Share this article

print logo

Striking it rich A new book tells how Western New York roots helped mold a successful and savvy woman who learned that wealth is about more than money

Pedersen's memories of those days form the foundation of her new book, "Buffalo Gal," a 320-page paperback memoir which chronicles her experiences growing up in Amherst in the 1970s. The book is out from Fulcrum Press this month; Pedersen will be appearing at several events in Buffalo to promote it.

What did a Buffalo girlhood teach a youngster like Pedersen? From shoveling snow, she learned the virtues of hard work and persistence.

From growing up as the only child of two encouraging - and sometimes baffled - parents, she learned to be resourceful and self sufficient.

And from countless card games with her family members and friends, she learned to play the odds - and not to drop her cards.

"They didn't want to play kid stuff," Pedersen said, of her adult relatives. "So they taught me to play poker when I was 5."

But life in Western New York also taught Pedersen another valuable lesson: about what it meant to be rich in life's most valuable possessions - such as friends, family and good memories - even when you aren't living in a wealthy sort of place.

"Our lives were rich," said Pedersen, dressed casually in blue jeans and a brown leather jacket as she sipped juice and ate a granola bar at the Starbucks in Williamsville on a recent weekday afternoon. "We were in the middle of some terrible things - an unpopular war, rising gas prices, a bad economy-but we survived. We helped each other out.

"We made it."

The memoir is Pedersen's ninth book. Her first, "Play Money," came out in 1991 and told the story of her youthful ascent on Wall Street; that book became a best seller.

Pedersen, 42, who writes in the mornings and works as a teacher at the Booker T. Washington Learning Center in East Harlem in the afternoons, has since published numerous works of fiction, and has worked as a columnist published in places including the New York Times.

She lives with her husband of 13 years, William Pietersen, on New York's upper East Side; she has two stepchildren.

In the 25 years since she left Sweet Home High, Pedersen's life has taken her far from the streets she played on in what she describes as a typical suburban neighborhood in the tumultuous '60s and '70s.

In "Buffalo Gal," Pedersen describes the childhood and teenage years of a girl who would get her first taste of the financial industry at 15, when a family friend took her to see the trading floor on the Stock Exchange.

It was love at first sight for Pedersen, who found Wall Street to match the kind of restless hyperactivity she felt inside.

"When I look back on it now, I probably had this thing called 'attention deficit disorder,' " said Pedersen, whose long blonde hair floats midway down her back. "I think all the ADDs in the world go to the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. It was great. They're action junkies; they're all Type A personalities."

She graduated from Sweet Home in 1983, and tried college in the Midwest briefly before deciding New York City was the place for her. She moved there and landed her first job on Wall Street-an entry-level position-soon after.

Before long, she had worked her way into a spot on the trading floor.

In "Buffalo Gal," Pedersen presents short, essay like chapters that weave together her personal experiences with the larger narratives of what was happening in Buffalo and Erie County during the same period: crime waves, city unrest, suburban flight and ennui, Vietnam War protests, joblessness. She began the book about two years ago.

"Two years ago, I made a phone call and I got a busy signal. And I remember thinking, 'My God, you don't hear those anymore,' " said Pedersen. "I was forgetting - and losing - so much. I had turned 40, and I was losing so much. I thought, if I wrote these memories down, I could clear out about 1/4 of my brain."

"And then I thought, 'Is it possible to weave this together into a cohesive memoir?' "

In fact, several of the pieces in the book started as essays in magazines and Pedersen's newspaper column.

She returns to Buffalo regularly these days, since her mother still spends half the year here. Her father relocated to New Mexico after her parents' divorce when Pedersen was a teenager. (A chapter in the book deals with her experiences as a child in the divorce court system in Erie County.)

These days, Pedersen is not sorry she made her Wall Street career when she did-and left when she did, after weathering two downturns in the market in the late 1980s.

"I arrived on Wall Street at the beginning of the biggest bull market in history," she said. "I had no way of knowing that, no way of planning it. There was just so much opportunity. I loved it there."

Even now, in the midst of financial turmoil that has deeply shaken the nation, Pedersen remains optimistic about the markets.

"Money doesn't just disappear," she said. "It keeps moving around. Hey, someone is going to make a fortune on this bailout."

Then, speaking like the poker player she became at 5, Pedersen smiles and adds:

"There are two sides to every coin - and the edge."


There are no comments - be the first to comment