Friday, June 12, 2020


It has been a long time since I posted here. Some days I think I'm done with being a writer, and then something reminds me that there are still words inside that need to come out. The trigger this week was a dear friend and an admired writer.

Irene Latham, my dear friend,  is hosting Poetry Friday today. She invited us to help her celebrate Nikki Grimes, my admired writer who has collected so many awards in the last year that it's hard to count them.

So here I am. While this may be my once a year post for 2020, what better reason to find my way back to this old space that still lives.

The first time I met Nikki Grimes was about 15 years ago. I was a fledgling author and a sales rep for a book distributor. I had called on the media specialist at my old elementary school, which was a neighborhood school in the 50s and 60s, a white neighborhood school. The media specialist told me that Nikki was going to be speaking that day and invited me to stay. By the time Nikki was there, it was still a neighborhood school, but primarily a black neighborhood school. The same aroma of homemade yeast rolls permeated the halls.

I hung around after Nikki entertained an entire cafeteria full of kids. She was marvelous, of course. I was one of the few adults not in charge of a line of kids, so I had a few moments to speak with her, to say thanks for her words, to be a little starry-eyed in the presence of someone I admired so much. She seemed tired, and I can only imagine how many schools she had been in that week. She looked at me and said, "I'm getting too old for this!" And mind you, she's only three years older than me.

By that time in my writer life, I had done a few school visits, primarily in classrooms. Never to a whole school. I understood the physical and emotional demand those visits required. I was so grateful to have seen her doing her work with and for those kids.

The second time I met Nikki was at a writers' conference, though I don't remember which one or where it was. It was about eight years later in a much more relaxed setting. We had an opportunity to chat and she asked about a a project I was working on. I'm sure I blathered on about my beloved project in the presence of this woman who has written so many beautiful works. At the end of our conversation she offered to help me if I wanted her input. I was stunned. Shortly afterward, my life took a major turn. I opened a yoga studio and my writing life went on the back burner. So while I never completed that project, it still lives inside my head. And while I never took Nikki up on her offer, it's still one of the kindest and best memories of that writing time in my life.

Perhaps one day the disparate parts of my life will coalesce and I'll finish that book. I'm learning to be where I am in this moment of this day doing what is mine to do. Today that means writing words to celebrate the kindness of a dear friend and an admired writer.

excerpt from "Ordinary Days -- Jerilyn" by Nikki Grimes in What is goodbye?
copyright 2004 - Disney Hyperion

Ordinary days
are golden,
like ancient coins
recovered from
a treasure hunt.
More of them is
what I want
now that I've learned
to spend
or save each one
as if
it matters.

Thank you, Nikki and Irene, for sharing your ordinary and extraordinary days with me. They matter greatly, as do you.

There is more to celebrate with Nikki at Irene's blog, Live Your Poem, where she hosts the Poetry Friday Roundup today.