It All Started with Yellow Roses
Julie and Marie worked for the same association in Virginia in 2002, although Marie worked remotely from her home in Rhode Island. They met face-to-face a few times a year while working conferences all over the country. Julie was in touch with Marie frequently, although they never worked closely together. Still, they formed a friendship and recognized the passion for their work in each other. They frequently talk of the first time they met, in which they shared a huge laugh over a dirty joke and recognized a kindred spirit.
Around 2004, Marie mentioned to Julie that she had started writing a book. Julie already knew Marie could write and was amazed at what she’d accomplished as the director of communications at their organization, a position that required a lot of writing.
“I had no idea where her writing would take her in the beginning, but I knew it made her happier than I’d ever seen her,” Julie says.
Marie had about five chapters of her book completed and sent them to Julie to read. Julie wound up reading the entire book—Marie’s first, Treading Water—chapter by chapter as she wrote it. “I would come to work each morning waiting for the next installment.”
As “The End” of Treading Water approached, Marie was so excited about her accomplishment and Julie sent her a dozen yellow roses to mark the occasion. Yellow roses were a “thing” between Jack and his wife in Treading Water, so the meaning wasn’t lost on Marie.
“I wanted to recognize her hard work and love of Treading Water. I had no idea those yellow roses would continue to be sent over the years to celebrate personal and professional successes and milestones.” Since then Julie and Marie have sent each other yellow roses as a reminder of where it all started and how much it still means. “It’s one of my favorite traditions.” Marie recently received yellow roses from Julie to commemorate her 20th trip the the New York Times list. Marie sent them to Julie on her last day at her former job.
Julie and Marie would talk about the names of characters in her books and DC neighborhoods she wrote about. Sam and Nick, stars of the Fatal series, live on 9th Street near Eastern Market, where one of Julie’s good friends, Nikki, lived at the time the Fatal series was begun. Nikki is now a part of Marie’s team.
Julie and Marie worked together at their former job for five years. After meeting Marie’s family at work conferences, Julie started visiting her in RI.
“She helped me build my confidence as a writer when I went back to school by proofing the first college-level paper I’d written in over 10 years,” Julie says. “She also helped me when my brother passed away from esophageal cancer in the fall of 2005 by giving me the perfect balance of humor and emotional support needed to get through a sad time.”
Julie left that association in 2008 (Marie left at the end of 2011 to write books full-time) but she and Marie remained close, keeping in touch by email and having Skype dates to catch up.
“Oh, the giggles,” Julie says of those times. “Jake (Marie’s son) would often join us on the Skype dates so he and I could talk sports.” Jake calls Julie “Uncle Julie,” and she took Jake to his first NFL game in 2015 when Julie’s Redskins played Jake’s Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
When asked what impact meeting Marie has had on the course of her life, Julie responds, “Simply put, she’s changed my life.”
Julie was a meeting planner, and she says she truly loved her industry.
“But the thought of banquet event orders and haggling over the price of audiovisual equipment for another 20-30 years made me cringe.”
She knew an industry change might be just what she needed. She and Marie had joked about Julie becoming her assistant for years, with the Forces going so far as to offer Julie the shed in their former backyard should she choose to come to work for the family business. Though the shed had no plumbing, they did offer premium Wi-Fi, and Dan created a sign for the door that said “Julie’s Shed.” It was something they joked about for years. In 2012, though, it wasn’t a joke anymore. Marie hired the only person she’d ever considered for the job of her full-time assistant and later, as the team expanded, Chief Operating Officer. She oversees Marie’s entire business, including her newsletter and website, events and Formatting Fairies.
“Each day is a flurry of emails, texts and giggles, LOTS of giggles,” she says of the job. “Some say you can’t work with friends, but that’s not the case here.”
Julie says she loves that Marie challenges her in her job. “I’m never bored, the job is always fun and she introduced me to my HTJB family.”
Marie’s success hasn’t changed her, Julie says. “I see the same keen business sense I did when we worked [together] before, but now it’s applied to her own business. I also see the same love of friends and family that I did when I first met her.”
“Marie and I and several of the folks on Jack’s team go from the serious business of publishing deadlines to a silly story about Marie’s dogs devouring Fred the Moose (the stuffed animal mascot of the Green Mountain series), a funny exchange we saw on Facebook and more.”
“Marie’s family gets a huge kick out of me referring to her as ‘The Talent.’ That nickname has taken on a life of its own, especially with Marie’s husband, Dan, and her cousin, Jennifer, who think it’s hilarious. We all love to remind Marie that she has ONE talent, and she needs to stick with that and stay out of our stuff.”
“Marie jokes that I do everything but write the books, and that’s somewhat true. I’m a project manager. Marie is one of my projects ;-)”
Check out Marie and Julie’s blog about Julie coming on board.
written by Cheryl Serra, Marie’s director of publicity—and one of her bridesmaids 23 years ago