Stella Leventoyannis Harvey

The Reviews Continue

The Reviews Continue “Life is a ship wreck but we must not forget to sing in the lifeboats.” Voltaire   As I write this, we are three weeks away from the event I have organized and watched grow over the last 16 years: the Whistler Writers Festival 2017. Sixteen years! Yikes! Who knew? Well, I know every time I look in the mirror. Double yikes! There are still many last minute...

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Keeping Track and Reviews “Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to repeat and review what is good.” Plato    Since November 2010, I have kept track of all the books I’ve read. As I write this, I know I am again sounding as though I have an obsessive-compulsive tendency. Okay, maybe a slight one.  Stop laughing. It’s good to remember books I’ve read, what I liked about them, whether I’d recommend them to others, and what I learned from them. When I know the author, I also like to share my impressions with them. I think authors...

The Count Down Begins “Time is like a handful of sand—the tighter you grasp it, the faster it runs through your fingers.” Anonymous    Five weeks to go before the festival from h… I mean the Whistler Writers Festival. Yikes! I’m dumbstruck. We begin planning in November of the prior year. And when we do I’m full of hope. I check off tasks one at a time, calmly, gleefully. But now, as in previous years, all those last minute tasks rear their monstrous heads and scare me half to death. How is it possible to have so much left to do when...

Finding a Way “Risk comes from not knowing what you’re doing.” Warren Buffet    You don’t typically associate the word, risk with the business of writing. You might imagine that writers work on their own in quiet comfort. Here’s the reality. I stare at a blank page every single day with no guarantee I’ll produce a single word. Sure I have ideas. Many. I ponder what my characters want and need. I have notions of the trouble they will get into. But figuring out the truth of their stories and why it matters is toil of patience, resilience and one...

Honour and Good Sense Speak Louder than Political Rhetoric “Never give in-never, never, never, never in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.” Winston Churchill    Some time ago our prime minister tweeted about our welcoming society.  I had never been prouder to be Canadian. That feeling has not changed despite the questioning of Mr. Trudeau’s statement from Conservative Michelle Rempel. I suppose she feels she is speaking to her base, hoping to rile them up to the horrors of the few hundred...

Barely Upright, Still Smiling “A smile is the curve that sets everything straight.” Phyllis Diller    I’ve been on the treadmill for months. Oh, yes, I own one, but I’m not talking about that instrument of torture, the everlasting staircase, used in the 1800s on prisoners and later reinvented for the fitness industry. I almost wrote, reinvented for the crazed, because I do feel a bit like that when I’m on mine. Pushing, pumping, sweating to get in whatever number of minutes or steps I’ve convinced myself to do. There are many similiaries...

Sneak Peek Whistler Writers Festival 2017 “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. Eliot    The festival program goes on line tomorrow along with ticket sales. We’ve reviewed all our collateral material about 100 times and I’m sure there will be mistakes, things we overlooked, but it’s now time to let it go and hope we did everything we could. As promised here is a look at the high level program for this year’s festival. For more information visit us on August 14th at...

Overalls Are Optional, The Work is Not “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” Thomas A. Edison    For the last few weeks I’ve been head down, reviewing, editing, and attempting to finalize the work that seems to have no end. Don’t get excited. I haven’t been working on my novel. All my focus has been on the festival I organize. The program and tickets go on sale August 14th. Yikes! I will give you a sneak preview next weekend. Stay tuned. In the meantime, while I haven’t done what I call...

Out of the Mouths … “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Fredrick Douglass    “You know what his problem is?” At this point I was fuming and unfocused, thinking of what I said and more importantly what I should have said to the stranger who was a redneck twerp. “He doesn’t listen, doesn’t let anyone give their opinion,” she said. The simplicity of this insightful conclusion stopped me.

An Update “Remember then: there is only one time that is important – Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time where we have any power.” Leo Tolstoy    I love starting new ventures. There is so much hope in the fresh, never tried. The day-to-day maintenance is much harder for me. This applies to writing, organizing and my latest venture—meditation. I started meditating a few months ago. Organizing, planning, list making and that I’ve got to do focus took over every waking hour (and some sleeping ones too) encroaching on the part...

Why Risk? “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Eleanor Roosevelt    We went out for lunch this week to a new restaurant started by a couple who already have a successful catering business. The food was wonderful and the service was excellent, but I wondered what would possess them to start a new venture into the unknown when they are already successful in their own niche. Why rock the boat? Why not simply settle and enjoy what you’ve already built? I mean it can’t be easy to start a new restaurant in a town already crowded with some incredible...

Righting Wrongs and Other Hopeful Stories “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela    I’m a sucker for hopeful stories. I love the naiveté and eagerness I imagine is at the heart of those who simply won’t accept that something can’t be done. Seventeen-year-old Leah Denhok photographs the homeless. She has created a book that features the stories and pictures of the people many of us ignore. “I'm trying to portray two goals," Leah said of her work. "First of which is to shine a spotlight on the plight of...

Humble and Understated But Proud “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” Mahatma Gandhi    Canada is celebrating its 150th birthday this weekend. In addition to the parties and street celebrations, several companies have taken this opportunity to support Canadians to do what we do best: give back. Check out the Royal Bank campaign  to help youth make a difference in their communities. Or how about the special initiatives other organizations have implemented to celebrate our sesquicentennial. These initiatives tap into the...

Silver Linings “I know God won’t give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish He didn’t trust me so much.” Anonymous    Have you had days where everything seems to go wrong? How about a whole week of one calamity after another? I won’t bore you with the details because we all go through times like this. You have to take the good, the bad and the sometimes ugly. Yes, our basement had a minor flood this week. The culprit, a corroded pipe stuck deep in a wall. Yikes! The ongoing mess has been incredibly difficult on an obsessive compulsive like...

Oh, those Ah Ha Moments “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Mahatma Gandhi   As some of you know I’ve been mentoring students in the creative writing program at Simon Fraser University. I have loved everything about this experience. The students are talented, keen and all have great writing futures ahead of them. I’m honoured to be a small part of their development. During our last meeting this week, we discussed two books we’ve talked about in other sessions. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to...

The Twilight of Memory “If in the twilight of memory, we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing for me a deeper song.” Khalil Gibran   Am I going home today? He’s asked this question nearly every single day since he’s arrived. In those first few mornings, when I’d gone to wake him up, he’d also asked, what is this place? Where am I? How far away am I from home? And yet, and yet, as we walk through the village, he points to a new restaurant and asks, what happened to the Greek restaurant that used to be there? That...

Kindness Shared “No act of kindness, no matter how small is wasted.” Aesop   Last week my father ran out of one of his medications. These things keep him alive. I understand this to my core. My dad on the other hand, takes it all in stride. What’s a few days without it? It won’t kill me. Yikes! The homecare worker gave me no prior warning, my father no longer drives and my siblings were both travelling away for work. I wasn’t sure at this point what to do, but a problem shared is a problem solved so I called the pharmacy. I spoke to Fawn, who knew my...

Meditation “I am a traveller on a sacred journey through this one shining day.” Richard Wagamese   Over the last few weeks I have been trying different meditation tools to assess them and try to find one that might be best for me. Why meditation? I ask myself that question too. I like the idea of it, but I’ve never been able to stick with meditation. It’s likely my personality, my need to move, do, and make stuff happen. On the other hand, it could simply be my unruly mind. Whether you’ve known me casually or forever, you’ve likely deduced that I...

Under Threat “Writing means sharing. It’s part of the human condition to want to share things—thoughts, ideas, opinions.” Paulo Coelho   Years ago, my husband took a certain photograph of my father and me that reflected what I had been taught to do my whole life: never shy away from a good discussion. In the picture we stood facing each other as swordfighters from another time, our concentration intense and focused. I saw the vein in my neck, our mouths open and of course, we were both pointing a finger at each other. These, along with our words, were our...

Defining Moment “Thinking: the talking of the soul with itself.” Plato Last month my book club read Catfish and Mandala by author Andrew Pham. The memoir chronicles Andrew’s bicycle trip through Vietnam in search of answers to the death of his transgender sister. Throughout his journey, which is less a log of his travels and more about finding a place where he belongs, Andrew laces his family’s past (their flight from war-torn Vietnam, their time as refugees and their eventual settlement in the United States) with his present-day life and frustrations. Pat, a...

Open Lives “When it comes to memoir, we want to catch the author in a lie. When we read fiction, we want to catch the author telling the truth.” Tayari Jones I’m back at it, and by that I mean the O word. We’ve been very fortunate to build support for the Whistler Writers Festival over the past 16 years. Sixteen years! Yikes! Who knew? It’s never routine in this business, but for the most part, we have developed some consistent processes to help us do what we do. Thankfully. So there’s no better time to shake things up. Right? What was I thinking?...

Happy Writing “If you want to be a writer, write.” Epictetus Look at me. In the last two blogs I’ve quoted Greek philosophers. This must be a direct result of the time I’ve spent with my dad over the past few weeks. I’ve enjoyed this period immensely. I’ve loved our discussions, our walks, and listening to Greek music together. I hated (well maybe that’s too strong a word) that music when I was a kid particularly because my dad used to put it on early Sunday morning and all I wanted to do then was sleep in. I don’t know what sleeping in is...

Teaching Understanding “Much learning doesn’t teach understanding.” Heraclitus It’s been a crazy week. The top headline, for a change was not about something ridiculous the leader in the country next door to ours did or said or lied about. Instead, press secretary Sean Spicer, United Airlines and judges getting mandatory education on sexual assault laws took over the media. The stories and opinions provided in each case have been extensive so I won’t take up space this week adding my rants. I’m sure you know how I feel (understand history, Sean, before...

Hanging On “The best thing to hold onto in life is each other.” Audrey Hepburn I speak to him at least five times a day on the phone. His voice might quiver and his memory may be shaky, but overall he’s jovial and I’m usually reassured that all is well. Or at least that’s what I tell myself. I convince myself with one excuse after another. I live too far away. I can’t just pop by. I’m too busy. I’ve got this or that to do. I will see him next week or in two weeks. But two turns into three, and then four. I haven’t seen him since...

Games “Good habits formed at youth make all the difference.” Aristotle At 16 I bussed tables after school, and on Saturdays, at the Sears cafeteria. Then I was promoted or perhaps I’d just broken too many dishes in my clumsiness on the floor and my boss thought I’d be less dangerous in another area. I was assigned to the steam table serving alongside a woman who was likely older than my mother. Eager, friendly and generous with advice and support, Helen reminded me of my mom and my long-dead grandmother. I would have done anything for her. One Saturday, I forgot to...

More Advice from the Trenches “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.” E.L. Doctorow It’s been another busy week of meetings, planning, organizing and chasing corporate sponsors for the festival. In addition, we’ve had guests. I think in the end I may have had two short days of writing (a few hours each day really) and this is only because I wake up long before the birds and definitely before any sane human being. You can tell I’m building up to tell you that my blog is going to be incredibly short this week. I read an article...

A Legacy “A woman is like a tea bag – you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.” Eleanor Roosevelt My maternal grandfather died shortly after my mother turned two. Her mother raised her single-handedly, scrimping and saving to give my mother an education. My mother became a teacher and helped support my grandmother. When she married, my mother was no longer allowed to work. In those days married women were expected to have children and stay home to take care of them. And she did so with the help of my grandmother who lived with us. But my...

More Lessons From the Trenches “No excellent soul is exempt from a mixture of madness.” Aristotle I should have called these last few blogs lessons from the trenches. Not sure where these writing tips have come from. I’m doing more writing and reviewing. I’m perhaps a bit more aware of what I’m doing and not doing. Hopefully these realizations help me with my new project. And if you’re a writer reading this blog, I hope it helps you too. But in the end, you’re the writer and you will find your way with or without any advice. As you create...

Situate Us “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” Abraham Lincoln “Tell us where we are.” This is the feedback I hear over and over again from my critique group when it’s my turn to discuss my work. “Situate Us.” And finally this week the advice sunk in. Or at least it moved me to take a closer look. I went back and reviewed what I’d written so far for my new novel. Specifically, I looked at the first paragraph of each chapter. I always seem to create many characters. Don’t ask me why. They appear, and then...

It’s All About Story “All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath.” F. Scott Fitzgerald In other words, to write well, you have to immerse yourself wholly and hope the story reveals itself before you drown. Yes, the fear of sinking keeps me moving. When it’s going well, I am completely in the story I’m trying to tell. I see clearly what my characters are doing and why they are doing it. I find a balance between showing what they’ve experienced in the past so the reader understands why they are doing what they are doing in the...

Uncle “I can resist anything except temptation.” Oscar Wilde My uncle came to live with us when I was nine or ten years old and he lived with us on and off for the rest of his life. I only ever referred to him as Uncle. There was no Uncle John or John. It was always just Uncle. As I’ve written many times, I’ve missed my extended family my entire life, so when Uncle arrived, I was excited. Here was part of my larger family, right there, in front of me. I listened to my uncle and father converse in Greek around our kitchen table. I loved trying to figure out what...

Shifting Tides “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.” Martin Luther King, Jr. A few years ago, on a return trip from Costa Rica, we stopped in Boston to visit my cousins. We first entered the United States through New York. At passport control I dutifully provided my Canadian passport. The officer looked at it, then at me, eyed the passport again, and then gazed at me in condescension. He was obviously troubled by something. I couldn’t venture to guess what it could be. I’m a staunch rule follower, but this man made me feel guilty....

Onward I Go “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein Last week I lamented the fact that I hadn’t done much writing since about the end of November. Yes, there have been a few bursts of creativity, then long periods of nothing. So to push myself forward, I decided to set aside three hours every day just to write. Typically, for me, the best time to write is first thing in the morning, before the world wakes up. I think I’ve written about this before, but I love the quiet of an early morning. The stillness gives me...

Resolutions “Kites rise highest against the wind, not with it.” Winston Churchill I’m constantly revising my resolutions. Tinkering is good. That’s how I’ll get to the essence of what I want to change or improve. This is the lie I tell myself to ignore the fact that I have failed miserably. And only three weeks into the New Year. Yikes! It all starts off so well. A new year brings with it the opportunity of renewal. In fact, when I’m busy and running around with all sorts of things I feel compelled to do, I reassure myself that all will be well once...

A Call to Action – Update #6 “I always wondered why somebody didn’t do something about that, then I realized I’m that somebody.” Lily Tomlin There are many of you somebodies out there who have helped us this year with our go fund me campaign. Thanks again for all you’ve done on behalf of the Whistler Writers Festival. It lives on because of you. You made the difference. And I am grateful beyond measure. As promised, this will be my last update about our campaign, but our efforts to secure funds for the festival won’t stop just because you...

A Call to Action – Update #5 “Never settle for a ripple, when you can make a wave.” Janet Louise Stephenson The Christmas break is over. It was a hectic time with travel and socializing and far too much food and sweets. I’m trying to cut down on the latter, but chocolate and fruitcake are still in the cupboard, and on top of everything else, Santa Claus filled my jellybean dispenser. It sits on the credenza beside my desk like a tease. Mind you I still have to plug it with coins to get at the jellybeans. Unfortunately, this deterrent is a weak one at best, given...

A Call to Action – Update #4 “There is no longer any such thing as fiction or non-fiction: there’s only narrative.” E.L. Doctorow Mr. Doctorow could be right. I’m not sure, but as promised I will outline my recommendations for the non-fiction reads I’ve enjoyed in the latter part of 2016. Before I do that I’d like to give you an update about our fundraising campaign. This will be the last update and push before the New Year. Christmas is a good time to take a break, don’t you think? I will be back at the beginning of 2017 with a final drive...