Happy Monday! Welcome to the Kid Lit Love blog series where we spread a little love around our small and friendly writing community! Thanks for stopping by. Today, we have something a little different, from our usual picture book authors and illustrators. Meet middle grade author, Laura Segal Stegman, and get to know her book, SUMMER OF L.U.C.K.
Stuttering Darby is never perfect enough for her mother. Justin’s been silent since his dad died. Naz is struggling to learn English. But after they meet at summer camp, mysterious calliope music from an abandoned warehouse grants them power to communicate without words. When they sneak inside, the dark, empty space bursts into a magical carnival. They’re greeted by the ghost of Leroy Usher, who asks for their help convincing his family to restore the carnival to its former glory. In return, he promises to teach the kids how to find their voices. As Darby, Justin, and Naz are swept off on a series of midnight adventures via Mr. Usher’s carnival rides, they discover they’re capable of more than they ever imagined. With each challenge, their confidence in communicating – and in themselves – grows. Meanwhile, they scheme to persuade the Usher family to revive the carnival. But when Darby’s bunkmates trick her into starring in the camp talent show, her budding confidence falters. Can she risk being less than perfect by performing in the show and speaking up to Mr. Usher’s resistant son? If not, she’ll put the carnival in danger and sabotage her most important quest: to believe in herself, stutter and all.
Welcome, Laura Segal Stegman to the Kid Lit Love blog! Congratulations on the publication of your novel, SUMMER OF L.U.C.K.
Please tell us why you write books for children.
Something about middle grade stories reminds me of everything good about my childhood. Even today, I count lots of kidlit among the books I read. When I was that age, I gravitated toward stories about kids who were developing a sense of themselves and discovering they were able to do things they didn’t think they could. Reading made me feel understood, that there were solutions to my problems, and that I wasn’t alone. So when I decided to write a novel, which eventually became Summer of L.U.C.K., my dream was to write a book for kids that I hoped would mean as much to readers today as my favorite middle grade books meant to me.
I remember loving the Nancy Drew series at that age, among other books. What books were your favorites?
What part of being a writer do you love most?
Some writers spend considerable time planning and outlining their stories before they begin writing. Not me. With Summer of L.U.C.K. and its sequel, which I’m currently writing (almost finished!!), I had only a very general idea of the story arcs. For example, I knew Summer of L.U.C.K. was going to be about three kids who struggle with communication, meet at summer camp, get help from a magical entity, and learn to find their voices. But everything else came during the writing, rewriting, and revisions, including – and especially – the way it ended. The reason I write this way is that I love having the story unfold as I go, before my very eyes. Setting my imagination free to go where it wants is, to me, the joy of fiction writing for kids.
Tell us how you build yourself up in the face of rejection.
Summer of L.U.C.K.‘s journey from inception to publication took a very, very long time. Over the years, I queried more agents than I will ever be able to calculate. Sometimes it seemed that I was SO CLOSE to getting a “yes,” only to receive a “no” instead. Or, worse, silence. At first, rejection taught me that I needed to rewrite and revise (yet again, and again). In the last two years before I finally got a “YES” from my publisher, I started to get many more “maybes” in the form of agent requests for partials, then fulls. Again, I seemed SO CLOSE. By this point, I was confident that the story and the writing were solid. So in order to face all those rejections (100 in 2019 alone; yes, I counted), I compiled a list of 31 affirmations, one for each day of the month, and I read one a day. Some were my own words, like “keep going, keep at it,” and “I am doing great, even in the face of seeming failure.” Others were quotes from others. My favorite was this one: “What it’s about is not giving up. If you have a dream, fight for it. There’s a discipline for passion. And it’s not about how many times you get rejected or you fall down or you’re beaten up. It’s about how many times you stand up and are brave and you keep going.” Lady Gaga (from her Oscars speech). While it’s important to remember that rejections aren’t personal, and that all you need is one “Yes,” these affirmations were my saving grace.
Laura, thank you so much for sharing your experience with us! Rejection can be tough but it is wonderful that you persevered and that your book is out there for young readers to enjoy. Congratulations!
Summer of L.U.C.K., which will be released on September 15, 2020, by INtense Publications