In the Beginning, or How We Created Something from Nothing


Remarkable Life Memoirs recently celebrated its first anniversary! (And, yes, we bought ourselves a cake to mark the occasion.) We spend a lot of time preserving other people's stories and thought it would be fun to record our own as we hit this milestone. The tale begins with a polite email:

Susan: I got a list of new members [of the Association of Personal Historians] and emailed you to say welcome.

Samantha: In that first email exchange, I admitted that I bought fonts for no reason except that I liked them. I felt silly saying that, especially to someone who works with type for a living. But you were like, “Oh, yeah, I do that too.”

Susan: [laughs] Well, you know, reading can be a virtuous pursuit or not, depending on what you’re reading. Buying fonts is kind of the same thing.

Samantha: [laughs] What do you remember about the day that we first met?

Susan: A few weeks after that first email, I was going into the city, and we decided to meet for lunch. We went to Pret a Manger, and I made a comment about the brownies, and you were quite enthusiastic. It was nice to not have someone saying, “Oh, I couldn’t possibly.” You know, that little dance.

Samantha: I had no designs on that meeting. But literally by the end of the day I was planning a small business with you.

Susan: I realized later that I was at the point of needing a partner, because there’s only so much I could do as a designer. It was the perfect thing, and I didn’t know that until you said something like, “Do you want to go into business together?”


Samantha: [laughs] Right, I’ve known you for a couple hours, and I think we should get married. Yeah, that’s not weird at all. That’s totally normal. We spent—I don’t know how long we spent together, but—

Susan: It was hours!

Samantha: I certainly hadn’t planned it that way. Thank God I didn’t have a dentist appointment or something scheduled after lunch. Ok, now that we’ve spent more than a year creating this business, what surprises you about it?

Susan: I thought we would be further along. I should know better, because doing anything in design is an endless series of decisions. It’s really exhilarating to be able to create something from nothing, but we had to nurture the concept, and that took time. I wanted to make something that was irresistible, and it just takes a long time to do that.

Samantha: Before this, I didn’t have the experience or wisdom to start a business. So it has taken us a long time to get everything just right in the past year, but it’s also taken me a long time to get to this point in my life.

Susan: Same here. What we’re doing now is using everything we’ve learned over our professional lives.

Samantha: Yeah, it feels like the culmination of something. Don’t you think that that’s why the two of us jumped into this so quickly? If you know someone else is right there with you, and she has all these complementary skills, then you just aren’t scared.

Susan: There’s such a market for preserving people's stories that I feel really positive about how it’s going to go for us.

Samantha: I agree. I feel like we’re in the right place at the right time. Last question: What is the thing—or things!—that I do that annoys you and that you have been too polite to mention?

Susan: I think when you spell head without an A.

Samantha: [laughs] Wait, wait, wait. This is what annoys you?

Susan: [laughs] Yeah . . .

Samantha: I will stop doing it immediately. It’s just that easy. I’ve been doing that since I was 18.

Susan: But why?

Samantha: I learned when I was working at newspapers that a headline is a hed.

Susan: Oh!

Samantha: And the beginning of a news story is a lede, not a lead. Those are conventional spellings in newspapers and magazines. And you come from book publishing where—

Susan: Never seen that. Ok, buckle up, Susan. Hit me with it.

Samantha: No, no, there has to be something else that annoys you.

Susan: There isn’t!

Samantha: Oh, my God, I am so close to perfect it’s—

Susan: [laughs]

Samantha: —disturbing. Ok, the thing you do that annoys me, it’s this very elaborate sigh. And I get the same sigh if I tell you something existentially terrible or something like, “Can you fix this typo?” You probably have no idea you’re even doing it.

Susan: I don’t! [laughs] And once you point it out . . .

Samantha: I kind of don’t want you to stop. I feel like it’s bound up with your personality, which I love and don’t want to change.

Susan: That’s nice!

Samantha: I thought this would be some kind of therapy session where we get out all our aggressions, but it turns out we have no aggressions to get out.

Susan: So we both have tiny, tiny flaws, and we both think they’re adorable. Wow.

Samantha: Either we’re really repressing or we’re really amazing. So I’ll just leave it there.

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