Julie Schumacher on Thirty Years of Correspondence With Her Late Friend, Melissa Bank

Julie Schumacher on Thirty Years of Correspondence With Her Late Friend, Melissa Bank

On the first anniversary of her death I am thinking, as I often do, of Melissa Bank, author of The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing and The Wonder Spot . She and I met in graduate school in 1985, while pursuing MFAs in fiction. When we weren't struggling over our , we read and critiqued each other's work: Why wasn't it smarter/funnier/lovelier/subtler/clearer? Would anyone other than our classmates ever read it? What would we do when we finished our degrees? Here's what we did: I moved to Minnesota with my spouse and taught part-time and had two kids; Melissa moved by herself to New York and worked full-time and got a dog. And because we were both still struggling to write, we kept in touch and sent letters. When Melissa died last summer, I opened the drawer in my desk where I had stored her correspondence, and I lined up thirty years' worth of her letters, chronologically, on the floor. Only a few of the letters were typed. The rest were handwritten, on greenish notebook paper with a torn row of fringe going down the left side. Melissa's penmanship—a mix of printing and cursive—bristled with dashes and parentheses; it was legible but not neat, an immediately recognizable scrawl. We rarely emailed, our unspoken understanding being that the phone and computer were for logistics—for arranging a time to meet at the airport or the train. Our letters, on the other hand, were for conversation . Melissa's fringed pages meandered companionably from subject to subject and seemed to overflow with her thoughts. By the way, she wrote in 2013, I just looked up biweekly in the dictionary and do you know it means every other week or twice weekly? Writing and receiving letters, I think, helped sustain us. I loved those letters. One of the best things our decades-long correspondence: it was leisurely and incremental, enriched by delay. Typically, a month or more elapsed before one of us answered the other. We wrote back when the epistolary impulse struck. Though we often wrote about our efforts to create, our […]

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