STEM Author Spotlight– Laura Stegman

We are delighted to have Laura Stegman, author of The Chambered Nautilus on the blog today.

Laura StegmanLaura Segal Stegman is a Los Angeles-based publicist and author whose middle grade debut novel, Summer of L.U.C.K., and its sequel, Ready or Not, were published by Young Dragons. The Chambered Nautilus, the third in the L.U.C.K. trilogy, will follow. L.A. Parent Magazine lauded Summer of L.U.C.K. as a “good read,” Readers’ Favorite awarded it 5 Stars, and a Macaroni Kid reviewer said, “I was instantly captivated and couldn’t put it down.” Laura serves as a judge for Society of Young Inklings and Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) writer competitions, and she shares her author journey in engaging virtual and in-person visits to schools and libraries. Her non-fiction credits include collaboration on the travel book Only in New York. Her feature stories have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Los Angeles Magazine. A long-time publicity consultant, she owns Laura Segal Stegman Public Relations, LLC, which has represented a wide-ranging client list of businesses, arts organizations, and non-profit events over the years. She is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of UC Irvine with a B.A. in Drama.

 

 

The Chambered Nautilus book

All about the book! Get ready for a whirlwind adventure with The Chambered Nautilus, the thrilling conclusion to Laura Segal Stegman’s enchanting Summer of L.U.C.K. trilogy.

Best friends Darby, Justin, and Naz are facing their biggest challenge yet. Since last summer’s adventure, they find themselves growing apart, making new friends, and being pulled in different directions. But when a ride at ghostly Mr. Usher’s carnival experiences a mysterious malfunction, the trio reunites to answer his desperate call for help.

With expulsion from camp and the carnival’s very existence on the line, Darby, Justin, and Naz will have to rely on their wits-and one another-to unravel the mysteries surrounding Mr. Usher’s plea. The camp’s newest attraction, the Chambered Nautilus, may hold the key, but it will take everything they have to unlock its secret.

Join them in a heart-pounding journey filled with friendship, courage, and the power of never giving up. Will they save the carnival and their cherished memories before it’s too late? Find out in this magical tale of adventure, discovery, and the true meaning of loyalty.

 

Laura, thanks for answering my questions:

JS: This is such a fun book with a great cast of characters. Were they inspired by yourself? Or maybe kids you knew or grew up with? You don’t have to give specific names, of course, but it’s always fun to learn where authors get their characters.

 

LS: I appreciate your describing The Chambered Nautilus as a fun book! I sure had fun writing it! It’s the third in my middle grade trilogy about three kids whose friendship with a ghost livens up – to put it mildly – their summer camp experiences over a three-year span. In Summer of L.U.C.K., the first book, we meet Darby, Justin, and Naz, who are struggling with communicating, and the ghost, Leroy Usher, who helps them find their voices via adventures in his magical carnival. The kids have more magical adventures in the sequel, but Ready or Not sees Mr. Usher helping Justin, who faces a tricky choice: stand up to bigotry or let fear hold him back. In The Chambered Nautilus, the conclusion to the series, the trio receives an urgent plea from Mr. Usher, and they must figure out how to help him without destroying his beloved, now real-life carnival or getting expelled from camp.

It’s certainly accurate to say that the kid  characters were inspired by me. A lot of Darby is based on my own experiences learning to find my voice. I never lost a parent as a kid, the way Justin does, but I’ve felt his sense of not being heard. As for Naz, whose endearing personality makes me laugh, I share his tenacity and his love of junk food.

 

JS: Your book has a ghost! How cool is that? Can you explain what made you decide to put a ghost in it? 

LS: I needed a character not only with magical powers but who was also deeply compassionate. A friendly ghost fit the bill. I modeled Mr. Usher on the kind of loving, understanding adult that kids like me loved to be around. I had a grade school teacher like that. She helped me navigate tough times and gave me a sense of security and trust. Like her, Mr. Usher adores kids and does everything he can to help them, which is why Darby, Justin, and Naz are so drawn to him. My teacher’s name was Mrs. Warner, and for all I know she has passed on, but perhaps she haunts my old elementary school, still helping kids. Ha!

 

JS: Why did you pick a chambered nautilus? This is not a typical ride at a carnival.

Agreed! The Chambered Nautilus in this book exists nowhere but my imagination. The carnival attraction is shaped like a nautilus shell (think giant snail). When kids enter, they (and readers) learn all about chambered nautiluses and their threatened status. As they go from room to room – each smaller than the last, like a real nautilus – they must answer multiple choice questions about what they’ve learned to get to the final room and win a prize.

But it’s not as simple as all that. The Chambered Nautilus attraction is Mr. Usher’s son’s misbegotten attempt to bring his late father’s plans to life. Mr. Usher never intended it to be built anywhere except in his magical realm, but his son doesn’t know that. And of course everything goes wrong. When pieces of the carnival start disappearing, the three kids must rescue the trapped Mr. Usher so he can go back to rest once and for all.

 

JS: You have a little STEM in your book. Why did you add that?

My favorite book as a kid, The Diamond in the Window by Jane Langton, had a chambered nautilus-related scene, so I knew a little about them. But as I did research for my book, I became fascinated by their intriguing biology, their intricately designed shells, and their precarious status as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. For young readers who’ve never heard of chambered nautiluses, I’m hoping to inspire their interest in these soft-bodied cephalopod class creatures, which have cruised in deep ocean coral reefs for more than 480 million years.

 

JS: What do you want young readers to find interesting and exciting about your book?

LS: Aside from discovering chambered nautiluses, I hope they’ll be engaged by the relationship between Darby, Justin, and Naz and enjoy sharing their adventures. In The Chambered Nautilus and the other two books in the trilogy, there’s a lot about finding self-acceptance, perseverance, ways to deal with life’s unfairness, and the power of friendship. It would be great if my readers also learn that whatever they’re struggling with, other kids struggle too, that they’re not alone, and that help is possible, even if you don’t have the guidance of a friendly ghost).

 

JS: Do you have any tips for writers who want to break into fiction children’s books?

LS: What helps me the most are these things, in no particular order:

1) Reading widely, especially contemporary middle grade but also other genres.

2) Making contact with as many other middle grade writers as possible, especially those at the same stage of their careers as I am.

3) Joining or creating a critique group.

4) Learning as much as possible about the publishing industry by taking advantage of the range of no-cost writer’s resources, from social media (X/Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, for me) to web sites/blogs.

5) Joining the SCBWI and, when eligible, the Author’s Guild, which offers everything from free contract reviews to webinars,  workshops, seminars, and events to website building and hosting and much more.

6) Continuing to write, never giving up, and remembering that there is no age limit to our dreams.

 

JS: What are you working on now?

LS: I’m deep in revisions for my fourth book, a contemporary middle grade novel about a self-conscious twelve-year-old who flourishes in an acting class only to confront her binge eating when it jeopardizes all her progress. This story of healing, self-acceptance, and hope is especially dear to my heart, and I hope it eventually finds a home. I also have an idea for another MG contemporary about a blended family, which is in such rudimentary stages that I haven’t been able to decide where the story begins.

 

Laura Stegman

 

 

 

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Jennifer Swanson
Science ROCKS! And so do Jennifer Swanson's books. She is the award-winning author of over 40 nonfiction books for kids. Jennifer Swanson’s love of science began when she started a science club in her garage at the age of 7. While no longer working from the garage, you can find Jennifer at her favorite place to explore the world around her. www.JenniferSwansonBooks.com
Jennifer is also the creator and administrator of #STEMTuesday and #STEAMTeam2020

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