Long and Short Reviews is pleased to welcome Laura Pedersen, who is with us to promote her newest release Fool's Mate, which was published in October 2011. Laura lives in New York City and teaches at the Booker T. Washington Learning Center in East Harlem.
She's always enjoyed telling stories in an attempt to make people laugh (in the process, disrupting class was a secondary plus), so writing them down was a logical progression. She won a number of essay contests in middle-school and high school. A number of her stories have also won contests run by magazines and literary journals, but her first book was published when she was 24.
"Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?" I wondered. "If so, what do you do about it?"
"Usually it's because I'm facing a problem of getting characters from A to B, or working out the ending of a book, and in that case I try to muscle through the trouble spot. However, I think sometimes that writer's block means the project isn't viable or else your heart isn't in it and you should reconsider."
When she is stuck on a plot problem or title, she has a unique way of solving it—she goes rollerblading.
Laura has a book of humorous travel essays on India coming out next July, called Planes, Trains, and Auto-Rickshaws. Her particular area of interest was how women and children are faring with all the social economic changes underway as opposed to the usual yoga and meditation route.
"I'm too hyper for that," she admitted. "Maybe a toe ring would work."
In her own reading, Laura's usually in the middle of more than one book. Recently she was reading Will Rogers by Richard E. White, Fifth Avenue, 5 A.M. by Sam Wasson, The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove, Must You Go? by Antonia Fraser, and Rome by Robert Hughes. Her favorite author is Nora Ephron because her work is smart, funny, and well-crafted. She also enjoys humor based on experiences so she's been encouraged by the popularity of work by Bill Bryson, P.J. O'Rourke, Erma Bombeck, Betty MacDonald, and Carol Batrus. You can find a list of her favorite funny books by women at http://www.flashlightworthybooks.com/Funny-Books-Written-by-Women/643.
"How do you come up with the titles to your books?" I asked.
"A good title is difficult to find and I'm not good at coming up with them. The hardest thing is knowing that you don't have it yet and to just keep trying. Johnny Carson once said about having a talk show that you'll eventually use everything you've ever knew. The same is true of wracking your brain for a title -- take the Bible, poetry, expressions, cliches, song lyrics, Shakespeare, etc., dump it all in the mind blender and turn to high."
On a more personal note, Laura told me that she always wants more dogs—she currently has three, but said, "It's not nearly enough, but I can't find a larger bed than a king."
"Do you have any strange handwriting habits?"
"I'm a lefty, what they like to call a 'pusher' (as opposed to a 'hooker'), so my handwriting is basically a mess and I just aim for legibility," she explained. "I tend to mix cursive and print from word to word or even letter to letter, which is strange and probably means I'm repressing some horrific childhood memories. On the bright side, had I been born ten years earlier the nuns would've tied my left hand behind a chair and I'd be a damaged righty right now."
She wouldn't want to erase any horrible experience from her past because, as she told me, " In the writing biz every bad experience is more material."
Laura's heritage is Danish and Black Irish—"The two reasons I've never had a drink of alcohol," she told me. In fact, she only drinks water.
Sayings that she uses a lot include "See you on the ice" (she's from Buffalo) and "Stir your stumps" (when she tells the kids she teaches when they need to get up and get moving).
"Also, we Irish like to say, 'Give us the tune you sang at your mother's wedding,'" she told me, and her dad's favorite saying when asked "How are you?" was to respond, "I got up this morning."
"If you could wish for anything, what would it be?" I asked.
"Don't we all wish for the same --- world peace and a TV channel devoted to rhythmic gymnastics?"
Finally, I asked Laura, "What advice would you give a new writer just starting out?"
"Many people ask for writing info and since I really do want to offer the best advice I have to offer I've collected the info on my web site at http://www.laurapedersenbooks.com/author/interview6.asp."