Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Forever the Radical and Always Loved

“This above all: to thine own self be true.” William Shakespeare I’ve begun clearing out my dad’s house, a house my parents lived in for 54 years. They collected art, artefacts and souvenirs from their travels and in and amongst all of these things they also kept their children’s home economics projects, arts and crafts sculptures and hand-made cards. Their pride in their children was...

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“A faithful friend is the medicine of life.” Ecclesiastes I’m home after a few weeks of being on the road. I read from my new novel, Finding Callidora in Calgary, Edmonton and Victoria. I’ve lived and worked in all three cities over the course of my previous career. However, I haven’t been in Edmonton for four years, a city I left some 25 years ago, and I haven’t been in Victoria for four years either, preoccupied with other matters I don’t regret. I worked in Victoria 14 years ago. I only realized how many years had passed when I got lost and couldn’t recognize some landmarks I came to...

“The great use of life is to spend it for something that outlasts it.” William James My father used to say, when God came calling, a person had no other choice but to heed the call. While that is true, my father died the morning of October 9th on his own terms, in his own home surrounded by memories of the life he’d built and lived. Pictures of my mother, his three kids, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren were on the dresser in his room. He looked at those pictures every day with a pride that was beyond limit.

“From caring comes courage.” Lao Tzu I spent the month of September with my father in his home, the home I grew up in. His lawn was a green we rarely see in Calgary in the autumn. After a hot summer everything is usually parched. But this year it hadn’t been hot. I felt compelled to keep it green and tidy so when the leaves began to tumble, I was out, every day, sometimes several times a day, raking, and picking up. I cursed each windstorm. At some point, I wondered why. Okay, I know I’m obsessive about a lot of things, but this seemed ridiculous even for me. Yes, it’s my parents’ garden...

Discourse “Persuasion is achieved by the speaker's personal character when the speech is spoken as to make us think him credible.” Aristotle I grew up in a household where debate, discourse and conversation was loud, insistent and always expected. “How will you understand the world around you and what you think and value without discussion?” my father would ask and go on to remind me, “but you have to have facts and speak truthfully from your own experience, be prepared to listen to others and perhaps change your mind.” His words encouraged me to value discourse, form opinions (some would...

“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...

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...

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...

Theories “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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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,...

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...

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,...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

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...

Roots “Roots are not in a landscape or a country, or a people, they are inside of you.” Isabel Allende I’ve wanted to do this for a long time. I told myself it would be another piece of information, giving me more links to those connections I’ve long pined for. I did some research and read a number of different articles including those that told me not to do it. I thought about it some more. The website extoled the ease by which I could proceed and listed everything I would discover. So I leaped, or rather, ordered, spit (really), and then prepared myself to...