Tag Archives: Don Sawyer

Beyond the Cover: author reading on social justice

This past Saturday, at 7:30 pm, we (Midway Press, a division of Playfort Publishing) hosted an author reading at the SAGA Public Art Gallery in Salmon Arm, BC. Three authors each read from his or her latest published work. Although the story lines and contexts were different, each had a theme of social justice. The event, therefore, carried that exact theme: Social justice.

Three old friends (and authors) decided to get together to discuss a topic that each had recently written about: Social justice. Each spoke about a different aspect, with different stories: Don Sawyer about youth growing up in less than ideal situations, whether it be three native siblings taken from their mother and the reserve and put into separate foster homes, or a young boy witnessing his father die in a horrific car accident, or a teen girl being raped by her church minister in his young adult fiction book Running; Tom Wayman about the Afghan war and its absence and presence in Canadians’ everyday lives as citizens of a nation at war in his collection of poems Dirty Snow; and Carmen Rodriguez about three generations in a family affected by the 1973 military coup in Chile, and their flight to Canada as political refugees in her fictional take on true events in Retribution. Although each book is about something entirely different on the surface, they each speak to how social injustice affects everyone, whether or not they are even aware of it.

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Despite the dark (and I’m sure some of you are thinking depressing) overtones of the topic, each author injected humour into his or her book and the reading, along with something we all can relate to: Hope. It is truly amazing what human beings can overcome when given hope.

The discussion afterwards was lively and fascinating, with a range of points from educational matters in post-secondary institutions, such as leadership and politics, to communication barriers in this new technological world.

The authors signed and sold their books, each at a discount from the list price – even we got our hands on autographed books from Tom and Carmen!

We would like to thank Don Sawyer, Tom Wayman, and Carmen Rodriguez for allowing us to be a part of this enlightening event, as well as all the people who showed up, listened intently, asked questions and gave comments, and bought books from these authors. We couldn’t have done it without all of you!

The PFP team

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Fathers: family, love, and laughter – even when you’re away

The Lunch Bag Chronicles by Don Sawyer

One of the most difficult parts of being a parent who worked for periods overseas was the sadness I felt at leaving my two daughters behind in British Columbia.  Thankfully, they had (and have) a wonderful mother who would point to the moon at night and tell them that I was looking at the same moon way over in Africa, and then she would get out maps and talk about the countries I was in.  At night, they would count off the nights until I returned home.

Much of my work in Africa took place more than 25 years ago when my kids were small (Farish is turning 30 and Melissa is 36), and it was heart wrenching for all of us when I would get into the car and head to airport to fly to Ghana or The Gambia.  I loved my work, but I missed my daughters terribly, and I worried about losing touch with them when I was gone for weeks at a time.

Even when home, I had begun the practice of drawing and writing lunch bags for my kids to take to school.  Most were jokes, a picture drawn on one side with a question, the punch line on the back:

What do married snakes do after they’ve had a fight?

Hiss and make up!

Or (ghosts generally only appeared around Halloween)

Why did they put the ghost in jail?

Because he was haunting without a license!

But sometime the bags reflected events in the girls’ lives.  When Farish was going skating with her class, I drew a picture of her slipping with this helpful suggestion:

Have fun skating

But here’s some advice

Try to keep your bum

Off of the ice

And the day after Melissa was elected president of her elementary school, I sent this message to school with her:

We’re happy you won

And you’ll be good everyone says

But how long do we have to

Keep calling you prez?

I made the bags after the kids were in bed, and the process of finding or making up a joke just right for Melissa or Farish, edit it for the lunch bag format, come up with an illustration and colour it with the set of pencils the girls gave me for Father’s Day became a nightly ritual while they were in their mid-elementary years.  I was no illustrator, but I had a lot of fun drawing the pictures to go along with the jokes.  And I always got a smile out of it, thinking about the girls opening their lunch, laughing (or groaning!) at the joke and sharing them with their friends.

It took time, but the practice to me was a kind of meditation on my daughters: their interests, personality, sense of humour and the events that filled their days.  The whole process made me think about who they were, and how their lives were unfolding.

But things got more complicated when I was about to head over to Africa for a month or so (I was the director of my college’s International Development Centre and managed a number of development projects in West Africa).  By this time the lunch bags had become a fixture in the kids’ lives, so much so that they brought each one home after school and saved them in cardboard apple boxes (eventually we accumulated over 1,000 bags). So there was no way they were going to put up without bags for the duration of my trip.  That meant frantic lunch bag production, 20 or 25 at a time to be doled out while I was gone.

And they became a link between us as each bag reminded them that I was thinking of them and made them feel I was not really so far away.

Often the bags I drew and wrote for the day I left included messages about my upcoming trip:

Why did the little chocolate chip cookie cry?

And when I got back, I would sometimes make references to the places I’d been – and African jungle animals would often prowl the bags for a while:

What steps should you take if you are attacked by a lion?

After The Lunch Bag Chronicles (Playfort Publishing, 2010) was published, I discovered that there is a whole network of fathers who illustrate their kids’ lunch bags (who knew?), and I have had the privilege to share the book (and hundreds of bags that didn’t make it in – I figure I’m good for about 10 sequels) with kids and parents at readings and in classrooms.  From parents, I have heard over and over the ways they stayed in touch with their kids while at school – notes in their kids’ lunch boxes, photocopied poems taped to bags, bits of fatherly and motherly advice tucked in with a sandwich.

Whether 5,000 or five miles away, school is a time when our kids learn healthy life lessons and develop values and attitudes that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.  Knowing that their parents care about them and think about them enough to brighten their school day with a joke, note, or picture connecting them to their homes and parents is a reminder of how special they are and the importance of family, love, and laughter.

Don Sawyer

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Running crosses the finish line!

This book title has been giving me a lot of good blog post titles lately, eh? 😉 hehe. Well, good news folks! As you can probably gather from the title here, Running by Don Sawyer arrived on our doorstep today! A skid of boxes arrived at our door (the door at the bottom of the “steepest stairs in the world,” not the one at the top, unfortunately) and we quickly unwrapped it and started hauling those heavy boxes up the stairs and into our supply closet (our office is pretty small and we tend to run out of space easily). This time I did the honours of unboxing Running and here it is! I don’t think I will ever get bored of these days! Having the final product arrive all pristine and boxed up after months of hard work is such a thrill!

Congratulations to Don Sawyer on the most recent addition to your personally authored library! I have to say that I loved this book, and I’m not just saying that because I am biased—I know that this would have been a favourite of mine if it were around when I was in high school (before I had heard of Don or Playfort). It would make the perfect gift for any young adult or teen, boy or girl.

Running unboxing at Playfort Publishing

Running can be purchased from Playfort Publishing in paperback for $13.95, or in ebook (EPUB, PDF, or MOBI) for $8.95

Catch ya next time!


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