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My Moment with Toni Morrison

Yesterday came the news the legendary author, Toni Morrison, passed away. With so many tributes pouring in, from people who knew her far better than me, I won’t rehash what she did for literature, or America. If you want to know her impact, pay attention to those who speak and write memorials about her.

I didn’t know her at all, but I did meet her once a few years ago. It was at the National Book Festival in DC. I remember standing in line for a couple of hours to get her to sign one of my books. A couple of teenagers stood behind me. They couldn’t have been more than sixteen. Their teacher assigned Beloved as a reading book and both of them decided to spend their Saturday at the books festival.

Morrison did speak, but it was right before the signing, so if you wanted to have a chance of signed book, you had to skip the talk. (I think it was put up on-line later.) It was a hot, sunny day and my feet ached after the first hour. The line grew and grew. I was right in the middle. Maybe I would make it, maybe not.

Finally the line started to move foreword. She was signing one book, that was all. (Not unusual. it keeps the line moving quickly and ensures that most people get something signed.) As I got closer, my feet stopped hurting and my excitement started to build.

Sure enough, when I stepped up for my turn, her assistant said, “Okay, this is the last one.”

I said softly, “Lucky me.” She looked up at me and winked. (Side note: The two kids behind me did get their books signed. She couldn’t turn down teenagers who were holding her book.)

So that was my brief moment. Forgettable to her, but memorable to me. As a young writer, having that brief moment with your heroes is fun. A story you tell when people ask how you got your book signed. She was a legend and I’m glad a got a brief moment with her.

RIP Ms. Morrison.