Laura Elizabeth Pedersen was born in Buffalo, New York, the only child of Ellen Elizabeth (née Watson) and John Anders Pedersen, a nurse and a State Supreme Court reporter. She grew up in Amherst, New York at 419 Frankhauser Road and attended the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst. She is five feet, nine inches tall and has Danish, Irish, and Scottish ancestry.
Pedersen often cites her developing years in Western New York in her writing. She attended public school in the Sweet Home Central District of Amherst, NY, starting with kindergarten at Maplemere Elementary School in 1970. Pedersen was elected Class Clown at Sweet Home Senior High School and won a National Honor Society Scholarship and a New York State Regents Scholarship. After graduating high school in 1983 she moved to Manhattan and began an entry-level job at the American Stock Exchange. At age twenty, she was the youngest person to have a seat and became a partner in a trading firm, while earning a finance degree at New York University in 1987. At NYU Pedersen was inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, the nation's oldest honor society for business students. She has an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Canisius College. Pedersen is a judge for the Eric Hoffer Book Awards.
Glamour magazine named Laura Pedersen one of ten "Outstanding Young Working Women" in 1990. That same year she joined the staff of the Emmy-award winning daytime TV program The Joan Rivers Show. Pedersen performed stand-up comedy at The Improv and other clubs and has written for several well-known comedians. Her first book, Play Money (1991), about being the youngest trader on the floor of the American Stock Exchange, became a bestseller, and she appeared on Oprah, David Letterman, Good Morning America, Primetime Live, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, Catherine Crier Live, Ricki Lake, The Joan Rivers Show, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, and Fox News. In 1994 President Bill Clinton honored Pedersen as one of Ten Outstanding Young Americans. She was a columnist for The New York Times from 1995 to 2002. She was host of her own television show on The Oxygen Channel from 1999-2002. Pedersen was voted one of the ten best speakers in the U.S. and has given keynote addresses at the Bakersfield Business Conference, the ATHENA Awards, the 92nd Street Y (92Y) in Manhattan, and numerous commencements. She appeared as the mystery guest on the TV game show To Tell the Truth.
Pedersen's first novel, Going Away Party, won the 2001 Three Oaks Prize for Fiction. Other novels include The Hallie Palmer series: Beginner’s Luck; Heart’s Desire; The Big Shuffle; and Best Bet. Beginner’s Luck was chosen by Barnes & Noble for their “Discover Great New Writers” program, and by Borders for “Original Voices.” The Big Shuffle was selected as the Best Adult Novel for Teens by The New York Public Library. Best Bet  was a Next Generation finalist in the categories of Best Fiction and Best Cover Design. Additional writing includes the romantic comedies Last Call and Fool's Mate, and a collection of short stories The Sweetest Hours.
Buffalo Gal (2008), a humorous memoir about growing up in the economically devastated Rust Belt during the 1970s, was named best autobiography by ForeWord magazine, received an honorable mention from The Eric Hoffer Book Award, and an honorable mention at the New York Book Festival. Buffalo Unbound (2010) is a collection of humorous essays about the current revitalization of Pedersen's hometown and the Western New York area. It won the 2011 Indie Book Award in the Humor/Comedy category and was a 2011 International Book Award finalist in the categories of Travel Essay and Humor. Also, Medaille College chose Buffalo Unbound as their all-freshmen read in 2012.
Trains, Planes, and Auto-Rickshaws, a collection of humorous essays about traveling through India was released in May 2012.
Life in New York: How I Learned to Love Squeegee Men, Token Suckers, Trash Twisters and Subway Sharks is a humorous social history of New York City over the past three decades published in July 2015. "Laura Pedersen parcels her stream of consciousness into wily and witty essays." (Sam Roberts for The New York Times.) "A very funny walk down memory lane!" (Charlene Giannetti) Life in New York was a Seven Sisters Book Award winner for the best nonfiction.
A children's book titled Unplugged: Ella Gets Her Family Back was published in October 2012 and became a Mom's Choice Awards Gold recipient. The Mom's Choice Awards is a prestigious international program that recognizes authors and others for creating quality family-friendly media. Unplugged received a Skipping Stones magazine Honor Award for respecting multicultural and ecological awareness in children's literature. It was selected by the United Methodist Women's Reading Program Committee for their children's book list. It also won a bronze for best picture book for children of all ages in the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards. Unplugged is dedicated to the memory of Erin Elizabeth Suszynksi, the daughter of Pedersen's close friend Mary (Pyne) Suszynski. Erin died on June 20, 2012 at the age of 13 after being struck by a car on Maple Road in Amherst, NY. Mary is one of nine children and mentioned in almost all of Pedersen's books, in addition to being an inspiration for the Hallie Palmer series.
Another children's book called Ava's Adventure (Tilbury, 2014) explores the joys of imagination and creativity in a family coping with financial challenges in tough economic times. Wanda's Better Way (Fulcrum, May 2017) is an exciting romp that encourages young people, especially girls, to study STEM (science, technology, engineering & math) subjects.
Pedersen's full-length drama The Brightness of Heaven about faith, family, and the ties that bind was the finalist in the Maxim Mazumder New Play Competition, a finalist in the Ashland New Plays Festival, and a finalist in The Hudson Valley Writers' Center New Play Reading Series. It received a full production at the Manhattan Repertory Theatre in 2012, directed by Ludovica Villar-Hauser. The Brightness of Heaven premiered at New York's Off-Broadway Cherry Lane Theatre to packed houses in the fall of 2014. “The play may be about a Catholic family in the 70s, but on a deeper level it is about human beings grappling with the nature of love. The writing and the acting is so good and the direction so subtle that you root for everyone in different ways and for different reasons. That discussion has no era and has no end.” (Susan Hasho) The Brightness of Heaven opened at Buffalo's 710 Main Theatre (formerly Studio Arena Theater) in the fall of 2015 under its new name For Heaven's Sake! featuring the original Off-Broadway cast and creative team.
Pedersen's one-act play A Dozen Perfect Moments was performed as part of the 2012 Midtown International Theatre Festival at the June Havoc Theatre in New York City, where it was nominated for four awards. A Dozen Perfect Moments was the winner of the Doc Jim Martin Playwright Competition and a semi-finalist in the Drury University One-Act Playwriting Competition.
Pedersen's one-act play Living Arrangements received a full production at the Roy Arias Theatre in New York City in February 2013. Living Arrangements was performed by the Township Theatre Group during their Winter 2014 season.
Pedersen's full-length musical This Will All Be Yours (lyrics and music by Charles Bloom) premiered at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in July and August 2014. "It turns a brilliant, focused spotlight on the Price family farm in 1979 western New York, representative of many such family farms during a time of upheaval which is still happening today in different parts of the country. The message gives us pause for indeed, what are we leaving for our grandchildren if we continue our current actions and policies? Hopefully, we are creating innovative ways to keep the best of what our forebears gave us, jettisoning all that is unfruitful and, most importantly, recognizing the difference." (Carole Di Tosti) This Will All Be Yours was nominated for nine awards, including Outstanding Production of a Full-Length Musical and Outstanding New Book, Music & Lyrics for a Full-Length Musical.
Pedersen is an ordained Interfaith minister who occasionally gives sermons at Unitarian Universalist churches and fellowships around the country and in Canada. At the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City she's a deacon and a member of the Women's Alliance. Pedersen teaches at the Booker T. Washington Learning Center in East Harlem, belongs to the Authors Guild, the international literary association P.E.N., and is an honorary member of the Twentieth Century Club.
- Laura Pedersen Books
- YouTube interview with Laura Pedersen
- Kirkus review
- NYTimes article 1
- NYTimes article 2