Ryder Wrong

ryder wrong profile 02

© Marc Henwood Photography

Unless they’re showing Razor Girls colours, Ryder Wrong loves punishing jammers and blockers on the derby track. But what’s she doing when not skating? Her name comes up so often that it seems everyone already knows: she runs her independent shop (Heartbreak Boutique) in Saint John, adores the rockabilly community, and proudly fields questions from friends and new faces about (of course) roller derby.

Although Ryder & I went to the same high school and university, I never had the pleasure of connecting with her until now. So, saddle up for Ryder Wrong!

Pepe LePunch: You’ve been with Fog City Rollers since its beginning in 2010. How did you get into the grand world of derby?

Ryder Wrong: I wish I had some awesome, epic story for you but, honestly, I just happened to meet Sarah [Darla Derringer] and Bry [Susie Skinner], the founders, at a bar one night shortly before it all got started and they told me they were going to start derby here and I was all, “Frig yes! I’m in!!” And then I worked up the courage to show up for that fateful first “practice” at the skate park and that was it – I was all in!

PLP: What athletics had you done before derby?

RW: For all intents and purposes, none. I mean, I played sports in gym class and joined the rugby team for about five minutes in high school (really, I think I played one game). Other than that I just did stuff on my own at the gym, so this whole “sports team” thing was totally foreign to me. And, honestly, now that I’ve experienced it I regret not getting involved when I was younger. The sense of comradery is such a confidence booster – that feeling of belonging, that feeling of being part of something. I think it’s really important and could be so helpful at a younger age. But better late than never, right?

PLP: Yes, some people never get the fortune of experiencing it. However, many people have experienced being bruised badly by you. What do you feel is most satisfying about being a blocker?

RW: Getting a really solid, clean hit. When the timing and the angle and the power you get behind it all aligns, and you shake your opponent’s soul, that feels fantastic! Also, when, as a team, a play works out perfectly, when you keep the jammer back lap after lap, that’s pretty darn satisfying, too!

ryder wrong jammer block

Holding back a rival jammer // © Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: How far have you travelled for a game?

RW: Newfoundland is the farthest I’ve traveled for derby so far, which was one of my top favourite derby moments. I grew up in St. John’s, NF, so it was awesome to get to go back to visit AND play derby. It was like my past and my present colliding, and it was fantastic! And the 709 Girls [Newfoundland & Labrador’s first league] are awesome! Aside from that, I’ve only travelled within the Maritimes.

PLP: Because of your business, Heartbreak Boutique?

RW: With the shop, I have been pretty limited to how much and often I can travel. I am my only employee so I’m here six days a week. Next season, though, I am hoping to be able to travel more. Possibly check out some training camps. There are a lot of our girls, like Hammer Slammer & Alien She, who have travelled all over Canada and the US for training camps and have brought back oodles of awesome plays and training info for us!

PLP: R.I.P. Razor Girls and Scarlet Swam: Fog City has a new format for its teams next year. What’s your place in it?

RW: I will be starting the season on our newly formed (and yet to be named) ‘B’ Team and will be chartered on the ‘A’ Team, so if they need an extra player I could be “called up” for a game. I am also hoping to become a new member of our board of directors. [She was elected the week after this Q&A.] I am excited for this new evolution in our league and want to help move us forward in this new structure.

ryder wrong razor girls team

Razor Girls 2013 // © Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: When I asked Voodoo Mc Q who helped Pictou County start its league, she included you in her list. She said you advised on meetings, practices, gear and safety, and added that you’re “smart and supportive and caring.” Why do you invest so much time in the derby community?

Ryder Wrong with Highland Derby Dolls' Voodoo Mc Q

Ryder Wrong with Highland Derby Dolls’ Voodoo Mc Q

RW: Because the people in the community are amazing and they have been so awesome and supportive right back, which I am incredibly thankful for! I have gotten SO much from derby and I want to see it continue to grow so that other women (and men) can have that same experience.

By the way, Voodoo Mc Q is one of my very favourite people I have met through derby and I am so excited about what they’ve accomplished. When we started here in Saint John, it was hard to imagine derby being played in places so much smaller because of the hurdles we had to deal with in a city our size. They’ve done an awesome job with training and running Highland Derby Dolls. I hope they are super proud.

PLP: You own and operate Heartbreak Boutique in uptown Saint John. How do you describe it to people who haven’t been in? Would “pinup fashion” be accurate?

RW: Pinup fashion would absolutely be accurate. My tagline is “Where Classic Meets Quirky” because on the boutique side (the shop is about 50/50 pinup clothing and derby gear) I have very classic vintage-inspired pieces, but then right next to that I have a dress with wiener dogs all over it! It’s funny because sometimes people get confused and think the entire shop is for roller derby and they ask, “Do you wear this to play?” and hold up a pencil skirt. Or they think they aren’t “allowed” to wear the clothes because they don’t play.

PLP: How do you politely help a customer who isn’t so knowledgeable about her style? Like, say I’m a woman and just walked into your store: I’m wearing leggings as pants and a loose fitting top – TUCKED IN. And I don’t have a belt. (Obviously.) How do you save me? Go!

RW: HAHAHA!! This might be the best question ever! If someone a little “fashion challenged” comes into the shop, I usually let them look around and try a few things on for themselves, and if I feel like they need (and are open to) a little guidance, I’ll ask if they’d like some suggestions. It’s usually a matter of women not knowing how to dress their particular shape. It’s one of my very favourite things about my job when a woman comes out of the change room KNOWING she looks fantastic. You can see it all over her face. And it’s usually accompanied with a little twirl.

© Alicia Robichaud Photography

Heartbreak Boutique // © Alicia Robichaud Photography

PLP: Before you get to that level of customer service, you need to get your doors open, of course. For friends with a business idea, what should they first do to move from concept to reality?

RW: I truly believe your first move should be talking to other entrepreneurs. They are typically very generous with their knowledge, tips and stories of what not to do! Also, they are fantastic people to bounce ideas off of.

I would also suggest looking into what resources your town/city has. I was super fortunate to be able to take advantage of a program called Enterprising Women through the Saint John Community Loan Fund that covered pretty much everything you need to know when you are looking to start a new business. Enterprise Saint John has been an excellent resource for me, as well.

PLP: An upside is that your sales extend to the derby world, right? Mollie Kill’her Watts [of Fredericton’s Capital City Rollers] said you’re fantastic about the orders and you keep in touch with customers.

RW: Oh, that’s so sweet of her! I am always happy to share any info that might be useful or helpful to customers, especially for derby gear. It can all be pretty overwhelming to new girls so I like to break it down for them and will help them pick what’s right for them. It’s great to have a chance to meet the new batch of girls starting up in our area. They are always so enthusiastic. It’s totally contagious. I love it!  

Also, it can be difficult to keep up on the new gear, even for experienced skaters, so I do my best to keep up on new goodies so that I can help them get the most bang for their buck. I’m not about the upsell; I want to make sure my customers leave the shop feeling like they got what they needed and understood WHY it was the best option for them.

© David Hodges Photography

© David Hodges Photography

PLP: What are your best-selling derby items? Booty shorts? I’m guessing booty shorts.

RW: Nope, not booty shorts, but good guess! I’d say toe stops, wheels, bearings – the stuff that needs to be replaced and/or upgraded on a pretty regular basis.

PLP: I hear your name sometimes accompanied by “she and her husband are rockabilly!” So, I think of a swing beat and Buddy Holly and Eddie Cochran. But what do people mean when they say you’re “rockabilly”?

RW: Well yeah, I guess we are pretty “rockabilly.” We kind of look like your stereotypical “rockabilly couple”: he has the slicked-back “greaser” hair, black tee and jeans uniform pretty down pat, and I am usually sporting a ‘50s style dress and pinup-style hair.

We’re also really into rockabilly music (Elvis Presley, Eddie Cochran, Jean Vincent, the Stray Cats – and J.D. McPherson, for something a little more current) and we attend a lot of rockabilly festivals, like Viva Las Vegas and the Maritime Rockabilly Shakedown (MaRS) in Amherst, so I guess that’s what they mean.

Also, my derby name is after a Wanda Jackson song (who’s the queen of rockabilly) called “Right or Wrong.”

PLP: In Japan, I’ve seen the rockabilly guys dancing in Yoyogi Park (near Harajuku). What do rockabilly hounds do for fun in Atlantic Canada?

RW: Your questions are the best! The rockabilly scene in Atlantic Canada has definitely grown over the last few years, so it seems like there are lots of opportunities to check out all kinds of great music. Like, I just mentioned MaRS is a really fantastic festival that has a ton of local rockabilly bands like the Shakedown Combo (also the organizers), Whiskey Kisses (from Halifax), Memphis Knights (also from Halifax) and the Royal Tones (from Moncton). There was also a festival in Halifax this past year called the Rockabilly Riot that we unfortunately couldn’t attend, but I heard great things about it.

It’s exciting to see the community growing; just like derby, it’s very grassroots, underground – whatever you want to call it – so everyone is working towards the same thing and wants to help each other. It’s good to see.

PLP: Along this line of rockabilly and derby: like so many in the derby world you wear tattoos, and one of yours has a rockabilly hook. Can you tell about your “Fearless Hearts” inking?

RW: I know people are always advising against matching tattoos, or putting your significant other’s name on your body, but we said to hell with both of those things! My “Fearless Hearts” tattoo is one of a matching set; the other is on my husband’s chest. It’s after “our song” by Steve Earle, “Fearless Heart.” It just kind of spoke to us when we first started our relationship.

PLP: Thanks so much for your time in this busy business season, Ryder Wrong. Here’s your 5 in 25 and then you can return to curing the world of leggings.

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5 Answers ≤ 25 words.

PLP: (#1) What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

RW: I used to be very shy. I hid behind my hair until I graduated high school. Hard to believe, I know!

PLP: (#2) What is a peeve of yours?

RW: Bad customer service. And when I find the Brita in the fridge empty. Infuriating!

PLP: (#3) If someone was looking for a vacation destination, where would you recommend?

RW: Newfoundland: it’s one of the most beautiful, friendly and original places you’ll ever visit.

PLP: (#4) What’s a favourite song or album?

RW: I’m listening to one right now! American Slang by Gaslight Anthem.

PLP: (#5) Do you have a favourite website or magazine?

RW: National Geographic because our world is incredible and so beautiful and mind-blowing. I’ve always said being an NG photographer would be my dream job.

ryder wrong & steve earle

Ryder Wrong with Steve Earle

– December 19, 2013

• • •

Follow this blog! Enter your email on the left sidebar.

Visit Peter’s education blog: http://mrpetercullen.com.

Who should be featured next? Let Peter know at contact@petercullen.ca.

Voodoo McQ

profileHow do you get a roller derby league going, especially when you and your friends have never even played before? VooDoo McQ worked through this as she helped develop Highland Derby Dolls, a fledgling league in Pictou County, Nova Scotia.

A blocker for Kickin’ Vixens (the league’s sole team), #34 explains the effort in gaining support in her area, the fortune she found in Atlantic Canada’s derby community, and the “selfish” reason she joined the sport.

Voodoo McQ works her magic – with enthusiasm – for you here.

Pepe LePunch:  What’s the history of your league?

Voodoo McQ: We still have that new car scent! We are just over a year old as we formed in July 2012. Our league is filled with girls primarily living in Pictou County, NS, which is smack-dab between Truro and Antigonish. Although we all live in this small county now, our league is filled with girls originally from all over: Ontario, NB, NFLD, and one of our coaches is from Houston, Texas. We’re like a spice rack of personalities.

Pictou County, Nova Scotia // © Wikipedia

PLP: The match I announced for you [August 2013] was a combined team of Riptide Rollers [Annapolis Valley] and Highland Derby Dolls. You faced PEI’s Twisted Sisters. For some players on your joint team, that was their first full game, right?

VDM: Yep, for us five from Highland Derby Dolls, for sure, it was our first full game.

PLP: What expectations does a new player have in her first bout?

VDM: The word SURVIVAL came to mind!!! The thing about us participating in that first bout was, number one, we were forming a team with girls we had never met before. They were still pretty fresh, as well, with only a few games themselves. But we were stoked about that. We chatted about being nervous and so forth but in the end we decided to just take it all in, learn what we can and bring it back to our mates and teach them what we learned from it all.

PLP: Late in the game, some players were looking… wobbly. [PEI announcer] Austin Tatious and I mentioned to the crowd that skaters’ legs can get weary near the end. Could you explain the stamina it takes to complete 60 minutes of contact derby?

VDM: Wobbly would be a fairly accurate description near the end of that, no doubt. It takes a lot of stamina for derby, period. It’s an all-over workout, that’s for sure! Derby is like anything, though; you get out of it what you put into it.

You really have no idea what it’s exactly going to be like until that whistle blows and there you are in the depth of it. Adrenaline is pumping big time, I will say that, and you’re on and off the bench so much… It’s a definite high that I loved!!!

PLP: What were your players saying after that match against the Sisters?

VDM: Our players were so hyper with pride!!! It was that accomplished feeling of participating in your first bout. Regardless of the score or mistakes made, we were here in PEI playing against the Twisted Sisters, which has been the goal the whole time: to play!

Highland Derby Dolls and Riptide Rollers joint team in PEI, August 2013 (Voodoo McQ: front row, second from right) // © Alex Tabor

VDM: What we learned… hmmmmm. Transitions come to mind. Ha!!! We learned that PEI is a classy bunch and, although the score got away from us, that every team was once where we are right now, and that we only grow from here.

PLP: What are some challenges in setting up a derby league? You just download a checklist and it’s pretty easy from there, right?

VDM: Challenges??? Nah, it took a solid two hours and then we just started skating!! Ha! Starting a league is a crazy, time-sucking machine!!! It’s everything you think, then more, way more. It’s so much work: contacts and research and mistake after mistake, and it takes a lot of people to make an extreme commitment to get it on the go and keep it going. We have a great bunch of girls who help out with tons of stuff and that helps big time. That said it’s so rewarding and becomes your baby in so many ways. It’s ridiculous how derby swallows you up. Even when you thought you were busy before derby, now it’s so much more than that. But you love it so much that most days it doesn’t matter; you find the time.

PLP: How is it finding training and game facilities in your area? That can be challenging, even in a city the size of Fredericton.

VDM: Finding facilities to train and bout in has been a struggle. Tons of calls, emails, meetings, etc. We live in a very small town. Roller derby has that age-old stigma against it, going in right off the hop. Our challenges were to convince people that this is an actual sport. There are no pre-planned plots and hyped-up theatrics (okay, maybe some). We did a lot of smiling and shaking our heads “NO” to comparisons to WWE and Skinny Minnie Miller.

PLP: But you succeeded

VDM: Once we explained the growth of derby, not only in the Maritimes but all over the world, we slowly got more attention. We stressed the idea of what we believe derby to be: an actual sport for woman that was super competitive but in such a positive way. We’ve been lucky to have the support of our local community college and one local rink. They have let us grow and build our skills over the past year, which we are very grateful for.

PLP: The idea to start a league is easy but where do you get the guidance to help it grow?

VDM: Guidance… right!! We started this league with not one person with any kind of background in derby, which I think happens in many places. When this happens you really get creative. At first we used what we had, which was internet: Facebook, YouTube tutorials, league web sites, etc. It wasn’t until we got out there and made contacts that the ball really started rolling, and when it did we were flooded with help from all over. It was fantastic.

1385657_10153525605630727_556904704_nPLP: Who helped you through the learn-to-skate and contact training?

VDM: Naming everyone would be crazy insane but there are people we MUST thank.

Shreddy Crocker [Moncton-based referee] is from this area and came down with the girls from Dieppe very early on. Countless visits, emails and Facebook guidance never stopped from him.
• Invites from Muddy River Rollers for a closed-door scrimmage was an awesome opportunity, with email help from Burn n’ Rub’her (we love her & MRR peeps).
• Invites from Capital City Rollers to participate in the Scrimmage 101 put on by CCR and Punchy O’ Guts, with email help from the awesome Penny Traitor. Help from her and CCR has been endless.
Fog City RollersRyder Wrong has been a super email/phone buddy of mine and ours as a league, and she has given awesome advice and derby info, which is so helpful. I love her!

PLP: I should ask you to stop as it’ll take me forever to tag everyone in this article.

VDM: This is going too long; I hear the music in the background! So, in short: Riptide Rollers, Tar City Rollers [Cape Breton], PEI, Moncton, SJ, Freddy and Hali have all been a huge loving ball of help from the get-go. And lastly, I’d like to thank the Academy… Geez, sorry that went long but, hey, if we didn’t have the help of these people we would still be skating in a circle without skill.

PLP: Well said. How’s your fan base in New Glasgow? Do the crowds get into it like they do hockey?

532078_10153361749025657_690969745_nVDM: Our fan base is growing, for sure, as our name gets out there. Our first home bout was awesome – well over 200 people, which for this small place is great and we know it’s only going to grow.

PLP: Wow, 200-plus is actually a fantastic number.
VDM: Our biggest supporters are our family and friends; we are very lucky that way. Also, our local media (radio and newspapers) have been very much on our side!

PLP: Why did you get involved in derby?

VDM: To find myself again. Since moving here I’ve been “Dawson’s mom” and “Cory’s wife,” which is awesome, but I lost “me” in all of that. Sometimes we – as moms and wives – we forget what interests us because we put our family up front so much. In derby I found myself again. I’m so glad to be back!

PLP: You’re from Ontario, you mentioned to me. What was your neighborhood living there? And how’d you get down to Nova Scotia?

VDM: Yep, from Toronto. Raised in Etobicoke. Love where I grew up. So many friends, so many great memories. Etobicoke shares a special spot in my heart! My derby is 34 – the number of the building I grew up living in: 34 Riverwood!!! Whoot!!! My derby name is also a play on words with my maiden name. Guess derby brings out the kid out in me! Family took me to NS in 1995 and love kept me here. Awwwwww.

15084_10152888434860727_936107028_n

Voodoo McQ and regional skaters in Fredericton for Scrimmage 101 with Punchy O’Guts // © Ramo M [hckygrl]

VDM: My son LOVES watching me play derby. He tells me I’m the coolest mom ever. How can that not make a mom smile, eh!!! Looking forward to having our 18-year-old watch me this season. As moms are so busy, practice is always family-friendly. Someone’s kids are always hanging out and that’s cool; we put them to work, and they are our future derby players.

PLP: What advice do you have for people curious about trying derby out?

VDM: My advice is don’t cut yourself short before you try. Derby is for everyone: all sizes, all personalities, all athletic abilities, etc. I’ve seen the most timid of girls not only become a kick-ass player but a force of strength you can’t slow down. I’ve never been a part of any sport that has been this positive, and that’s the truth. There is even a lot of cheering-on from your opponents. I have made some wonderful friendships from derby and it’s something I’m so glad to be a part of!

PLP: Thank you, Voodoo McQ. Love your passion. Here’s the 5 in 25 and then you can skate on outta here. 

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5 Answers ≤ 25 words.

PLP: (#1) What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

VDM: That I am a vegan. Just jokes – pass the bacon!!! Also, scared to death to drive a car but working on it.

PLP: (#2) What is a peeve of yours?

VDM: Negativity. Don’t allow it in my life. Period.

PLP: (#3) If someone was looking for a vacation destination, where would you recommend?

VDM: Toronto. No place like home.

PLP: (#4) Do you have a motto? 

VDM: Do I??? Yes, yes, I do!! Love quotes/mottos. “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great!” 

PLP: (#5) Finish this: Nothing better than… ?

VDM: … a hand-written letter, hearing my kids laugh, and that sound your wheels make on the track! 

Atom Bombshell

© Richard Lafortune

© Richard Lafortune

Atom Bombshell laces up her skates for two teams in the Halifax Roller Derby Association: Las Bandidas Locas (league) and the Harbour Grudges (travel squad). I know she’s a happy human who studies hard, loves a quality brew, and adores glitter. But I wanted to find out more about two serious issues: the derby injury that took her out of this season both physically and mentally, and her media involvement in addressing the St. Mary’s University “rape chant.”

In life and on the track, she’s light, lively and sets a pace tough to follow. This is Atom Bombshell.

Pepe LePunch: Where was your neighbourhood growing up?

Atom Bombshell: I’m from a small, isolated railroad community in Northern Ontario called Hornepayne – about 1,100 km northwest of Toronto, for perspective.

PLP: What was your athletic history before joining roller derby?


AB: I figure skated from the time I was four until I broke my ankle as a young teen and never went back. I usually sat out in gym class and didn’t really have much interest in organized sports until derby.

london violet femmes

Atom Bombshell skating with the Violet Femmes out of London, ON // © Sean Murphy

PLP: With not much interest in sports, what led you into roller derby?

AB: My interest was piqued as I was living in Minneapolis and saw the community surrounding the MN Rollergirls. I was only 16 at the time, though, and had to wait another two years until I was both back in Canada and old enough to join a league. I started out with the London Violet Femmes in London, Ontario, and shortly after turning 18 I was playing regional tournaments in the London/Kitchener/Toronto area.

PLP: You’re a jammer. What’s your thought process as you approach the back of the pack?

AB: My thoughts are usually focused on where the other jammer is, because her position determines what my approach will be.

PLP: What’s your strength or best attribute/move out on the track?

AB: I’m speedy and nimble. I’m not too difficult to knock over; the hard part is trying to catch me.

PLP: I believe you might be the youngest captain in the region. What exactly earned you co-captain status of Las Bandidas Locas?

AB: When Block ‘n’ Deck Her was elected captain, she had the idea to form a strong leadership team with two co-captains: myself and Clutch Cannon.

hrda

© Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: You’re enrolled at SMU in Halifax. What are you studying?

AB: I double-major in anthropology and criminology, and I’m finishing up a diploma in forensic science as well.

PLP: Why are you pursuing so many interests?

AB: I love studying such a diverse range because every day is different – one day I’m out digging up bones, the next I’m playing with chimp skeletons, and the next I’m out in the community doing ethnographic research on labour.

PLP: Speaking of community, you were very involved in the SMU chant debacle. What radio/TV press did you do?

AB: Oh, wow, that’s a big question. Haha. I did about three or four regional press interviews a day, so I don’t remember all the specifics. The more memorable stuff was the interview with MacLean’s magazine, The Current with Anna Maria Tremonti, and a radio show panel for a talk show out in Vancouver.

PLP: Why do you feel people should be more engaged in addressing an event such as that chant?

AB: Because it’s a systemic issue that affects everyone, not an isolated incident or just a campus problem. The culture surrounding rape and victim-blaming and the flippant attitude towards them can ensnare anyone, and it’s a really easy attitude to fall into.

PLP: You suffered a derby-related head injury in March. What happened?

AB: It happened in a split second. It was an accident in practice. I landed hard on my tailbone and my neck snapped forward, giving me severe whiplash and rattling my brain pretty hard.

PLP: I watched you play at Slay of Fundy in June 2013 and didn’t suspect anything. Do you still feel repercussions from the concussion?

AB: I do. My mental health has certainly suffered, so I’ve been extremely cautious and follow up with my doctor as often as I can. Slay was actually my wake-up call to be more careful. I didn’t even play my games in full because I got uncharacteristically anxious and really easily frustrated, but I see a therapist to work through some of those symptoms. Marc Henwood actually captured a really crazy picture of me kneeling and crying on the track that I still can’t really look at, but it’s comforting when I’m reminded that I actually got up from it and continued playing.

on knee on track

Atom Bombshell recovers from a play at Slay of Fundy 2013 // © Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: What challenges confront you after a serious injury like this?

AB: It’s been a long process of recovery, and I’m slated to return to practices this month. For me, it’s been the combination of keeping up with my doctor, my therapist, my physiotherapist and my coaches that’s kept me accountable and healthy and working towards coming back fully. I played two for-fun bouts with the Halifax Misfits over the summer and seemed to be making a lot of progress, so I’m hoping to be back in full swing for the next Winter Warpath.

PLP: I really enjoy the Halifax-Fredericton games as they’re close competitions. Do you have a favourite rival team to play? Or player?

Atom Bombshell (blue) enjoys an in-game rivalry with Fredericton’s Edith Paf (black) // © Richard Lafortune

Atom Bombshell (blue) enjoys an in-game rivalry with Fredericton’s Édith Paf (black) // © Richard Lafortune

AB: My favourite team on the east coast to play would have to be Fredericton [Capital City Rollers], actually. I’ve faced them on three occasions, and I’m always both impressed and terrified. I love skating against Édith Paf, because she’s a really intense opponent and always challenges me, and because our off-track relationship is so friendly that the dynamic is really always fun.

PLP: The HRDA players always seem so positive and friendly, even on the jam line with opponents. I often wonder what you guys say to opponents out there during a bout. 

AB: We’re usually discussing the afterparty and how we’re going to be the victors of it. Or, I’m discussing how badly I can’t wait to eat pizza and watch TV at the hotel!

PLP: I appreciate your time and candor, Atom Bombshell. As always, the afterparty in these interviews is the 5 in 25.

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5 Answers ≤ 25 words.

PLP: (#1) Can you tell about a couple of your hobbies or after-work activities?

AB: I embroider vulgar rap lyrics onto throw pillows sometimes. I like to go dancing 
and fishing and enjoy late nights in the lab.

PLP: (#2) What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

AB: I make all my own beauty products in my kitchen. It’s why I smell so pretty on 
the jam line.

PLP: (#3) What is your favourite food and/or drink?  

AB: I love fancy burgers and birthday cake and bitter, hoppy beer. Preferably all at 
once.

PLP: (#4) What’s a favourite song or album?

AB: I can’t stop listening to Childish Gambino’s Camp album right now.

PLP: (#5) Which well-known figure do you most admire?

AB: Jane Goodall is a badass.

© Roy Crawford Photography

© Roy Crawford Photography

Poison NV

© Marc Henwood Photography

© Marc Henwood Photography

Roller derby requires financing a lot of gear but the real investment in the sport isn’t money, it’s time. Through practices, travel, overnight stays and the actual bouts, derby hours add up. If you’re a captain or “fresh meat” (new recruits) trainer, each week could be 20-30 hours devoted to your love.

This might be stressful for players with other loves, such as a family. For Poison NV, however, roller derby binds her family ties even tighter, especially with her daughter.

Spectacularly, this Saint John skater only put on roller skates less than a year ago and quickly qualified for her city’s travel team, one of the winningest groups in Atlantic Canada.

Here’s #218 to tell about her choice of poison: roller derby. 

Pepe LePunch: You look very natural on roller skates. What was your athletic history prior to derby?

Poison NV: I literally grew up in a hockey rink. I started off figure skating and then switched to hockey as soon as my parents allowed me to. I played on a boys hockey team because there were no women’s teams at that time. I stopped playing hockey because as the boys grew bigger I stayed small, and it was getting to be too big of a variance for me to handle at that age. But I never stopped skating and playing road hockey, or fun pickup games with friends whenever I could. I also played rugby in high school. I love contact sports and the feeling you get from pushing your body to the limits.

PLP: That explains why your league mate, Josey Ramoan, recommended you to me. She said you’ve only been skating about a year but flew through fresh meat, made the Razor Girls, scored a spot on the travel team, and now coach fresh meat yourself!

PNV: Wow… It looks kinda crazy when you see it spelled out like that! I knew after watching my first game that this was a sport for me. The first time I put skates on at the FCR [Fog City Rollers] meet and greet, I fell and got a very big derby bruise. For some, that might have been a moment to reconsider doing this sport. For me, it made me feel proud to have earned my first (of many) bruises.

© Richard LaFortune

© Richard LaFortune

I was encouraged by my fresh meat coach, Brad Pittiful, to try out for the travel team right away. This wasn’t something I even thought was possible to achieve, but with his encouragement I gave it a try. I had nothing to lose, really. I did make the team on my first try! It was an amazing feeling. I actually played my first official roller derby game at Nationals in Edmonton this past March.

 I decided to take the challenge of coaching fresh meat (along with Allie B Bashin’) because I wanted to give to our new recruits what was given to me by my coaches: encouragement, goals, challenges, knowledge and love of the game. 

PLP: How did you get interested in this sport?

PNV: I used to drive by the LBR [Lord Beaverbrook Rink] and see the sign advertising for derby games and I was actually too intimidated to even go and watch.  Then, serendipitously… I bought a T-shirt from Ryder Wrong’s store Heartbreak Boutique. She added me on Facebook and I started seeing her posts about derby. I was so intrigued that I decided to go check a game out. About two minutes into the game I said to my husband, “I am joining this league. I have to give this game a try!” I planned on being a fan but couldn’t resist joining in on all of the fun!

PLP: At one point during Slay of Fundy, I was standing by the top railing and a high school-aged girl beside me yelled, “Go, mom!” You were that mom. What did your family initially think about you joining derby life?

© Roy Crawford Photography

Poison NV with daughter Kahlan // © Roy Crawford Photography

PNV: Oh my gosh! This question brought tears to my eyes! My husband, Jamie, has been incredibly supportive. I spend four days a week away from home either practicing or coaching, and on weeks that we have a game you can add another day away to that. He never, ever makes me feel guilty for the time and money I spend on this sport. He always tells me that he can see how much this sport gives to me and that is worth it to him.

My parents weren’t surprised by my decision to play this sport and they come to watch my home games. They used to worry about me getting hurt but now they see that I throw more hits than I take most games. And my daughter Kahaln is my biggest fan! Always bringing friends to come and watch me play!

PLP: And now your daughter’s enrolled in fresh meat! When high-school aged, most teens go the opposite direction of their parents. How is roller derby giving you an extra connection with your daughter?

PNV: Okay, more tears! Yes, Kahlan fell in love with derby, too. She is 17 now and, as many moms know, as your babies grow older they spend less and less time with you. Derby has caused us to spend more time together. (Just another gift that derby gave me). She travels to away games with me, she comes to all my home games, and she also comes and watches my practices, occasionally. And the best part is… she decided she wanted to train to referee and is currently in my fresh meat class!

It amazes me to watch her skate. It is such a gift to be her coach and see her interact with the other girls in her class and in the league. We watch games together, we study rules together, we shop for gear and talk about gear together. To have my very own derby girl right under my roof makes me so proud. I can’t wait until we can finally play together.

© Richard LaFortune

Poison NV interviewed by Global News at Nationals (March 2013) // © Richard LaFortune

PLP: I think some keyboards are going to short out from happy tears. So, what’s a strength of yours in derby? 

PNV: I think my biggest attribute is my willingness to learn. I am still very new to this sport, being in my first season as a player, and there is endless strategy and technique to learn and practice. I trust my teammates and my coaches, and that goes a very long way on the track. I think I have natural instincts about how to hit and stay in front of opposing jammers. I do jam occasionally with both Razor Girls and Sirens, and doing this allows me to see the game from both sides and makes me a better blocker.

PLP: What elements do you focus on to improve your blocking?

PNV:  I never give up on wanting to stop the jammer. I hear my coach Dan’s [ZZ Slop] voice in my head saying, “Stay in front of the jammer!!” I take practice seriously and treat each one like a tryout. I focus on staying in position and trusting my teammates to take care of their side of the track. I focus on supporting my teammates in maintaining their position and knocking the jammer out.

© Marc Henwood Photography

Poison NV (left) and teammate Hammer Slammer hold back an opposing jammer // © Marc Henwood Photography

I also try to do something derby related every day: watching games, working out or skating. And now that I have some playing experience, I find it very helpful to watch game footage and look at pictures of games I have played in. Sometimes what you think you are doing and what is really happening on the track are two different things. Seeing it for yourself is a great learning tool.

PLP: Is there a derby talent you wish you had?

PNV: This is a great question. There are many girls I play with that have unique skills that I admire (or NV… haha). Hammer [Slammer] is such a talented skater; I admire her skating form. [Debee Lee] Downer is amazingly focused on the track and shows very little emotion in games. Auburn [Rubber], Ginger [Rocket] and alien [she] have really great leadership skills. [H-Two] OhNo! has outstanding track awareness. Really, there is something from everyone that I wish I had. I see these talents and I work towards building my own.  

PLP: People really scrutinize the Saint John-Moncton games because both teams are so talented, but the Lumbersmacks always seem to get the edge over the Sirens! How much are you looking forward to knocking off Muddy River Rollers in a match?

PNV:  Honestly, I want to win every single game and don’t allow myself to focus on only beating the Lumbersmacks. I think both teams are lucky to have each other close by because we give each other such great competition. Playing them is always intense for the players and the fans, and that is what derby is about. On any given day either one of us could win; we are very evenly matched.

© Alex Tabor

Saint John’s Shipyard Sirens battling Moncton’s Lumbersmacks // © Alex Tabor

PLP: Such an intelligent answer. What do you most value in your SJ teammates?

PNV: I value my teammates because we are so open and honest with each other. It is cliché to say we are like family, but it is very true. We train hard together, we laugh often together and we help each other grow. We spend countless hours together, but beyond that, we have the same goals. 

Because of that, there is an understanding that you can give or receive advice and encouragement, and know without a doubt that it comes from a good place. Being a part of this league is a safe place to be yourself and be accepted.

© Marc Henwood Photography

© Marc Henwood Photography

PLP: You’re the first to get this question: Do you have pre-game or post-game rituals or superstitions?

PNV: So… ummmm… well…. I have lucky underwear. Okay, so now the world knows!  I also make sure I get a good night’s rest, I eat a good breakfast and drink a Blueberry Pomegranate Xenergy drink 2 hours before every game.  

PLP: Definitely adding this question to the rotation from now on! Thanks, Poison NV. Here’s the “5 in 25” to finish up.

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5. Answers  25 words.

PLP: (#1) If someone were looking for a vacation spot, where would you suggest they go?

PNV: St.Kitts is the most beautiful and peaceful place I have ever been. Go there!

PLP: (#2) If someone came to your house for a meal, what would you cook up?

PNV: I am a vegetarian and my favourite thing to make is pasta sauce. So, you would get quinoa and homemade veggie sauce.

PLP: (#3) What is your plan for a fantastic afternoon or evening?

PNV: Sitting with Jamie and Kahlan and my dogs, watching a derby game!

PLP: (#4) What’s a favourite song or album of yours?

PNV: I love Rise Against, and Endgame is my favourite album of theirs. They are the reason my husband and I are vegetarians, actually.

PLP: You know, your brother-in-law [musician Jay Vautour] is going to see this…

PNV: I love PITH and Jon Epworth, too!

PLP: (#5) Do you have a motto? 

PNV: Live each day like it is a new day. No amount of guilt can change the past and no amount of worry can change the future.

© Roy Crawford Photography

© Roy Crawford Photography

Liz Nail’er

Liz Nail'er profile

© Richard Lafortune

For my second go at announcing derby, I travelled to Moncton to shill both games of a double-header. That evening I worked under the wing of four announcers, one of whom was LaManna Cornuda. He mentioned at one point that his wife was in the current game. I asked, “Which one is she?” Then Liz Nail’er cleanly laid out an opposing blocker right in front of us. “That one,” the happy husband replied. 

Liz Nail’er blocks – hard – for Moncton’s Muddy River Rollers league. She plays for the Daughters of Anarchy but I mostly know her as a key wheeler with the Lumbersmacks, the city’s travel team.

As an original member of the MRR league, a former team captain, a competitor at the national tournament, and a wonderful illustration of the term “derby community,” I wanted to highlight Moncton’s #12XU, Liz Nail’er.

Pepe LePunch: How did you get into roller derby?

Liz Nail’er: My best friend had been trying to convince me to start a league with her. I researched it and it was far too daunting a task for me to undertake with two small children. They were four and seven at the time I think. [Daughter] Sophie was in therapy for 20-plus hours a week.  When we heard Carole [Burn’N RubHer] was starting one we jumped at it. I have been all in ever since.

PLP: What’s your athletic background?

LN: I have none really. I was a majorette for years. Is that a sport? I was a baton twirling fool. When it came to team sports I was that fat kid who gets picked last for teams in gym class. I rode the bench on the soccer team for a couple of years.

PLP: Whenever I see letters added to a jersey number, I’m always curious. What’s your “12XU” mean?

LN: It’s a Wire song. Most people don’t know it. I met a girl who skated up to me at a training camp in Toronto and yelled out, “1-2-X-U!” We became fast friends. (Hey, Honey Boom Boom!)

PLP: So, it’s “one-two,” not “twelve.”

LN: All numbers have to be called like that. “111” should be called “one-one-one.” Still, refs call me “twelve.” If letters are the same size as the numbers, they are part of your number; if they are smaller, they are not.

PLP: Tell me a little about your Daughters of Anarchy team.

LN: We joke that we are Team Fertility. Over the last three years we have had, I think, five “Babies of Anarchy.” We are expecting two more at the moment. Needless to say, we have a lot of turnover; we constantly seem to be trying to find our footing. We had to cancel our game scheduled for last night because we currently have seven contact-cleared members on skates.

© Richard Lafortune

Slay of Fundy II championship game // © Richard Lafortune

PLP: You were DoA’s captain last year. During a bout, what’s a derby captain’s role?

LN: During a game you are a liaison between your team and the ref team. You call for timeouts and official reviews. If your team has issues with the way things are being called, you get to address them along with the alternate captain. Calling timeouts gets strategic in close games. It is best to have someone on the bench with the A [alternate captain]; it is easier to see everything from the bench.

PLP: Outside of a bout, what else does the captain do?

LN: In MRR, the captains are part of the training committee. They plan and run practices along with the coaches, decide who will play each game, who to put together on lines, things like that.

PLP: I’ve witnessed the commitment you inspire from others: your husband, your brother Adrian, players from all teams. What characteristics do people enjoy about you?

LN: That’s hard to answer. I am pretty straightforward, sometimes to a fault. People either love that or hate it. I am very loyal. I stick up for what I think is right. I have blind enthusiasm for new things. And I am pretty fun. If you ask those people they might say something different, though.

PLP: How’d you come to settle in Moncton with your American husband and derby announcer LaManna Cornuda? 

LN: In 2003, we were newlyweds, living in Vancouver with a new baby. We were having a hard time with Brian’s landed immigrant paperwork. We were broke. All of my family is in the Maritimes, and Brian’s is in New Jersey. When someone offered him a (not entirely above the table) job here, we decided to move. This way Gabe & Sophia get know some grandparents and extended family. Brian’s family are much closer, too.

© Kevin Molyneaux

Roller Derby Association of Canada Nationals 2013 // © Kevin Molyneaux

PLP: I’ve seen you at every bout I’ve been to. You, your husband and often your children travel to games outside of Moncton, sometimes just to watch. In a given week, how much of your time goes into derby planning, practicing and playing? 

LN: It really depends on the week. 20-plus, easily. The derby girl motto is: “I can’t. I have derby.” Between two teams [Daughters of Anarchy and Lumbersmacks], the board of directors, events committee, fundraisers, emails…  It is something I am trying to cut back on, honestly. I have been VP since almost the start and I don’t plan on running again in October. I think we need a bit more of a life/derby balance at Casa LaManna.

PLP: You’re also part of the league’s travel team, the Lumbersmacks, which has really been the dominant team in Atlantic Canada since the New Brunswick leagues started up in 2010. What are you doing  that makes you so successful?

LN: I don’t really know.  We’ve had a lot of outside guidance from the start. Dr. Johnny Capote [Canuck Derby TV], Georgia W. Tush  [of Montreal’s New Skids on the Block and owner of Neon Skates] and Lime have all been instrumental in helping us find our way from the start. We work hard. Burn’N, the ‘Smacks captain and league founder, is really a driving force, too. She is always striving for the next thing and that is inspiring. We go to training camps when we can. We’ve hosted training camps. We watch derby. We try to bring stuff in from all over and see what works for us. We don’t want to lose our spot on top, so all the other teams in the Atlantic region really help motivate us; they are all working hard and it shows. It’s getting harder to be the dominant team, that’s for sure.

PLP: Can you describe how your team practices? I hear Moncton even has “rules nights.”

LN: We do have rules nights. They are more frequent after rule changes. Lots of leagues do them; we are not breaking new ground here. We change things up often. Last season we had separate team practices but this year we do all the league together, followed by Lumbersmacks.  We have scrimmage 101 for newer skaters on Sundays. Practice typically lasts about three hours. What we work on is always changing. Evolve or die.

Liz Nailer with team

Liz Nail’er (12XU) with Burn’N RubHer (45) and Lumbersmacks teammates // © Kevin Molyneaux

PLP: I assume a lot of people feel roller derby is a chance for women to get together and have a good time. But are these Atlantic Canadian leagues aiming for fun or competition? 

LN: That is different for each player. I am in it for fun, but I am not a very competitive person. Also, I am pretty old in the derby world. I have teammates who are the exact opposite of me. I think in our region right now there are some growing pains. If you want to be on a travel team, just showing up at practice is no longer enough. You have to work out, eat right, be an actual athlete. Derby everywhere is struggling to be accepted as a sport so it’s not as much for the misfits and the punks anymore. It is much more for the straight-up athletes, and that’s not how it was three years ago.

PLP: What is your favorite derby memory?

LN: A bunch of us went to the first Roller Derby World Cup [Toronto, December 2011]. It was an amazing experience. Watching the best in the world play, I felt like I got better just watching. The derby love was palpable.

Also, the Lumbersmacks got to play The New Skids this winter. I really look up to each one of them as skaters, and their league as a whole. So, to play them and actually score 100 points was awesome, super fun.

PLP: Okay, to end off, here’s my “5 in 25.”

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5. Answers  25 words.

PLP: (#1) If someone were looking for a vacation destination, where would you recommend?

LZ: Brian [husband] and I went to the ice hotel [Hôtel de Glace] in Quebec. It was beautiful, like being in a fairy tale. I highly recommend it.

PLP: (#2) If someone came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare? 

LZ: If my guests are vegetarian, I make a mean chana masala. If not, my pulled pork is divine.

PLP: (#3) What is your plan for a fantastic afternoon or evening?  

LZ: Good friends, good food, good drinks and good conversation. I am an extrovert so I live for that stuff.

PLP: (#4) What’s a favourite song or album? 

LZ: I really love Exile on Main Street by the Rolling Stones. Late night party or Sunday drive, it works for everything.

PLP: (#5) Do you have a motto?  

LZ: “Why not?” It goes well with blind enthusiasm.

PLP:  Thanks, Liz. I enjoyed your straightforward answers, just as you promised. See you soon for some pulled pork and chana masala!

Josey Ramoan

© Marc Henwood

© Victoria Van den Broek

Josey Ramoan hangs her helmet in Saint John with the Fog City Rollers. Within the Port City’s league, she plays for the Scarlet Swarm.

After knowing about Josey for years through many mutual friends, I sat to watch one of the recent Slay of Fundy II bouts with her. Through this, I wanted to make her one of my first Q&As due to her affection for three things: derby, photography and drumming.

So… a-one, a-two, this is #1234!

Pepe LePunch: How did you get into roller derby?

Josey Ramoan: I remember going to the very first meeting three years ago, at a hole-in-the-wall bar uptown, to get some photos for an article for HERE magazine. I didn’t know anything about roller derby. I ended up bumping into some people I knew there, who explained the game to me, and I basically wanted to sign up immediately. But I had an extremely hectic work schedule, and knew at the time that I couldn’t commit. I became a super fan, though, and went to every home game every season after that. This past year, my work life has calmed – the schedule, not the stress, mind you – and so I went for it!

PLP: What’s your athletic background?

JR: I played some varsity volleyball in junior high, but then I discovered cigarettes… These days, I’m a pretty dedicated runner, and definitely don’t smoke anymore.

PLP: Tell me a little about your team, the Scarlet Swarm.

JR: I’m a rookie, and am having a blast getting to know these girls. They’re the underdogs, having gone through a lot of changes over the past year. In the few months that I’ve been skating with them, there have been broken bones, pregnancies, girls who have left the league, and a coach who decided he could no longer put the time in. But through all this, they still show up for every practice, and are itching to play every game. They are all heart, and throw every part of themselves into this game, into this community, and that is really inspiring.

PLP: What’s your favourite position to play, and why?

JR: I love being a jammer. I get so nervous that I want to barf, but scoring points is awesome!

PLP: What’s your strength or best attribute/move out on the track?

JR: I don’t even know… My teammates tell me I’m sneaky. And I think I’ve gotten pretty good at hopping around on my toe stops. 

PLP: What aspect of your game do you want to improve? 

JR: Um, there is so much. I used to think I was fairly strong, until I started playing derby. These girls hit effing hard. When I played my very first game, during my very first jam, I got a big ol’ booty block to my ribs and went down hard. I couldn’t breathe. I was so mad! At myself! I need to toughen up, I need to hit way harder, I need to skate faster, and I probably need to practice patience, which may be the most challenging for me.

PLP: You’re from Bathurst. How did you get to be living in Saint John?

JR: Things have fallen into place quite well career-wise for me. And that is kind of a rare thing for a kid who went to art school to become a photographer. Even before finishing my degree at the [New Brunswick] College of Craft and Design in Fredericton, I started freelancing for the Daily Gleaner and the Canadian Press. From there, I moved to Toronto for an internship with The Star. When that finished, a photography position opened up at the Telegraph-Journal, and I’ve been there ever since. I have amazing friends, I’m part of an über-talented music community, and I met my darling of a husband in this town. I wouldn’t go back and change a thing, even if I could.

PLP: I’ve known about you for a long time via your interests outside roller derby. Can you tell me about your photography (recreational and professional)?

JR: I’m a news photographer, and have been doing this job now for 10 years. 10 years! Damn! So, I get to shoot a lot of different things… portraits, spot news, sports. I like the variety that comes with my work (I get bored easily) and still get a little jazzed when I see my photo on A1 (dork!). A few years ago, my photog co-workers and I had a show at the Saint John Arts Centre. I hope to have another gallery show in the near future. I don’t do much photography just for myself anymore, except for Instagramming pics of my dinner or my cats. (Yes, I’m one of those people. Frig off.) 

PLP: Your derby name, Josey Ramoan, hints at musical interest. I saw you drumming recently with Foreverband during its awesome B-52s cover-song show. Your bandmate Chuck Teed told me that “Kâté is a solid drummer, nails down the groove, and works hard at her craft.” How did you get started with this talent?

JR: I don’t know if I would call it a talent…I pretty much just try to keep up with the rest of the band. For real, I kind of feel like a fraud. My whole life, I wanted to be a “cool musician” type. And I do try really hard when I’m playing with people, but practicing on my own is something I don’t really have the discipline for. I started playing the drums a few years ago with Tune in Tokyo, an all-girl band. We were together for a couple of years and played shows around the Maritimes. I’ve also recorded with my husband Chris, and we always talk about playing more together and touring Canada. Currently, I’m trying to get a project started with a couple of friends. It’s in the very early stage of “Hey, let’s get together for some jams and see if we can get something to make sense” kind of stage. 

PLP: Thanks for your interesting and fun answers, Josey! To finish up, here’s my “5 in 25.”

• 5 in 25 •

Questions? 5. Answers  25 words.

PLP: (#1) Can you tell about a couple of your hobbies or after-work activities? 

JR: I really, really love to garden, but I totally suck at it. My flowers die a lot. 

PLP: (#2) What’s something derby players don’t know about you?

JR: I have severe road rage.

PLP: (#3) What is a peeve of yours?

JR: Bad drivers (see above).

PLP: (#4) Which artistic figure do you most admire?

JRDiane Arbus. Her photos are so full of empathy and beauty. Her subjects let their guard down for her. It’s hard to look away.

(#5) What is your favourite food and drink? Least favourite?

JR: I love pastries: doughnuts, turnovers, pies. All that. All of the pastries. And red wine. I hate meat, and haven’t eaten it for 17 years.

PLP: I was interviewing Lawrence Gowan a long time ago and some college kids interrupted with, “If you could be any kind of pastry, what would you be?” I thought he’d ignore it but Gowan said, “I’d be honey cruller.” I didn’t get it but a few seconds later he added, “Because I’m so TWISTED.” Strange animal, Gowan. And quietly brilliant.

Okay, bear claws all around next time we meet. Thanks, Josey!