I’m a dark chocolate mocha latte, swirling around in a sea of whip cream and seated with about 100 other women, none of whom look remotely like me. My nervousness surfaces at this fact. It’s been a while since I have been the “only”. I’ve been hiding out and blending inside groups of folks with my kinky tendrils and dark complexion for years now, but the reality is, “we” will always be the minority in these sectors.
You know. The educated sectors. The professional sectors. The middle-class income ones…
The dirty blonde two seats over is kind though and engages me in a dance of conversation regarding our reason for being there: Jennifer Weiner. For the uninformed, Jennifer Weiner is a world renowned, New York Times Best Selling Author specializing in women’s fiction. But what is even more impressive to me is her authentic kindness and ability to invest in every woman who has come to see her this particular evening as if they were her very best friend.
I share with my newfound companion (who I have learned is called Connie) that I have multiple reasons for attending Ms. Weiner’s book tour here in this suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. One, because she’s an amazing author who I’ve enjoyed reading over the years whenever my bestie hips me to one of her spellbinding novels, but two, I’m here to study/observe the makings of a book tour for my own potential future. And lastly, three, if I’m bold enough, to slide the woman of the hour my own latest work, “Stories for the (Urban) Soul”. This last feat is going to be a huge one, because for all I know Ms. Weiner will rightfully stare at me in annoyance and grit her teeth while clasping all ten fingers over my bright green book cover, scheming to throw it into the nearest trash can once the event is over. Ok. Ok. So that’s probably the worst case scenario. But I am prepared for even that, as I grasp my hard back chair and devour every tantalizing word that Jennifer has to offer.
I am not brave enough to participate in the question and answer that ensues after her speech but am still the grateful beneficiary of it since fellow audience members ask items that are brewing on my heart as well, such as, “How did you get started writing?”
When looking at the “outline” of a person’s journey it’s easy to fill in the details. You can learn about what schools they went to, jobs they held, and opportunities they received, all of which I did earlier that day, courtesy of Wikipedia. But a bio never prepares you for the nuances of a person’s tale. You can read the summary, but I wanted the commas within those sentences that made up the summary. These commas and pauses and “buts” are what pose the sincere threat of thwarting the dream that every dreamer has. And anyone who cooks up success from their God-given gifts and talents, in my eyes, is first, a dreamer.
One of Jennifer’s “commas” was the difficulty of finding a literary agent who supported having a plus-sized female protagonist. It’s shocking to hear comments she faced when her work was read by them. If only her character could go on a transformative weight loss journey throughout the novel, then it could be put into film. If only her character was 15lbs overweight, not 50. The ignorance goes on and on, but thankfully, she charged on. Not letting society’s definition of beauty stilt the artist inside of her to paint portraits of women, using words, who, in her words, “looked like her”.
After one sweet hour of soaking in every detail of Jennifer’s journey through my sponge-like mind, she invites us to get our new books signed. Connie and I’s eyes burst in surprise as what sounds like a literal heard charges to the front in a frantic response. We take our time though, gathering our things, and are sandwiched in a line that, in my mind, resembles one at a Cedar Point ride. I am reminded of the hour or two long wait for such a ride. Skin baked by the high noon sun and air thickening in my lungs with every breath while my mom and I anticipate a 5-minute thrill that will leave us flushed and thirsty for more. I wear my same determined mindset to wait, even as my lower back is pulsing from pain, and share all of these thoughts with Connie. We make the time pass with talk of my business and authorship and Connie’s own life details: her boyfriend and daughter and hour-long commute she has ahead of her. We inch along and notice that the line is moving at a slow pace because Ms. Weiner is actually spending time talking to each person who has shown up. She is a gracious host at a party thrown in her favor and that makes the wait even better.
Finally we are up and I am twirling around this brown paper bag in my left hand and gripping The Summer Place in my right. Am I really going to do this? I am wondering, as Connie chats and takes pictures with our host. But I am trusting God with His leading and that He has indeed given me this bright idea because there is just no way I would have done anything remotely this radical on my own.
Connie scurries off and Jennifer’s eyes meet mine and I bubble up with a few words about the books she’s written that I’ve read and how great I think she is as a writer and Oh, I am a writer too and actually I brought this for you! She is pleasantly surprised, making a comforting statement about wondering what was in the bag and pops out my shiny green book cover with the cute brown feet and pink toe nails. Her eyes light up and after signing my copy she offers the wonderful suggestion that we take our picture holding each other’s books! I am undone. My hand is slightly shaking and I get emotional and hold back the tears because I can’t believe this world famous author is holding Urban Stories. But she is. And she did. And the wonderful people taking the picture also get some candids of us and they are even taken with the “live” feature on my iPhone so I can press them down and relive the moments over and over again. Forever.
Ms. Weiner does me one better. She posts our picture on social media, tags me, and responds to my DM’s.
All that because I headed the voice of God. All that because I stepped out on faith, put myself in a very uncomfortable situation and had the product ready and waiting.
I share all this to say to you dear reader, be faithful with your dream. Be faithful with whatever it is that God has nestled inside your heart. What is it that is stirring in your being? What is in your hand? And where will it take you?
This weekend was full and this particular incident was just one major one that I am sharing about today. But over and over my calling into this arena is being confirmed. I battle with my doubts daily. I have my own “commas” that I have to work through, but you know what? I know all of this cannot be for nothing. There’s no way a world famous author could show me such support and this not be my purpose. This is the stuff that books are made of.
And the greatest Author, the greatest Story Teller has the perfect ending.
For each of us.
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