As we’ve discussed in the past few weeks, countless women have contributed to Whistler’s success over the past decades. This week, the last in Women’s History Month, we are featuring Stella Harvey, who over the last 18 years has contributed tirelessly to Whistler’s burgeoning literary arts scene.
Stella and her husband Dave moved to Whistler in 2000 from Italy. She left behind a career as an international management consultant and planned to become a writer. After struggling to to feel connected to the community, she decided to post an advertisement in the local newspaper looking for other aspiring writers.
She recalled, “When we first moved to Whistler, it was very hard to find a feeling of community. Living in Rome, even though we were in the middle of the city, everyone in the neighbourhood knew who I was. I felt quite isolated in Whistler, so I had to create me own community.”
The first meeting of the Vicious Circle, her newly formed writing group, attracted 26 like-minded individuals who were hoping to improve their writing skills and ultimately get published. Stella organized the first Whistler Writers Festival by inviting a guest author to speak to her writing group. The first year saw 20 participants gather in her living room.
In 2001 Stella and members of the Vicious Circle formed the Whistler Writers Society. The Whistler Writers Festival remains the main event put on by the volunteer-led organization, but they have included more programs aimed at providing opportunities for writers and bibliophiles to enjoy the literary arts throughout the year as they grow.
Programs such as the Whistler Writer-in-Residence Program, which started in 2007, provide opportunities for local writers to work with a published author and help hone their skills through classroom sessions and one-on-one meetings.
The Authors in the Schools program began in 2013 and has included authors such as Richard Wagamese, Joseph Boyden, Katherine Fawcett and Eden Robinson. Its aim is to engage youth in the literary arts and provide the opportunity for students from Squamish, Pemberton, Whistler and Mount Currie to ask questions and hear authors read from books they are studying in class.
Since its first year in 2001 the Whistler Writers Festival has grown into a four-day event with 60 guest authors and roughly 2,000 participants. The theme for this year’s festival, held earlier this month, was: “No one succeeds alone.”
Stella Harvey has embodied this theme by working selflessly to put on the best possible Writers Festival and other literary events throughout the year for the community. While living in Whistler she has published two novels, Nicolai’s Daughter in 2012 and The Brink of Freedom in 2015, and in 2015 was also awarded Whistler Champion of Arts & Culture at Whistler’s Excellence Awards.
While this concludes our celebration of Women’s History Month this certainly won’t be the last time we share the stories of women who have contributed to the valley, both in the past and present.