From a recent article in the Whistler Question by Brandon Barrett

It’s no revelation that writing can often be a tiresome, thankless job. Authors can spend weeks, months even years weaving their narrative without any sort of significant feedback, so when something positive comes out of that process, it can be an overwhelming experience.

Just ask local scribe Stella Leventoyannis Harvey, whose debut novel Nicolai’s Daughters was recently commissioned for a Greek translation.

“That’s what happens when you work at something so long and then something good happens, it’s just really emotional. It’s almost kind of draining,” said Harvey. “It’s this kind of relief, not necessarily a sadness. You’re going and going, putting one foot in front of the other and then somebody comes and gives you a hand up.”

 

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From the Quill & Quire Review of Nicolai's Daughters by Ashleigh Gaul

Stella Leventoyannis Harvey, a founding member of the Whistler Writers Group, discovered inspiration for her first novel while visiting a monument to the Nazi massacre of 696 Greek men and boys in the Achaean region of Kalavryta. Nicolai’s Daughters flips between the perspectives of Nicolai, a Vancouver immigrant who returns to Achaea after the death of his wife, and his grown daughter Alexia, who retraces her father’s steps 24 years later. Both discover a family secret: Nicolai’s father let German soldiers sodomize him on the condition that his family be spared. While Nicolai runs from the revelation, Alexia decides to face up to its repercussions head-on.

The parallel narrative allows Harvey to demonstrate how differences in character and circumstance can result in drastically divergent life choices. In some of the more Oedipal scenes – when Alexia allows her father’s boyhood friend to seduce her, for example – the reappearance of characters at different historical periods maximizes the dramatic irony and impact. Short scenes push the complex plot forward, and Harvey’s simple sentence structures complement her harsher themes: abandonment, banishment, incest, and sacrifice.

 

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

Underestimated

I have been underestimated my whole life. I’m not exactly sure why that is, but it’s happened to me so often in my career I should be used to it by now. In the last few weeks, it happened again, not once, but twice. Rather than let these slights slide away like snow off a steep slope, I found myself wondering yet again what it is about me that makes others second guess what I can or cannot do. I’d tell them if they asked (I have never been afraid to tell the truth about my abilities), but they don’t and in the end it’s their assumptions that hurt me.  

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On Being Human

This week I was tempted, strongly so, to do something I’ve often complained others do far too easily. Yes folks I, who believes in abundance and shares everything she has because she believes there will always be enough for all of us, almost closed ranks, came into myself to protect my turf.  I can’t believe I just wrote the words, ‘my turf’. For those of you reading this blog who know me, you see what state I must have been in this week. Yes, I was more peculiar than ever.

Not sure what happened that set me off on this wrong-headed course except there was an innocent threat made by someone I consider a friend. The threat I perceived nestled and burrowed until what was likely a thoughtless comment perhaps said in jest turned, in my mind, into an act of war.

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God Help Us All

I’ve been writing a blog every Sunday since the beginning of the year. I took this on as part of a 30-day challenge to myself to try something new. The blog has allowed me to do a brain dump, to tuck away for safekeeping my endless churning thoughts. I had the misguided notion that blogging might help me sleep, something my constant thinking has denied. And if nothing else, I thought the blog might give me an opportunity to get my opinions and views off my chest rather than have them skulk about waiting for the next unsuspecting dinner guest.

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Whatever… 

About a hundred years ago, I was interviewed for a Deputy Director position for a young offender facility in Alberta. In that interview, the then Assistant Deputy Minister of Corrections asked me one of those questions that at the time I dreaded and had not prepared for (which is likely why I dreaded it): Are Leaders Born or Made? I was a twenty-something then, before that term was even invented. I needed a minute to think. It was a philosophical question and I wondered if he wanted to know what I thought or if he’d already made up his mind not to give me the job and was toying with me, extending the interview for a few more minutes so I wouldn’t figure out he’d already made up his mind. I scanned his face and that of the Director of the facility who sat beside him, the man who would be my ultimate boss. They looked at me, then each other, one winked, the other smiled in that way teenagers in cliques do as if to say, I know something you don’t know.

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Is Filoxenia In Greece Dead?

I am Greek. With a name like Leventoyannis, this is no secret. I’m proud (eimai perifanos) of my cultural roots, brag about Greece’s contributions to medicine, language, democracy and the arts, and don’t mind repeating my name several times or spelling it for those intimidated by all those letters.  But last week when I read the online European news on BBC World Service my beaming pride turned to abject shame (tropi). Shehzad Lugman, 27, a Pakistani immigrant riding his bicycle to work at a bakery was murdered in a suburb of Athens by two motorcycle-riding thugs reportedly members of the right-wing extremists, Golden Dawn, a political party whose members should be behind bars rather than soiling democratic seats in the Greek legislature.

Reading the BBC article and a subsequent article about another attack on migrant workers in the Greek city of Larissa in this week’s Ekathimerini, I no longer recognize it as the same country I love, boast about and defend almost weekly, particularly since the country’s economic crisis.

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Bellissima

I get up early most mornings (4:30 a.m. – 5:00 a.m. early) because I like the quiet of a dark, new day. The world is still asleep and not asking a single thing from me. I can escape into the imagined world I’m trying to create in my new novel before anyone else notices what I’m doing, including me. I avoid email and just get on with putting down on paper the characters and stories that have forced themselves into my dreams and incessantly whispered into my ear as if sitting on my shoulder. Last Monday, email was the first thing that came up when I flipped my laptop’s lid.

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Love the Whole

I typically read, or rather I should say, skim two online Greek papers most days: Athens News and Ekathimerini. It keeps me connected to what is happening in Greece, a place I still consider my homeland.  By reading the Greek papers I’m looking to get a different perspective, perhaps a little more insight than what might be reported in our own media about the economic and political crisis in Greece. I guess what I’m really looking for is hope, a story, or an inkling that Greeks are back on their feet; their lives are improving, turning around. Unfortunately the headlines, like those here at home, rage in despair and the stories are coloured with corruption, political unrest, violence, illegal immigration, and the rise of the extreme left and even more extreme right. Is this the only story to be told of this proud nation? 

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Long Live Nostalgia

My nephew and his friends are fascinated with the 60s, 70s, even the disco 80s. They wear retro, collect now-expensive vinyl albums, watch old movies and feel as though they may have been born too late. I have become nostalgic too. I tear up when I hear an old song and seek out movies with actual plot lines that don’t depend on blood and gore and split-second attention-deficit scene changes.  Then again, it might be that I’m just getting old and long for a time I like to think was kinder, gentler.  

Actually, I’m not sure why the nostalgia. In my case it might stem from feeling as though I’m no longer being heard. I’m a ball of opinions with few old avenues for communicating them. I’m starting very slowly to embrace new communication streams, but that’s a slow process and in the meantime what do I do with my disillusionment with our leaders and what I see as their misguided initiatives on so many fronts from the criminal code to the environment. It’s difficult to know where to begin and complacency is such an easy fall back position. Maybe it’s easier to think of the good old days. Still, there has to be more. Perhaps by looking back I’m trying to find my way out of this mire. I don’t know.

In his book, “Retromania,” music writer Simon Reynolds explores how this nostalgia obsession is infiltrating everything; from fashion to performance art to electronic music. He comes away with the following prognosis. “If we continue looking backward we’ll never have transformative decades, like the 1960s, or bold movements like rock ‘n’ roll, again. If we watch and listen to things that we’ve seen and heard before, and revive trends that have already existed, culture becomes an inescapable feedback loop.” 

I beg to differ.

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Afraid But Doing it Anyway

I live in a place where people throw themselves off mountains and cliffs on skis, snowboards, bikes, paragliders, any form of contraption that will provide a death defying thrill.  Or at least that’s how I see it from behind my windows, sitting at my desk, in my warm house. Yes, these folks are flouting death, while I look on in awe and admiration. And a little bit of head shaking as I wonder once again, how I ended up in this place with its adrenaline-inducing peaks that draw a line in the sand or rather the granite and challenge all those willing to take the dare.     

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Shaw Channel 4

 

2012 Whistler Readers and Writers Festival, Oct. 12-14, Whistler, B.C. For more information and a full schedule of events visit theviciouscircle.ca.

Stella Harvey spoke to the North Shore News about the history of The Vicious Circle and what to expect at next weekend's Whistler Readers and Writers Festival.

North Shore News: How did The Vicious Circle get started in Whistler?

Stella Harvey: I've always written stuff here and there but I had another career and I was working in Europe for three years. When we decided to come back I sort of thought this might be a good time. I started to do short fiction and I had some of it published in literary magazines and then from there wrote the novel that is coming out.

In terms of the writers group and the festival, when we came back to Canada we settled in Whistler in August of 2000 so I thought if I'm going to do this writing thing it would be nice to have some support. I went to the library and they said they didn't think there was a writing group. I put an ad in the local papers, in the Pique and the Question, and asked if there was anyone interested in getting together to talk about writing, critiquing that kind of stuff, and 26 people showed up at my door for the first meeting.

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