Comforting cats

November 2021 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, Pets

Author Donna Hues’ new essay is published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Clever, Curious, Caring Cat.

By Melissa Wagoner

When Donna Hues learned that her short story, “Guard Cat,” was among the top 300 contenders for a spot in the popular book series, Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Clever, Curious, Caring Cat, she was more than a little surprised.

“They get 1,000-plus stories,” Hues said of the fierce competition. She’s normally a historical fiction novelist. “I thought well, if I even get good feedback that would be OK.”

In the end, she got more than feedback. She was selected for a place in the newly published book edited and published by Chicken Soup for the Soul’s editor-in-chief, Amy Newmark. The volume features 101 stories of cats and the many ways they’ve changed the lives of their owners.

“Cats are amazing,” Hues said of her own experience, which began with her now famous cat, Smokey.

“Smokey showed up one day without a collar and in dire need of a meal,” Hues wrote in the short story where she chronicled the experience of owning a cat who was more than just a pet. “God blessed us with an amazing, loving, protective cat…”

Originally from Portland, Hues and her husband, Ron, have lived in Mount Angel for more than 30 years where she enjoyed a successful career as an art teacher at Kennedy High School until a cancer diagnosis forced her to retire. That’s when she began writing.

“I was going to treatment in Salem every week and I was driving home and I said, ‘Lord, I can’t keep doing this. I’m going to have to retire,’” she recalled of the fateful day when she realized her teaching career was coming to an end.

But then, that night she had a dream.

“I was looking down from a balcony and there were all these people in beautiful dresses,” Hues said describing the dream that would later become a pivotal scene in her first novel, Without a Doubt: Accident or Murder.

“That first one took me the longest,” Hues said. She went on to write two more novels in the same genre.  “I was learning the craft.”

Hues has followed Without a Doubt with further mysteries, Eden Lake: Not Quite Paradise, and this year’s Nellie’s Quest: An Unexpected Deliverance. 

While writing comes much easier to her now, Hues still pushes herself every day to try new things, first becoming the winner of the Cascade Writing Contest for a devotional she penned and now a published essayist with the Chicken Soup for the Soul banner – something she hopes to continue.

“I have submitted two more to “Chicken Soup for the Soul”, she said. “One was on grief – I wrote the story of my last few hours with my mom – and one was about humor.”

Although she won’t know if either of these pieces have been accepted for some time, Hues doesn’t let it bother her.

“I’m at that age where, if they buy it, they buy it,” she said. Explaining that, it’s really all about the writing.

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