WordCity Literary Journal. 100 Thousand Poets for Change

Table of Contents

Letter From the Editor. Darcie Friesen Hossack

darcie friesen hossack

Welcome to WordCity Literary Journal’s September 2021 issue.

For this month’s theme, we joined the 100 Thousand Poets for Change movement, and sought works to shine light into dark places.

As ever, more brilliant writers and poets than we ever expect, came together with their poems and stories that, as a collection, make up an astonishing depth of insight. Even beyond the individual themes and accomplishments of these works, together they have become more than the sum of each individual, wonderfully crafted part.

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Fiction. Edited by Sylvia Petter

Our September fiction has stories from Canada, USA, UK, Uzbekistan, Japan and Egypt.

“Yours,” a short story by Bruce Meyer reflects on writing letters, postcards, and what their signoffs might reveal

“Yellow Fly”, a story by Niles Reddick where a yellow fly is a portent for social issues.

“The Woman Who Vanished into Thin Air” by Raine Geoghegan, an atmospheric story.

“Chin Chin Chan” an extract from Severance by Robert Olen Butler, last decapitation thoughts.

“High Tea” by Elliot Hudson, a satire on so-called civilisers?

“Father’s Pigeons” by Sherzod Artikov (Translated from Uzbek into English by Nigora Dedamirzayeva) – a gentle story about revisiting a father´s homeland.

“A Letter to My Readers” by Connie Woodring, but which letter and who is it from?

“The Beautiful One Has Come” by Suzanne Kamata is from a collection of the same name published by Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing (July 11, 2011). It is a “twin towers” story with a difference which takes us from Japan to Egypt.

And finally, a scoop – an English-language excerpt from the recently released Arabic-language novel, The Scorpion’s Whisper by Mohamed Tawfik ~ Sylvia Petter

 

Bruce Meyer

Author Photo Bruce Meyer

Yours

A salutation is gesture of sincere utterance that either says hello or offers a goodbye. The sign off defines a relationship. ‘Yours sincerely,’ is business-like, professional, cold, and objective. It offers no warmth. It leaves one with the feeling that what has come before was merely a transaction, a letter to the electric company stating payment is enclosed.

‘Yours truly,’ is even trickier. It suggests there is some faithful bond between the writer and the recipient, a lasting attachment of devotion that cannot be broken by goodbye, a kind à bientôt, until next time. The word truly carries the subtle suggestion that everything else that passed between two people was a lie, and that may have been the case. Relationships are deceptive.

People get hurt because they read meanings into things rather than from things. Jane’s Dear John letter to me was signed with a curt ‘Yours sincerely.’

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Niles M. Reddick

Niles M Reddick

Yellow Fly

We weren’t out of the car five minutes at our rented condo at Grayton Beach, Florida, just off highway 30A, when my teen daughter screamed she’d been bitten by a yellow fly, an annoying species that defied bug spray and had its habitat in inland water where it can’t be eradicated due to environmental restrictions.

“Damn, that hurt,” she said.

“You watch your mouth, young lady,” I said.

“Wonder where she gets it,” my wife said.

“Okay, that’s enough,” I said and told my son, “Get one of those luggage carts, so we don’t have to make but one trip.”

My son pulled the cart toward us with one hand, swatting with the other. I knew about yellow flies having grown up on a lake in Southern Georgia, where I’d learned the females sucked blood from a cross-like incision. It had to be one of the few representations of a cross that was evil.

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Raine Geoghegan

Raine Geoghegan

The Woman Who Vanished into Thin Air

Her red velvet dressing gown hanging on the back gate, the navy slippers abandoned on the wet grass and the blue tinted morning light, this is what I remember, will always remember about that day.

It’s been three years since Izzy disappeared. She simply vanished and I am left with a mind full of questions. Where did she go? Why did she take her dressing gown and slippers off?

In 2006 I found myself on a Tantric Sex seminar. I was asked to write an article for a new magazine called ‘Love Yourself, Love the World’. I was skint at the time and needed the money, anyway I met her there. She came up to me, introduced herself and said: ‘You’re new to this aren’t you?’

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Robert Olen Butler

Butler author photo

Chin Chin Chan 

student, beheaded by Chinese authorities for maintaining a romantic correspondence with an American girl he met while studying in the U.S.A., 1882

moon no longer a blossom a pearl a lantern in a lover’s door but a bodiless face, mine, in a train window, she on the platform trying not to look at me directly, as if she were there for someone else, and the train hurtles in the dark and I stare into the stars and not even a poet could find the moon in this sky not even Li Po in a boat with quill and ink in hand he searches this night sky and then looks at me from across the water and shrugs and I am the cicada, seventeen at last, my skin splits open

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Eliot Hudson

Eliot Hudson

High Tea

“I don’t see what all the fuss is about, Archibald. This truly is the best of all possible worlds; Africa is butter upon bacon!” Reginald inspected the feast by straining his frail arm to hoist pince-nez before his cloudy eye. The monocle shook as he mustered the strength to hold it atop his nose—though he could well enough discern the cornucopia of cream horns, canelés, and croquembouches before him; diverse game they’d slaughtered in the Savanna; various fruits which scientists in London were {at that very moment} bickering over to bestow a correct {Latin} name. Splendiferous puff-confections presented ever-so-elegantly upon porcelain plates carefully lugged across the ocean. Shining, glimmering glints of sterling basking in the African sun.

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Sherzod Artikov

Sherzod Artikov

Father’s pigeons

Translated from Uzbek into English by Nigora Dedamirzayeva

 

“This is the place that you told,” the driver said.

The taxi came to a halt near the edge of the road. I looked around from inside the car. The view – the edifice with two green cupolas and myriad pigeons around them appeared in front of me. Coming closer I found the yard full of pigeons which were eating birdseed scattered by people.

“Back in the day, it’s called « Pigeon cemetery»”, indicated the driver. “It’s become the shrine of a renowned holy man who lived in the city. The building at the corner used to be his praying room in the dim and distant past.

Plenty of people in front of that building were coming in and out turn by turn.

“Hundreds of people go on a pilgrimage every day,” he continued. “Here, people pray for the dead, patients for healing, childless couples for babies. They make imam* give the blessing and recite the Koran** asking for invocation. Walking in the yard they strew seeds and make a pilgrimage to the holy men’s grave.”

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Connie Woodring

Constance Woodring

A Letter to My Readers

I am a writer of short stories, novels, and poetry. No thanks to my husband, Frank, who hates the fact that I write. He made me quit college to marry him so I would never land my dream job of art critic at the New York Times. He put me in this mental asylum after I repeatedly tried to kill him with my grandmother’s silver cake knife that was always commanding, “Kill him now. Forget what I said yesterday.” I had every right to try to kill him for being abusive and for having an affair with Fern, his boss’ wife.

I have been writing a novel, Visiting Hours, ever since I got here 15 years ago. Frank is getting tired of me sending him notes on the book which I do because he only visits on holidays and special occasions like when he bought a new turquoise Studebaker. This is his most recent response to my note I sent last week:

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Suzanne Kamata

The Beautiful One Has Come

All night long I watch the planes crash into the twin towers.  And crash again.  The balls of fire, the plummeting bodies, the sudden sag of skyscrapers.  All night I watch the broadcasts from America on television and think of Nefertiti.

This is what I know of that Egyptian queen:  It is said that she was a princess from another land.  She was the wife of Akhenaten, and the mother of six daughters.  She and her husband started a new religion.  But then she suddenly disappeared from public record. 

Some scholars believe that she was banished, perhaps for defying Akhenaten in matters of religion.  She might have died.  All agree, however, that she was beautiful.  Drawings and statues attest to this.  And then there is her name.  Nefertiti: “the beautiful one has come.”

I know these things because of my sister, Reina.  She loved to talk about Nefertiti.  One might even say that she was obsessed.  In her room, there were piles of books: Sun Queen, Monarchs of Ancient Egypt, The Great Royal Wife.  And on and on.

Once, for a Halloween party, she copied Nefertiti’s distinctive headdress and lined her eyes with kohl.  She had large, double-lidded eyes, unlike my tiny narrow ones, and with her salon tan, I swear she belonged on a barge floating down the Nile.

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M.M. Tawfik

scorpion's cover 1

Novel excerpt from The Scorpion’s Whisper

The two girls sit cross legged on their small hassira, just before the azan calls the faithful to the sunset prayers. It’s their favorite hideout at the edge of the sandy cliff. Their isolated knoll, unnoticed from either plateau or valley, provides an imagined sanctuary for both girls and scorpions.

The sun’s glare has mellowed and the wide flat wadi is a mirage of paradise, lying there, just below their bare knees.

“Let us listen to the scorpions,” she says. For the first time, it is Gamila who begs Sondos to perform her trick. They’ve never found a suitable name for their secret game.

It is Sondos who has taught Gamila the wisdom inherent in all scorpions. Her wild cousin has of course, accumulated a wealth of knowledge and expertise reserved for the chosen few. After all, who else confers with the likes of cross-eyed Khadra who lies on her belly for hours conversing with the ants, or the old woman from Tolab who speaks in different voices and throws stones at the sneering boys, or Zakia whose back, it is whispered, is covered in reptilian scales? After some hesitation, Sondos acquiesces to Gamila’s request.

Sondos stands up and takes a few steps closer to the edge. Deliberately, she overturns a loose stone, uncovering a scorpion’s lair. With a practiced eye, she contemplates the three or four scorpions as, alarmed, they scatter in different directions with their tails menacingly high above their heads.

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Non-Fiction. Edited by Olga Stein

Paul Germano

Paul Germano WordCity pix

ALL SHOOK UP

Ring, ring, ring, ring. Roughly 44 years ago (August 16, 1977, to be exact), my landline rang and Nancy was on the other end. Nancy didn’t even bother to say hello. Instead she blurted out, “Elvis is dead.” I was, and still am, a big fan of Elvis Costello, so I immediately thought she meant my Elvis. When she clarified that it was Presley, not Costello, I felt slightly relieved, but still quite stunned and saddened. My brother Tony and sister Kathy, both roughly a decade older than me, were true-blue Elvis Presley fans, especially my brother who was a super fan. So growing up in the 1960s, I was exposed to Elvis Presley’s music as well as a plethora of singers and bands making names for themselves in Rock and Pop, as well as California Beach music. I had even earned the trust of my big brother and big sister, who willingly let me, their little kid brother, listen to their albums and 45s on my own, including Presley’s music, with the caveat that I handled the vinyl with care, which of course I did. By the time I was eight years old (in 1966—please, don’t do the math), I was already a diehard music fan and discovering a slew of my own rock stars to idolize. These are the blessings of having an older brother and older sister to show one the way.

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Books and Reviews. Edited by Geraldine Sinyuy

Gordon Phinn

GordonPhinnPhoto

Books Reviewed:

Glorious Birds, Heidi Greco (Anvil Press)
Freedom, Sebastian Junger (Harper Collins)
Letters in a Bruised Cosmos, Liz Howard (McClelland&Stewart)
Postcolonial Love Poem, Natalie Diaz (Graywolf Press)
Conjure, Rae Armantrout (Wesleyan University Press)
Norma Jeane Baker of Troy, Anne Carson (New Directions)

*

I am always pleased to see small presses venture out of their established playground and Vancouver’s Anvil Press’s Glorious Birds by Heidi Greco is just such a case, propelled by an appealing concision and unfussy conviviality. Subtitled A Celebratory Homage to Harold and Maude, it explores territories CanLit rarely reaches. Its author, Heidi Greco, turns out to be as fine a film critic as she is a poet and editor, and her dedication to the second golden age of American film, exemplified in Hal Ashby’s Harold and Maude, a surreal metaphysical romance if there ever was one, is to be itself celebrated.  One hopes she and Anvil will make time and space for more of the same.  And having attended many showings of the innovative works of that era in various repertory cinemas around Toronto back in the day, I can be described as one of the already converted.  Although the era and its output has been covered in a number of anthologies, documentaries and deep dive volumes (such as Richard LaGravanese and Ted Demme’s A Decade Under The Influence and Christopher Beaches’ The Films of Hal Ashby)), there is definitely room for a Canadian slant on what was basically a US phenomenon.  We see things differently here.

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The Other Life, by Patrick Connors. Reviewed by Darcie Friesen Hossack

Connors has a view not only into the human condition, but a self-awareness grounded in empathy and hope, allowing us to “feel an occasional surge of faith” along with him.

Connors’ faith is also evident as a thread woven through these selections. A quiet, enduring faith that guides both love and hope. Love for others, and a growing and hard-won love for himself, and a hope that the past, both his own and the one we carry collectively, is not binding. That a time will come “when love is the purpose of the rule of law.”

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Prayers for Aisha Lulu. Reviewed by Mourad Al Khatibi

Rokiah - prednjica ZA TISAK

Aisha Lulu,  a Palestinian girl, was five years old before she was kidnapped after  suffering  severely  with malignant disease, and before she saw Palestine completely liberated,  and established its independent state. Poetry has always been a victor for just human causes.

Voices from around the world united and contributed poetic texts in honor of the Palestinian child and Palestine through it and through poetry.

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Literary Spotlight with Sue Burge

Richard Lambert

Richard Lambert 2019

Do you think it’s easier for poets to move to prose, or vice versa?  What advice would you give those hoping to cross over?  What do you find most difficult, and most pleasurable, about writing in such a wide range of forms?

 

I’m not sure – for me, there are aspects of craft in both poetry and prose that take time to learn. My advice to people who want to cross over to a different form is simply give it a try. There are plenty of people who work in both poetry and prose. Why not? The most difficult thing for me about working in both forms is the time it takes to learn the craft that I need to write the piece I want to write – and the time it takes to immerse myself in that form. It’s time-consuming. The most pleasurable thing for me is that writing prose allows me to stay in an imagined world for longer; if I was just writing poetry, because I write lyric poetry, I don’t spend that long actually writing and being in that imagined space, and that creative act is something I enjoy immensely. So I like being able to move between both. 

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Writing Advice with Sue Burge

Sue Burge author photo

Spoken Word

 

LITERARY ADVICE – JOIN THE OPEN MIC/SPOKEN WORD SCENE AND IMPROVE YOUR WORDPOWER

I’ve been reading my poems at open mic events for around seven years.  It didn’t come easily at all.  I was somewhat taken aback as in my day job I could get up and lecture over two-hundred students on the first day of the semester with no qualms, but faced with a room full of twenty or so friendly poets my knees would literally knock together.  Poetry is so personal, it feels as if you are baring your soul, and you need a good organiser and a supportive open mic community to bolster you through the experience.  In the UK open mic slots are generally very short, one poem or two minutes, compared to longer slots at US events.  Many spoken word events welcome prose too.  Flash fiction works well in the time slots available and some events feature writers who read excerpts from their novels/short story collections.

So why do we put ourselves through this literary torture?  What are the advantages of these events?

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Poetry. Edited by Clara Burghelea
with Nancy Ndeke and Lori Roadhouse

Olga Stein

OLGA STEIN89

The Disappeared Poet 
(For all those courageous enough to stand up to tyranny, and for Mbizo Chirasha ) 


He is believed to have been killed by nationalist forces
in the midst of the civil war in _______.
She was last seen being removed from her home,
accused of incitement against ________,
a regime without tolerance for truth

So you know, I have become an obsessive collector
of scraps of news, grim signs and omens,
as well as voluble declarations of support, and
Internet links that lead me to volatile places,
and murky politics where dissidents sink out of sight.

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Marc di Saverio

MarkdiSaverio

ODE TO SERENA BUFALINO

O ether-breathing patron saint of those
whom Christ once called the least of all of us.
O master of turn-arounds in ones who face
the starless, moonless night of destinies
they'd salamander-hide like deformities --
O you who stand for those who fall as nameless
as the leaves -- you raise their integrities like suns
and make them monikered as certain stars,
your love conditionless as perfect stillness,
you sanctified with oil of olive trees

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Debra Black

Debra Black2

The Autumnal Series

 #1 
ten thousand joys and sorrows,
a single silver leaf
under the paperly sky.
beloved, befriended,
then gone, gone, gone.

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Mansour Noorbakhsh

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is canada-persia.jpg

The Torch That We Never Saw

(A prayer for Afghans and Afghanistan after brutal Taliban advance while American soldiers and diplomats are leaving Afghanistan.)

The water hit us like the hard rocks. The darkness engulfed us by the violent waves when we heard the boat breaking and we saw the light of the bullets towards our boat. The waves that we had never seen before and had not known how powerful they are to smash our weak body and the boards of our boat, had hit us. We had been taught the water is for liveliness. We were not familiar with the deadly waves,

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Dr. Rubeena Anjum

image.png

Histograms

histograms show city mounted on a graph 
stormy grey clouds perched on skyscrapers
pillars of isolation stand at 90 degrees
friendless patios braving bipolar weather 
elevators pass through the curtained glass 
 
penthouses to down below are inmates
barely talking, not even to themselves
towering flat-chest avenues, yawning
at night, quadrilateral lights watch
looming shadows befriending ghosts    
 
brown bags binned; tv screened black

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Raine Geoghegan

Raine

Kali Ma

Goddess of Transformation
Kali follows me home from Ireland
after an encounter on a Drama therapy course.
She sits in the middle of the wooden floor
with her many arms outstretched.
At times she is quiet,
sleeping with her three eyes open.
Red bangles and jewels fall around her waist;

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Connie T. Braun

Connie Braun

Every Heart

The maps have been redrawn and the roads
are filled again with refugees.

Have you not heard? 
Even the stones listen,

hold each footstep.
Heartbeats 

return to the earth, engraved

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Rhonda Melanson

Rhonda

How Do Rainbows Fall, exactly?

(In Memory of the Afzaal Family in London, Ontario)

When we contemplate 
the felling of rainbows

how they balloon
above boulevards

collapse in tragic layers

we fade 
to Kristellnacht by the traffic lights

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Chad Norman

Chad Norman

                          GRAND PRE

                           for Jack Sears


                           Standing beside
                           the statue
                           of Evangeline
                           I get
                           the meaning
                           of Expulsion,

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Elizabeth Poliner

Liz Poliner 2479 Color - Copy

The Right to Privacy
“We have had many controversies over these penumbral rights of ‘privacy and repose.’” 
Justice Douglas, Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479 (1965)

Winter, years ago, at a Washington D.C. gala—
  a celebration for a friend—and who else is there
    but Sandra Day O’Connor, swinging

with her husband on the dance floor.
  Her dress, black and belted, is knee-length,
    her hair, that bob we’ve come to know,

vestige of the fifties, when she was new to the law,
  among the first women graduates of Stanford.
    No one would hire her then. So forbidding

was her sex, so mysterious, we might liken her
  to Eve, 

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Monica Manolachi

On Reading Travel Documents

My full name means I am still alive.
This photograph means I’ve crossed a desert and a sea to get here. 
This date of birth means beginnings are usually scary.
This place of birth means fear is always looking for a nest.
This number is someone forced to abandon their home 
and wander from country to country in search of peace. 
My occupation as a software engineer 
means I wanted a modern job, to forget about the past.
This little box means my past is not a source of inspiration.
This dot means someone was killed by a bomb.

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Michał Choiński

Michal

Standing Like That

The stone is small and irregular.
It feels like a growth 
on the inside of the palm. 
The muscles flex as you clutch it.
Glimpsing sideways, you realize
that you probably don’t have the aim 
like the others. 
So, standing like that,
you just want to eject 
that thing you’re holding

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Ranjith Sivaraman

ranjith sivaraman

I have you only 

When my quaver meets
a premature death in my throat
When I curl up like a Chartreux
I have you only 

When my eyes meet
a deep sea of darkness in my nights
When I see no face with warmth
I have you only 

When my heart hangs
 like a beehive on an abandoned mesquite tree
 When I sink like an over ripe coffee cherry
 I have you only

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Bhuwan Thapaliya

bhuwanthapaliya

Sloshing sound of a flowing river

Through my window, 
filthy clouds of dust reel in 
from the graveled lanes
of an offended city.
It distorts my sights,
soaks my shirt with filth, 
churns my stomach 
and infuriates me all the time.
It is not just 
the denseness of the air 
or the stench of
the corporate garbage 
strewn over the streets
or the lethal chemical fertilizers
that have run off
into rivers and lakes
causing horrible, 
creepy blooms of algae.
It is in knowing the part
that I too have played 
in destroying the beautiful nature;

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Hillol Ray

Hillol Ray Photo 5142015

100 TPC* in “H-Ray Vision
	

 	Dawn of civilization opened up human vision
To portray their own intrinsic mind-
And an "internal sense" of aesthetics was born
That's still prevailing on present mankind.
Biogenetic influence in our culture 
Relates to the seed of beauty in our  brain-
Followed by ethical values, disappearing fast,
Like passengers in a locomotive train.

For our primitive forefathers, beauty of art
Started as a secured but hidden joy-
And kept it alive for the millenniums
To come, like a treasured toy.
They painted and carved their own bodies 
With the brushes, scalpels or blunt knives-
To extricate the beautiful form,
In the shapes of mountains or beehives.
Connection between realities and imaginations
Was established with a powerful mission-
And I as a part of 100 TPC visualize as I dwell
On next millennium with "H-Ray Vision".

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Published by darcie friesen hossack

Darcie Friesen Hossack is a graduate of the Humber School for Writers. Her short story collection, Mennonites Don’t Dance, was a runner-up for the Danuta Gleed Award, shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize and the Ontario Library Association's Forest of Reading Evergreen Award for Adult Fiction. Citing irreverence, the book was banned by the LaCrete Public Library in Northern Alberta. Having mentored with Giller finalists Sandra Birdsell (The Russlander) and Gail Anderson Dargatz (Spawning Grounds, The Cure for Death by Lightening), Darcie is now completing her first novel where, for a family with a Seventh-day Adventist father and a Mennonite mother, the End Times are just around the corner. Darcie is also a four time judge of the Whistler Independent Book Awards, and a career food writer. She lives in Northern Alberta, Canada, with her husband, international award-winning chef, Dean Hossack.

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