Last Wednesday night, I got to meet Nic Stone.
For context, there are a bunch of contemporary Black and Latinx women writers (primarily YA fiction writers, but many of them write across genres) who I love, read frequently and carefully, and follow on Twitter and Instagram. This list includes, but is absolutely not limited to: Eve Ewing, Morgan Jerkins, Angie Thomas, Tiffany Jackson, L. L. McKinney, Elizabeth Acevedo, Tomi Adeyemi, Nina Moreno, Erika L. Sanchez, Lilliam Rivera, and, of course, Nic Stone.
Over my life, I’ve gotten more or less the same advice about writing, packaged in different forms: read widely and voraciously, and study the careers of those you admire. Naturally, with the advent of social media, watching my favs make power moves has gotten increasingly easy–as has connecting with them.
I was doing an early morning scroll through Twitter on Tuesday when I came across a flyer for a book signing and Q&A with Nic and author Lamar Giles in Richmond the next day. Up until the moment I saw that advertisement, I had been planning an impromptu trip to the city on Thursday for a Harry Potter flash tattoo event. Jokingly, I tweeted a poll asking my followers if I should go see Nic or get the tattoo, and to my surprise, Nic voted and quote-tweeted my poll, saying, “I voted for me, but 100% because I can’t go to the tattoo event and I’m petty.” The moment she tweeted that, I knew I was going to be at that book event. She seemed a kindred spirit: a Black Potterhead writer with a petty streak.
Even before the Twitter poll closed, I was already picking out my best Harry Potter themed outfit and planning my route to the Chesterfield Barnes and Noble where the event would be held. Before I knew it, Wednesday had come and I was driving an hour against the afternoon sun to meet Nic Stone.
I arrived just in time to grab a snack from the Barnes and Noble in the store before the Q&A began in earnest. Lamar and Nic are good friends, so their easy rapport and back-and-forth made me smile as Lamar volleyed Nic questions. As we neared the end of the Q&A, Lamar opened the floor up to the audience to ask folks what they thought two writers talked about. I smiled to myself as they called back, “Books!” and “Writing!” I made a mental note to tell my soul sister, Micah, about that part when I got home. Later, after I sent her the message, she laughed at the text and replied, “If only they could see our chats.”
Micah has been my writing partner in crime going on four years now. I’ve read multiple drafts of just about everything she’s written since Black Monologues 2015, and she’s my first pair of eyes on most everything I work on as well. Before meeting her, I was never brave enough to think that I could actually publish my writing. Now, I actively keep a stack of projects in my back pocket, ready to pitch at a moment’s notice. Yeah, we talk about writing and drafts and books, but we also have extremely emotional conversations about This Is Us. We have watched Brown Sugar together at the same time in different states so we can live-text each other our reactions even though we’ve both seen the film at least two dozen times. I bore her to tears with rants about Smallville and Avatar the Last Airbender and Harry Potter; she sends me playlists that she knows will take me years to actually sit down and listen to. We talk about God and Indian food; love and mental health; our hopes and our dreams. To be fair, I want to say a solid 90% of them involve writing–but our conversations are as wild as our dreams.
I was thanking God for my soul sister while I watched Nic and Lamar talk, really seeing what a difference it makes to have writer friends.
I waited for about an hour in line to get my books signed, making friends with some nice librarians and a high school English teacher (who was incidentally a W&M alumna) as the line inched forward. Finally, it was my turn. I walked up to the table, suddenly realizing I’d been standing there for an hour and I had come up with nothing to say to either Nic or Lamar. Fortunately, Nic noticed my Deathly Hallows t-shirt, which gave me the opening to tell her I was the girl from the Twitter poll she’d retweeted. One of my librarian friends, who I had handed my phone to for pictures, managed to capture the exact moment when Nic gleefully remembered the tweet and by extension me. She also captured the joy on my face when Nic hopped up to give me a very genuine hug.
A little stunned, I managed to tell her and Lamar a little about me while Nic signed my copy of Dear Martin and Jackpot: that I was a Ph.D. candidate by day and a YA writer/essayist by night; I researched Black women and girls in new media fantastic, digital and futuristic narratives; and that I looked up to folks like her and Lamar. Both of them were warm and engaged as I struggled to make coherent sentences. Finally, after she realized that I was a Ravenclaw, that you could make the “Ravynnclaw” pun and adjusted my personalized autographs in the books to reflect this discovery, I got my picture with both of them, packed up my books, and headed home.
Meeting Nic was amazing for so many reasons. How often do you get to meet a NYT Bestselling author? How often do you get to hug one? Or get a book signed? But beyond that, she met me with real sincerity and interest. It would have been so easy for her to shrug it off when I said I was a writer, but her immediate response was: “Are you working on something?” In a few short moments, we bonded over Harry Potter and tattoos, as well as the craft.
That night, when I got home, and she liked and responded to many of my fangirl tweets about the event, I thought about how lucky Nic’s friends are to have this genuine person in their lives that also happens to be a talented writer.
And then I remembered, as I excitedly sent Micah photo after photo, videos and voice memos as I sat in bed, that I am lucky to have a very genuine person in my life, that also happens to be a very talented writer.
Writers need writers. But we also need friends.
It’s awesome when they’re both.
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