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A tale of two lesbian arm-wrestlers

Lana Pesch’s new book featured at Toronto’s 2015 Word On The Street Fest

Lana Pesch’s new book, Moving Parts, is a collection of nine short stories, two of which prominently feature lesbian characters. She’ll be reading parts from the book at Toronto’s 2015 Word On The Street Festival. Credit: Lindsay O'Neil

On a recent trip to Montreal, writer Lana Pesch performed 10 group-formation skydiving jumps out of two planes from altitudes of up to 5,000 metres. It’s that kind of fearlessness and ambition that colours her vivid, lucid and relentlessly engaging writing. Her new book, Moving Parts, is a collection of nine short stories, two of which prominently feature lesbian characters. In “Faster Miles An Hour” we see the protagonist have her first kiss with a woman in a dive bar in Florida before meeting a group of chic lesbian arm-wrestlers. The ninth and final piece, “Landing Area,” is a poignant, gut-wrenching meditation on loss that would be impossible to detail without spoiling.  

Pesch will be reading from Moving Parts as part of The Word On The Street’s Great Books Marquee — a program featuring the most buzzed about and anticipated books of the year. Daily Xtra spoke with Pesch about her new book, how she dressed her lesbian arm-wrestlers and what inspired her to write from a queer perspective.

Daily Xtra: Is this Angie’s first time kissing another woman in “Faster Miles An Hour?” How did the lesbian arm-wrestlers come about? 

Lana Pesch: I took a class a year ago and a classmate, Jess Grant, also a talented improviser, had written a scene about a group of lesbian competitive arm-wrestlers and the image has stayed with me.  I’m still in touch with Jess and she will be reading an excerpt from this story at my book launch in October. I think it will be a nice tribute since I stole, or rather used, her idea.

The fashion, how the arm wrestlers are attired, is so vivid: the clear clogs, the fishnets. What was your thinking when dressing these characters? 

The weirder, the better. And I must credit Sarah Selecky here. She is a big proponent of writing specific detail. So I imagined what these women might look like and let them wear what they needed to wear, props and all. They came alive as I was writing them.

What was your inspiration for Steph and Colleen in “Landing Area?”

Steph came first. The whole story is really two stories, Steph’s story and Colleen’s story, that meet. Steph needed something, or someone, to leave behind, so I thought about a breakup. I wanted to make it more interesting so I made them lesbians. I don’t often write from a queer perspective, and the thing here is that their sexuality is not what the story is about. It’s about relationships endings — gay, straight, bi, friends, whatever. It’s always difficult when two people who love each other have to split up, even it’s for the better. There was something good there, that’s gone. Bittersweet.

What motivates you to include, or write about, queer characters in your work? 

For me it’s not so much about pointing out the queer factor as it is making the queerness a regular factor. I have gay friends, and I don’t identify them as queer, but as people. My characters are people first, queer second. I like including different perspectives, be they gay, straight, old, young, male, female, rural, urban. Spices things up, I think.

How did Moving Parts come about?

I’ve been writing for a long time in various capacities: plays, screenplays, short film scripts, a couple of radio projects. But I started taking short story writing seriously in 2008 when I met Sarah Selecky. Through her classes I developed a few stories. Then I used contests as deadlines, as a way to generate new material. There were more classes and more practice and the stories started to add up. When I asked Sarah’s advice she said, “It’s a collection.” I completed the manuscript in the Banff Wired Writing Studio in 2014 and now it’s a book. Still feels a little surreal, but it did take a while. And yes, a few pieces were left in the cutting room floor, for length purposes. Maybe you’ll see them one day.

What is your involvement with this year’s The Word On The Street Festival? 

I’m thrilled to be reading at The Word On The Street in the Great Books Marquee program. It’s a great festival that I like to attend as both writer and reader. And I feel honoured and privileged to be asked to attend as an author. The invite came through the marketing manager, Cynara Geissler, at my publisher, Arsenal Pulp Press.

What is next for you? Do you have any other writing projects planned?  

There’s a novel in the works that stems from one of the stories in Moving Parts. That’s all I’m going to say about that, for now. And there will be more short stories because I don’t know how to stop. The ideas have to go somewhere.