The prattle of an IBM Selectric broke the nocturnal silence of our offices last Friday as Margaret Sieck (as in hide-and-go) wrote no-thank-you letters to freelance writers. Sieck, who came to SI 14 months ago, has been editing our regionals—the articles headed VIEWPOINT, YESTERDAY, BOOKTALK, REMINISCENCE, etc. found in the front and back of the magazine—while Associate Editor Linda Verigan is away on maternity leave. (It was a girl, Christina, born Sept. 12.)
This is the busiest time of year for regionals; Sieck edits, writes headlines and coordinates artwork for as many as eight stories a week while weeding her way through dozens of potential articles and story ideas. The job demands an unflappable person, and in Sieck, an ardent Red Sox fan, we have someone who is both patient and resilient.
During the four years she spent at Boating, before she joined us, Sieck wrote, edited and took photographs. In addition to her cruising stories, she recalls having written "many thousands of words on bilge pumps" and a comparison of marine sanitation devices. Sieck was a natural for Boating: Her father, John, spent 20 years in the Navy and she grew up in a series of such seaside towns as Norfolk, Va., Huntington, N.Y. and Newport, R.I.
But that Sieck finally wound up at SI will come as a surprise to some of her old prep school classmates. At North-field-Mount Hermon in Northfield, Mass., Sieck (72) shunned athletes and athletics alike. "I thought they were lowbrow," she says, laughing. "I was into student politics." That changed. Faced with a gym requirement as a Princeton freshman, Sieck attended a meeting for prospective crew members, "The varsity captain got up and told the group that any one of us might take her seat," Sieck recalls. " 'Right,' we said. It was a nice way to encourage us, but there was no way any of us were going to take her seat.
"I gave my life over to crew," Margaret adds. And with spectacular results. By racing season she had earned a place in the varsity eight, taking the No. 7 seat from, you guessed it, the captain. The Tigers won all their regular-season races that year and finished third at the nationals. Sieck, who drew disbelieving stares when she returned to Northfield-Mount Hermon with a varsity sweater, began dreaming about and planning for the 76 Olympics. But her aspirations were dashed when she tore cartilage in her left knee playing basketball the next fall. "The doctor said, 'You have an option: You can row competitively for another year or walk for the rest of your life,' " Sieck says. "I made the more pedestrian choice." She lowered her oar and raised her pen, writing sports features for The Daily Princetonian, as a junior. The next year she earned a seat in a writing seminar, "The Literature of Fact," taught by John McPhee, noted contributor to The New Yorker. "It was the best course I ever took," she says.
Sieck's Namath knees haven't forced her to retire from active sports. She still plays tennis and golf, roller-skates and often pitches for our softball team, another activity that enables Sieck to display her remarkable ability to, as one friend describes it, "transcend any and all difficulties."
SIECK: FROM BILGE PUMPS TO BOOKTALK