One day I’d love to write a book just about all the authors I have met or know: who, when, where, why and what it was like to see them in person or what it meant to me at the times. I’d share it with my children and grandchildren, part love letters, part historical retrospective….
Gwendolyn Brooks- very first “famous” author I met, as she was a guest for my organization devoted to women of color.
Octavia Butler- Ms. Butler came to the University of Chicago for a reading/talk/special guest appearance at a Speculative Fiction Conference organized by the Race and Gender Studies Center. I was astounded at how few people showed up for a reception with Ms. Butler–free food, free wine and Octavia Butler?!?! I, of course, was there. I was able to sit right next to her and munch on my sorely needed victuals, as a poor undergraduate student who probably should not have been drinking. I most remember her describing how poor she was as a writer, and weird stories about her meatpacking plant job, and how thankful she was to have written a third book to escape all that. She was a lovely, lovely, majestic, magnificent, giving and towering presence I can’t forget.
Dr. Angela Davis
John Edgar Wideman
(President) Barack Obama
Jeffrey Renard Allen
(President) William Jefferson Clinton Clinton- He handed me my college diploma as our class’s commencement speaker.
Toni Morrison– I had heard Toni Morrison speak a few times in large lecture halls, and at Rockerfeller Chapel at University of Chicago. She did not sign books or anything. She ran away from us quickly. I believe in 2003 or 2004, I went to the Old Brooklyn Church for her Love reading and signing with a good friend of mine from college, and I ran into Sapphire. We snuck into the front row right in front of Ms. Morrison. And, when her reading ended, I was the very first person standing in line to have my book signed. I was not going to be like the white man in the back of the church who stood up and snapped a flash-lit photograph of Ms. Morrison–right after the host told the crowd “No photographs.” Come on now. She started reading, caught the flashes of his camera, blinked a few times, and said “Oh, no, please don’t do that.” So, I did not want to hear “Oh, no, please don’t do that,” if I were to bust up to the front of the table where she sat, getting prepared to meet the huge crowd. I was so cautious that I just stood there with my hands folded like a student in the Christmas pageant, waiting for the choir director to give his performers “the eye.” Ms. Morrison gave me a wave and a smile, like “Come on.” I’m sure she thought, like most people do, I was 10 years younger than I am. It kind of looked like the reassuring smile a teacher might give the first student who is ready to put her holiday gift on the desk. So, I got a fresh signature, smile and look in the eye with my autograph on the Toni Morrison novel Love.
Harriette Cole- I was Harriette’s assistant/office manager during the fall of 2003, as I eagerly awaited publication of my first novel. Her encouragement, advice and example are outstanding.
Eric Jerome Dickey
Jeffrey Renard Allen
Dr. Maya Angelou
E. Lynn Harris
Sandra Jackson Opuku
Jessica Care Moore
Frances De Ponts Peebles
Latasha Nevada Diggs