Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

Incite

Incite Lately, I’ve been thinking about a man I worked with many years ago. Back then I used to wander a prison cellblock. Just to be clear, I was one of the ones with the keys, on the right side of the bars. That’s how long ago this was. They don’t use keys anymore. Not in the newer institutions anyway. The man was one of several supervisors who reported to me. At over six feet, he was the...

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Seven Word Autobiography This week we had the Whistler Writers Group annual general meeting. I try not to make this too formal an event. I left the boardroom years ago and don’t intend to recreate it in my artistic world. Yet, we went through some formalities just the same because, as the group has developed and received further funding, expectations on us have also grown. Suddenly others are noticing. So some decorum must be followed. Still, any of our meetings (formal or not) involve food and drink and usually a writing exercise. Just so everyone is clear: I hate writing exercises. I...

Who Am I? You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You’re on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who’ll decide where to go. Dr. Seuss We had lunch this week with a friend of mine visiting from Edmonton. Her husband had passed away earlier this year. She was reconnecting with friends and family she hadn’t seen for quite some time. Her husband had been ill and she was his primary caregiver until the end. I asked her how she was doing. I know what you’re thinking: what a dumb question.  How do...

Zen and Anger Anyone can become angry − that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way − this is not easy. Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) Greek philosopher Over a conversation this week with visiting guests, we had a discussion about what makes us angry. Most around the table said they reacted to people who shoved their way in line ahead of them, or who cut them off in traffic. I could feel the sense of injustice our guests felt when they talked about these slights. It was as though they alone were the...

The Speech I Would Have Given The Whistler Excellence Awards dinner was held this week. The event honours excellence in the areas of Service, Innovation and Sustainability, and outstanding leadership in Arts, Business and Community Service. I was surprised and honoured to be a finalist in the category of Whistler Champion of Arts and Culture. It was lovely to get dressed up (something I don’t get a chance to do living in a ski town), and it was wonderful to share the evening with so many friends. Friends, acquaintances and strangers were very generous and supportive. They made me...

Dad And what he greatly thought, he nobly dared. Homer          He set out to do better by his children than his own father had done by him. Against all odds and in the absence of a suitable example, he dared to take on fatherhood. As a young man, he was exactly that kind of man. An adventurer. Imagining a better life, he moved his family to a country at the other end of the world, a place with cold winters, and customs he didn’t understand. He didn’t know a soul. The Canadian Immigration officer who greeted him and his small brood at Pier 21...

From Where You Write “Yesterday we obeyed kings and bent our necks before emperors, but today we kneel only to the truth.” Khalil Gibran (artist, poet, writer) In Robert Olen Butler’s book, From Where You Dream (the Process of Writing Fiction), he says, “the best way to write fiction is to sit down each day and think about a scene, write a few lines about that scene on an index card and then write another one.” Apparently you do this until you have the scenes you think you need to complete a novel. You then arrange those cards in the order you think your story will unfold and you begin...

Knowing and Doing the Right Thing         There is a website entitled, Ancient Greek Battles which catalogues ageless Spartan stories and any resulting quotes. I’m not into battles, ancient or otherwise. Usually I stumble onto a site by accident when I’m searching for background information for the novel I’m working on or to find a quote that might inspire my work forward. In one particular story noted on this website, an old man went to the Olympic games and couldn't find a place to sit down. As he went from one area to the next, he met with...

No Guts, No Glory   It’s true. I’m anxious. I know it doesn’t show. I’m standing tall, moving through the gathering, stopping here and there to give my thanks, connect with those who support the craziness I foist upon them. Smile in place. Check. Handshakes. Appropriate nods. Blink. Smile again. Check. Move on. Greet. smile. Repeat. This may make me sound shallow. I’m just preoccupied with all the small details. I guess that is what I’m trying to say or show. I would prefer to be in the background, fiddling, worrying, and making sure everything comes off smoothly, but as chief...

Brittle When liberty is taken away by force it can be restored by force. When it is relinquished voluntarily by default it can never be recovered. Dorothy Thompson Of all forms of government and society, those of free men and women are in many respects the most brittle. Dorothy Thompson “Just look at those tiny, fragile bones,” the radiographer said, and I knew, before my arm was placed gingerly in the x-ray machine, my elbow was broken. My bones break easily, as does my heart. I take vitamins, eat well and exercise to keep my crumbly bones as strong as they can be. In terms of my...

He Doth Protest Too Much            Late last month the Supreme Court of Canada rejected the Harper government’s proposal for Senate reform. The fifth kick in the butt this government has received of late from the highest court in our land. Makes you feel warm and fuzzy just thinking about this. The Supreme Court of Canada is still an independent body.

Teachers        The task of the educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. C.S. Lewis As a child I was a klutz. I was worse than that. My scrawny body and unruly limbs seemed unable to move in unison. I left bits of my flesh on corners I bumped into, bruised my hips and knees on table edges, and broke my arm riding my bike. Standing, sitting or walking, I had the uncanny ability to trip over my own feet. I was the kid in gym class picked last, the one who found any excuse to avoid the lesson in the first place. When I made it to...

Immortality  Higher than the question of our duration is the question of our deserving. Immortality will come to such as are fit for it, and he who would be a great soul in the future must be a great soul now. Ralph Waldo Emerson I felt with great sadness the loss of authors, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Alistair Macleod this week. Their stories entertained, called us to action and gave us glimpses into ourselves through the circumstances of others. I loved them through their writing. I was also fortunate enough to meet one of these wonderful men.

Lucky by Kathryn Para Lucky explores the impact of war on those who bring it into our living rooms – the foreign correspondents. The novel is divided into two sections: 2004 and 2006. 2006: Ani, a photojournalist is home after a stint in the Middle East. The pictures she’s taken, the experiences she’s had, and the disappearance of her friend, Viva, reoccur as grainy images haunting her.   Living in her native Vancouver, Ani has to reconcile her life now with the adrenalin-filled one she led in the Middle East. Hooked on adrenalin then, hooked on the “V-drug” now; Vodka. We get some...

Crimea           My sister has always been stronger than me. I’m the oldest, but she got the take-no-prisoners gene. Her stubbornness left its mark on me. Some good. Some? All I can tell you is we laugh often when retelling the story of how our dad took me to emergency several times when I was a kid with yet another broken bone? Asked by a concern-weary nurse what had happened, Dad replied, “She was playing with her sister.” The nurse tilted her head, raised an eyebrow. “Her sister plays rough.” I learned a lot of street smarts from my...

Protest          To stand in silence when they should be protesting makes cowards of men (and women – I’ve added this bit because I’m sure Mr. Lincoln would agree). Abraham Lincoln More than a few years ago now, I took a poetry workshop at Simon Fraser University, not because I wanted to, but because the creative writing program I was enrolled in made this course compulsory. The professor was excellent. I was in awe of my fellow students who teemed with enthusiasm and talent. Me? Well, suffice to say, I’m not a poet. Don’t get me wrong, I...

Spreadsheet My brain used to be a quiet place where I could explore bold ideas while keeping them safe from prying eyes. When the opportunity presented itself, I would bring them out into the light to see what might happen. Lately though, my brain resembles a spreadsheet: tangled, multi-layered and formulaic. Awake or asleep I see its web. It has all sorts of nifty cells. All I have to do is keep adding more data. I’m good at doing that. More tasks, more dates. More bits and pieces of me. I’m not so good at exiting the quagmires I create.

Schoolyard Antics    I would rather be a little nobody, than an evil somebody. Abraham Lincoln You see these people everywhere. Or rather, you experience them. Whether you want to or not. It’s in their doggedness, the soulless bird of prey gaze and the rush of words that interrupt you. The pursed smile meant to entice, then consume what they see as the little nobody.

Well Intentioned Advice    I’ve been in the advice business for a very long time. As a kid, other kids sought my help about how to get a girl’s attention, or what to do about this or that boy, or how to talk to mom about dad’s drinking. Those early beginnings led to my life’s work, the kind I loved and found incredibly rewarding. It was never a slog. My work gave me so much more than I believe I ever gave. A few times lately, I’ve been on the receiving end of advice. I don’t mind this in the slightest. In fact, I usually solicit it because as a leader I know I don’t have...

Why We Look           Fifteen years ago we lived in a small village in England frequented by tourists and vacationers. People flocked there for the theatre, the river, and I suppose to see how the other half lived. It was a rather affluent community, quaint and picturesque. We lived in what the British called terrace houses and what I think of as row houses. I loved the history contained in the mortar and brick walls, the tiny English garden at the back, the meandering staircase to the small landing on the second floor and the two equally...

The Bridge Cabin      Can you picture it? Eight women in a room. Okay, I see your grin and know what you’re thinking. No, this isn’t the first line of a bad joke. I can’t tell jokes. I’m forever forgetting the punch line or the string of events or something. Each woman has her hands on keys. Not the pearly ones, but keys nonetheless. Some hands move, some lie in wait. Anticipation marks their brow and flickers in the starry far away look in their eyes. Some women face a window out to treed pathways. Others face each other, keyboard to keyboard. None of these women...

Getting Older No one longs to live more than someone growing old - Sophocles   I have a birthday coming up in the next few days. Oh, thanks for your wishes. That’s very nice of you. I appreciate it. No, I’m not turning a new decade or anything special like that. Although aren’t all birthdays special in their own way? When my friends complain about getting older, I tell them they should be grateful. I mean, really, what’s the alternative? And now, I need to take my own advice. I’ve been feeling somewhat anxious of late. Oh, yes I know it’s only a number. What’s the big deal?...

I’m Angry, Damn It! But Why? Men should strive to think much and know little. Democritus I know it doesn’t show, but I’m a pretty opinionated person. Okay, stop laughing. I mean it. Can’t you see? I’m stamping my size 6s? And I’ve got my hands on my hips in that all knowing school principle sort of way I’m prone to sometimes.  If there’s something I feel or think, I’m likely going to share it with you, whether I’m asked to or not. Okay, I know I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know about me. You’ve likely heard an earful in the past. Blame this need to voice my...

Squeaky Wheel        We’ve all been there. We’ve dealt with a service provider (I use the term service loosely), who doesn’t listen, doesn’t care, and certainly wouldn’t give us the time of day if he or she were not paid minimum wage to answer (or should I say avoid) our call. Thankfully when all is going well or at the very least, not badly, we don’t have to deal with these people or the organizations they represent. I suppose that is how we are lulled into complacency.

Happy New Year!    I thrive on routine. I think I’ve mentioned that in one or two, or maybe more, blogs. I’m sure I’ve written about routine and discipline so often you’ve wondered about my origins. Is she a robot or a real person? Let me reassure you. I’m no robot. I stray from the rigidity of my life several times a year. So there. Yes, I do. Really, I do. Gee, now I sound like a five year old. Blame it on the anarchy of December.

Some of My Favourite Reads of 2013     I’ve been writing this blog week-in and week-out for a year. I typically write and post on Sundays, usually my day off from fiction writing. I know, I know. What kind of day off is that? Not much of one is my quick response. But let me take a minute to explain. The energy I use to write a blog comes from a different, more rational part of my brain. Yes, I know its hard to believe that the words me and rational fit in a sentence I’ve uttered. The blog allows me to get my thoughts down about something I’m thinking, or worrying, about...

A Work In Progress I stand in front of the cashier as helpless as I would be if I were a schoolgirl facing the principle. She scowls; her fingertips tap the debit machine. I imagine her saying, “can’t you move a little faster lady, you’re ruining my chance at this month’s efficiency award.” I smile. She closes her eyes, rubs her temples. The customer in line behind me sighs. I try to read his exhale. Is it one of understanding or exasperation? Is he in my corner? Or not? I don’t know. I have to see the expression on his face before I draw a conclusion.

What is Remembered        Fragrances of exotic flowers, simmering lamb, baked desserts, aromatic spices will ignite a memory, a sense of something familiar. I will be reminded of a home I once lived in, and yet, won’t be able to see in any other substantive way. The mirage won’t permit a clear view of bricks and mortar, furniture, carpets. These details will be no more than ghosts and shadows. But at some level I know I’ve been there.

A Family Story          In November, CBC’s Canada Writes held a contest entitled Blood Lines. Contestants were to dig through the pages of their family’s past and share a compelling story from their bloodline. We were to include a picture with our submissions. I don’t normally enter contests, but felt that the story of how we found our American cousins was an important one to tell. It’s a story we still mull over when we get together. The ‘what-if’s seem deeply entrenched for each of us even as we are thankful for the ‘what–is’.  The story...

Envy    Remember when you were a kid? You looked up to your older siblings with a kind of wonder and enchantment bordering on hero worship? You wanted to hang out with them, copy how they act, who they hung out with, and what they did. And if you were honest with yourself, you knew you wanted to be them. Not you. No. You don’t remember being like that? Me neither. Not because I didn’t do it. I did. But, I didn’t have an older sibling. I was the oldest. And believe me neither my sister nor my brother looked up to me or admired anything I did. I was far too nerdy for them to...

Friendships   True friends stab you in the front. Oscar Wilde A month or so ago I met up with an old friend for dinner. We’d planned this via email months in advance as we live at opposite ends of the country and we don’t get a chance to get together often. Like a kid before Christmas morning, I can get very excited about visits like this. I imagine how we’ll gab the night away sharing stories, arm in arm, laughing. I thrive on this type of intimacy. Okay, I know what you’re thinking. Man are you ever setting yourself up for a fall. It’s true I am a bit of a dreamer and a...

Who Are We?          Friends ask me if I’m enjoying writing a weekly blog. It wasn’t something I wanted to do. In fact, I went into it kicking and screaming as I do with any significant change in my life. But having written the blog for almost a year, I have to say I love it. The blog reminds me of the letters I used to write to the local newspaper when I was a kid. If there was something in the community or in the news that bothered me or I had an opinion about (and when don’t I have an opinion), I used to take pen to paper. I guess I was...

Lululemon     Yoga has many definitions, but I’ll use this one from the Merriam-Webster on line dictionary: “a Hindu philosophy that teaches a person to experience inner peace by controlling the body and mind.” I wonder if Lululemon’s co-founder Chip Wilson practices yoga? He seems to be having trouble controlling his mouth these days and perhaps could benefit from the practice. Just last week, he said that Lululemon pants aren’t for all women. “They just don't work for some women’s bodies,” he said, as his wife looked on, her jaw tight, her forehead furrowed. She...

Who Among Us Is Perfect? I made an appointment with a hairdresser. My high school graduation ceremony was the same evening. Dress and high-heels were already taken care of. But now I needed an expert’s help. There was no taming my waist-long, forest-like head of hair. It was raining that morning and I took the family car without permission. My parents were preoccupied with something, but I don’t remember what. Lucky for me, I thought. I asked my sister to come along. I needed an accomplice.

Sneaking Peeks        A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. Franz Kafka An eternity ago, we moved to England for work. We lived in a typical row house on a quiet street in a picturesque village about thirty minutes away from my office. Narrowboats wound their way through the canals and old trees towered overhead. This was the village of Shakespeare. We chose to live here instead of the city where I worked because this was the England I had read about and imagined.

Enfant Terrible         If you were a quiet kid in school, the middle of the road type who did your work and didn’t make a fuss, no one likely gave you much notice. You were left to fend for yourself. If you were an honour student, you were showered with praise and teachers smiled with pride when you raised your hand to answer a question. You got lots of attention, sure, but nothing like the kid who was belligerent, smoked or sold pot, got into fights, and did whatever he could to get noticed. That kid got some serious focus, the kind only...