Author Laura Schroff visits Sequoyah


There is commotion abound as teachers and administrators carry banners and tables onto the gym floor. A microphone screeches as the sound system is set up, and images flash as a projector is tested. Finally, a short woman with blonde hair walks out. She warmly greets everyone around her with a big handshake before setting her things down. This woman is Laura Schroff, a New York Times bestselling author. In 1986, Schroff befriended an 11-year-old panhandler on the streets of New York and changed his life, as he changed hers. It is this connection that Schroff wrote about in her book, An Invisible Thread 

You met Maurice in the 80’s and then you released the book in 2011, so at what point did you know that you needed to write about Maurice’s story? 

Schroff: In 1997, which was 11 years after I met Maurice. Good Housekeeping did a story about our friendship, a very small little story. And I received the most incredible response from friends in the ad community and then I thought huh, people kept telling me ‘you should write a book, write a book.’ When I took an early retirement package from Time Inc. in 2007, I decided that I would try to give it a go at my book, so it was really 20 years later. 

What was your writing process like? 

Schroff: Basically, I started with an outline and then one night I just started writing. Before I knew it, I couldn’t stop. Again, I didn’t plan to talk about my childhood but, all of a sudden, it just organically happened. When I finished the book, I moved back to New York. I worked at Bride’s Magazine there for 18 months before we all got fired.  I then decided I wasn’t going to go back to the ad community. I was going to make a go at my book, so at that point I became really serious about trying to make it happen. That’s when I found a cowriter to help me make it more visual and bring it to the next level.  

What are you hoping readers will take away from your book? 

Schroff: How we can all make a difference one small act of kindness at a time. [We need] to open up our eyes and hearts to our surroundings to see how there are these precious moments right in front of us. All we have to do is be aware of them. 

What’s the most memorable response you’ve gotten from a reader? 

Schroff: I’ve gotten so many, but I did once speak at a middle school. I don’t speak at a lot of middle schools, and this young girl came up to me; she was twelve. She told me that her mother died a year ago, and it was a really hard year. Her favorite aunt had just passed away a few months ago. She said, ‘my small act of kindness is that I’m going to try to be more supportive of [my cousin],’ and I said to her, ‘Lizzie, that’s not a small act of kindness. That’s the biggest act of kindness I have ever heard.’  

When did you start talking to schools about your book? 

Schroff: Craziest thing is I wish I could be so brilliant to say that I targeted schools, but my very first speaking engagement came about a month after the book came out and it was a school in Tully, New York. I went and spoke, and all the kids had read the book; I couldn’t believe it. Before I knew it, I was getting these requests. I finally [realized] that there is something here with schools because I kept getting these requests. It happened really organically. But of all these speaking engagements I do, schools for me are the most special. 

Do you regret any of the ways you handled things with Maurice? 

Schroff: Absolutely. My biggest regret is when I met Michael. If there is a chapter in the book that I’m most embarrassed about, it is that chapter. It actually makes my stomach kind of sick. But I felt it was really important that I was honest. You know, when I met Michael, I did fall madly in love with him. I didn’t expect that he would not embrace Maurice. I tried my hardest to keep our Monday nights going but it changed, and I should have been stronger. I should have stood up more for the things that were so important to me, and [Maurice] was. That is probably really my only regret. And I finally just said enough is enough. But I loved Michael a lot; it was really painful, and it was really hard. 

Do you think your own life experience helped you to empathize with Maurice and his family? 

Schroff: Absolutely. I wanted to give Maurice structure. As a child I had no structure in my life. I wanted to be told I needed to go to bed at a certain time. So, I tried to give [Maurice] structure and that was why getting together every Monday night was really important. I felt that he needed to have something to look forward to. 

What’s your favorite memory of Maurice? 

Schroff: I think that all the things that I mentioned in my book are my favorites, but the brown paper bag incident to me was huge. The other thing was Christmas. When we were setting up the Christmas tree, Maurice knew all the words to all the songs. And when I said to him, ‘I don’t understand. How do you know all the music to all the songs?’ and he said, ‘Kids like me, we see everything from the outside looking in,’ and I remember thinking ‘Wow.’ 

Do you think An Invisible Thread is more relevant now than when it first came out? 

Schroff: Yes, I think it’s more relevant now, and I’m even starting to see it with schools; schools are starting to incorporate more and more kindness. I think that with everything that’s going on right now, there’s just never been a need to discuss more about what is happening. I think there is this incredible floodgate of bullying that is happening, and I think it’s the times. So yes, I do think that the times have changed, and the book is even more relevant than it ever has been.