from a similar fate before.

When moose try to jump a barbed wire fence, Alan told me, their front feet go over the top wire, but sometimes their back feet catch on the top wire, pushing it forward so their feet go down in front of the second wire of a four-wire fence. That second wire moves up with the force and acts as a lasso with the top wire, trapping the animal in place.

This particular moose was trying frantically to move ahead and was pulling on the wires, which were not budging. Alan knew that without help, this animal would perish.

Unlike our dad, who enjoyed hunting in almost every year that he could, my brother was never interested in this form of wild game. But this poor moose didn’t know that.

As Alan approached the frightened creature, he saw the fear in the animal’s eyes. And those eyes only got bigger when Alan started up the only utensil he could find in his truck – a power saw.

“The only tool we really had in the truck back then was a tire wrench,” Alan said. “We never took tools in the truck and I didn’t need them that day anyway. I had to take a couple two by sixes to Boyle to brace up a granary I bought and look at how to haul it home. I just had a power saw to cut the boards. To get this moose out of the fence, all I needed was a pair of pliers to cut the wires or two rocks, but I couldn’t find those anyway. The power saw was all I had,” Alan said with a grin.

“No nails, no wrenches, just one moose caught in the top two wires of this fence,” which, coincidentally, happened to be on the property of one of our uncles – but that’s rural Canada for you.

So, my brother grabbed his power saw and walked toward the hung-up animal. Alan could see that the moose had been fighting to get free for awhile before he arrived. The wires had rubbed some hair off its hind ankles, but there weren’t any cuts on the animal’s legs, which was comforting for both Alan and the moose.

By now, they had an audience. Several vehicles had stopped on the highway and people were standing on the roadside, waiting to see what this man in the pickup truck was planning to do with this 600-pound handy bundle of Grade A moose meat.

With his power saw in hand, Alan stood as far away as possible from the trapped moose – which was only about two feet given the 10-foot distance between fence posts and the mid-sized moose in the centre. Alan tried to start his power saw. It made a quick, loud broooomm noise, and then stopped.

The noise startled the moose. It squirmed faster and tried harder to get away – with no success. It looked at Alan from the corner of its bulging eyes.

Alan tried to start the power saw again – with no success.

Several times, Alan tried to start the saw. Each time, the noise frightened the animal even more and its shaking intensified.

The moose kept turning its head toward the offending – but possibly helping? – human at its side, no doubt wondering what would happen next.

Finally, Alan got the saw going and began to cut the first wire. Sparks were flying everywhere, adding further to the moose’s fear and the spectacle for the onlookers.

There were about a dozen vehicles stopped on the side of the highway by this time. There was no mass use of cellphones or YouTube videos in those days, just human eyeballs watching a man with a moose and a power saw.

After Alan cut through the first wire, it did not free the moose, so Alan started sawing the second wire. The moose was still desperately trying to get away.

Now there were about 20 vehicles on the side of the highway, watching this commotion.

Alan finally got the second wire cut and the moose was loose.

It walked away slowly, with a slight limp. “It kind of looked back to thank me and was probably wondering if I was nuts, getting that close to it… I had to do it because it was suffering,” Alan added. But yes, there are those of us who would say Alan is a little crazy.

As the moose stopped shaking and regained some energy, it slowly trotted further and then ran across the field. The bystanders drove away and Alan put his power saw back in his truck and drove away as well, thinking about the moose and the look in its eyes.

“As I was cutting those wires, the poor thing was shaking. Later, I realized that probably everybody watching was laughing, thinking, ‘What is he doing with the power saw?’ ... That poor moose didn’t think it was funny.”

No, my brother will never forget that moose. “I think he smiled at me. He was probably thinking, ‘Thanks for not turning me into a sandwich.’”

 

 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

It’s Only Hide and Seek If They Look For You

Grandparenting Tip of the Day:

When playing multi-generational hide and seek, choose your hiding spot carefully.

I spent some precious time with my grandchildren this week, after a rough year of very little contact due to the pandemic. It was glorious fun!

On a couple of occasions, we engaged in some entertaining rounds of Hide and Seek. The adults hid alongside the kids and we had a lot of laughs and “difficulty” finding the littlest ones at times. (Little kids are very good at hiding, you know – even when they repeatedly tell you exactly where they’re hiding!)

During the last round of the last game before everyone went home, I decided to cleverly hide in a spot that none of the kids had used yet – behind a set of long drapes in a bedroom.


The game went off the rails soon after that.

The eight-year-old was the “seeker”. He found the two-year-old and the eleven-year-old, and had come into the room where I was hiding, but he didn’t see me.

Then there was no movement or sounds of any seeking going on.

After a long number of minutes, the 13-year-old and the almost-five-year-old called from the basement to let the seeker know, “We’re down here!”

No response from the seeker. Or the other two.

I kept listening and couldn’t hear any sounds except for the gentle conversation between the two who had been found – with the little one telling her bigger cousin that she loved him.

Then the 13-year-old and five-year-old took turns coming partway up the stairs to loudly yell that “We’re in the basement!”

No response from the seeker.

“What’s taking them so long?” the five-year-old asked her older cousin, who finally came all the way upstairs – only to find out that the seeker had to stop mid-seek because he had to go to the bathroom.

Hmmm… Now I, the grandma, had a decision to make.

Should I abandon my excellent hiding spot and go visit with the parents of these kids or should I stand firm and wait until the game resumed?

Well, I’m no quitter.

So I stayed.

I stood awkwardly behind the drapes, trying to ignore the cramping in my left calf muscle and then my right. I also tried not to cough or sneeze or breathe too deeply.

I glanced at my Fitbit. Probably 10 or 15 minutes had gone by since I had last heard any commotion that resembled “seeking.” What to do, what to do…

I finally heard the bathroom door open and then the combined voices of the older kids and the younger kids … and the seeker!

No! It couldn’t be!

They’d abandoned the game and had forgotten about Grandma!

A few minutes later, I decided I actually was a quitter after all – in this situation anyway.

I came out of the bedroom and said to the kids gathered together in the next room, “I guess the game is over. And you didn’t find me.”

There were looks of surprise, shock and dismay when the older ones asked, “Were you hiding?” and I answered, “Yes. All this time.”

Then there were many looks of embarrassment among the older kids, especially the little seeker.

Oops.

To his defence, I had not been playing in every single game, so it was a little harder to remember whether he was supposed to find me or not. Anyway… we smiled and carried on.

I still love them all dearly, but it will be awhile before I find a super great hiding place again.

Next time, I’ll go back to sitting in the middle of the floor with a blanket haphazardly thrown over my head. They’ll surely find me there, right?


Friday, August 6, 2021

A great time at Tunnels of Moose Jaw

Saskatoon author Mary Harelkin Bishop and I had a terrific day at the Tunnels of Moose Jaw recently! We made some exciting plans for a fun launch this fall of Mary's second book in the Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventures series - Tunnels of Terror - being updated and republished by DriverWorks Ink, and then we checked out their newly renovated Chicago Connection tour. What a treat!


Editor-publisher Deana J. Driver and author Mary Harelkin Bishop in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

Editor-publisher Deana J. Driver with Kelly Carty of the Tunnels of Moose Jaw and author Mary Harelkin Bishop in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan

As we ended the tour, a family was purchasing one of Mary's books from the Tunnels' gift shop - so I proudly told them that the woman beside me is the talented author of that book. They were delighted to have Mary sign the book for them.

Author Mary Harelkin Bishop signs a copy of her Tunnels of Moose Jaw series

We then spent a few minutes on the phone talking with the talented artist and illustrator for this series, Wendi Willett Nordell. We just HAD to include her in our photo - she's part of our amazing team!

Editor-publisher Deana J. Driver and author Mary Harelkin Bishop chatting on the phone with the artist/illustrator Wendi Nordell (added by the magic of technology) while in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan


Stay tuned for the republished next book in the series - Tunnels of Terror: Moose Jaw Time Travel Adventure #2 - coming in late September. We can't wait to share it with you.


Friday, July 23, 2021

Making room for book babies

You know how, when some women are expecting a baby, they have to get the nursery ready before the little one arrives? 

Well, I'm expecting five new "babies" in the next two months  in the form of new books by various authors, including pieces I've written in two of the books.

So I had to get the "room" ready  aka my garage.

Here's the "before" picture of part of my garage:

 


And after two hours of moving boxes of books, organizing and cleaning up...

Voila! 


And I sold the desk too! It had served our family well for a couple decades and has gone to a new home, where it will be lovingly used in another home-based business. How cool is that?


Speaking of cool...

During the two-hour moving period, the temperature cooperated (not at all), going from a steamy 30 degrees Celsius down to a balmy 28. At 10 p.m!

Ah, Saskatchewan in the summer... 

But the "room" is ready.

Of course, I have to finish putting the book layouts together and getting them sent to the printer etc., but let's just call this "nesting", shall we? 


(Stay tuned for news about the books and to meet their authors.)


Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Brandon Legion member and subject of children's book fondly remembered

The editor of The Brandon Legionnaire Newsletter contacted me, asking permission to run a story about my book The Sailor and the Christmas Trees. The late John Hanlon of Brandon, Manitoba is the subject of this book which was written for children but is also loved by adults.

In November 1944, John was a wireless operator on the HMCS Royalmount. They were docked in St. John's, Newfoundland. He knew they'd be at sea on Christmas Day, so he and a couple crewmates walked up a hill and cut down some evergreens. John hid the trees on the ship and pulled them out on Christmas morning in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean to surprise his crewmates and children who were on another ship in that convoy. 

John's gift made that wartime Christmas into a very memorable day.

John told this story to his children, grandchildren, his United Church community, and local Legion members at Christmastime for decades after the Second World War. A church friend, Dexter van Dyke, knew a family friend of John's, Elaine Rounds, and told me about the story. We both knew it would make a great book.

I met with John and his wife Audrey and their friend Elaine Rounds in 2012 to hear the story from them. I wrote the book as though John was telling his story to the reader, and I added a biography of John as well. Catherine Folnovic illustrated the book and family photos completed the biography.

This week, I received a copy of The Brandon Legionnaire Newsletter and was surprised to see not just a story about the book, but a full page showing its front and back covers plus information about my publishing company and details of where the book could be purchased.


A lovely note attached from Linda Wakefield, editor of The Brandon Legionnaire Newsletter, said: 

"I wish to extend a sincere thank you for your book - The Sailor and the Christmas Trees. Mr. Hanlon was a faithful member of our Legion Branch. And I spoke with a couple of members who fondly remember him telling the 'Christmas tree story' at the annual Christmas volunteer appreciation afternoon. I for one can remember his booming joyful voice leading everyone in the pre-dinner singalong... So important, Deana that you recorded this beautiful piece of oral history."



 






Thursday, March 18, 2021

An Important YA Book about Reconciliation

As I began to proofread a new e-book version of Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone, written by Saskatoon author Mary Harelkin Bishop, I intended only to quickly check the pages to make sure all the content was there.

That's my job, after all, as the editor and publisher of this and every other book I've produced.

But this is no ordinary book.

This is no ordinary story.

And this is no ordinary author.

The words of the book drew me in and I began to read... and read... and read some more.

Even though I've read these words of the Mistasiniy book a half dozen times already in my roles as editor and publisher, I needed to read them again. I was thrilled to be reminded of the great work that Mary and I have accomplished as partners in writing and publishing this and other books of Canadian historical fiction for young readers.

Mary wrote Mistasiniy as a follow-up to Seeds of Hope: A Prairie Story, her first book published with my company, DriverWorks Ink, in 2008. In Seeds of Hope, the main character, Danny, loves growing up on a family farm in Saskatchewan. He is learning about the difficulties of farm life while also dealing with some troubles at school with some other children who are bothering him.

A few years later, in the book Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone, a new teacher at the school pairs Danny with one of the Indigenous kids, Zach. Danny and Zach don’t like one another, but they’ve never bothered to get to know one another either. They have to work as partners on a school project in which they have to research and report on their families' histories of coming to Canada.

Neither of them is happy about this pairing, but Zach is especially unhappy.

The assignment raises emotions in Zach and he isn’t sure why.








Author Mary Harelkin Bishop has been a teacher, a teacher-librarian, and an educational/ instructional consultant with Saskatoon Public Schools and spent more than half her career working in core neighbourhood schools. She is best known as the author of the bestselling Tunnels of Moose Jaw series of Juvenile/ Young Adult adventure books (which my company, DriverWorks Ink, is updating and republishing).


In 2014, Mary earned a Master of Education degree. Her thesis was titled "Soul-to-Soul Teaching: Deconstructing Dominant Thinking in the Classroom". She has mentored young writers and adults as they work on their writing and find their voices. Most recently, she has been involved in a writing project with seven schools within the umbrella of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. Working in classrooms on the seven reserves, she has helped teachers and students research and write about their history.

Mary feels strongly that three of her newest books – Gina’s Wheels, Mistasinîy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone, and Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather – are all Calls to Action toward the Reconciliation of all Canadians.

Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone received Honorable Mention in the Young Adult categories of both the 2017 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards in Michigan and in the 2017 Hollywood Book Festival which recognizes books that would make great films or movies. Gina’s Wheels and Skye Bird and the Eagle Feather have also won several awards, including Skye Bird being named one of the Best Books for Kids and Teens in 2018 by The Canadian Children's Book Centre.

Mary Harelkin Bishop will continue to write books for young people aimed at helping young readers, teachers and parents have conversations about the Calls to Action, Reconciliation and relationship-building within all of our communities.

DriverWorks Ink will continue to publish those books.

Order your copies today from http://www.driverworks.ca/shop.html


*****

Reader comments about Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone:

“A must-read book for all youth. This touching novel told from two youth perspectives of courage and hope, brings together a First Nations and non-First Nations family who demonstrate the true spirit of Reconciliation.”

 - Joanna Landry, Coordinator, First Nations, Inuit and Metis Education, Regina Catholic Schools

 

“I was ready to recommend this book to teachers even before it was published. I hope that it will impact the way teachers connect with Indigenous children.”

 - Amy Basaraba – FNIM (First Nation, Inuit and Métis) Consultant for Saskatoon Public Schools

 

“Teachers will read this and become better teachers. Kids will read it and become better friends. Parents will be better parents and neighbours will be better neighbours. Families are honoured.”

- Lorraine Chapman, Grade 3 teacher, Saskatoon, SK




Friday, March 12, 2021

A Family Connection or Just a Good Story

I meet the neatest people in the course of my work as a writer and book publisher.

A gentleman in British Columbia contacted me about a fascinating pilot I should interview for Volume 3 of the Flight book series about people involved in Canadian aviation.


I agree that this man's stories are fascinating and worthy of recording and publishing in my book series. But that's not the cool thing that happened today...

The gentleman I spoke with is Harry Driver. Yes. Driver. Same last name as mine. No relation to my family as far as I know.

Or is there?

Although we've never met and never spoken before, Harry joked that he says this about me: "At least we have one talented person in our family!"

I laughed and replied that I only joined the Driver family by marriage (45 years ago), but I will gladly accept his compliment.

Then Harry and I talked a little about our respective Driver family histories.

Harry's family story is one of three Driver brothers - Charlie, Art and Fred - who came to Canada from England. A fourth brother died in the war.

My late husband Al's grandfather also came to Canada from England. I joked that we might be related. I told Harry a story about how Al and I watched an episode of the TV show "Who Do You Think You Are" many years ago in which actress Minnie Driver was searching for her family's roots.

Near the end of that show, a photo popped up on the TV screen showing a man who was related to Minnie. My husband Al quickly stopped the TV recording we were watching and ran from the room. He came back in carrying a photo of what I swear was the same man - or perhaps a twin of the man on the TV screen! This man in the photo Al was holding was a relative of his grandfather, I think, but we were never able to corroborate that because Al's father had passed away and his mother was unable to verify the details.

Al and I mused about possibly being related to a celebrity and then carried on with our lives. We never got around to searching his family's genealogy.

After speaking with Harry Driver of B.C. about the gentleman he thinks I should interview - Doc Payne - I typed up a few notes about our conversation plus what we agreed were the next steps in the process of getting this story for Volume 3 or 4 of the Flight book.

As I was typing, it hit me - Art!

One of Harry's relatives was Art Driver! Al's grandfather was Arthur Driver!

I grabbed our children's baby books to find our family tree details. Arthur Driver of our family came from a different community in England - three hours north of when Harry's family originated. Is there a connection? Could they be from the same family? Or is it fluke? Or a coincidence? Or just a happy conversation about possibilities?

As a follow-up to our conversation, Harry kindly sent me a family history that one of his cousins compiled. His family's Arthur is not from my family's direct line, but their Arthur and his two brothers served in the First World War at Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele (Al's grandfather also served) and they all returned to homestead in Saskatchewan. A small world indeed.

After our conversation, Harry invited his family historian cousin to share some of her research with me.

I then received a detailed email from Harry's cousin Mary, who included some letters she received from Driver families in Saskatchewan whom she contacted in 1978 when researching her family's history.

Among them was a nice surprise - a letter in my late father-in-law's handwriting as he stated "I DO NOT KNOW IF WE ARE RELATED. THE ONLY INFORMATION I HAVE REGARDING MY ANCESTRY GOES BACK TO MY GRANDPARENTS." (Dad always wrote in beautifully sculpted capital letters.) He then relayed information about his family's background - which at first glance appears to not be from the same family tree, but Mary explained that "Driver" is a common name in England and if I can trace my husband's family back to a certain town in England, there is a possibility that we are relatives.

Mary then went on to tell me another connection to me or, more specifically, my work as an author and book publisher. Mary lived in southern Saskatchewan before moving to British Columbia. Her father's cousin is related to Graham Warner. "I am familiar with your book Never Leave Your Wingman and the story of Dionne's brave struggle with cancer. I was sorry to hear of her passing recently. What a legacy she left!"

It's been a wonderful series of communications that began with a possible story for the next volume of the Flight book and our conversations are only beginning. I'
ve invited myself to visit these Drivers in B.C. the next time I am in that region visiting my sister.

It seems fitting that the last word should go to my new friend and possible relative many times removed, Mary Driver, formerly of Saskatchewan: "It is a small world, isn't it?





Thursday, February 4, 2021

Sad news - Passing of 9-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner

Beautiful, extraordinary, fun-loving, nine-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner passed away on Monday, February 1, 2021. She was 55. Her husband, Graham, shared this eloquent obituary. It will come as no surprise to anyone who knew Dionne that she co-wrote her obituary with Graham, and she also made decisions about what her last day on Earth would look like.

Dionne Warner was a remarkable woman. Strong. Courageous. Inspiring.

Since her first cancer diagnosis in 1995, Dionne chose to be upbeat, positive, and grateful for every moment of every day. Through eight more diagnoses over the next 25 years, Dionne shared her hope, laughter, courage, and strength with thousands of people in Canada and around the world. With every new diagnosis, she gave herself 24 hours to say, "Why me?" and then she focused on "Why not me? And what am I going to do about it?"

Dionne Warner, Never Leave Your Wingman book subject
Dionne Warner went into her first chemotherapy treatment
for her Stage IV cancers dressed up and ready to fight, Dec. 17, 2009

I am honoured to have written and published part of her story - up to her seventh cancer diagnosis - in Never Leave Your Wingman - Dionne and Graham Warner's Story of Hope. This book is a book of hope, courage, laughter, and love. It will live on for generations, and I am very proud to have put it out into the world for all to enjoy.

Author Deana Driver with Dionne and Graham Warner at one of Dionne's chemo treatments, July 2010
Author Deana Driver with Dionne and Graham Warner at one of Dionne's chemo treatments, July 2010

Author Deana Driver with Dionne and Graham Warner at the book launch for Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner's Story of Hope, June 16, 2011
Author Deana Driver with Dionne and Graham Warner at the book launch
for Never Leave Your Wingman: Dionne and Graham Warner's Story of Hope, June 16, 2011

Dionne and Graham Warner dance into one of Dionne's chemo treatments, July 2011
Dionne and Graham Warner dance into one of Dionne's chemo treatments, July 2011

I will always cherish the many hours of sitting with Dionne at book signings and laughing and laughing - with each other and with folks who stopped to buy the book or just visit with us. Weird for a cancer story, I know, but that was Dionne's story and that's how we approached this adventure. Those 24 hours of feeling sorry for herself had long passed.


Dionne Warner and Deana Driver at a Never Leave Your Wingman book signing, Feb. 7, 2013
Dionne Warner and Deana Driver at a
Never Leave Your Wingman book signing, Feb. 7, 2013

Dionne Warner and author Deana Driver at a book signing, "Movember" 2016
Dionne Warner and author Deana Driver at a book signing, "Movember" 2016
Dionne's story has helped many people during their cancer battles. This includes my family as we lost my mother and then my husband to cancer. I shared Dionne's story with my mom while I was finishing writing the book in 2011, and Al quickly decided he would "fight like Dionne" when he was diagnosed in 2015. Many of us gained strength and courage from Dionne's story. Knowing her story took away some of the fear and brought us more peace on that path. I will forever be grateful to Dionne for showing us the way.

We all need hope. We all need love. We all need courage. We all need laughter. This was Dionne Warner to the core.

There is a moving poem about what cancer cannot do. It was read at my husband's memorial service and it applies again and again. Paraphrasing the pieces of one version that speaks to me today: "Cancer cannot cripple love... shatter hope... kill friendship... shut out memories... silence courage."


Cancer can never take away Dionne Warner's "Live your life to the fullest - No regrets!" mantra or the exuberant "Woo Hoo!' that marked her entrances and celebrations. It will never diminish the good work she did in raising funds for cancer research or in raising the spirits of thousands of cancer patients and their families. Many will remember that forever.

I extend my deepest condolences to Dionne's wingman, Graham, and their family and friends. Dionne was much loved and will be sorely missed.

Fly high and free, Angel D. Thank you for the light you shone in our lives. We will never forget you. We will continue to carry that light for you.

------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Buy the Never Leave Your Wingman book from DriverWorks Ink
Buy the e-book: KoboAmazon Kindle
----------------------------------------------------
An article in the Regina Leader-Post on Dionne Warner's passing
An article by CBC Saskatchewan on Dionne Warner's passing


----------------------------------------------------





Monday, February 1, 2021

A Funny Thing Happened at a Craft Show

I miss craft shows. Actually, I miss seeing real people with their faces visible, but that's another story.

I miss the busy craft show atmosphere of talking with all variety of folks and selling books to interested readers. Craft and trade shows on the Prairies have been part of my life every fall since 2009 when I published The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story by Alan J. Buick. That fall, the author and I and our spouses (Carol and Al) went on an epic author tour through parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta to launch this wonderful book about a Canadian soldier from Olds/Calgary and a Dutch girl who received his troop's wartime gift of a child's coat made from a Canadian Army blanket. 

The Little Coat is still one of our most popular titles - for good reason, including the fact that the coat is now an artifact in the Canadian War Museum thanks to Alan's writing efforts - and it launched us into the world of selling our books at trade shows and craft shows as well. We had a trade show booth at big events like Canadian Western Agribition for many years and we took our books on the road to various craft shows in all regions of Saskatchewan as well as southern Manitoba and Alberta. Fun stuff for sure.

The Little Coat: The Bob and Sue Elliott Story by Alan J. Buick

But people do say the darnedest things sometimes.

One of the funniest - or maybe strangest - moments that happened came during a show in a Saskatchewan town in November 2012. The craft show was held in a large gymnasium-like room and there was plenty of space for craft tables and for customers to wander among them. (Sigh. Did I mention that I miss people?) 

Anyway, I returned to the room after a short break and an older woman greeted me at the door. She called to her friend to follow her and they both walked behind me, following me for the entire length of the large room until I got to my table. They stopped in front of my table and waited until I sat down in my chair behind the table.

Then the woman picked up my Never Leave Your Wingman book - about fun-loving, inspiring, seven-time cancer survivor Dionne Warner and her wingman husband Graham - and held the bright pink book up for her friend to see.


"They say this is a really good book," the woman said to her friend.

Then she put the book down and they both walked away.

What... was... that? I wondered for a long, long time - when I wasn't laughing and shaking my head, that is.

She never did buy the book. Not that weekend anyway.


At another craft show - in a city this time - a woman came up to my booth and asked if she could buy "that big book." 

I was confused. All the books I publish are of a standard size - either 6 inches wide by 9 inches high or slightly smaller. I have published only a couple of books that are 8-1/2 inches by 11 inches, so I didn't understand what she was wanting. I asked her to repeat herself.

"I want to buy that big book. There!" she said as she pointed to the 12-inch by 18-inch poster of a book cover that was hanging on the booth wall behind me.

"Um... those are just posters of the book covers. The books are here," I said as gently as I could while I motioned to all the books covering the tables between us.


I don't remember if the woman ended up buying an "actual" book or not - I think she did - but I distinctly remember that she was not the only person who asked if they could buy one of the book posters. One other person inquired at a different trade show a few years later.

So maybe there's a market out there for oversized books. Hmmm...


As my publishing business grew and my display table of books by various authors expanded during the past 10 years, my routine of briefly introducing the books on my table became more complex. Sometimes the words that came out of my mouth were confusing for craft show visitors and for myself as well. (I'm better at writing than I am at talking.)  As I honed my publishing preferences to focus only on non-fiction books and other genres related to non-fiction, it became easier for me to describe the books on my craft show tables. At least that's what I thought was happening.

"Hello. These are all books I publish," I'd say. "They're all written by Saskatchewan and Prairie authors, including me. These ones are all true stories (as I pointed out the books), these are healing and wellness, these are children's fiction and non-fiction, and these are humour and cowboy poetry over here. They're all true stories or based on true stories."

It sounded simple enough to me but, then again, this is my business and I deal with these books daily, so it should sound understandable to the person who creates the books. Let me tell you, it definitely boggles the minds of some folks who wander up to my craft show tables. Usually, I can sort out their questions and help them understand whatever it is that they want to know about the awesome books written by awesome writers. (Shout out to my authors!)

But sometimes, nothing I say really matters.

I recall spending five or ten - or maybe it was a hundred - minutes one day talking to a man about the different books he appeared to be interested in on my craft show tables. He had asked about some of the story lines, whether this one was a Saskatchewan story or not, whether these people were still alive... and more. Then came the question that floored me.

"So, have you read any of them?" he asked.

Uh.... What?

"Yes," I replied, trying to keep him from seeing how astounded I was at his question. Hadn't I just told him about almost Every. Single. One. Of these books?

"I edited and published all of these books, so, yes, I've read every word in every one of them. Many times," I said.

The guy eventually walked away. I was glad to see him go. Sometimes you just can't help people.


The final memorable funny moment came when two young girls, about 10 years old, stopped at my booth one evening and began looking at the children's and young adult books. They picked up one kids' book and then another and began conversing with me.

And that's when my "I've read every word in every one of these books" line came back to haunt me.

One of the young smarty-pants girls picked up The Inquiring Reporter by Clay Stacey (a book that is still available as an e-book, by the way) and randomly opened it up. "Okay, I'm on page 68. The word starts with a p and ends with r. What is it?" the youngster brazenly asked as she looked straight at me.

"Publisher," I replied, without hesitating.

The little girl's eyes opened wide as she looked at her friend in shock. "Wow! She really does know every word in the books!"

She quickly put the book down and they almost ran as they left my booth.

I smiled.

Yes, of course I got lucky with "publisher", but it was a pretty easy guess. The book's author, Clay Stacey, was a publisher, editor, and reporter in all four Western provinces for 50 years - so "publisher" seemed like a reasonable option for a word that starts with p and ends with r - in a book about a publisher!

However, I am glad that she didn't look a little farther down the page and pick out the word starting with a u and ending with a y...

Unpredictability.


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Students learn about Reconciliation from Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone book by Mary Harelkin Bishop

Saskatoon author and educator Mary Harelkin Bishop wrote Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone with the hope that it would give readers of all ages a better idea of the concept of reconciliation - a path of respectfulness between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada.

It has been gratifying to see the book receive awards at the Purple Dragonfly Book Awards and Hollywood Book Awards, but the greatest gifts have come when students and teachers send messages about what they learned from reading this book.

Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone tells the story of Danny, who lives on a family farm homesteaded by his great-great-grandparents, and Zach, a Cree boy who lives in the nearby town. When their Grade 6 teacher assigns a Canadian heritage project in which students must write about their family histories, Danny is paired with Zach, the only Indigenous boy in the class. At first, Danny and Zach can’t seem to get along. Then Danny finds out that his great-great-grandmother’s journal talks of breaking the land and building and living in a sod house. She also tells of how the First Nations people in the area helped her save her infant son’s life by using traditional medicines when he was very sick. The more Danny digs into his family’s history, the more he realizes that his and Zach’s pasts are complicated and connected.

A Grade 5/6 classroom in Saskatoon recently read Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone and used a Literature Circles learning format. In images sent via a PowerPoint slideshow, the teacher shared with us what the class learned from this important book:

Students learned about Reconciliation from Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone book

Some of the valuable lessons the students learned from Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone by Mary Harelkin Bishop are:

  •        People can change.
  •          You should give everyone a second chance.
  •          Every child is different and has unique experiences.
  •          Everyone’s culture, race, and religion is valuable.
  •          Don’t judge someone based on their past.
  •          Everyone makes mistakes.
  •          We learned about marginalization and how it harmed Indigenous Peoples.
  •          It is important to learn about the true history of Canada, which has not always happened in Canadian schools.
  •          It is never too late to do the right thing.
  •          Reconciliation is learning to heal, learn and move forward together.
















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Thank you to the teacher and Grade 5/6 class for sending us their work and responses to this book. 

Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone has been called “a must-read book for all youth” and a book that will help teachers become better teachers, kids become better friends, parents become better parents, and neighbours become better neighbours.

The author, Mary Harelkin Bishop, is a retired teacher who spent much of her career working in core neighbourhood schools. She has also been a teacher-librarian. Most recently, she was an educational consultant with Saskatoon Tribal Council, with a focus on helping students research and write the history of their families and reserves, and their hopes for the future.

Mistasiniy: Buffalo Rubbing Stone is available from www.driverworks.ca
(ISBN 978-1-927570-32-6, Juvenile fiction, Ages 10 and up)  
Schools and libraries should contact DriverWorks Ink
directly for discounts on orders.