Years and years ago, I moved to Los Angeles to live with my sister, who was living there and working in advertising.It had taken me a while to finish college, and when I finally did, I wasn’t sure what kind of editorial work I could land in Austin, so moving to LA seemed like a great idea. Tim and I were dating, so I flew back and forth from LA to Austin as much as I could, working hard at maintaining a relationship with Tim and also with his kids. In a way, it was a gap year before gap years were a thing.
When I arrived in LA, I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do or how long I would stay there. I went to a temp agency, hoping to bring in money while I was looking for a “real” job. The temp agency was a lovely place called London Staffing, and the woman who helped sign me up was a gorgeous, well-dressed, middle-aged woman with a beautiful British accent. I filled out the paperwork and made my way back to my sister’s house, driving 15 miles per hour on the LA freeway while the locals understandably flipped me off. By the time I made it home, I had a call from London Staffing.
“Amy,” said the British accent on the line. “Would you be available to work at Vogue this afternoon?”
I did my best not to scream on the phone and rushed to get dressed and ready for an afternoon of filing papers. The film The Devil Wears Prada pretty much nails magazine editorial office environments. It’s just as intimidating as you’d think, but the people were much lovelier (with a few notable exceptions). From there, my job as a temp became a whirlwind of exciting assignments. I filed papers at Vogue, answered phones and helped move racks of clothes at Lucky, and sat behind the desk of the West Coast editor of Vanity Fair, where I snuck a peek at her paper Rolodex and jotted down Rob Reiner’s home phone number, because I guess I thought that one day, I would phone him to shoot the breeze. I got yelled at regularly and had a magazine thrown at me by a bipolar editor at Architectural Digest.
I loved every minute of it.
Over the Christmas holiday, I took a three-week assignment as a receptionist at Bon Appetit while the beloved receptionist took a well-deserved break. I took this temporary position extremely seriously, and went into work each day determined to impress everyone who walked past the desk. I arrived early and stayed late, and offered to take on extra jobs whenever possible. I grabbed the attention of the HR director, who told me that there was an open position as Reader Services. In editorial, Reader Services was the lowest rung on an extremely tall ladder, and I’ve never wanted a job more. I didn’t have designer clothes, I had very little editorial experience, but I knew that working at Bon Appetit would change my life.
I got the job, and it was life-changing. On my first editorial huddle in the corner office of then editor-in-chief Barbara Fairchild’s gorgeous white office, fragrant with fresh flowers, Barbara introduced me as the girl “from East Texas, where she tells me they fry everything, including carrots.” The editorial team laughed, and I knew I’d found my tribe. When I first saw my name printed on the masthead, I nearly fainted. I was so low on the ladder that I was the mail delivery person, but I treated the job as if I were the editor-in-chief. I also used the opportunity to make connections with the editors while I wheeled the mail cart into their offices to deliver their mail.
I made a lifelong friend in my cube neighbor Christina. We found the corporate heirarchy fascinating, and we laughed and laughed while we watched our senior editors work hard to impress the editors above them, though we were working just as hard to impress those just above us. I received priceless counseling from my adopted Jewish mothers in the test kitchen, and ate the most ridiculous food imaginable. Every day, I was overwhelmed and grateful. Many days, I left in tears, feeling inadequate.
Eventually, the tugging on my heart grew too strong to ignore, and I made the decision to resign to return to Texas to be with Tim and the kids. While leaving the magazine world was a difficult decision, the choice to return home was the right one for me.
Flash 16 years ahead, and I’m married to Tim with two lovely stepchildren who are in college and a daughter in 8th grade. Tim continues to be extremely supportive of my desire to write, something that hasn’t changed in all these years. When I signed up to go to BlogHer 2015 in New York, Tim agreed it was a great decision. He felt the same when I attended BlogHer 2016 in Los Angeles.
At BlogHer16, for each panel session, I took a seat at the front of the room and live tweeted quotes from the panelists. I took photos and did my best to promote the message of the speakers. When the conference was over, it dawned on me that while I was doing that out of my own interest and desire to spread the messages I was hearing, there didn’t appear to be an official person doing that on behalf of the BlogHer team.
If I’ve learned anything in my career, it’s that if you see a need, you need to go fill it.
I emailed the volunteer coordinator and pitched the idea of attending BlogHerFood16, which happens to be in Austin where I live. I offered to attend as a live-tweeting volunteer. All I asked for in return was the benefit of attending the conference for networking reasons. Several weeks later, I received an email approving the idea, and even better, a note that the BlogHer team would be expanding this to other volunteers as well, allowing for live tweeting at even more sessions. How cool is that?
I’m thrilled to be attending BlogHerFood16, especially because if you had told me when I was schlepping mail at Bon Appetit 16 years ago that I would be helping promote these amazing panelists at a major food conference, I never would have believed you.
I look forward to meeting new faces and seeing so many prominent figures in the food community this weekend in one of the best food cities in the country.
Bon Appetit indeed!