I consider Cavalier Books, Barnes and Noble, Novel, BAM, and 2nd and Charlesto be idyllic places, akin to vacationing on Grand Isle. When I enter any of these stores, a sense of purpose greets me, and I whisper back my resolve to submit to its call. The bookcases introduced me to Tanehisi Coates; I danced with Misty Copelandin the stacks; my sister told me Lee Child also owned a special cove lining the mahogany wood. So does J.K. Rowling, along with a mother-in-law suite and gift shop. I travelled to Jamaica with Safiya Sinclair. Walking in this space is like walking among friends. Here, the literary and genre communities meet. I nod to the bookcases and say hello. They acknowledge my presence. I feel them pushing me forward with my pen, my voice, rooting for me to crank out one word after the other onto the sacred page.
I usually visit my brothers and sisters in the African-American literature section first. I gently awaken one from his sleep and flip through the pages. “Teach me,” I whisper. “I will,” he responds. I listen as my siblings whisper stories on the wind. Should I select this title? Will I curl up with this new friend and a cup of fresh brewed coffee, laughing into the night, meditating on our conversation in the morning? I run my hand along the cover, and I note the workmanship in the spine. I turn to the inside matter to find out who published and birthed the author into the world. Who introduced him to us? Who took time to package the thoughts of a learned scholar, of an experienced human who treaded on the fabric of Earth?
I put the title back, silently giving thanks to God for my friend who put in studious hours to document the realities of humanity. I cruise over to new releases, to Christian titles, to memoirs, to sci-fi, and to a newfound relationship with manga. What brilliance surrounds me! I am engulfed in a deluge of ancient voices and contemporary conversations.
I walk up and down the rows, nodding in approval, grateful for the encounter.
After I return home, I carefully place my new friends on my writing desk. I sit in my leather chair, and I think of how honored I feel to be in their presence. They surround me, joining with old friends. They begin conversations with one another, and I listen. I join the dialogue. I ask questions. In my darkest hours, the pages, my friends, speak words of wisdom, encouraging me to learn from them and build a new legacy.
They teach me how to use my wings, and I continue sprouting new feathers every time I turn one of their pages. I grow stronger as I inhale their words. I press my pen against my page again and again and again, patiently preparing my story for flight.