Deja Vu All Over Again

Today I was on the alumni speakers' panel at the Denver Publishing Institute, my professional alma mater, at the University of Denver in Colorado. I graduated from DPI five years ago tomorrow; I'm staying in the very dorm where I lived then; and at every turn I'm seeing the locations where my life as I know it started to take shape: the hillside where I sat and wondered "Could I really move to New York?"; the bookstore where I read this Dave Eggers article about taking opportunities, which practically dared me to go; the auditorium where I heard Susan Hirschman speak and thought "Yes! Children's books! That's it!" I came in a depressed, unsure, shy young English major who thought she might move to Portland and work at Powell's or something, and I left a more confident, unsure, but energized future editor (that I knew) with a plane ticket in hand for New York.

So I told this current class of whippersnappers my incredibly lucky tale, the line from DPI to Susan to Arthur to Harry and so on, with special emphasis on my whole New York decision, since so many of them are struggling with that themselves. And I found a useful metaphor here: Earlier in the day they had been talking about "The Ugly Duckling" as part of their children's-books workshop with Virginia Duncan, and I realized that"The Ugly Duckling" isn't a story about an essential change in the duckling's character. No, the only thing that changes is the Duckling's circumstances, as he goes from the wrong place and company for him to the right one, and then he can recognize his own beauty, be as gorgeous as he truly is, once he's in the right place. That's what the summer of 2000 was for me, finding that miracle of a right place. Here's wishing the DPI Class of 2005 miracles of their own.