Picks and Pans Review: Labor of Love
When Stephanie Williams submitted her first novel, Enter Sandman, the story of a young woman with terminal breast cancer, to publishers, "the response was, 'We don't want the woman to die at the end,' " remembers her friend Ellie McGrath.
McGrath didn't want the woman—the one in flesh and blood—to die either, but in that, she had no choice. Diagnosed at 30 in 2001, Williams learned her breast cancer was terminal the following year. McGrath, 52, Williams's pal since the two worked at Self magazine in the '90s, decided to intervene in Williams's career: She started a company, McWitty Press, to publish Sandman. "I told Stephanie, 'I'm going to take good care of your book,' " says McGrath (whose mother died of breast cancer when Ellie was 6).
Williams died on July 3, weeks after the publication party for her novel, held near her Brooklyn home. Thirty percent of the profits from Sandman, now in its second printing, will go to breast cancer research, and the novel has spurred Stephanie's sister Laurie Williams to finish a book Stephanie had started about her beloved dog. "Gus brought her out of her troubles," says Laurie, 27. "Seeing them together taught me about unconditional love."
McWitty will publish Just Gus: A Love Story next spring; after that, says McGrath, she just may get around to writing the biographies that she's long dreamed of. "Stephanie had a way of pushing you to do the things you wanted to do but were afraid of," says Laurie. "She's still taking care of us."
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