Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Reconciliation

Reconciliation “When complaints are freely heard, deeply considered and speedily reformed, then is the utmost bound of civil liberty attained that wise men look for.” John Milton I mentioned my son in last week’s blog when I wrote about Catherine Hunter’s book, After Light. I’ve been thinking about how we do things, or rather how I do things, particularly those things I think I’m doing in the...

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After Light By Catherine Hunter “A good book is the precious lifeblood of a master spirit.” John Milton A friend of mine called me just as I finished Catherine Hunter’s latest novel, After Light. I was a mess. Crying my eyes out. I couldn’t talk. What a book! When I was able to collect my thoughts I sent Catherine what I hoped was an intelligent commentary. Here is a brief excerpt of the note I sent Catherine. I’ve taken out the bits that would give away any key elements of the story. Suffice to say my note to Catherine was much longer, but hopefully you’ll understand how I felt...

Thanks Again for Another Incredible Festival “Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.” Gertrude Stein This morning after the closing brunch event at the 2015 Whistler Writers Festival, everyone will pack up and head home. Only the memories will remain. Well, that and a whole bunch of final reports. Yes, they still have to be written. But this is not the time to think about reports. This is the time to raise my voice and express my gratitude to all those who make this festival along with the Writer in Residence and the Authors in Schools programs possible. Without their support, there...

The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan “Summer grasses/All that remains/of soldiers’ dreams.” Matsuo Bashō I just finished reading The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan.  What a book! Incredible! I’d like to tell you more about why I liked it and how it impacted me, but I don’t know where to begin. I’m still heart and soul into it as if I’ve been hit by something massive and I’m disoriented, unsure what happened. The title of the novel is derived from Matsuo Bashō’s poem of his travels to Japan’s remote north-eastern region, Tohoku. Bits of poetry are...

Facebook “The greater the difficulty the more glory in surmounting it. Skilful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.” Epictetus  Just last week there was a splashy headline about Facebook having one billion users on line in a single day. I’m not sure why this is worthy of news, but it certainly says something about what the company values, i.e., numbers. Any talk of quality is suspiciously missing. As a user of Facebook, I care about the service provided. I’m not on Facebook to share my life. I have a business account. I use it to promote my business. Period. So when...

False Words “False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.” Socrates I don’t watch a lot of television. Basically I watch the National and the Rick Mercer Report on CBC. You probably guessed, I’m not a Conservative and have no leanings in that direction. I had read about the Conservative Party’s advertising campaign against Justin Trudeau, but thankfully hadn’t seen any of the commercials until this past week. In these horribly condescending ads, the Conservatives have the audacity to discuss the Greek government’s economic woes, claiming that if Canada...

Reverence “Let parents bequeath to their children not riches, but the spirit of reverence.” Plato Several years ago I travelled extensively for work. Monday, Rome. Wednesday, Vienna. Friday, Birmingham. It felt exotic and glamorous to be on the move. Sitting still is not one of my strengths. It’s a wonder I’m a writer now. But that’s another story. Suffice to say, running has always been my raison d’être. My pace hasn’t slowed down since I left Europe either. Anytime I complained about my workload and how I needed a vacation, my mother would say I couldn’t run away from myself. Wherever...

Summer Time Reading Recommendations – Part 2 “Reserve your right to think, for even to think wrongly is better than not to think at all.” Hypatia Okay, so I can see I haven’t left Greece completely behind. I continue to quote Greek philosophers. Following on last week’s blog of my recommendations for works of short and long fiction, this week, I’ll recommend a few books of poetry and non-fiction I read and enjoyed very much. This list will be a little shorter as I typically read more fiction. Still I hope it helps.

Summer Time Reading Recommendations – Part 1 “Time is the most valuable thing a man can spend.” Theophrastus It seems to me that I’ve been blogging about Greece in one way or another for months now. Perhaps it’s time to write about something else. Typically I give my book recommendations at the end of the year, however for the sake of shaking things up, including my own one-track mind, I thought I’d share some of the books I’ve enjoyed over the past several months. When I’m not ranting or organizing or writing, I spend my time reading. Here are some of my picks by category and in no...

There Are No Thieves In Greece “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark. The real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” Plato My husband’s wallet was stolen a few weeks ago as we stood on a crowded subway in downtown Athens. Within the span of two stops, the wallet was gone, along with something else I didn’t notice right away. We contacted our bank, the embassy and the local police. At the police station, we met a French woman who was waiting to report another theft. She’d been riding on a bus. She’d lost all her identification and money. I remembered...

Greek Voices “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” Oscar Wilde Greece is in the news again, on the brink once more. The tit-for-tat political rhetoric is never ending and fervent, but it gives no voice to those dealing with the economic crisis day in, day out – Greek citizens. In the end, they will be the ones to pay for the sins of their governments. “I can’t tell you what I think,” a man responded when I asked him about the financial situation in Greece and the current talks between Athens and the EU. “What I have to say would not be polite.” I met him fishing on the...

Bad Behaviour “Opportunity is missed because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”  Thomas A Edison My siblings used to tease me about being the one who never got into trouble. They still pepper me with their jokes. I was the perfect one. Didn’t have a single voice raised against me. Ever. I don’t remember it that way.

Impressions From A Jet Lagged Brain “Every perfect traveler always creates the country where he travels.” Nikos Kazantzakis, Author The plane started descending into Athens International. I noticed the shimmer of the Mediterranean. Similar to a mirror, the sea reflects the light Greeks boast about when they describe the sky and the sunshine here. I don’t think this particular blue or this brightness exists anywhere else in the world. It takes me by surprise every time I come back. It warms me from the inside out, makes me think, I’m home. I love travel. It takes me out of my routine. It...

Beginning in One Place and Finishing In Another – Part 2  “Exclusion is never the way forward on our shared paths to freedom and justice.” Desmond Tutu Last week I started to tell you about a discussion I had with my dad and the question he posed: how had I adjusted to moving to Canada when I was so young. I got off on a tangent and finished the blog without exploring his query any further. Memory and thought got in the way, which in my book is always a good thing. As I mentioned last week, I didn’t speak English when I started school in Canada. I remember coming home and raving...

Beginning in One Place and Finishing In Another – Part 1    “We will live with racism forever. But senses of self, senses of belonging, senses of us and of others? Those are up for grabs.” Richard Powers My father asked me recently how I dealt with our immigration to Canada. The question surprised me. We moved here years ago. “But you were the oldest,” he said. “You didn’t speak English. How did you cope?” I spoke French, Arabic and a bit of Greek. I don’t have much recollection of that time and how I adjusted. They are long buried memories, but as with all questions, it got me...

Books, Authors and Difficult Decisions "You cannot open a book without learning something.” Confucius Books surround me. I have one on the go at all times and 10 or so in wait. I read one book at a time, letting it consume me before I go on to the next one. To say I love them would be an understatement. Books are my friends, my teachers, my entertainment, and my escape. But, at this time of the year, the pile doubles and sometimes triples. Publishers and authors alike send me their books hoping for an invitation to the festival I organize. I’m inundated. Exhausted. Worried.

The D Word “This wretched brain gave way and I became a wreck at random, driven without one glimpse of reason or heaven.” Thomas Moore I’ve been head down, focused on this tiny screen for I don’t know how long. Months? Certainly. But more likely: years. When I’m not editing, I’m rewriting or researching, cutting, adding, rewriting some more. And when I’m not working on my new novel, I’m organizing the Whistler Writers Festival, now in its 15th year (read this as a flagrant promotion of one of my passions). There are other tugs on my time. I know I’m not unique. Everyone has time issues....

What I Think “In a time of universal deceit−telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” George Orwell Whether it’s expanded powers for the police to ostensibly combat the looming terrorist threat in this country or another new bill to deny parole to some offenders, our prime minister liberally throws in bullish statements such as, “I know Canadians think blah, blah, blah” or “Canadians want blah, blah, blah”? He’s selling. And we’d better be vigilant. He wants us to get onboard with his program, his vision of this country. The implication of these statements being: if it’s good enough...

Rejection “The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher.” Thomas Huxley, biologist “It’s with deepest regret that I can’t make it.” “So sorry, no. Can’t do it.” “Sorry I don’t have better news.” Just like the bruises I accumulate on my body when I hit the corner of a table or the dresser, this sampling of rejections marks my psyche. I want to argue and stamp my feet in the same way any self-respecting five year-old might, say something mature such as, “Come on! Please!” Instead, when given...

Little Bee By Chris Cleave “Once you have read it, you’ll want to tell your friends about it. When you do, please don’t tell them what happens. The magic is in how the story unfolds.” Chris Cleave So starts the back cover blurb of the novel, Little Bee by Chris Cleave, a columnist with The Guardian. In the UK, the book was published as The Other Hand. And since I’ve been told not to tell you too much about the story, I won’t. I’ll just say that the book has two protagonists. Their lives intersect on a deserted beach in Nigeria and again in the London suburb of Kingston-on-Thames. But, I...

Critique “I think the most effective forms of critique are ones that establish a common ground for people to occupy, and then appeal to the best nature of people on that common ground.” Mohsin Hamid This week my critique group met to discuss a draft of a novel written by one of our members. We typically meet monthly and review three submissions. But with longer pieces, such as a novel, we set aside an entire meeting. Our process is simple. The person who is having their work reviewed submits that work a few weeks ahead of the meeting. Members read it, jot down comments and come to the...

The People Have Spoken “I always tried to explain that democracy is not perfect. But it gives you the chance to create your own destiny.” Aung San Suu Kyi With my thirteen-letter surname, that some have a problem pronouncing, and my relentless effusion of all things Greek, I’m often asked about the situation in Greece. How is the economy? Have things improved? What do you think about the election results? I’m happy to talk about Greece and my impressions, but I can’t pretend to know, in any depth, anything about its economy, its politics or even how the ordinary Greek person lives....

Stressed! “It’s not stress that kills us, it is how we react to it.” Hans Selye, endocrinologist The year has begun. Well, almost a month has passed since fireworks and parties brought in 2015. This year, I told myself, I was going to try to take on less, relax more, and make a real effort to chill. You know where this is going? Right? Despite my best efforts and I really do try, I find myself knee deep in paper, again, and a ‘to do’ list that is far too long for the time available, particularly if I have to eat and sleep too.

Controversy “I am continually fascinated at the difficultly people have in distinguishing what is controversial and what is merely offensive.” Nora Ephron A few years ago I was in Toronto doing a reading at McNally’s bookstore with authors, Mary Hagey, Ailsa Kay and Cordelia Strube. During the question and answer period someone in the back row asked (and I’m paraphrasing): “as authors do you write to garner controversy?” Because I tend to be opinionated (I know, I know, it barely shows), and have a big mouth, I said, “Controversial issues are the only ones I write about”. Basically, I want...

What Violence Begets "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy, instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate;...

Friends “The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” Epictetus (Greek Philosopher) During our trip to the Yukon this summer, we spent three nights in the tiny town of Haines Junction, at the edge of the Kluane National Park. After getting settled, we ventured to the Village Bakery and Deli. The local band, made up of the former owner of the bakery and his friends, played old time Maritime classics. Some 25 people were gathered outside on the deck. The evening was fall-crisp and sunshine bright even though it was around nine at night....

What a Tease! “Books and movies are like apples and oranges. They both are fruit, but taste completely different.” Stephen King I’ve always loved movies. In my twenties and thirties I think I saw everything that was ever made (ok, slight exaggeration)– from the soppy 1980 film, Blue Lagoon, to the ultra-violent, 1992, The Bad Lieutenant. I loved sitting in a dark room, eyes wide open (except during the violent bits), completely captivated by sound, pictures, and other people’s lives. For two hours the screen was not a separation, but rather a portal into other stories, other lives. I’ve...

Why I Do It “I was happy, I knew that. While experiencing happiness, we have difficulty in being conscious of it. Only when the happiness is past and we look back on it do we suddenly realize - sometimes with astonishment - how happy we had been.” Nikos Kazantzakis I’m the type of person who jumps on an idea; pursues it with obsessive fervour. I brush nagging doubts aside as easily as I might a pesky fly. Naysayers beware. I have no time for reason or question when I’m in making-things-happen mode. Still, in my quiet moments (rare as they may be) when lack of sleep is threatening to...

Yukon – Part 4 “It would have saddened me to see dust and rust where once hummed a rousing town; hundreds where there were thousands; tumbledown cabins, mouldering warehouses.” Robert William Service, poet and writer If you’ve read my blogs in September, you can probably tell that I loved the Yukon. It left its mark on me through its vastness, a beauty that both awes and frightens. In this last blog about the Yukon, I leave you with pictures of Whitehorse, Dawson City, Tombstone, the Top of the World highway, Haines Junction and the Kluane. I can’t begin to sufficiently describe this...

Yukon – Part 3 He is a wise man who does not grieve for the thing which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has. Epictetus     I had survived the trek through the Chilkoot. I now sat on the historical White Pass train that would take me, along with other hikers back to Skagway, Alaska and mercifully to a hot shower and a real bed. I was already thinking ahead to that shower, that soft mattress that wouldn’t grind my hips to shreds, the Laundromat where I could get my hiking clothes clean. Hikers were separated from other tourists on the train for obvious...

Yukon – Part 2 But the Artic chart memorializes more than men of rank, power, blood or property. The real immortals, whose names are sprinkled throughout the Artic on bays and bights, capes and channels, are those who dared and sometimes died so that the map might take form. Pierre Berton, The Artic Grail   Everything flows and nothing abides, everything gives way and nothings stays fixed. Heraclitus In my trek through the Yukon this summer, I was fortunate to visit Dawson City. A small town more than a city, Dawson is an historic community where the Klondike and Yukon Rivers...

Yukon – Part 1 It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out; it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. Robert William Service, poet and writer, ‘the Bard of the Yukon’. “Why don’t you go to Rome or Paris or one of the world’s ancient cities where you can learn about history and culture, see beautiful art and design, explore something new?” These were my father’s words when I told him we were off to the Yukon. I laughed at the time, told him that I loved those cities, but this year I wanted to try a new sort of vacation, something outside my ‘city-girl’ comfort zone.

Happy? If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. Dalai Lama I have been crying a lot lately. I can’t help it. I’m an emotional person. Who wouldn’t shed tears when witnessing events as they unfold and devolve? Poverty, disease, wars, climate change, inequality, murder and mayhem. Does it ever stop? And why is it that, as a race, we keep making the same mistakes? The smarter we get with technology and innovation, the dumber and more vicious we become. It’s outrageous.

Lessons The shortest and surest way to live with honour in the world is to be in reality what we would appear to be; and if we observe, we shall find, that all human virtues increase and strengthen themselves by the practice of them. Socrates, philosopher My parents taught me respect for myself and for others. It wasn’t a difficult lesson to learn. I can say this in hindsight. My parents may have a different version of events. This lesson of respect was drilled into me, not just in words, but also in action. They walked the talk. And I learned by example. Anytime then and now, when I...

Gaza Where is the justice of political power if it executes the murderer and jails the plunderer, and then itself marches upon neighbouring lands killing thousands and pillaging the very hills. Khalil Gibran, essayist, novelist, poet I’ve never been an armchair anything, preferring instead to get my hands dirty to make positive change happen. As I write these words and start to form my thoughts for this blog, I can’t help but wonder, isn’t that exactly what I’m doing by writing this blog. Pontificating? Yes, of course I am. As a private citizen engaged in life and what is happening in the...

Crimes Against My Brother by David Adams Richards In the interest of full disclosure, I want to say that I have loved every book by David Adams Richards I’ve ever read. I collect his books like I used to collect posters years ago to hang on my bedroom wall. The stories and characters Richards creates leave you pining for more. He is in my opinion one of our greatest Canadian literary treasures. There is an authenticity in the voices and the people he crafts, a gritty honesty that needles you like nothing else but good fiction can. His characters stay with you long after you’ve turned the...

Collaboration Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success. —Henry Ford I’m not competitive by nature. I don’t believe success comes because someone else fails. Pursuits where there are winners and losers are not for me. As a kid I wasn’t enamoured with competitive sports. I used to think this was because I was naturally awkward and clumsy, more a bookworm than a track and field star. While the later is true, I think I simply excluded myself from those activities because I didn’t like the fact that someone had to lose. Maybe I thought it...