Archive for Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Thirst for adventure lands THS grad at magazine in NY

January 31, 2007

Tonganoxie native Marissa Stephenson has barely started her post-college career and she's already graduated to being listed in a national magazine's masthead as "assistant managing editor."

At the relatively young age of 24, Stephenson has lived in New York City for almost two years.

The 2001 graduate of Tonganoxie High School began working in November as assistant managing editor of Shape magazine. The magazine's February issue is the first in which her name is listed among the magazine's top staffers.

Stephenson graduated from the Kansas University School of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2005.

As part of Stephenson's editorial work, she makes sure everyone's writing assignments are in on time, copy edits stories and proofs pages. She will hire the magazine's college interns, and she works with producers of its Web site.

The job is in line with Stephenson's long-term professional goals -- to write for an outdoor travel magazine about outdoor adventure sports.

"It's definitely a step in the right direction to that," Stephenson said.

The daughter of R.J. and Karen Stephenson, she has a head start on adventure sports.

"When I was younger my father would take me on rafting trips starting when I was 5," Stephenson said. "It was something the two of us could do together."

And lately, Stephenson said, her father has become more interested in kayaking.

"So when I'm home I go kayaking on the Kansas River with him," Stephenson said.

Stephenson is a big fan of travel.

"Within the next couple of years, I'd like to take six months or so off and travel in western Europe and New Zealand and Australia," Stephenson said. "And if I'm lucky, get some freelance work to write while I'm doing it."

Stephenson said she's happy with her job and about living in New York City. Her apartment is in Queens.

She said it's a railroad apartment, which she shares with long-time friend Luke Manson, who also graduated from THS in 2001, and another friend. It's not the perfect arrangement she said, explaining that in a railroad apartment, one bedroom leads to another.

"I have the first bedroom, so Luke and my other roommate have to walk through my room to get to theirs," Stephenson said, chuckling as she noted she pays $550 a month "for a room with no door."

However, when the lease is up she plans to get a place of her own, which might run as low as $700 a month in Queens or higher in Manhattan.

"It's a change from Tonganoxie," said Stephenson, whose family has lived here for generations.

"It really is, that's one of the things I like best about Queens is that it's so diverse. I get on the subway and I don't know how to say it without sounding corny, but it's like the entire world on one subway train."

Her neighborhood is multicultural.

It's predominantly Ecuadorian, Vietnamese, Asian, Spanish, Greek and Jewish.

"You get a lot of the different cultures a couple blocks away, which is great," Stephenson said. "I really love that."

First impressions of life in New York City are surreal

Editor's note: Marissa Stephenson recently became the assistant managing editor of Shape magazine. The Tonganoxie native writes about her early -- and eye-opening -- experiences of living in New York City.

Before I started interning (and two weeks after I arrived in Woodside, Queens, with two suitcases and my instructions to "find the keys to the apartment in the broken window out front"), I took a job with my roommates working at TGIFriday's on Fifth Avenue, directly across from Saks Fifth Avenue. Everything around me felt surreal. (The third week of November, right before they lit the Rockefeller tree across the street, Saks lit up their traditional two-story-high twinkling Christmas decorations. Once every 15 minutes, the lights would churn on, holiday music would chime, and hundreds of people would push into the street and stare up. You could barely hear the melodies over the sound of taxi horns.) Those four months waitressing at Friday's were some of the most grueling of my life -- 70-hour weeks working double eight-hour shifts; it was a holiday in grease and hungry tourists. I worked in a time the wait-staff called "Season," when the streets flooded with shoppers and we drove the price of a burger and fries up to $20. It didn't take long to figure out that the best way to get great tips was to say I was from Kansas, and say it with a twang. People loved it. (Maybe it was smarmy of me, but I also found that saying, "Yep, and I just moved here two weeks ago!" saved a lot of face and bought a ton of forgiveness when customers would wait an hour for their sizzling chicken-wing starter. I kept that two-week line well into December.) The hours there were horrible, the money incredible, and the people absolutely unforgettable. I think I learned more about New York in those four months than I would have in years if I'd taken a desk job. And I wouldn't change a thing.

When I started my internship at InStyle, I also started freelance designing and editing for a law librarian in the city (to pay for my hallway-room). At the same time, I also freelanced for a friend's magazine, College Outlook, which goes out to high school seniors across the country who are preparing for college. Here's the link to one of the articles I wrote about job-searching in New York: http://www.collegeoutlook.net/ca_careers_jobsearch.cfm

The most motivating reason for moving out here was that it would be an adventure. Not having a job, never seeing my apartment before I moved, it was exactly the jolt of change and excitement I needed. I can't imagine I'll stay here forever -- there's so many more places to explore -- but right now, I can hear the seven-line subway outside and the sound of Spanish music from the neighbors across the hall, and there's no where else I'd rather be.

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