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Putting it in Writing: A Story of Joey and Iggy


Mary Theo (Alliance talent leader; Boston, MA)

When I received the call on January 7 that I was one of RSM’s Pursue Your Passion winners, I burst into tears of joy.  I could not wait to tell my daughters. Joey (my grandson) had been through so much and had so many kind people care for him, and we knew this would be a wonderful experience to write a children’s book and bring comfort to other children. I had submitted my story the prior year, but wasn’t selected that year, as there were so many other great submissions. This time, I reached out to my friend and colleague, Nicole Knudtson, who was an inspiration with her own Pursue Your Passion win and children’s book. She was so encouraging, and knew what the book would mean to us for Joey and other children. With Nicole’s encouragement, I submitted my story again. Being selected this year shows how important it is never to give up on your passion! I wanted this so much for my daughter and grandson, and we all wanted to give back to others.

I drafted a baseline of ideas and submitted it to my daughters. My oldest daughter Maria used that to write a beautiful story. My youngest daughter Cassie, Joey’s mom, then began to create ideas on how she would like the illustrations to look, so that the pictures also told the story. We went through a second draft and a third draft. The girls and I agreed on the final on January 31.

We met on February 2 to discuss the final title and interviewed Erica Stenquist, an illustrator. We knew right away she was the one because she asked us to read her the story and she closed her eyes and took it all in as Maria was reading.  We all had happy tears. She very much wanted to be our illustrator, and offered to do a mock up for us. Two days later, we received a mockup of everything Cassie, Maria and I had envisioned for this book, and hired Erica the next day.

I had been receiving so much support and encouragement from my RSM and RSM Alliance colleagues. On February 10, I spoke with my colleagues Kristi Grgeta, Tenley Damrow and Whitney White at an Alliance Team meeting. They advised me on making the most of social media, encouraged me to create a website, suggested that I connect with St. Jude, and were just so encouraging in general that over the next two weeks I was able to create social media sites and a website for the book.

A week after that, Erica created Joey and Iggy. It was amazing! On March 1, we received our first complete illustrated mock-up and on March 10, we had our first live meeting with Erica where she met Joey following a two-hour drive in a snow storm. (Joey loved her right away and gave her lots of snuggles.) Two weeks after that meeting, Erica captured Cassie, Joey and Iggy perfectly in her illustrations. In late June, we received our first proof and made some final edits. Joey loved seeing himself, his Mama and Iggy in the book. He flipped through a few pages with excitement and pointed to himself knowing it was him. Our book was published on July 4.

So far, we’ve donated our book to 17 local libraries and 15 local elementary schools. We continue to be in awe of all of the support we’re receiving. I’ll be visiting the Ronald McDonald House in Charleston, SC with one of our Alliance member firms on July 29, and Ronald McDonald houses in Minneapolis and Chicago in August. We’re waiting to hear back from St. Jude about a possible visit in December, and have contacted other children’s hospitals to set up readings and book donations. Thank you RSM for this amazing journey that will continue on for quite some time. I’m so honored and proud to work for this wonderful firm and to have my family experience what it means to me to be a part of RSM! We are forever grateful!