Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - ENTERTAINMENT -

The book en­com­passes an in­side ac­count of the adop­tion process, the jour­ney of get­ting to know her daugh­ter and Varda­los’s own dif­fi­cult bat­tle with in­fer­til­ity. (On the rainy morn­ing she learned she was nom­i­nated for an Os­car for writ­ing My Big Fat Greek Wed­ding, she re­counts driv­ing to a fer­til­ity clinic for a third at­tempt at in-vitro fer­til­iza­tion.)

Bear in mind, Varda­los is an ex­tremely pri­vate per­son, and fiercely pro­tec­tive of her daugh­ter’s pri­vacy. She never al­lows her to be pho­tographed, and comes up with cre­ative ways to stymie pa­parazzi. When Varda­los was shoot­ing the Amer­i­can Girl movie McKenna Shoots for the Stars in Win­nipeg in 2011, she wouldn’t even re­veal her daugh­ter’s name.

She ac­knowl­edges writ­ing the book did not come easy.

“It was ter­ri­fy­ing, and very dif­fi­cult,” she says.

Varda­los knew she had a book in her. When she orig­i­nally con­ceived it, it was “a dry text­book of how to adopt.”

When she took meet­ings with some pub­lish­ing houses, many seemed ea­ger for her to ti­tle the book My Big Fat Greek Baby.

There were, she says, “peo­ple who truly didn’t get what I was try­ing to do, which was keep my daugh­ter’s pri­vacy and anonymity and yet pro­vide in­for­ma­tion on how to adopt.

“But be­cause Harper Collins was so com­pas­sion­ate and truly un­der­stood what I was try­ing to do, they said the mag­i­cal words that any writer wants to hear: ‘We want you to write the book that you want to write.’

“They also said: ‘How about with a lit­tle bit of per­sonal anec­dote?’ And I said: OK.”

“It was very dif­fi­cult,” she says of the process. “I have a writ­ing of­fice and I would close my com­puter and leave it at the end of the day and go and wash my face be­cause I looked like I had just come from a work­out class.

“So as I started to chron­i­cle how to adopt, I put that per­sonal story in and then I put this per­sonal story in.

“And as I be­gan to de­scribe the brav­ery that my daugh­ter chooses to live her life with, the in­cred­i­bly formed char­ac­ter and back­bone of this child, I thought: What am I afraid of?

“I can still hopefully keep my dig­nity, which is why I don’t go into the gory de­tails, as I call them, but I can per­haps pro­vide a fo­rum for peo­ple who are go­ing through this to say: It’s not that bad. It’s OK.”

In fact, Ilaria, now nearly eight, proved to be sup­port­ive of the book.

“She finds it hi­lar­i­ous,” Varda­los says. “She told me to put in the part in the story where she bit my fin­ger.”

“It was ex­haust­ing to write it and now I feel it’s cathar­tic,” Varda­los says.

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