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Melville, Musings and “Moving Parts”: Lana Pesch (nee Starchuk) discusses her first collection of short stories.

The Melville Advance, October 30, 2015


TW: Where are you from?

LP: I was born and raised in Melville, the smallest city in Saskatchewan. My parents were elementary school teachers and my dad, who passed away 3 years go, was a principal. They knew everybody.


TW: Do you incorporate Melville into your stories?


I never got too specific with it. There’s a city description of Main Street City Hall in Natural Life. I used the images and recollection from Melville but set it in Weyburn.


Would you say the characters you write about are based on the characters you grew up with?


Character traits, yes. There’s no one person but there’s traits from everybody, from all parts of my life that forms bits of people in the characters for sure.


TW: How does being from Saskatchewan inspire your writing?


LP: I’m not sure if it’s a general trait of people from the Prairies, or from my father, but there’s a real openness and curiosity; everybody talks to everybody. I’m not sure if the spaciousness or curiosity inspires the talking. Physically and literally, the sky is so vast, there’s so much emptiness – maybe it’s a trick of the light, or a trick of the brain that leaves you wondering, “what if?”


TW: Did you always want to be a writer?


LP: To some extent. I’ve written for work and theatre and I’ve always liked that. My first 5-page publication was in grade school, “A Christmas on Mars” December 2, 1983. It’s dedicated to the Space Centre (laughs). In Montreal, I’d write plays that I’d act in for theatre school. I liked telling a story. After some encouraging pre-internet reviews, I thought writing might be something to work at. But I didn’t start to take it seriously until 2008. I wanted to write this novel. I had a great idea, sketched it out and tried writing it but it got stuck. Then I took Sarah Selecky’s class, which led to more classes, institutions, and writing. I eventually took her ten stories and she felt it was a collection. We honed them down to a proper manuscript for Banff’s writing program. Banff is where I finished it.


TW: Why Banff?


LP: I was always growing and developing my voice as a writer but in Banff, when I read my character, Yvonne’s, letter aloud to my teacher, ZsuZsi Gartner, it became crystal clear that this was how I should be writing. I was concerned my writing sounded repetitive and Zsuzsi said, “Who cares? Don’t you think Alice Munro sounds all the same? Margaret Atwood’s? Get over it. Write.” That helped.


TW: Describe your writing, and writing you like


LP: I’m not sugarcoating anything. I’m not shying away from difficult subjects that I don’t know anything about. I like to read really forceful, confident writing where the author is in control of their words and I am engaged and okay reading uncomfortable subject matter.


TW: What inspires your stories?


LP: Everything. I draw from the absurd.  One story was inspired by an article in the Edmonton Journal about a man who asked his best friend to kill him because he was in love with his girlfriend. Another was inspired by a cross-country adventure I took. The blind date story was inspired by my friend’s first date with her husband when they met at the wrong subway station, not a restaurant like in the story.


TW: You credit “in memory of Jane Heller” – who is she?


LP: Jane’s a wonderful person who I wanted to photograph my cover art. She passed away last summer so we chose photographs from her archives that conveyed “falling, movement, crashing, in flux”. The cover also visually recalls Annie Proulx’s “Bad Dirt,” which I like.


TW: What does it mean to be human to you?


LP: Primarily, that we are flawed. Our failures, what is learned by failing and learning from it, and being curious about everything; questioning things. People see failing or making mistakes as a bad thing but I say, “Let’s see what happens.” As long as we learn something from mistakes, then they are good.  The road to publication is the same.


Toronto Life "Pros & Cons"
Letter to the Editor, March 2015


I just finished Courtney Shea’s article, “The Yorkville Swindler” and was reminded of a man named Robert Robertson (not much creativity in the name, sadly), who conned a friend out of $400,000 from 2001-2003. This sum pales in comparison to the victims of Rosenberg, as well as the retirement earnings Robertson later conned out of BC residents in 2004 and whatever amounts he may be talking people out of now – be it in Belize, where he was last spotted in 2012, or in some new playground. I met Robertson countless times. I was not as naïve as my friend and honestly felt Robertson was funneling all of his scammed earnings up his nose. While staying with my friend, Robertson would frequently get up from the dinner table to use the washroom and return much jumpier and more talkative. With me, he only ever answered questions vaguely. I have no idea what drives these individuals: a compulsive narcissism? Or addiction to money, power or delusion? These conmen remind me of smooth talking salesmen - they definitely share the gift of gab and possess a magnetism that lures a person in. I am confounded at what drives these individuals who lack empathy and compassion for their victims and I feel sorry for those who fall prey to their charms. At least Rosenberg landed behind bars but it’s unsettling that he’s tutoring fellow inmates and will be released again. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. 

Talia Mae, Toronto ON

Enchanting Cartagena + The Caribbean Coast



Cartagena de Indias is indisputably the jewel of the Caribbean. Known as Colombia’s fortified UNESCO port-city, Cartagena is romantic, enchanting and magical.


At any hour of the day be swept away by the Old Town’s maze of cobble-stoned streets filled with vibrant 400-year old houses drenched in cascading bougainvillea’s. Around the corner, be mesmerized by sparkling emerald-encrusted jewelry and sleek leather goods.


Escape to the New Town (Ciudad Nueva) where luxury condominiums are overtaken by blaring cumbia and salsa bands until the wee hours of the morning in Castillogrande, Lagito and Bocagrande, Cartagena’s Miami Beach. Window-shop and sip fresh Colombian coffee among the chic hip cartagenos in trendy open-air cafes by day and return for exquisite five-star dining at night.


Then be whisked away on a private one-hour boat ride to the clear waters of Islas del Rosario, where coral reefs sway and delight, or Isla de Barú, where white-sand beaches and palm trees encourage the perfect getaway and recharge after an entrancing visit in Cartagena. 


Colombia's Lush Coffee Region


Verdant green mountains, towering 70-meter wax palm trees, bright red Arabica coffee beans and dazzling array of tropical flowers are a small taste of what makes Colombia’s sumptuous Coffee Region so special. Here you can drink in the comforts of boutique fincas (farms) and eco-luxury haciendas amidst cooler temperatures and a higher altitude. This exquisitely vast 350,000-hectare UNESCO World Heritage Site is marked by the three main cities: Pereira, Armenia and Manizales.


In Periera, take in the luxurious Botanical Gardens, enjoy a thrilling water-based sport along the Rio Barragan, saunter by horseback through Santa Emilia’s lush national park and nature reserve, and relax in the thermal baths at Santa Rosa de Cabal.  At night, enjoy the region’s best nightlife.


Wonder at the Quimbaya tribe’s archaeological artifacts in Armenia’s award-winning architectural museum masterpiece before idling in the surrounding beautiful gardens. Discover the highly bio-diverse Otun-Quimbaya reserve, which spans 489 hectares and is home to howler monkeys and over 300 species of birds!


Manizales boasts exquisite baroque-style architecture of the stunning Governor’s Palace, the towering Bolivar Condor monument and majestic Basilica de Manizales Cathedral located in the heart of Manizales, the central Bolivar Square. Feast on dizzying panoramic views, a restored railway station and the stunning Los Yaruma ecological park.



Medellin - A Cultural Gem + Renaissance


Medellín is hailed as the most innovative city of the world. Since shedding it’s heavy and outdated nickname as “the most dangerous city in the world,” the City of Eternal Spring has flourished into a much wealthier, safer and hip city.


Medellín is Colombia’s liveliest and most creative city centre! Float through Colombia’s second largest city’s dramatic skyline of rugged Andean peaks, tall skyscrapers, and ancient cathedrals on the modern metro-rail or new cable-car network. Take in Medellín’s fashion-forward boutiques and try on original apparel from the city’s annual fashion show, Colombiamoda. Marvel at the city’s colorful array of gorgeous fresh cut flowers, dizzying textiles, and Botero sculptures dotting the dazzling city plazas and award-winning art galleries of this Antioquian city. Walk barefoot in the Zen Parque de los Pies Descalzos (Barefoot Park). Enjoy the stylish middle-class neighborhood of El Poblado. Partake in a mesmerizing tour of Comuna 13, a historical neighborhood that was the original recruiting grounds for Pablo Escobar.


Bask in Medellín’s year-round summery climate, nearby forests and bird reserves. Enjoy less pollution, thanks to the novel eco-árbol, a tall, hi-tech tree-like structure that purifies 22,000 cubic metres of air every hour by removing carbon dioxide and traffic toxins. Attend one of the many festivals and understand firsthand why this valley-nestled city is a more desirable destination for upscale travel. Don’t delay. Experience Medellín’s magic today!

INSTANT RUSH: An Online Lifestyle Magazine

September 2007 PREMIERE ISSUE


Nutrition on the Go

By: Talia Wooldridge


Did you know that...


Eating a green apple can boost alertness mid-morning more effectively than a coffee?


Having a blend of proteins and greens will give you energy until your next main meal and balance low blood sugar? The same goes for choosing whole fruits and cut vegetables, whole grains and non-processed foods over packaged goods. You can buy pre-packaged hummus and veggie snacks, or make your own!


Yogurts that are sweetened with corn syrup, aspartame or sucralose-based sweeteners build up in the body and cause internal stress over the long run and, some conclude, are linked to cancer? Further any sugars leech calcium from our bones, contradicting any nutritional benefits found in yogurt.


Fruit juice (ideally not from concentrate) and carbonated water is a great energy elixir and terrific replacement for sugary sodas. New on the rise is the Iranian doogh - carbonated or flat water with plain yogurt and mint! Carbonation can stave off hunger pains, but be sure to drink flat water as some carbonated water can dehydrate your body. Plus, cutting juice with water reduces caloric and sugar intake if this is a concern for you.


Flat, room-temperature water (or hot water) with a pinch of sea salt hydrates the body faster than a straight glass of juice or water!


BONUS: Add lemon, orange or cucumber slices and mint to water to help ease the shorter days during autumn and winter. It may also reduce carbohydrate cravings, associated with sun deprivation and the winter blues.


Desk Fitness


It might seem impossible to complete an exercise regimen while working a 60-hour work week – but here are a few tips on how to integrate physical activity into your busy week!


  • Choose 2 or 3 target areas: such as arms, legs, stomach. Set your alarm twenty minutes earlier than normal.  This will allow you to do a few sets of crunches, lunges and push-ups to work on your target areas.  Not only will you create firmer muscles in one month, but you will also have increased energy and mental clarity for your day. Just ten minutes of crunches can reduce food cravings and prevent back and shoulder pain!


  • Check out for a quick 15-minute desk workout with these on-line You-Tube generated videos. You can also check out The Alberta Centre for Active Living’s @ work videos, Yoga @ Your Desk and Stretching @ Your Desk.


  • The ten-minute exercise rule: If you can get your heart pumping for just 10 minutes 2-4 times a week, your cardiovascular system, circulation, digestion, metabolism and state of mind will thank you for it. The ten-minute rule is easy to stick to and you can do it anywhere. It will also inspire you to keep exercising for longer.  This rule can be applied to any normal daily task like running errands or cleaning house.  Take the stairs, dance around the kitchen, speed-walk while shopping!  Your body and self-confidence will thank you for it.


  • For all women: Weight-bearing exercise is incredibly important.  It is key for preventing osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease and premature aging.  It isn’t necessary for you to lift weights at the gym to receive these benefits.  All kinds of activities such as carrying books or hauling heavy shopping bags can contribute to strength training.  So the next time you take a trip to the grocery store – choose to carry out your bags rather then taking a cart or driving up!


  • Head to a local sports store and purchase a pair of lightweight runners, such as Rockport's WASHABLE suede/mesh walking shoes. They come in a stylish array of colours.  Carrying these lightweight shoes with you will allow you to execute bursts of exercise throughout your day without causing any discomfort of injury.  Taking the stairs or a spontaneous lunchtime walk will be a pleasant experience, as will walking home a few stops early from the bus stop.


Remember! Every minute you spend on yourself will add up to better overall health!


Toronto Star
Why take a risk on nuclear power?
Letter, Apr. 25, 2006
Talia Wooldridge
Mark Winfield’s letter (Worst of all possible worlds, April 21) is not nearly as misleading as the advertising campaign propagating nuclear energy as “clean, clear,” reliable and safe.
Nor is it as deceptive as Canadian Nuclear Association Director Colin Hunt’s disingenuous claim that it is impossible for an accident similar to that which happened at Chornobyl to occur in any reactor in Canada.
The Pickering nuclear station is closer to more people than any other nuclear plant in the world. It is Canada’s oldest nuclear station and is the only nuclear plant in the Western world without a secondary shutdown system.
While I don’t doubt that Pickering’s CANDU nuclear reactor may be safer than Chornobyl’s Russian-made RBNK reactor, I think it is irresponsible to claim that a nuclear accident cannot happen here.
The relevant question is why are we taking an unnecessary risk when we have the opportunity to invest in cleaner, safer alternatives?
Germany, Spain and Belgium are all phasing out their nuclear stations.
Given it is the taxpayers’ money and health at stake, shouldn’t the McGuinty government let Ontarians decide on which method of generating electricity to spend their money on?
It’s a safe bet that Ontarians wouldn’t choose nuclear.
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