I was flipping through the Chicago Tribune like I do every morning. I’d survived an aggressive form of breast cancer and had regained some strength, but still needed physical therapy to give me relief from constricting scar tissue, lymphedema issues and neuropathy in my fingers and toes. As part of my healing, I started writing a book about a fictional Lake view neighborhood vegetarian cafe that serves delectable pastries and coffees. It would feature a murder — and recipes. I was probably dreaming about that project when I sat down with the Tribune and a cup of Earl Grey tea one day a couple of years ago.
On one of the opinion pages, I was drawn to the photo of an attractive woman about my age. S.L. Wisenberg was standing in front of a bridge, a river owing under it, her left arm leaning on a metal ring attached to a pillar. She smiled happily as though she didn’t realize that she was bare-chested and there was a surgical scar where her left breast would normally be. She wrote about how the world of breast cancer empha sizes looks and about her decision not to have re construction. Her commentary was head lined, “On be ing one-breasted” (Nov. 3, 2016). In a few chosen words, she man aged to make me laugh, cry and shake my head in recognition. I Googled her and asked her if she taught privately. We met, and I showed her a chapter of my book. She marked it up. The next week, I brought her the second chapter.
For two years, she edited and reedited until the manuscript was ready to submit. We became friends. I took a break after 67 rejections, so she sent me a link to a writing contest sponsored by a small publisher of speculative fiction. I entered and won a publishing con tract. “Battered: A Whipped and Sipped Mystery” was just released. I had a launch party at the Wilmette Harbor Club and catered it with recipes from the book. About 80 people showed up. S.L. Wisenberg came with her husband. She was smiling just like in the picture, but this time she wore a shirt. — G.P. Gottlieb, Chicago