We had the good fortune of connecting with Laura Segal Stegman and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Laura, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
When I was a kid growing up in Southern California, writing a novel wasn’t my life’s ambition, although I was a big reader. I loved books! One of my favorites, The Diamond in the Window, was about an 11 year-old – my age at the time – with freckles – just like me. She hated her freckles – just like I did. And I’ve never forgotten that this character learned to accept not only her freckles but also herself. Her journey spoke to me so powerfully that, decades later, after a long and successful career as an arts publicist, I decided to write a novel for middle-grade readers that I hoped would mean as much to kids today as The Diamond in the Window meant to me. The result, Summer of L.U.C.K., published by INtense Publications in September 2020, is about three kids finding their way to self-acceptance with the help of a ghost who haunts a magical carnival. I hope kids who read it enjoy meeting my characters and sharing their adventures. I’d like them to finish the book knowing that whatever they’re struggling with, others kids struggle too, and they are not alone.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
My road to Summer of L.U.C.K.’s publication had been long and winding! I’m not a born writer, nor have I formally studied creative writing, but as an avid reader, especially of middle grade fiction, I’ve learned by doing. And re-doing. About halfway through the journey to signing a publishing contract, I worked with a development editor who helped me bring the story to life. Then I found a treasure chest of information online from which I learned about writing resources and opportunities to get input from agents. I entered Twitter contests to have my work evaluated and mentored by more experienced writers. I learned how to connect with critique partners. And I even linked up with a classroom of kids in a literacy program who Beta read and gave me helpful feedback. I’m so grateful for everyone who helped me along the way. Because I fell in love with my characters and and their world, that was the story I wanted to tell. If I couldn’t share it, I wasn’t sure I had anything else in me to write. So I queried for years. And years. And years. I had crushingly disappointing moments along the way, especially full manuscript rejections by more agents than I care to remember. Sometimes other writers would suggest I let Summer of L.U.C.K. go. “Write something else,” they encouraged. But I had faith in Summer of L.U.C.K., and I believed in myself. With every rejection, I worked harder on improving the narrative and the writing. It’s hard to put into words just how much it means to me to have this book published. It’s really a dream come true.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
In my view, one of the most fun, interesting, and exciting places to check out is Farmers Market Los Angeles (at Third and Fairfax), which opened in 1934 and is still among the city’s most popular places. Its food stands represent almost every type of cuisine that exists, and you can shop for souvenirs, toys, home-made ice cream, candy meat and poultry, baked goods, kids books, fresh produce, beer and wine, gourmet food, groceries, and even custom-made shoes. The people-watching opportunities are amazing! One of the reasons that Farmers Market is so special to me is because it’s where I began writing Summer of L.U.C.K. Other great L.A. places on my itinerary would absolutely include a game at Dodger Stadium, a visit to the Getty Center, and an evening in a box at the Hollywood Bowl. Plus Disneyland!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The person whose contributions to Summer of L.U.C.K. have been greatest is my steadfast critique partner (and friend) Leila Rheaume. From across the country, she provided guidance, feedback and input that changed the story’s direction. As she gave so generously of her time (and patience), I became a better writer. Above all, Leila believed in Summer of L.U.C.K. and helped me stay determined to find a publisher despite the rejection that all writers face.