By Piper Fialkoff
“If you have an essence of truth in any of your writing, that’s how you grab your reader. That’s how they know to trust you,” says Laurie Hyman, author of the Sweet Tales series. She follows her own advice to a T, filling her stories with universal truths that are relevant to those young and old, while still maintaining a charming outlet through which to speak.
Laurie started writing when she was a little girl, finding she had a flare for words whenever it came time to write letters or birthday cards.
“I would write these humungous cards! It was my trademark!”
It wasn’t until she started taking creative writing classes at the New School, however, that she really started to let her writing blossom. She was told to write what she knew, and what she knew was that animals had more of a story to tell than they were letting on. So she settled down and started to spin her tales.
“I usually write in the late morning or night and begin a free write—there are times my mind takes off and I just keep on writing, sometimes over seven pages at once. I’m amazed and delighted by the burst of creative energy that occurs, but of course I have to go back to see if anything I wrote makes sense!”
The first story in Sweet Tales was based upon Laurie herself, who at the age of six lost her father. It’s hard to process such a horrific event at such a young age, but Laurie was able to cope with the loss with the help of a friend; namely, a stray cat, Twinkles, that ran to her side and kept nuzzling her until she could finally smile instead of cry. It’s stories like these that leave a testament to just how powerful the presence of an animal can be, and Laurie was keen to add more experiences into her book.
“One time, Brittney (an inquisitive kitten in the first book) led me into the woods, and I saw this majestic woodchuck — who actually lived in our woodshed — birds, and all these other animals, and it inspired the idea for the Council of Elders. Then there was Jerry, a chipmunk who Brittney would bring into the house to play with. There was one time I woke up to something furry by my feet, and noticing both cats were by my head, I drew back the covers and there was Jerry!”
While the animals that surrounded her gave voices to the characters she wrote, she was also granted never-ending support from friends and family.
“Once the program had ended [at the New School], life afforded me the time and space at our country home to review my written material and begin once again to just focus on my writing. At that point, coincidently I was blessed with meeting Dorie Riendeau. We became a perfect team – with her specialty as an English teacher, and our shared love of cats, we became fast friends.”
The pair worked together on the first and second Sweet Tales, bouncing ideas off of each other, and growing what had been a simple writing exercise into a story that could be shared with the world, with Riendeau acting as an editor on both books.
There is such a beautiful connection between humans and animals, one that is often overlooked in lives so full of constant motion and distraction. We are offered glimpses into these bonds when we see animals offering support in nursing homes, dogs risking their lives to save their owners, or even wild birds traveling miles once a year to see an old acquaintance. We see the connections between animals themselves in those viral videos of unusual animal friendships. The Sweet Tales series offers a delightful glimpse into these relationships, with Laurie Hyman wonderfully narrating the stories of friendship, bravery, and the never-ending quest for the truth.