In 2001, I was blessed to go on the African-American Book Summit Cruise with writers destined to reach high ground. Some of our generation's finest voices: J. California Cooper, Bernice L. McFadden, Kimberla Lawson Roby, Travis Hunter, Pat SisterBetty G'orge-Walker, Timmothy B McCann, Tananarive Due, Steven Barnes, Eric Pete, Vincent Alexandria, my roommate Chet Kelly Robinson, Nathasha Brooks-Harris, Marcus Major, Nancey Flowers Harris, just to name a few, were on that vessel. Traveling a little more than a month after 9/11, this trip eased the memories of murder, mayhem and madness that still rooted us in fear.
Just as much as we needed to re-connect our joy of life with literature, the authors, trip coordinators and readers enjoying the blue waters and skies of the Grand Cayman, Kingston, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico... Well, we needed each other.
(Pam Walker-Williams, Mary Webb Jones and Jan Emanuel that REUNION idea over two decades later sounds real nice right about now.)
So anyway, I'm nervous as hell - my self-published book SIX DAYS IN JANUARY was featured in the first reading of the cruise - and while I was setting up, a cappuccino-hued woman with shoulder-length twists and a wide, kind smile approached me.
Taking my trembling hand, "Anything you need, William?" she says.
ME: "How about a word of confidence. I'm scared as hell."
HER: "Sweetie, you got this. I've been hearing great things about you."
Mind you, this SATIN DOLL was a not only a humble spirit, but a tremendous writer in her own right. Later on she would receive well deserved accolades - Essence best selling and NAACP Literary Award Nominee (for IDA B, an out-of-this-world read. But my favorite book of hers is the thought-provoking I'M TELLING.) - but that day, she took a page from the Lord's handbook and allowed the God in her to shine in service. I never forgot that.
Nor would I forget that she was the first person to congratulate me when she saw that my second novel THERE'S ALWAYS A REASON was featured in EBONY MAGAZINE back in 2007. In a private email, she said, "I told you I heard great things. Keep it up."
Illuminating my heart with those ten words, I saw that warm smile of hers beaming love and light once more.
While our literary journeys traveled down different God-planned roads, every now and then we'd see each other at functions, and the love was always there. Sharing memories of the self-publishing days after a heartfelt embrace and continuously offering wisdom and guidance, that this woman, as great as she is, never forgot about that nervous newbie on a cruise years earlier meant more than you can possibly imagine.
While scrolling Facebook last week, I came across a post about this woman. Multiple Sclerosis can be tough on the immune system and body, but it can't change the heart. Recalling the generosity of this woman over two decades earlier after she extended her heart to me in service, I remember her efforts of getting my last book UNBREAKABLE reviewed by a major national periodical; her gesture of an attempt coming out of nowhere and after we fell out of touch. And it was her heart that suggested I send a copy of the book to a USA TODAY.COM reviewer, one who loved the book and featured it.
In her own way, she kept looking out for the nervous newbie. And that newbie was, is and will eternally be grateful.
Thank you, Karen E. Quinones Miller, for being you. While you might think of your gestures as small, they truly meant a lot. And know that I appreciate you beyond any word in print. You are a beautiful soul. And know that your boy William is pulling for you. Please Feel my HUG and HEARTFELT THANK YOU.
The "Newbie" will be back in print soon, and I can't wait to see you again. The Wings will be on me, but I'm a Dallas Cowboys Fan, soooo....
Love you, Girl.