Laura Alary

Laura Alary

Writing stories that make us bigger on the inside

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IMG_1146When I was a very little girl I used to make my own books out of paper, glue and crayons. The first one I remember was about a little girl who kept having accidents with paint. She had to figure out how to turn all her spills into pictures. These days my books look more polished and talented artists create the illustrations, but I have as much fun as ever dreaming about ideas and writing the stories.

That love of stories has followed me all my life. Growing up by the ocean in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I eagerly absorbed local tales of ghosts, phantom ships and pirate treasure, as well as memories from older people about how life used to be.

When I learned that my next-door neighbour had lived through the Halifax Explosion in 1917, I took my tape recorder and interviewed him. Uncle Charlie was adamant that the explosion must have happened before nine o’clock in the morning—even though the old town clock had stopped at six minutes past the hour—because when the blast came he had not yet gone into school. To be honest, I think he was simply late for class. But I was struck by the idea that people have their own versions of what really happened.

In school I discovered myths from ancient civilizations—Sumer, Babylon, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Persia, India, China—and began to learn how stories can be true even if they never happened.

When I went to university I studied Classics—the language and life and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. This introduced me to plays and epic adventure stories about gods and heroes. Like Odysseus, I wandered from one story to the next, sometimes enthralled by their beauty, sometimes chilled by the monsters I met. It was all fascinating, but after a while I grew tired of exploring and just wanted to go home. For me “home” meant returning to the stories I had been hearing my whole life: stories from the bible.

After finishing my degree in Classics at Dalhousie University in Halifax, I moved to Toronto and spent many years studying theology and the New Testament. I began to ask questions about how the writers of the bible understood and used older stories.

Take the story of the Exodus from Egypt, for example. Why does this story crop up in so many places in the bible? It is as if the story is a mirror. When people look into it—especially when they are homesick or deeply out of place—they recognize themselves and see in the story the possibility of finding their way home again.

Now I have three children of my own and we enjoy all sorts of stories together. My kids ask a lot of really good questions, especially about science and life on earth and where the universe came from, like, “Mommy, if the dinosaurs hadn’t died out, would we be here today?” I am constantly reading and wondering and learning so that I can keep up with them!

I am always looking for truth wherever I can find it. And I believe in the power of a good story. I hope you enjoy my stories and have fun making up your own.

– Laura Alary

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