Beck Dorey-Stein, President Obama鈥檚 White House stenographer, answered an ad on Craigslist for her position鈥 only to ditch the interview before finding out what the gig actually was. In the end, she rallied and got the job, plus the experience of a lifetime and a total page-turner of a memoir, From the Corner of the Oval ($28). The book is already being called the new The Devil Wears Prada (complete with makeover montages, brushes with celebrity, and infidelities that take place in the kind of expensive hotel rooms Anna Wintour would approve of). Instead of name-checking Calvin Klein and Patrick Demarchelier, From the Corner of the Oval drops references to New Yorker editor David Remnick, White House giants like David Plouffe and Joe Biden and, naturally, the 44th President of the United States of America.

Dorey-Stein wanted to be a stenographer like The Devil Wears Prada鈥檚 Andyc wanted to fetch Herm猫s scarves and hot Starbucks for Miranda Priestly. She knew she was a writer 鈥 so between early-morning runs and late-night rounds of Cape Codders (that鈥檚 a vodka/cranberry with a slice of lime, FYI), she documented her long days inside the Obama 鈥渂ubble.鈥 In From the Corner of the Oval she shares her insider observations, experiences, and stories about the kind of inevitable screw-ups that we all make in our 20s. It鈥檚 all very relatable 鈥 except for the fact that Dorey-Stein was going through all that tumultuous early career and relationship stuff while circling the globe on Air Force One with the President of the United States.

From the Corner of the Oval is a book for anyone who has dreaded the question 鈥淪o, what do you do?鈥 because 鈥淚鈥檓 still figuring it out鈥 isn鈥檛 the most impressive answer. The point is, it doesn鈥檛 have to be. This memoir is proof that if you鈥檙e passionate about something, then sometimes your path finds you.

We spoke with Beck Dorey-Stein about what it was like to witness history in the making from an extremely close vantage point 鈥 and how to handle the heartbreak that comes with an ending none of us were expecting: the election of Donald Trump.

Brit + Co: At the beginning of the book you provide a list of guidelines for aspiring stenographers like 鈥淏e discreet and neat 鈥 like a librarian or a well-paid prostitute鈥 and 鈥淏reathe quietly or not at all,鈥 but the one that stands out is 鈥淎bove all else, keep the secrets to yourself.鈥 Did you stick to that one in writing this book?

Beck Dorey-Stein: I made up those rules. It was like, 鈥淭hese are the rules for being a good stenographer鈥 and I was never going to be a good stenographer. It鈥檚 not who I planned on being, it鈥檚 not who I necessarily wanted to be. Working at the White House was an honor, but being a stenographer, transcribing other people鈥檚 thoughts when I really wanted to write down my own opinions, that鈥檚 what was going to happen.

B+C: The book is set in the Obama White House, but so much of it is about being in your 20s and out of school and navigating the beginning of relationships and careers 鈥 which makes this seemingly unimaginable world really relatable.

BDS: I was thinking about how when you work at the White House, it鈥檚 so cool and unique, but in a lot of ways it鈥檚 like any other office. You鈥檙e thinking things like, 鈥淥kay, when鈥檚 the best time to get coffee?鈥 In any workplace, there are going to be these politics you have to navigate, especially as a young woman. Thinking about other young women who were going to read this, having been a high school English teacher, I wanted them to read it and know that even at the White House, even in this really magical place, you鈥檙e going to deal with all of these unappealing things. That鈥檚 just part of your job.

B+C: Your book got us thinking about that sometimes awful question (especially if you don鈥檛 have an answer yet): 鈥淪o, what do you do?鈥 Do you think that question should be abolished for anyone under 30?

BDS: No! I think if it鈥檚 asked with a generosity of spirit it鈥檚 fine. It鈥檚 just in DC, the culture is all about 鈥淪o what do you do?鈥 There鈥檚 all this measurement. But I love finding out what people do because I only ask people who I think are really interesting 鈥 the answer can be whatever [but] my follow-up is, 鈥淒o you love it? Do you want to do it? Do you want to keep doing it? What do you want to do?鈥 That鈥檚 really different than in DC where they were calculating: 鈥淐an this help me?鈥

B+C: It鈥檚 funny how every industry, no matter how niche, has its own lingo. Yours had the 鈥渂ubble,鈥 鈥減ool spray,'鈥 鈥済aggle鈥 and, a personal favorite, 鈥渟econdary hold鈥 (which meant that POTUS was in the bathroom). Did anyone give you a crash course in that kind of thing?

BDS: Noooooo. Certainly not. Especially with secondary hold. People would be like, 鈥淥h, he鈥檚 in secondary hold鈥 and I鈥檇 be like, 鈥淪hould I be in there?! Do we need a transcript of that?鈥 I had no idea. I was just fumbling in the dark for a while. I think stenographers are sort of lone wolves on the road, so no, there鈥檚 no orientation, you feel your way through it鈥 and make some mistakes along the way.

B+C: Okay, relatability aside, you鈥檙e going through all these things, making all the mistakes everyone makes in their 20s while wearing the red metal pin that tells the Secret Service you鈥檙e a part of POTUS鈥檚 inner bubble. Do you think being so young made that manageable, like had you been older and wiser would you have been more stressed out by the job?

BDS: Probably. I think part of it was being open to everything. At the White House everyone was seasoned, [but] I kind of landed there through this Cinderella Craigslist story. Being young was helpful but more than being young, it was being open and not being so self-serious that I was too embarrassed to ask questions.

B+C: Obviously there were so many incredible things about the job, but you also witnessed some really terrible tragedies, specifically the Newtown, CT shooting. That must have had a profound effect on you, being so close to the President and the official response.

BDS: It鈥檚 hard to talk about even now. It was heartbreaking. It was devastating. And it was shocking to go up there and see these families. We actually had a bunch of the families come back on Air Force One to appeal to Congress about gun reform. To have them on the plane, all carrying pictures of their children who had been massacred, they were telling us their names and what they liked to do with their siblings鈥 It was like, we let this happen and Congress is going to continue to let this happen. You can never unsee that, you can鈥檛 forget it.

What still devastates me is that nothing has changed. The silver lining is supposed to be that we take action so that this doesn鈥檛 happen again. Every time [President Obama] would try to do that, Congress wouldn鈥檛 even bring it to a vote. It鈥檚 frustrating as a citizen and it鈥檚 more frustrating because we鈥檙e the ones going and seeing these heartbroken families and we can鈥檛 even say, 鈥淲e can do something about this.鈥

B+C: Near the end of the book, this sense of dread builds because we all know what鈥檚 coming: Trump. Knowing how much he鈥檚 undone, was it difficult to write about all the great work Obama had been doing at the time?

BDS: It鈥檚 like watching the Titanic where you鈥檙e like, 鈥淥h, this ship is going to sink!鈥 [But] I was keeping notes the whole time, so it was actually more like patching a quilt together, reaching back into the annals of what I had written in real time, which was great because I wouldn鈥檛 have been able to write the book if I had saved [the writing] until the end. I have a terrible memory.

But that was the hardest part, having to write about the work we did and then having this guy come in who has no respect for progress or the Constitution. To have him fumble his way in. To see him not respect anything that our country stands for. That was the hardest part.

B+C: You kind of gloss over the way you ended up leaving the White House. You stayed on briefly post-Obama.

BDS: I really lucked out. I was typing a Sean Spicer briefing and my literary agent called and said, 鈥淵ou have a book deal. You鈥檝e typed your last press briefing.鈥 So that was the silver lining personally 鈥 when Trump won, I thought, 鈥淚鈥檝e got to get the hell out of here.鈥 Before that, I was interested in seeing Hillary. I wanted to see what it would be like to work for the first female president. But because Trump won, it was the ultimate incentive to take my writing seriously because if I don鈥檛 take it seriously now, when will I? So I got a book deal, which is great, but I鈥檇 much prefer not having Trump as president. We鈥檙e going to have a lot of explaining and apologizing to do.

B+C: Is there one especially strange moment that stands out for you working in the early days of Trump? We can鈥檛 even imagine what that atmosphere would be like, although in the book you describe it as both a divorce and a funeral鈥

BDS: From his inaugural speech on. The language he used was so different than anything I鈥檇 been typing for the last five years. President Obama was all about 鈥淲e鈥檙e the United States of America, we鈥檙e better together.鈥 To go from that to this us-versus-them was like, 鈥淯h, who鈥檚 them? Who鈥檚 us?鈥 I thought we were all together in this. Going back to the White House the first day and walking by what had been my friends鈥 offices, where they had done really cool, important stuff, and all of the sudden they鈥檙e either empty or it鈥檚 some 22-year-old who had been working for Ted Cruz and had been shipped over. It was chaotic.

B+C: Setting aside the fancy hotels and regularly traveling on Air Force One, what was the best part of the job?

BDS: Getting to see President Obama up close. I was so nervous when I started the job that he wasn鈥檛 going to be as great as I hoped he鈥檇 be. Like, what if when the cameras are off, he鈥檚 just another slick politician? He鈥檚 so authentic. What you see is what you get with him, except when the cameras are off, he鈥檚 actually a little funnier and he takes more time with each person. He鈥檚 so respectful of everyone in the room. He鈥檚 so generous with his time. He鈥檚 like your friend鈥檚 really cool dad 鈥 when he walks into the room, you hope you don鈥檛 say anything really dumb, because he鈥檚 that cool. And then you always end up saying something dumb because his intellect is so intimidating! And he loves those gotcha moments.

B+C: The book has already been optioned for a movie. Let鈥檚 talk about dream casting. Casting Obama would be really difficult, but what about some other characters? Who鈥檇 play you? Who鈥檇 play Jason, your White House bad romance? Who鈥檇 play the mean girl, The Rattler?

BDS: I think it would be really fun if we got POTUS to play POTUS, because no one can do him. He鈥檚 just too good. As for me, it would be really fun to put it on Craigslist as a one-day thing for an extra. And then they come in and we鈥檙e like, 鈥淛ust kidding! You鈥檙e going to star!鈥 To keep the generosity and the magic going.

[Jason] is this Jim Carrey-type doppelganger so we could do that. Also Woody Harrelson. He鈥檚 just this charming, funny guy, and he鈥檚 a great actor so I think he鈥檇 do a good job at being unassuming. The Rattler just becomes [a question of] which actresses I love, but Cate Blanchett would be so fun. She can nail any role.

B+C: Do you miss going to work every day at the White House?

BDS: If it was still the Obama White House, I would be crying all the time and have incessant FOMO. But because I stayed for Trump, it was like staying a little too long. Like when you stay too long at the dance and the lights come on. So it was easy to leave. I鈥檓 so happy I鈥檓 not there. Even though things are slower now, I love my new life. I love getting to be proud of what I鈥檓 doing.

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(Photos via Lawrence Jackson and Evan Gaffney and Penguin Random House)