Remembering Julie Mancini, a long-time Gard friend – and an unforgettable person
(Note: This remembrance of Julie Mancini, who died this week, comes from Scott Sparling, a recently retired member of the Gard team who met Julie when she worked here in the early 2000s.)
I was deeply saddened – stunned, actually – to learn that Julie Mancini is no longer with us. Stunned because Julie seemed like the kind of light that would never go out. She was tremendously full of life; every moment you were with her was brighter because of her spirit—honest, caring, and most of all, happy. The news of her death made me remember the somewhat strange way we met.
In the late 90s, I often applied for the annual fellowship from Literary Arts, always unsuccessfully. After several years of this, I started writing letters to Julie, who was then leading Literary Arts. Each year I complained that the process favored short story writers (I was working on a novel) or had some other flaw. Each year she’d write back, rightfully defending the process and cheerfully responding to my gripes.
This went on for a while. Then, in the early 2000s, Julie began working with Gard Communications, where I also worked. Brian Gard, who knew about my letters, introduced us by saying, “This is the guy who writes you those crank letters every year.”
Julie processed this for a second. Then her face lit with delight. “You’re the guy!” she said. If you knew her, I’m sure you can picture this. She immediately invited me to lunch. We remained friends ever since.
This was years before I published my novel. Julie had a hundred more important demands on her time, had never read any of my fiction, and yet I always felt she was rooting for me. I think she made everyone feel that way. When you’re an unpublished writer, nothing is more important than someone who thinks you have a chance.
Much later, I sold my novel to Tin House. A day or two passed, and then a beautiful flower arrangement arrived for me at the office. From Julie, of course. She was that kind of person. Always lifting you up.
It’s been years since I’ve seen her. But I feel the sadness of her passing as if we were just talking. She’s the kind of person you don’t forget. I don’t think Portland will forget her soon, either.