Language, identity, place, home: these are all of a piece—just different elements of belonging and not-belonging.” Jhumpa Lahiri  

At the core of all my work is the exploration of home: how to find, define or create it. I’m fascinated by this issue likely because I was born in a country where I could never secure citizenship, raised in another country, but always felt at home in the country of my original culture, a place I’ve only visited for brief periods of time throughout my life and miss every day.  

Given these circumstances it is difficult to find a place where you belong. This topic will be explored at our spring reading event, entitled, Travel, Place, Identity: Unpacking the Idea of Home scheduled for May 17th at the Squamish Lil’wat Cultural Center in Whistler. The event features four authors, including Pat Ardley, Amy Fung, Becky Livingston Geoff Powter, and will explore how our identity and our understanding of home is influenced by where we live, or where we travel.


The Scar

There is no pain so great as the memory of joy in present grief.” Aeschylus  

I was a probation officer. That was many, many years ago. I remember those days fondly. I loved my clients. They challenged me to figure out ways to understand them. How did they get to where they were and what, if anything, could I do to help? Each and every one of them was an individual with lots of promise.

And now they continue to live within me. I wonder where they are and how they’re doing. Did they find their way?

This week, one particular client came to mind over and over again. I’m not sure why I thought of him more this week than at other times. Perhaps I’m feeling more vulnerable these days.

I know where my client is, but I can’t reach him now. Not sure I did, reach him that is, even when he used to report to me weekly.


Walking and Love

A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.” Greek Proverb  

It’s been just over six weeks since my father came to stay with us. As you can imagine, each day brings new challenges, but thankfully (fingers crossed) I’m keeping my head above water. Most days.

My one complaint: I hadn’t been out for a walk in weeks because I was afraid to leave my dad on his own. I had one horrible thought after another imagining he’d end up walking out of the house into the forest or up the side of the mountain and never be seen again. He talks about either having to go to school or work every single day, worries he’s going to be late and will get in trouble, so my concerns were not simply a product of my wild imagination.



All theory dear friend, is gray, but the golden tree of life springs ever green.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I have so many theories. None are based on fact and I typically don’t have any supporting data. My notions come from a feeling, a belief, a hunch.

My thinking goes something like: if I try this, maybe that will happen. I build my own facts and data as I experiment. Some might say I’m flying by the seat of my pants. Yup. I am. But aren’t all life’s challenges dealt in this way?


Definitely Lost

Not all those who wander are lost.” J.R.R. Tolkien

“Do you ever get stressed when great grandpa asks the same question over and over again,” my 11 year-old granddaughter asked. “He doesn’t seem to remember anything you say.”

“It doesn’t help either one of us if I get upset,” I said. “I have to be patient. His memory isn’t very good, so I have to remind him. And sometimes he surprises me and remembers something I’ve told him.”

She’d caught me early on in the day. I hadn’t yet answered his many queries—does dad need me to come to the store to help, is mom sleeping, is your mother out shopping—and so my voice didn’t sound edgy and raised, I hadn’t yet looked away and rubbed my forehead in frustration, or rolled my eyes to the heavens to pray for more patience. When I tell him again his parents, the family business and my mother are all gone, he asks me what I mean. “They are dead,” I say bluntly.


Why Not?

No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” Charles Dickens

The world appears out of control at times. This feeling I have happens more often now, particularly because of the relentless news about walls being built to separate people, countries breaking away from or bullying others, attacks, and fear mongering. The polarizing narrative is persistent and prevalent and comes from leaders (and I use this term very loosely) who have forgotten their job is to rise above the rhetoric and expect better and more of all citizens. The lack of meaningful dialogue and debate, not to mention moral leadership is frightening.

And yet this week I was reminded again of how any one of us can make a difference in another person’s life.


The Memory That Holds Sorrow at Bay

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.” Phyllis Diller

We had several family gatherings over the holidays, part of which was spent in Calgary with my dad. We were either at his house or my sister’s or out at his favourite Greek restaurant. When we gathered, a family that used to number five, could now be up to seventeen. It is during these times, mostly, but not solely, he often leans over to me and asks, “Where is she?”

When he presses and I have no other choice, I say. “You know, Dad.”

“Know what?”


Revision – I Thought You Were My Friend

The first draft reveals the art, revision reveals the artist.” Michael Lee

I’m not sure any part of that quote is true in my case, but I have always put my faith in revision. I suffer through first drafts by reminding myself how much easier writing will be once I have a complete draft. I will know where the story is going, what my characters want and what is standing in their way.

I’ve completed a draft of my new novel. I wasn’t happy with the last section of this, yet to be named book, so I decided to begin revising the last several chapters by rewriting them from scratch. This has worked for me in the past because as I rewrite, or more aptly put, retype my work, I’m fully awake to the original text. I’m not just reading it, deleting and adding bits and pieces, I’m analysing it, figuring out what is working and what is not. This arduous process helps me flesh out scenes and characters I may have glossed over in my rush to get a first draft done. And with some luck, this retyping process has, in the past, helped me build the rich layers of detail and complications essential for a good read.

I’ve been showing up most mornings at my desk, but the words have not followed. That’s not exactly true. There have been some words and I did finish a redraft of one chapter (about ten times), but the process has been slow (think 100 words on any given day after two or three hours of staring at my blank screen and my printed manuscript). Every morning, I tell myself today will be different, I’ll find my momentum and yet, it hasn’t come.

Perhaps I’m rushing things. I set a goal of completing another draft by the end of the year. I likely placed too much pressure on myself. Don’t know.  

At the moment, I’m not sure how to get out of this rut so I repeat my mantra: show up, see what happens, be patient (not my strong suit and likely my problem at the moment).  A breakthrough is coming.

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

Still the Same Man

When you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails.” H. Jackson Brown Jr.

He used to be larger-than-life to the little girl who worshiped him, boastful with pride if she had done anything remotely noteworthy in school, eerily calm and quiet in his reproachful voice when she’d misbehaved.

As a teenager she found his need to protect her overbearing and unnecessary. She was almost an adult. She knew what she wanted and needed. Why couldn’t he trust her? He bellowed with frustration.

He is smaller now, his voice a little over a whisper. He takes her arm whenever he feels unsteady. His steps are slower, more cautious. At times, he forgets who she is.


Story…There is Always a Story

Maybe that’s what life is…a wink of the eye and winking stars.” Jack Kerouac

I heard myself all weekend tell stories of past festival experiences, laughing and reminiscing of where we started and how we’ve grown. There are funny stories. Picture me chasing a bus, high heels and all, so a late arriving author wouldn’t be left behind. There are touching ones too: authors contributing their honorarium to keep Whistler Writers Festival alive and well.

My favourite story is bittersweet.

“I was abused in every possible way you could imagine,” the author began in the inaugural session of our Authors in the School program. He proceeded to outline some of those ways and I worried that perhaps this was too much for the kids.


We’ve Got This

A grateful mind is a great mind which eventually attracts to itself great things.” Plato

Well I’m not sure I have a great mind, but I do have a grateful heart and as this is the Thanksgiving weekend, I thought this was the perfect time to thank folks for all they do to make the Whistler Writers Festival such a success. We would not be here without their dedication, good humour and unwavering commitment.

The 17th annual Whistler Writers Festival begins on Thursday, October 11th.  Yikes! So much still to do. I tell myself to breathe. And sometimes this actually works.

As many of you know the festival began modestly with a dream to provide educational opportunities for writers and thought provoking reading events for readers, right here in this community.

But steadily this thing we created has grown and taken shape. Folks bought and continue to buy tickets, others provide the necessary financial support and still others, the unsung heroes of all of this, continue to put up with me, coming up with ideas and initiatives I wouldn’t have begun to imagine. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you here, today, on this Thanksgiving weekend and to say again, we’ve got this. No matter what happens, I know these folks are there for me and together we’ll solve whatever challenges come our way.


No One Succeeds Alone

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.” Yoko Ono

I have a slight tendency to overextend myself. Stop laughing. First hear me out.

So 17 years ago I founded a writers’ festival, then expanded it to include a Writer in Residence Program for emerging writers and later added an Authors in the School Program to provide kids in our community access to authors and their wonderful books. And recently we’ve pilot tested a Spring Reading series. Okay, maybe you do have cause to laugh at my use of the word, slight in the last paragraph.

But in my defence, I didn’t get here alone. No one ever does. I’m not pointing fingers, but I know this festival could not have become what it is today without a great deal of support for my modest dream. All I thought I wanted was to provide educational opportunities for writers and events for readers right here in this community.


Have Year-End Financials, Will Travel

It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars.” Richard Paul Evans

So I’ve been busy. Self-induced, as my husband claims or not, the fact remains I’m neck deep. It’s been one of those summers where I’m organizing, doing, occupied or worried about one thing or another. I know I’m not alone.  After all we’re all in the same boat. Life.

But sometimes don’t you just wish someone would come along and make things just a little bit easier?

Don’t get me wrong; I know I get a great deal of support. I am forever grateful that friends, family, and my community are there for me. But this week, a gesture made from an unlikely source reminded me again why I love this community and how lucky I am to live among such caring and giving people.

We had our annual general meeting on Wednesday and approved our year-end financials. I wanted to get these documents to our accountant to finalize, but in between several meetings on Thursday and Friday, I wasn’t sure I could do it.


Whistler Writers Festival 2018

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Babe Ruth

And I’d add, it’s impossible to succeed without two key elements: courage and community, because no one ventures into the unknown without courage and no one succeeds without community.

Now entering its 17th year, the story of the Whistler Writers Festival is well known. Started in my living room with one guest author and 20 participants, the Festival has grown to involve some 60 guest authors, and close to 2000 participants. It’s been a long journey of hard work, commitment and focus to produce a program that appeals to as broad and inclusive an audience as possible. In your feedback, you’ve told us we’ve hit the right mix and tone. I appreciate all your kind words and suggestions.

But we couldn’t have done it without our volunteers, our community leaders, and other influencers, and most importantly, you, our audience, who have come through time and time again. I think of these words, often, “I’m in your corner,” uttered more than once in evaluations, emails and in person. Thanks for being there for us. This festival and the writers we have been so fortunate to host could not do what they do without you. That’s why the theme of this year’s festival is: No one succeeds alone.

The Whistler Writers Festival runs October 11th to 14th. Check out our line up at: Whistler Writers Fest.

Thanks again for being there for us. See you in October.

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

A Cry

My entire soul is a cry, and all my work is a commentary on that cry.” Nikos Kazantzakis   

It sputters and cracks. Then after a bit of clearing, a whisper emerges. Better than nothing. At least there’s a chance of being heard. I try again, but this time it has shrivelled to a squeak, the same sort of sound you might hear if you mistakenly stepped on the throaty part of a child’s toy.

Several people have commented. The consistent remark, “Sounds like you’ve been out partying and having a good time.”

I pointed to myself, squawked out,  “you know I’m an old broad, right?”

“So?” the cashier said. Then as I left, she suggested I party on.

This week I lost my voice. It has been coming on for a few weeks: stammering at first, regaining, then deserting me. I’ve put it down to being tired.

There’s been so much to do of late, I haven’t been able to write let alone think about my new project. Writing stretches and exercises my voice, keeps it strong and present. The cry, as Kazantzakis so eloquently described, is released.

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

Murder and Mayhem

History never really says goodbye. History says, see you later.” Eduardo Galeano   

“There were always feuds and misunderstandings in our family,” my father said this week out of the blue. I’ve heard similar words in the past.

“And murder.”

“What do you mean?”

“Even in a family, not everyone gets along. There can be disappointments, arguments and mayhem.”

“Yes, but murder?”

“I don’t know too much because I never met my grandparents or great-grandparents. I never knew anyone in my extended family.”

And yet through coincidental encounters, we’ve been fortunate enough to meet some of our extended family, first in the United States, then in my grandfather’s ancestral home in Kyparissia. It’s these encounters and words such as murder, vendetta, and we were told never to talk about how your great grandfather died, uttered in many conversations that sent me, a fiction writer, on the journey to discover what happened in my family.

What I learned provided an outline for my new novel. Too many have gone now and along with them, the truth, or at least their version of it. So anything I couldn’t find, I made up. Who knows what else I’ll discover. Still, the way in which family history plays its way back into our lives continues to fascinate me. I love the fact that none of us can truly outrun it.

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

Canada Day

The fact is Canadians understand that immigration, that people fleeing for their lives, that people wanting to build a better life for themselves and their kids is what created Canada, it’s what created North America.” Justin Trudeau   

“We came here for a better life for you,” my father says any time I ask him why we came to Canada. “And your sister and brother.”

“Wouldn’t it have been easier to just move to Greece from Cairo. It was our homeland,” I reiterate. “And so much closer to what we all knew.”

Yes, but Greece didn’t have the opportunities Canada offered. I had a job the day after we arrived, owned a house a few years later, and was accepted and made to feel I belonged. We built a good life here for you and your siblings.”


Power to Transform

Art has the power to transform, to illuminate, to educate, inspire and motivate.” Harvey Fierstein   

This week we completed the last in our Spring Reading Series for 2018. Four award winning authors—Chelene Knight (Dear Current Occupant), John Mavin (Rage), Arlene Paré (The Girls with Stone Faces) and Timothy Taylor (The Rule of Stephens) took the stage with our very own Rebecca Wood Barrett hosting the evening’s event.

The glimpse the authors provided into the worlds they were writing about was both inspiring and humbling to me. I left knowing that as a writer I have to continue to strive to be better and the only way to do that is to continue to practice my art.

And as event organizer (yes, the other hat I wear), I was reminded again and again of why I do what I do. Various members of the audience took the time to find me and thank me for a wonderful evening of words, stories and discussion. “Who knew you could get this in a ski town,” someone said. “What an incredible evening,” another person told me. “Thank you for doing this.”

Its the authors and our moderator that deserve our thanks. So I thank you again for all you do. Thank you to Dan Ellis at Armchair Books for always having our authors’ wonderful books available at our events. And to you, our audience, thank you for your support.  The literary arts in Whistler would not exist without you.

Now mark your calendars: this year’s Whistler Writers Festival is October 11th to 14th. Tickets go on sale on August 13th.

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

With Many Thanks

Do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” Theodore Roosevelt  

Last week I went to a friend’s celebration of life. A number of people spoke about the impact my friend had had on their lives. Each eloquent speech reiterated who he was—inclusive, loving, funny, sometimes crass and always genuinely interested in the other person’s point of view. And in the male dominated work I was doing back then, my friend and colleague treated me like an equal and that wasn’t always the case with others. But that’s another story.

His daughter also spoke. Her memories of her father were summed up in what she said he used to tell her, “If someone asks you for anything and you can give it, give it freely.”


I Know You

With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come.” William Shakespeare  

“You know what I like about Whistler?” My dad asked last week when I suggested that he come back with me the next time I visit him in July.

“The mountains, the scenery?”


Illuminating Worlds

Better to illuminate than merely to shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.” Thomas Aquinas   

I haven’t been blogging over the past few weeks because I’ve been visiting and helping my aging father.  He’s fine overall. His memory sometimes clear, other times incredibly fuzzy and all of these reversals in the span of ten minutes. Despite it all, I’m grateful to be here with him and to all of you who checked in to see if I was okay. I so appreciate your friendship and concern and the kind words about my blogs. Thanks for reading and commenting on them. And thanks for being in my corner.


Buoyed By Memories

It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.” Babe Ruth   

I used to work with a handwriting analyst. The work we did at the time—consulting for the Italian Ministry of Finance—had nothing to do with this skill he’d studied in university and later used during his military duty. By the time we met and worked together, he did these analyses simply to pass the time over coffee or lunch.

He was a lovely man and we had long conversations about the state of the world, the various projects we were involved in and life in general.

So when he suggested he’d examine my handwriting, I jumped at the opportunity.


Am I Writing for An Audience or for Me?

To gain your own voice, you have to forget about having it heard.” Allen Ginsberg   

This was the question one of my students posed this week. Another said that she wrote for herself. She didn’t give a damn what anyone else thought about it. Yet another student indicated that he could never write if he thought it was just for himself. “There has to be a larger audience for my work or I couldn’t do it.”

This discussion started because the student who asked the question had used a metaphor in her submitted story that was meant to represent a place of security and safety. Not all the students were familiar with the reference. She then explained it and in doing so, her intention for the story was completely different than the way we had all read it.

You can’t really do this in a story. Well, you could. But what’s the point? You don’t want to confuse the reader. You want to enrich their experience.


Thinkers Among Us

A bookstore is one of the only piece of evidence we have that people are still thinking.” Jerry Seinfeld  

Yesterday, April 28th was Independent Book Store Day. This movement was started three years ago by Authors for Indies. Authors take time away from their own projects to work in an independent bookstore, meeting and greeting customers and talking about books. You can’t really call that work. It was a pleasure to spend my time, giving back to one of the best bookstores in the world, Armchair Books. Dan Ellis the owner has supported both my writing career and the literary programming I’m crazy enough to organize including, the Whistler Writers Festival, the Authors in the School Program, the Writer in Residence Program and the Spring Reading Series.

None of these programs would exist, let alone thrive without Dan’s support. So this blog is my thank-you note to Dan and Armchair for years of unwavering support. I’m also very grateful to all the readers who buy and read books.

Yes, Jerry, there still exist thinkers among us. Thankfully!

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

My Two-Cents

Try to be a rainbow in someone’s cloud.” Maya Angelou

My latest manuscript spans over 100 years of Greek history starting with the end of WWI, through to what the Greeks call the catastrophe, all the way to present day. Greece has in this period (not to mention the period long before this) experienced a great deal of extremes. It is unbelievable to me how nations forget their histories and resort to populism as so many countries including Greece are doing right now.

But in a time of despair, people forget their history and their values and are too eager to blame others and look for easy, quick solutions. The governments they elect mirror, and capitalize on, what they are experiencing. And there is always the group of people who feel marginalized and who, when they find a voice that speaks to them, will rise.


Useless Worry

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.” Leo Buscaglia

When I worry, as I have done a lot of recently, I repeat Mr. Buscaglia’s quote. I also ask myself: why are you thinking about these things? What are you afraid might happen? Sometimes understanding the underlying cause helps, other times, not so much. I run or exercise to get my mind off of my worries. Breathlessness seems to help erase anything else I’m thinking about.

Another strategy is talking things through. It takes me a while to do this. I have a tendency to mull problems over on my own before I share them. I know this is hard to believe since I’m usually such an open book. But don’t let appearances fool you.


Endurance and Survival

We don’t know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.” Isabel Allende

On Friday, April 13th the Whistler Writing Society will be hosting the Outdoor Endurance and Survival reading event at the Squamish Lil’Wat Cultural Centre in Whistler. You might ask yourself what does Stella know about outdoor anything? Basically I don’t. Sure, I live in an outdoor sports-obsessed community, but I remain a proud city-girl. Our audiences however, have asked for an event that showcases the writing of outdoor adventurers, explorers and athletes and I like to deliver.



If you get stuck, draw with a different pen.” Paul Arden

“I don’t understand how you can start with so much stuff and when you get to the middle, you can’t think of anything else.” She’s sitting in the passenger seat, her hands open and flapping as a frustrated bird might do in an attempted take off. We’ve just set off for the science centre.

So what do you do?” I ask. I’ve got two others in the back seat I’m keeping an eye on because they have a propensity to argue when they sit too close to each other. The roads are icy and the traffic is backed up because of an accident. I need to pay attention, yet I want to hear how she tackles this problem of hers. It’s mine too.

“I go over it again and again to see if I get any ideas.”

“Does that help?”

“Sometimes. But what really helps is to just keep thinking about it. When an idea comes to my head, I make notes, I don’t give up.”

She’s ten and a budding novelist and artist. I’m her 100-year-old (according to her) grandmother, and stuck at the moment too (and I’m not talking about the traffic). She’s reminded me to go back to the page. It’s been scary to do that lately. Nothing seems to come, nothing useable anyway.

The traffic has eased a bit. She looks at me. “It’s the only thing I can do. There are no other tricks to getting the story done. Right?”


© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

Another Life Lesson

The best protection any woman can have…courage.” Elizabeth Cady Stanton

“We don’t want to put bubble wrap around him.”

Why not? It’s my job to protect him, as he did for me when I was a child. I wanted to say this, but she continued with her probing questions. I had taken my father to his yearly appointment with his cardiologist. We were in her office.

She asked him a number of questions about his lifestyle, what he’d been doing, and how he was feeling. “Oh, I feel pretty good,” he said.

My father never complains and because his memory is fading, he doesn’t remember his recent hospital stay for angina, or his need to go up and down the stairs to lug his vacuum cleaner, or that he insists on shovelling snow even though we have someone who does this for him.

I filled in the blanks and gave her the details. “I remind him that he doesn’t have to do these things, but he does them anyway.”

“Do you feel out of breath when you shovel the snow?” she asked. “Do you have any pain in your chest when you climb back up the steps?”

“No, I relax when I need to,” my father replied. “Then I start again.”

“I’m afraid he’ll go outside and forget his jacket and collapse in the snow or he might fall down the stairs or …”

“You don’t want to shrink his life,” the cardiologist said.

I’m reminded of how protected I was as a child, how I fought against that stifling we don’t want anything bad to happen cage of love and concern. I tell myself to relax. And, those of you who know me know what a feat this is. It takes a great deal of courage to let go. I haven’t mastered it, but I’m trying to let him live whatever he has left of his life. I know it’s the right thing to do, but a daughter never stops being a daughter. As I think this, I’m reminded of what my mother used to say; a parent never stops being a parent.

How is it that I’m still relearning these life lessons?

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

Oh, To Be An Artist

Many things which cannot be overcome when they are together yield themselves up when taken little by little.” Plutarch

This week, I finished another section of my new novel. It’s not really a novel yet, but I’m working on it. Every word, every sentence, every chapter, and then every section is a triumph. It keeps me motivated even though I have no idea where I’m going.

I was reminded of what it means to be an artist according to Georgia O'Keeffe (https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-artist-georgia-okeeffe) in an article sent to me by one of my students. Yes, Ms. O’Keeffe was a visual artist and I’m a writer, but the four lessons she lived by—observe the world around you, closely, hungrily, organization is key to productivity, don’t sweat mistakes, learn from them, and pay no attention to trends, be yourself—apply to all artistic pursuits.

Happy writing!

© All Rights Reserved. Unless otherwise indicated, all blog content copyright Stella L Harvey

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