With a certain amount of expectation, I opened the mailbox. Peering into the cylindrical tin I squinted my eyes to see clearer through the darkness. And there it was. An oddly shaped envelope with my name on it. I smiled and pulled it out of the box, along with the many irrelevant mailers I had received that day.
I stared at my package, turning it over and over in my hands; feeling it, smelling it, holding it. On the back was a neatly placed sticker: “Nikki Giovanni. Department of English. Virginia Tech.” I longed to open the envelope but dared not in fear that I’d tear the sticker she had so neatly placed.
For those who don’t know, Nikki Giovanni is my absolute hero. She’s my wonder woman, my Mother Teresa. She is the reason I became a writer. Truly. I distinctly remember being eleven years old and reading her poem “Black Power”. My spirit filled with pride and I felt an urgency to do something powerful. Meaningful. My heart was touched after reading “How Do You Write A Poem” . I’m still amazed that someone could describe love so accurately.
So, when I became a published author, Nikki Giovanni is the first person I wanted to tell. It was like she was my life-long teacher and I had finally passed the test, accomplished something good. I wanted her to be proud. So I mailed her my book. And she wrote me back within days calling The Miseducation of Ms. G “strong and wonderful”. I framed that letter and have it hanging in my writing space.
Two years later, with the publication of my first children’s book, I went to Nikki again for consolation. I sent Poppy and the Play Date off to her and waited for a response. A week passed and nothing. I conjured up all kinds of conspiracy theories. My mailman is stealing my mail, flooding in Virginia has caused a delay in her response, a tornado, a monsoon….
Finally, the oddly shaped letter came and I was terrified to open it. Maybe she hated my book. Maybe the letter said, “Your book sucks!” Maybe. But I’d never know until I opened the envelope.
I was careful to keep the sticker with her name on it intact. I pulled the card out and read:
“Dear Ms. Grant, Poppy and the Play Date is delightful. Wishing you the very best. Nikki Giovanni.”
I can’t even describe how thrilled I am to have received this note from such an author. She is amazing. And she took the time to read my book and send me a response. I felt validated. I felt like my professor was proud of me. I passed the test. I did something good.
Thank you, Nikki.