Stella Leventoyannis Harvey


“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 the opportunity I make my case calmly, despite my growing frustration and spreading insecurity. I’m a whimpering blob of crushed humanity on the inside, but hopefully it doesn’t show.

We’re very keen, I say. We’re all volunteers, you know. We’re passionate and committed. We started from nothing and have grown to close to 1500. It’s such an incredible community. Oh, you’ve never been? Come see for yourself. You’ll have so much fun. Our audiences are loyal and supportive. They keep coming back for more, bringing their friends. We’ve grown because of them and because of the participation of esteemed authors such as yourself. Your involvement would make such a difference to us.  

If I could, I’d gush all of these things and more, but I’m rarely afforded the opportunity. Usually there’s no space for my protests.

Yes, I know rejection comes with the territory. I organize a writers festival. I invite many people and have lots of programming ideas. I think long and hard about how one author will play against another. I get feedback. I discuss ideas with my group. Together, we put on the very best show possible for both our visiting guest authors and for our audiences.

My enthusiasm at the beginning is boundless. 

Oh, I know authors are busy and they have many festivals and readings to attend, but ours is so good. Come and see. Really, I’m not kidding. It is.

We are great hosts too. Seriously. 

Okay, now I’m pleading.

I see the eyes glaze over. Or I never get a reply to an email. Worse, my emails are sent to a junk pile, never to be seen again.

I take it personally. Rejection, I mean. I know I’m not supposed to. Still, I repeat all those lines of insecurity in my head. You know the ones. They don’t think our festival is big enough. We’re not this or that. They don’t like us. They don’t like me.

God, I’m in my 59th year. Am I not supposed to be over all this second guessing?

What I really want to do is crawl into a hole whenever I get a thanks, but no thanks rebuff. But in addition to being insecure, I’m stubborn and eventually I see these rejections as another rung on a very long ladder. And on I go.

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