Author Speaks About Strength, Resilience at LitFest

We are stronger than we know, and at our best when we come together for the greater good, author Kristin Harmel told about 80 community members during the Highland Park Literary Festival’s keynote address on Feb. 22.

Harmel spoke with her audience about the themes of strength and resilience that run through her books, her path to becoming a writer, and a recent challenge in her own life.

She began her talk by discussing her newest novel, international bestseller The Paris Daughter. Set in World War II, The Paris Daughter deals with the struggles and choices faced by two mothers during the Nazi occupation of France.

“These stories of the past, based largely on real life tales of survival against the odds, still resonate so strongly today because we all need to be reminded that we have within us the strength and the fortitude to face anything, even if we have not had to find that well of courage yet in our own lives,” she said.

Harmel told listeners that she wrote her first story as a 6-year-old. It dealt with the fictional Bobbsey Twins and their search for her father’s imaginary sold-gold tuxedo. “I cannot tell you that this was the most well-plotted book in the world,” she said to chuckles from her audience. “But I can tell you that I was hooked.”

As a teenager, she decided to try her hand at journalism. She wrote her first article for a Tampa Bay sports magazine, concealing her age from its editor. When she was discovered several articles later, Harmel said she asked whether her age was a problem. “I had the feeling that my future was hanging in the balance, and maybe it was,” she said. “Finally, he shook his head and said, ‘I guess not. You can write,’ and thus began my career.”

Harmel went on to write for People Magazine before transitioning to novels. “History teaches us that we’re stronger than we realize,” she said. “It teaches us that it is in our darkest hours that we find the greatest strength. … It teaches us that we have a responsibility to each other as fellow human beings and that, historically, the most destructive conflicts begin when we stop having respect for the basic humanity of our fellow man.”

She went on to tell listeners about her diagnosis with breast cancer in October 2022, an event that altered her own life while she was still editing The Paris Daughter. Harmel said she is now cancer-free.

“Life is big and messy and complicated. It is not always going to work out the way we hope, nor is every moment going to be a happy one,” she said. “But we can carry that weight just as people did 80 years ago during World War II.”

At the end of her prepared remarks, Harmel took questions and recognized other presenters at Highland Park High School’s workshop day on Feb. 23, which featured inaugural Dallas Poet Laureate Joaquín ZihuatanejoGrammy-nominated co-founder of Jackopierce Cary Pierce, and other experts in forms of visual, spoken, and written media.

“Your community is really so lucky to have all of them here as guests,” Harmel said. “And the kids here at Highland Park who will get to hear from them all tomorrow, I think are really so fortunate.”

Share this article...
Email this to someone
Share on Facebook
Tweet about this on Twitter
Share on LinkedIn

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.