April 21, 2005,
Not every publishing project these days is another book about Scott Peterson, and not every new magazine is yet another celebrity weekly. Let me tell you about some women who are doing something different in media.
For starters, two sisters are making a dream come true for their third sister, a young woman, who died on United Flight 93 on September 11. Her dream was to publish a book. Vaughn Lohec and Dara Near finished the book their sister, Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas, started but never had the chance to complete. Called You Can Do It!, it will be published on May 3 by Chronicle Books.
Mrs. Grandcolas was an advertising saleswoman based in San Francisco for Good Housekeeping magazine. She noticed that her female friends, often too busy with work and family, put off doing what they dreamed of doing. To encourage and inspire them and other women, she began to write a book to teach them step by step how to follow their dreams and seek out experiences. Borrowing from the Girl Scouts, she even suggested that women award themselves "merit badges" when they had mastered a new skill.
A book-packager encouraged Mrs. Grandcolas's efforts, and she quit her job and flew to New York to concentrate on completing the manuscript. She was pregnant with her first child at the time she boarded the plane. After her death, her sisters decided to finish the book with the help of Caroline Herter, Mrs. Grandcolas's partner on the project, and writer Yvette Bozzini. Mrs. Grandcolas had written a proposal for the book, the table of contents, and completed the first chapter before she died. "We felt it was the right way to honor Lauren," said Mrs. Near, a New Jersey homemaker.
The book is now comprised of 60 chapters or "badges" The badges span everything from learning how to be a rock star, public speaker, author, filmmaker, photographer, and art connoisseur to skydiving, surfing, yoga, and horseback riding. There are also badges on cooking, home decorating, money management, personal style, travel, and relationships.
Each badge walks women through the learning process from start to finish and includes personal stories and excerpts from real-life "mentors" experts in their fields who contributed a lot of their personal time to the book.
The publisher, Chronicle Books, has teamed up with the San Francisco office of Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and sees You Can Do It! as not just a book but the start of a movement. Chronicle went to Ogilvy because of their effective Red Dress Campaign, which has raised awareness of heart disease among women. Mrs. Bush has given her support to that campaign.
The book has already received considerable attention. Excerpts will appear in Parade, Glamour, Self, Shape, Good Housekeeping, Parents, and even the Costco Connection. Barnes & Noble has declared You Can Do It! month from mid-April to mid-May, when it will feature the book in all its stores.
A portion of the proceeds from You Can Do It! will go the Lauren Catuzzi Grandcolas Foundation, which was established by her family and friends to support charitable causes. "Working on the book taught us that yes, you can do it," Mrs. Near said. "I think Lauren would be very pleased."
Another young woman on a publishing mission is Tricia Staible, the founder and co-publisher of Realiteen, a new magazine for teenage girls. What distinguishes it from the many magazines for girls already making the scene? Realiteen along with its take on fashion, make-up, music, and movies emphasizes how important faith is to many teens today.
The magazine's editor, Christine Virgin don't laugh, that's her married name said, "We wanted to create a magazine that young girls would find fun and entertaining. But we also know that being a Christian was important to us when we were teens and is very important to many girls today. So there is an emphasis on faith in the magazine in many features and how you can use the Bible as a guide in your life. But at the same time we don't want to be preachy. We want the readers to really enjoy the magazine."
Throughout their first issue, interspersed between a makeover of the girls of the McLean Bible Church youth group and a look at Tom Hanks's marriage, is advice on how to handle being dumped by a Christian boy. The dating columnist's counsel: "I know it's hard, but as Christians we are called upon to love those who hurt us." There is even a fashion spread on "cute T-shirts" that proclaim "Jesus Loves Me" and "Satan Sucks."
Miss Staible, who is 24, and Mrs. Virgin, who is 26, are based in Washington, D.C. Previously Miss Staible worked for Dina Powell in the White House Office of Presidential Personnel; Mrs. Virgin worked at Voice of America. They teamed up to produce the magazine and borrowed money to finance the first issue. Wasn't that risky? "We just added to our school loans and prayed," Miss Staible said. The 125,000 copies are being distributed free through church groups. "We are getting very positive responses and subscriptions are coming in." They are already working on a fall issue and looking for investors. Said Miss Staible, "We think God will provide." Don't you hope He does?
Myrna Blyth, former long-time editor of Ladies Home Journal and founding editor of More, is author of Spin Sisters: How the Women of the Media Sell Unhappiness and Liberalism to the Women of America. Blyth is also an NRO contributor.