Most people take comfort knowing their family and friends will remember them after they die. For Susan Shepherd, “remembering” is bullshit. She wants an eternal shrine to her sacrifice: a book that never goes out of print. Shepherd served her country in the Gulf War, got shot while serving her community as a cop, raised an ungrateful daughter by herself — and for what? A diagnosis of terminal cancer and she isn’t even fifty. If you were in her shoes, you might agree that nothing short of national perpetual acknowledgement will do. She’s glad you feel that way; she just wrote a memoir and sent a flurry of query letters, hoping a publisher will memorialize her with a best-seller. After hitting Send, she waits not-at-all patiently for an editor to decide if her story will sell enough copies — that is, if her life really mattered.
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I’m the host and editor for NPR/WNIJ’s “Read With Me” book series, which highlights Illinois and Wisconsin authors. “Shepherd & the Professor” is my first novel, but I have a short story called “The Caretaker” coming out in the journal Crack the Spine (#208). Like “Shepherd,” it’s a fictional memoir that doubles as a letter to one person.