Peter, Laura, and Me (Stephanie Kuehnert)

Though I don't remember it, my mom will tell you that my first literary love was Peter Pan. I loved the story, especially the title character. I wasn't interested in Tinkerbell or motherly Wendy (not until she was out there in Neverland being a bad ass). I wanted to be Peter and fight pirates, dammit.

Here's the picture to prove it:

“Do you know how hard it was to find pirate stories that were appropriate for four-year-old girls?” my mom vents, every time she tells this story. “Next to impossible. We just read Peter Pan over and over and over again! I feel like in a way this set the tone for my life as a reader and writer. I was always searching for books that weren’t there, especially when I was a punk rock teenage girl who was going through a ton of complicated shit and desperately hoping a character in a novel might give me answers. When I didn’t find my story reflected in books, I started writing it. If I ever write a book for a younger audience, it will definitely be about girl pirates, both for little girl me and for all the moms of little girls like me.

Though I know I loved Peter Pan because I still have a fondness for that story, the first book/author/character I remember falling hard for is this one, which I discovered in kindergarten:

I loved Laura. I wanted to be her so badly that I would dress up in an old-fashioned, hand-me-down dress, my moon boots (because I didn't have any other kind of boots) and tie a doll bonnet around my neck. I would regularly insist on going out in public like that AND on my parents calling me Laura.

At the time I read the Little House books (and reread about a million times), I thought they were pure autobiography and I fantasized that some day I would write my life story in that way. I started keeping a journal as well as making mental notes when I walked around school: She heads to her locker. It's third grade and this year, they have locks. Remembering the combination is very stressful.

Yeah, my 1980s childhood was really not nearly as adventurous as Laura's, so ultimately I turned to writing fiction instead... Until recently. I've been documenting my teenage years in essay form for Rookie magazine for two-and-a-half years and I've decided to compile those and write some new essays, combine them with awesome illustrations (not by me, I can't draw!) and pages from the zines I wrote as a teenager. I’ve just finished a rough draft of the book proposal, so we’ll see—my Laura dream may come true after all. Well, one of them, I also want to visit all the Laura sites that Wendy McClure did in The Wilder Life!


  1. You and I share a love of LIW. I still write to reruns of the old TV show!

  2. OMG Laura. I was obsessed with those books, and I LOVED The Wilder Life because it made me realize I wasn't alone!

    Also, I think you would have liked Lookingglass Theatre Company's version of Peter Pan in 2010. Not only were the pirates genuinely scary, but Wendy was a badass from beginning to end!


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