Pedersen, Laura 1965–

views updated

Pedersen, Laura 1965–


Born 1965, in Buffalo, NY. Education: Attended University of Michigan and New York University. Religion: Unitarian Universalist.


Home—New York, NY.


Writer. Former trader on New York Stock Exchange, New York, NY; worked as a stand-up comic; former personal assistant to Joan Rivers; ordained interfaith minister. Former host, Laura Pedersen's Your Money and Your Life, Oxygen Network.




Named an "Outstanding Young American" by President Bill Clinton; Three Oaks Prize for Fiction, for Going Away Party.


(With F. Peter Model) Play Money: My Brief but Brilliant Career on Wall Street, Crown (New York, NY), 1991.

Street-Smart Career Guide: A Step-by-Step Program for Your Career Development, Crown Trade Paperbacks (New York, NY), 1993.

Finance columnist for New York Times, 1990s.


Going Away Party (novel), Malvern (London, England), 1999.

Last Call (novel), Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2004.

The Sweetest Hours: Love Stories … of a Kind, Booksurge Publishing (Charleston, SC), 2006.


Beginner's Luck, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2003.

Heart's Desire, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2005.

The Big Shuffle, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 2006.


"Have you heard the one about the 17-year-old girl who goes to Wall Street and makes $1.5 million before she turns 24?" The question, posed by Julie A. Owings in Business Credit, has no punchline; it describes Laura Pedersen, student-turned-trader-turned-comedian-turned-author. Pedersen, a self-made success, has parlayed her knowledge into a successful career as an author of business books and novels.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Pedersen immersed herself in moneymaking as a youngster, and at age ten, she convinced her mother to give her Pepsi-Cola stock instead of birthday gifts. By age fourteen, she was touring New York City by herself and became fascinated with the tumultuous American Stock Exchange trading floor. After graduating from high school, Pedersen invested one semester of her time at the University of Michigan but left to pursue her business career. She returned to Wall Street as a data-entry clerk, but quickly worked her way up the ladder, eventually winning a seat in the New York Stock Exchange's famed trading pit. "I had a knack for gambling that I thought might be easily translatable to the stock market and so I went to Wall Street for the same reason that Willie Sutton claimed he robbed banks—that's where the money was," she told Pop Matters online interviewer Jackie Regales.

As the youngest trader on record, Pedersen endured the ravenously competitive environment of Wall Street, making her first million by age twenty-two. As she recounts in her business memoir, Play Money: My Brief but Brillian Career on Wall Street, cowritten with F. Peter Model, the young woman lived in a world of screaming, scrambling competitors where the pace never let up. Owings called Play Money "an entertaining look at … life as an options trader inside the chaotic AMEX trading pit" during the booming 1980s. Though the book was culled mostly from diary entries and tends toward "a confusing jumble of non-related topics lumped together," Owings still found the book to be "witty, informative and downright comical."

Pedersen appeared on talk shows as a guest of Oprah Winfrey and David Letterman, among others. After leaving the trading business at age twenty-three, she wrote a second business book, Street Smart Career Guide: A Step-by-Step Program for Your Career Development, to encourage young entrepreneurs. Barbara Jacobs, a reviewer in Booklist, called the book "a thoroughly wise and witty approach."

Pedersen later tried her hand as a standup comic, enrolled for a time at the New York University film school, and explored television production, working as an assistant for talk-show host Joan Rivers. In 1999, Pedersen turned to fiction, publishing Going Away Party, her first novel. Frustrated by her inability to move out of her parents' home, college student Jess MacGuire spends her summer cramming for a calculus exam, which she must pass to earn her degree. Into her life enters Denny Sinclair, a middle-aged widower who opens her eyes to new ideas. "The story culminates in an unexpectedly funny and touching ending," observed a contributor in Publishers Weekly.

In Last Call Pedersen "takes a darkly comic look at a serious subject," a Publishers Weekly reviewer noted. The novel concerns Hayden MacBride, a widowed Scotsman living in Brooklyn who has been diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer. The boisterous Hayden plans to spend his final days on his terms, until he meets Rosamond Rogers, a terminally ill nun who refuses to return to her convent. The two begin an unlikely friendship, and Rosamond ultimately accepts Hayden's invitation to move in with him, his divorced daughter, and his grandson. "Pedersen is especially gifted at portraying the way people unwittingly urge each other to grow and change," noted Booklist contributor Meredith Parets.

Beginner's Luck, a coming-of-age tale, centers on Hallie Palmer, an alienated sixteen-year-old math whiz who skips school to bet on horses at the racetrack and crash the weekly poker game held in a local church basement. Hallie's plan—to buy a car and seek her fortune in Las Vegas—falls apart when she loses her savings at the track, and she is forced take a job as a "yard person" for the eccentric Stockton clan, which includes Ms. Olivia, a free-spirited senior citizen, Bernard, an antiques dealer, and Rocky, a booze-loving chimpanzee. According to a critic in Publishers Weekly, the author "has a knack for capturing tart teenage observations in witty asides, and Hallie's naivete, combined with her gambling and numbers savvy, make her a winning protagonist."

In Heart's Desire, a sequel to Beginner's Luck, Hallie returns to her home in Cosgrove County, Ohio, after her freshman year of college. Struggling with financial issues, she spends the summer working for the Stocktons, helping Bernard repair his relationship with his lover, Gil. Hallie also counsels her raucous younger sister, helps a local businessman stave off bankruptcy, and contemplates losing her virginity. Though some critics felt the work lacked the freshness of its predecessor, Neal Wyatt, reviewing Heart's Desire in Booklist, called the novel "funny, tender, and poignant."

In The Big Shuffle, the third work in Pedersen's "Beginner's Luck" series, nineteen-year-old Hallie must take charge of her eight siblings after her father dies suddenly from a heart attack and her mother suffers a nervous breakdown. With the help of Bernard and Gil, Pastor Costello, and her Uncle Lenny, Hallie weathers a number of storms while her mother recovers. The author "manages to put a great deal of humor into what could have been a maudlin tale," noted Booklist contributor Danise Hoover, and Library Journal critic Jan Blodgett stated that the work "recaptures the same balance of zaniness and compassion" seen in the previous two entries.

In a interview with Julie Sciandra, Pedersen stated that most of the ideas for her novels come "from daily life. I live ‘hard’ in the sense that I enjoy being on the go and having lots of experiences." Pedersen added, "There are a lot of things I'd love to do but haven't had time yet, and so I'll occasionally imagine a character doing them and use that in a novel. But at the end of the day, my stories are always about living, loving, and dying."



Pedersen, Laura, and F. Peter Model, Play Money: My Brief but Brilliant Career on Wall Street, Crown (New York, NY), 1991.


Booklist, May 1, 1993, Barbara Jacobs, review of Street-Smart Career Guide: A Step-by-Step Program for Your Career Development, p. 1559; December 15, 2002, Meredith Parets, review of Beginner's Luck, p. 734; January 1, 2004, Meredith Parets, review of Last Call, p. 826; May 15, 2005, Neal Wyatt, review of Heart's Desire, p. 1637; September 1, 2006, Danise Hoover, review of The Big Shuffle, p. 57.

Business Credit, January, 1992, Julie A. Owings, review of Play Money: My Brief but Brilliant Career on Wall Street, p. 31.

Kirkus Reviews, November 1, 2002, review of Beginner's Luck, p. 1562; May 1, 2005, review of Heart's Desire, p. 500; June 15, 2006, review of The Big Shuffle, p. 598.

Kliatt, January 1, 2003, review of Beginner's Luck, p. 18; September 1, 2005, Sarah Applegate, review of Heart's Desire, p. 22.

Library Journal, March 15, 1993, Cristy Zlatos, review of Street-Smart Career Guide, p. 90; January 1, 2003, Jan Blodgett, review of Beginner's Luck, p. 158; October 1, 2006, Jan Blodgett, review of The Big Shuffle, p. 58.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, April 28, 1991, review of Play Money, p. 6.

Management Review, November 1, 1991, review of Play Money, p. 48.

Publishers Weekly, March 22, 1991, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of Play Money, p. 65; August 30, 1999, review of Going Away Party, p. 49; December 2, 2002, review of Beginner's Luck, p. 33; December 22, 2003, review of Last Call, p. 39; May 23, 2005, review of Heart's Desire, p. 57.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June 1, 2003, review of Beginner's Luck, p. 142.


Blogcritics, (April 15, 2006), Nancy Gail, review of The Sweetest Hours: Love Stories … of a Kind., (January 1, 2004), Julie Sciandra, "Author Talk: Laura Pedersen."

Brown Bookloft, (October 10, 2006), Gale Zasada, review of Beginner's Luck.

Laura Pedersen Home Page, (July 1, 2007).

Pop Matters, (November 15, 2005), Jackie Regales, "What She Loves: A Chat with Laura Pedersen."