It was one of those crazy things. Late October in my Copywriting class at the University of Oregon Journalism School, my prof, the much-celebrated Bill Winter, made an announcement. Those of us females who did not want to design an ad campaign for a local egg farm could instead enter a contest to become a Guest Editor for Mademoiselle Magazine. The hitch? The deadline for Mlle’s “college competition” was four days off.
The egg farm and I were not having any fun together, so when Bill threw down the gauntlet, I quickly grabbed it. Several of the suggested prompts appealed to me. I scurried through the rain to the apartment I shared with three women from my home town and got to work.
At Christmas break I learned I was one of the finalists. The field narrowed from thousands of applicants to 100. Again we were given prompts. I returned to UO winter term and again got to work. This time was much more difficult. My blasted muse had gone south for the winter. I couldn’t find her anywhere.
What does a journalist do? Well, this one soldiered on and finally ended up with a draft. I reworked the piece, cussed, edited, sweated, and finally had to send it off to make deadline. I didn’t like it much. But when the dust settled, I was still in the game.
In April, one of the editors came to Eugene to have tea with the local contestants. Having no idea what to wear, I headed to a little boutique at the Valley River mall and asked for help. The result was stunning. Tea–there were five or six of us–was a huge success, for me at least. In May the magazine flew me to New York City for my first beauty makeover.
The world I experienced June 1970–the month after Kent State–was incomprehensible. The world roiled around us. Mademoiselle took us to Ireland for a week. New York was and is one of the great cities of the world. My seminal moment came while walking with one of the other guest editors. We were arguing about the location of St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (I knew, and she, being from Brooklyn, didn’t.) I sidled over to an older woman who was window shopping and asked her to settle the dispute. It went well until some jackass onlooker butted in: “Do you girls know you’re talking to Greta Garbo?” (She bolted, of course. That’s what Greta Garbo did!)
I could have stayed in New York, but I wasn’t ready. I returned to Oregon, thereby casting my fate for the next 44 years.
Take note, gentle reader. I was from a town of 2,500 people and anything I knew about New York or fashion I’d read in magazines like Mademoiselle. I didn’t know how to do what I was required to do, but I did it anyway. Dreams come true every day. Kids from east L.A. become sports greats or doctors. Scruffy boy from Liverpool change the trajectory of popular music. Girls from the pucker brush go to New York, write about wine, and end up writing mystery novels. Possibilities are everywhere. You just have to look for them and then, muse or no muse, work hard.