Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

A Call to Action - Update #3

A Call to Action – Update #3 “First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.” Ray Bradbury Easier said than done, Mr. Bradbury, but some authors did just that, very successfully, this year. Here is my list of the novels I enjoyed in the last half of 2016. Next week, I will provide my recommended books of non-fiction. Hope this helps you with your Christmas...

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A Call to Action – Update #2 “Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein I have been mentoring students in the Creative Writing Program at Simon Fraser University since the fall. We meet every couple of weeks to review their work and discuss writing. This past week we talked about the struggle of starting a new project. In these early stages of creation you don’t know what your story is about, who your characters are or what their goals, desires and motivations are. You’ve got a blank page you know you want to fill,...

A Thankful Heart “The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest.” William Blake It’s been one of those weeks where I have lots to be thankful for, so this week instead of one blog, you’re getting two. I couldn’t help myself. In addition to all the donations and kind comments I received for the Whistler Writers Festival campaign at the gofundmesite (yes, still flogging), I also got a note from my friend, author Genni Gunn about my novel, The Brink of Freedom. Thanks Genni and thanks to all of you who have read my novel and sent me your feedback. It’s...

A Call to Action – Update #1 “The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker.” Helen Keller Last week I asked for your help. And in the first three days of our new fundraising campaign in support of the Whistler Writers Festival and its other literary programming, we raised $3,200. Thank you so much for your support. I appreciate the fact that you’ve shared our cause with your friends too. As a result, more have joined us. That couldn’t have happened without your...

A Call to Action “Action is the foundational key to success.” Pablo Picasso I need your help. But before I get into that let me start at the beginning.   In 2002 there were only 20 of us. We chatted, talked, learned. For many of us this was the start of a writing life. Since those humble beginnings we have grown steadily, but most impressively in the last six years−from 395 participants in 2011 to 1810 in 2016. We’ve been lucky enough to host multi-award winning authors (Jane Urquhart, Joseph Boyden, Lawrence Hill, Madeline Thien, Will Ferguson, Emma...

Surround Yourself With Smart People “Whatever you do, surround yourself with smart people who will argue with you.” John Wooden I grew up in a household where we argued about politics, world affairs, and anything we felt mattered. At the time, I wondered why we weren’t like other normal families who ate dinner and talked about their day. If something political was discussed during these meals with others, I couldn’t help myself.   Have opinion will share. I like discussion, arguing a point, listening to the counterpoint. Friends often tease me by raising...

Nasty “Evil is a miscellaneous collection of nasty things that nasty people do.” Richard Dawkins This morning an image of someone I used to work with came to mind. I’ve thought of him on and off over the years, mostly when I’ve met him in others. He was a brute of a man, overbearing and opinionated. Yet exceedingly accommodating, falsely pleasant, and willing to do anything for his boss. I was his boss. I worked in a young offender centre back then and he was one of the supervisors on the floor. Having worked in both an adult correctional facility and a young...

Adjusting “Life is 10 percent what you make it, and 90 percent how you take it.” Irvine Berlin Before he goes to bed, we mull over the day’s events. I wish him a good night in his language.Kalinychta. I feel his smile. There is recognition in that smile. With a few hints, he has remembered the day’s events. I am reassured. In the morning, I wake him with a kalimera and we set about planning his day. After our discussion, where I’ve answered many of his questions more than once, he says, now I know. But over the course of the day, he will ask me again and...

Finding My Way Back “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what is possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” Francis of Assisi It’s been more than two months. I’m finally contemplating going back in. But I dread it. I know I will scramble and search. And scramble some more. There will be many long hours of nothing. No guarantees I will find even a hint of what I started. You see I’ve been distracted, immersed in activity and noise. I like the kind of work that perpetuates this. I’m good at anything that demands quick thinking and...

Another Festival Is Put To Bed “A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.” Anonymous It wasn’t too long ago that I wasn’t sure I would have been able to write the words, another year, another festival. They come naturally now as if there is no question we will be back, bigger and stronger next year. When the day closes today so will the 15th year of what has become the annual Whistler Writers Festival. There were so many times we wanted to call it quits. The effort to put on such an event grew too much and the funds available to make it happen were too limited....

What Are You Excited About? “The creative habit is like a drug. The particular obsession changes, but the excitement, the thrill of your creation lasts.” Henry Moore This question−what are you excited about−is what journalists ask me in interviews leading up to the Whistler Writers Festival. Only a few days remain before opening night. At the moment, I’m mostly running flat out, trying to tie up all the final details. There is no room for excitement. It is at this time that I anticipate, visualize, hope (endlessly), and keep fingers crossed. And of course, I...

Here I Come To the Rescue “Since we can’t change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.” Nikos Kazantzakis I’ve been taking care of my dad over the last two weeks. He’s fine; as he likes to tell me, for an 87-year-old man with one foot on a banana peel. The man missed his calling. He should have been a comedian. My dad’s regular homecare person went on holidays and the various replacements, in the first few days, were inconsistent in when they showed up. This can spell disaster both for my dad’s failing memory and his need to get his...

Tracker “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” Rabindranath Tagore At the moment I'm knee deep. Yes, I’m trying to cross, but the expanse seems too far. Not sure I can take another step without some help. But I digress. Let me start at the beginning. A student I mentored a few years ago gave me a Fitbit. You’ve likely seen these things on people’s wrists. They look similar to a watch, but rather than tracking time, they track steps walked, heart rate, and among other things, your quality of sleep. My student’s...

Firsts “The scariest moment is always just before you start.” Stephen King “I’ve got an idea.” These are the words that strike fear into anyone who knows me. They frighten me a little too. But I persist because I’m curious and stubborn and want to know what will happen next. How far can I go with my inkling? I like beginnings. A fresh project, whether it’s a piece of writing or a completely new addition to my festival, comes with an inherent gush of creativity and inventiveness. It’s a time I’m flush with hope of what is possible and...

Lions and Sheep “I am not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep. I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.” Alexander the Great I had just had a California roll and looked forward to a quick cross-country ski at Lost Lake before heading home. It was a beautiful day, the kind we, who live in Whistler, brag about. The sky was clear blue and a light breeze teased at my cheeks. A few kilometers into the trail my hands got incredibly itchy. My stomach started to protest and I found it hard to catch my breath. Pretty soon I felt as though I needed to peel my skin off, my...

Every Day “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle I read the ekathimerini most days. This is the English version of the on-line Greek newspaper. As the name suggests, it is published daily.   The paper gives me a glimpse into what is happening in Greece.  It makes me feel closer to the country I love. Most days the picture isn’t pretty. The headlines seem to tumble over themselves with the same dire messages: more cutbacks, fewer jobs, higher taxes, and additional poverty. In between the gloom, there are rare...

Writer’s Block “You might not write well every day, but you can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” Jodi Picoult Last week’s twitter chat hosted by the Writer’s Studio at Simon Fraser University provided tips to combat writer’s block. A whole host of writers participated with some sound advice: rereading favourite authors, staying at your desk until the fog cleared, walking away from the work for a while. I have tried all of these tips with a good deal of success. This discussion got me thinking about other advice I’ve been...

Dreamers and Doers and Those Who Provide Support “We rise by lifting others.” Robert Ingersoll This is the fifteenth anniversary of the Whistler Writers Festival, a cause for celebration and reflection. As I look back, I think about the first festival in 2002. Twenty participants, one guest author, all gathered in my living room. Those who came from Vancouver and beyond (2) and the guest author, stayed in our house. We felt like a family, all under one roof. I love that feeling and always thought it would remain this way − small and intimate.

Fear and All that Jazz “Courage is knowing what not to fear.” Plato In a conversation with my father this week, he mentioned he’d walked to the store in his neighbourhood to buy some groceries. He’d been to the bank and since the store was close by, he thought he’d get a few things. I’m pretty protective of my dad. He was the same way with me when I was a child. Man, I used to curse him for that. How old am I, I’d rail. You don’t have to treat me like a kid. Now he says the same thing to me. I don’t know why. Look at the facts, I tell...

Behind-the-Scene Angel “When the world says, ‘Give Up.’ Hope whispers, ‘Try it one more time.’” Unknown About a hundred years ago, a newcomer arrived in town. She didn’t really feel that she belonged (big city girl and clumsy at the best of times, let alone when she’s got two boards strapped to her feet and is careening down a mountain), but she had to find her way because the man she loved, loved the place. So she decided to start something new, something that she was passionate about. There didn’t seem to be anything like it town so...

Who Is This Man? “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” George Bernard Shaw He sits quietly with his daughter and listens to her as she cries over some slight inflicted by another child. I watch from behind, at a safe distance. His arm is around her, her body tucked in close to his. I can’t hear their whispered conversation, but whatever he has said has reassured her. His daughter is soon playing again with her perceived transgressor. All is forgiven or at the very least put into perspective. The other day while planning...

  2016 Summer Book Recommendations – Part 2 “Wisdom begins in wonder.” Socrates Last week, I listed and provided a brief summary of the fiction titles I recommended for summer reading. I know, none sounded like light reads, but they are all well worth the investment of your time, energy and in particular, your heart. I have begun to read more non-fiction of late and here are some recommendations I’d like to share. Some of these books use humour to tackle tough topics, so it’s not all doom and gloom. Promise.

2016 Summer Book Recommendations – Part 1 “We shouldn’t teach great books: we should teach a love of reading.” B.F. Skinner Each year at this time I provide you with some of my book recommendations. As I write this, the sun is warming my back as I sit at my desk. Fluffy white clouds roll over the mountains. Summer has arrived. There’s no better time to discover a good book.

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagirhara “When you forgive, you in no way change the past – but you sure do change the future.” Bernard Meltzer Four young men meet in college. Each is talented: one is an actor, one a painter, one an architect, and one is a lawyer. They move to New York where they hope to realize their dreams. And so starts the novel, A Little Life by Hanya Yanagirhara. At the beginning I found it difficult to relate to the characters. They are young, selfish, and shallow. They like to party. How would I ever come to care about them? I nearly put the book down...

No Pitch Goes Unheard Here “I never put off till tomorrow what I can possible do – the day after.” Oscar Wilde I will do a few today, just a few. They should know. It’s only fair. No one should be left hanging, waiting. I wouldn’t want to remain in limbo, forever anticipating. I scroll down the list of those highlighted emails. There are about 150 of them. To be fair, I have acknowledged each and every one. Immediately. It’s a point of pride. If someone writes to me, I respond. Thanks so much for getting in touch. I’m just in the middle of...

Roots and Wings “There are only two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other, wings.” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe “How is it that someone who doesn’t cook opens a restaurant?” “I had money. I wanted to run a business.” “But a restaurant? What made you think you could do that?”   “I thought it would be a good business. It was crazy. I should have taken more time to think about what I wanted to do before I jumped into anything.” God, when hadn’t I said those exact words...

Painting Paradise “You have your brush, you have your colours, you paint the paradise, then in you go.” Nikos Kazantzakis Organizing an event of any kind, large or small brings with it a number of considerations, not the least of which is where to find the money to fund it. In my paradise (as it pertains to organizing the Whistler Writers Festival, and the Writer in Residence and the Author in Schools Programs) funders come onboard and give generously because they believe in our cause, see our need and want us to succeed. As you have probably deduced, I’m a...

Why I Bother “Every calling is great when greatly pursued.” Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. Why do I bother? I've asked myself this question daily, sometimes hourly. It happens anytime I sit down to write. First there are the questions: Why is this important? Who do I think I am? What the heck are my characters doing now? How does this fit into what I'm trying to do? The relentless questions are typically followed by feelings of worthlessness. As insidious as undetected pinpricks in a garden hose, my insecurities seep out: I can't do this. I'm not good enough. It takes me some time...

Not For the Money “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Pablo Picasso “So how much do you make?” I’m attending a book club meeting in Vancouver. I’d been invited here to discuss my novel. I don’t know anyone in the group. They found me through a friend of a friend of a friend. I accept all invitations for presentations to book clubs or schools or festivals or anywhere really. You want me to come, I’m happy to oblige. I’m honoured by the interest people show in my work. And besides I have the gift of the...

A Door Cracks Open “Sometimes we stare so long at a door that is closing that we see too late the one that is open.” Alexander Graham Bell I argue that I can’t let it go. “It’s been fifteen years. How do I walk away?” I do want to give up. This feeling has been true for quite some time, but of late, it has intensified. It’s just become too unmanageable. My energy is waning. Besides how many more original ideas can I come up to keep things fresh and interesting? I don’t have any viable answers, but that doesn’t stop the questions from...

Caregiving and Responsibility “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.” Abraham Lincoln My maternal grandmother raised me and was my primary caregiver for the first four years of my life. She died after giving my brother his middle-of-the-night feeding. My mother raised my son. I was in university when I had him. I went into labour in my afternoon class, finished the day, went home, then to the hospital. I told myself I didn’t have time for this even as the nurse was rolling me into the delivery room. Papers had to be finished, an exam was...

Storytelling “Poetry is finer and more philosophical than history; for poetry expresses the universal, and history only the particular.” Aristotle “So what happened?” The doctor asked. He looked to be no more than fifteen and had a manic yet caring presence. We’d been watching him running in his clogs from one bed to another only minutes before he walked into our cubicle. He seemed to take a lot of time with each patient. But perhaps that was my impatience showing. We’d been sitting in the same spot for nearly an hour. My dad sat in his undershirt, his...

Still Missing Her “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Mother Teresa Do you remember being a kid? I know. I know. It’s been a long time for me too. Still I get flashes of memory. They come at the strangest times with no obvious trigger. My hand gripped in my mother’s. The first day of school. We were both dressed in our finest. We were new to the country and neither one of us spoke the language so we had no other way to impress or, more correctly, to show that we were good...

Humour “Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he isn’t. A sense of humour was provided to console him for what he is.” Horace Walpole I’m the first to admit that I’m not funny. Not in the ha ha sense anyway. I can’t write or think comedy and I’m attracted, as I’ve said many times in this blog, to unraveling and making sense of tragedy and damage. Strange how I just used the word, unraveling. That’s really what I’m obsessed with. What makes someone unravel? But I’ll save that for another blog. Suffice to...

Fallibility “Even the knowledge of my own fallibility cannot keep me from making mistakes. Only when I fall do I get up again.” Vincent Van Gogh Over the past few weeks it has been difficult to avoid news of the trial of former CBC personality, Jian Ghomeshi. I’m a news junkie so listening, reading, watching the news is a big part of my day. I typically avoid this kind of sensationalism, preferring to focus on global political issues. But the cross examination of the women in this trial has stirred long forgotten memories. A man I met years ago came back to mind. I...

Community “We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.” Dorothy Day, activist It’s the third week of January and I’m still a little wobbly. Yes, we’ve had lots of snow this year. But I’m not talking about the slippery conditions. I’m talking about my inability to find my organizational footing, some routine. My days at the moment are disjointed. I do what I can, but I’m feeling disorganized and overwhelmed. The New Year brings with it new beginnings and a myriad of things I put off until January....

Giving “Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.” Khalil Gibran A journalist friend of mine this week sent me an email asking for suggestions for Christmas gifts that disappear. An example would be a jar of jam that would be eaten and enjoyed or a certificate to a restaurant. Lots of food ideas. She is writing her usual Christmas column and asked a bunch of us to think of suggestions. “These gifts are really out of the ordinary. They are cool and interesting gifts that aren't made of plastic which later end up in the landfill.”  She went on to...