Shortly after my husband, Brandon, and I began dating, I was shocked to discover his bookshelves housed the same titles I had on mine: Beloved, The Cider House Rules, The Book of Ruth. The books weren't his. He doesn't share my passion for reading. They belonged to his late wife. When Brandon and I married two years later, I found myself grappling with whether to keep Sherise's copy of East of Eden or mine. I was intrigued about the woman who came before me and captivated by her love of the craft. We shared a way of inhabiting and understanding the world through storytelling. Me, as a journalist and essayist. Sherise, as a fiction writer and poet who died before she had a chance to publish. Since I couldn't read Sherise's work online, I asked Brandon to set aside some of her writing. I wanted to get a sense of her voice. “I'm sure she would love for you to read her stories,” he said, hauling a giant cardboard box to my office. Inside the box were composition notebooks filled with poems, essays, and short fiction she wrote during graduate school, along with her thoughts on writing. I wrestled with whether she would want me—the new wife—to have an all-access pass to her notebooks on craft. But when I told her sister I felt pulled to explore Sherise's work, she encouraged me. Even more compelling, the words Sherise penned seemed like a plea. “I'm leaving behind a trail of breadcrumbs in the form of good intentions,” she wrote. In one binder, she'd even tucked a slip of paper with names, addresses, and submission guidelines for several publishers, almost like a roadmap to a destination only another writer could navigate. I wrestled with whether she would want me—the new wife—to have an all-access pass to her notebooks on craft. I'd always been drawn to handwritten remnants of a person's life—the chicken scratch in my grandmother's Bible, my mom's penciled captions on old photographs, the letters my sister wrote me when I studied in Spain. Handwritten words help me feel closer […]
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