Last night was the Inaugural Houston Literary Awards Gala sponsored by the Houston Library Foundation. I was nominated for the Readers’ Choice Award and out of over 200+ entries from authors around the Houston area, I had the honor of being recognized as a top finalist. Although I did not bring home the coveted top prize, it seriously was an overwhelming honor for me to even been included among the top nominees. If you have been following my journey, then you know that author was not necessarily a title I thought I would have added to my resume this year. It has been exactly 11 months today since my first collection of poetry was released. An Ode was a true labor of love and to have obtained a recognition of this magnitude before my book even celebrates her first birthday is just unimaginable. But as the smoke continues to clear from my amazing night, I am almost about 95% convinced that this has not all been a figment of my imagination.
There were so many authors, philanthropists, supporters of the Houston Public Library and avid book lovers in attendance.
I also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Rhea Lawson who is the Executive Director of the Houston Public Libraries and one of the few African-American women who hold that position in the country.
There is so much history in this beautiful library in Downtown Houston, Texas. I remember walking a few blocks with my co-worker one afternoon for lunch and stumbling across all of the beauty that lies within. The moment I saw the beautiful structure, I remember looking at her and proclaiming that this venue would be the place where I would marry the person I was in a relationship with at the time. Well, as we all know that wedding did not take place this year, but the Universe is funny that way. I knew the moment I stepped foot inside this library that it would hold cherished memories for me and now it does. Just not in the way that I had originally imagined…
From the place settings, to the harpist and the love of books radiating throughout the room, I am beyond words to explain exactly how wonderfully special I felt being honored there last night. All of the tables were named after famous authors and I was seated at the Mark Twain table. At the end of the night after all of the festivities were over, guests were allowed to take the book centerpieces off the table as souvenirs.
I was inspired by the honorees speeches and the author who was awarded the Readers’ Choice Award was one of the first people who warmly greeted me at the reception. Her spirit was welcoming, she told me about all of the great things she had already accomplished and jokingly told me that I should refer to her as “auntie” since in Nigerian culture she would be considered my elder. God knows the right people to send to you in the right moments and I do believe she was one of them.
The inscription on my award recognizes me for my popular contributions to the literary arts, and congratulates me on being a finalist. Not too shabby for a little girl raised on the Northwest side of Houston, Texas in Acres Homes who found sanctuary in the walls of the Houston Public Libraries growing up. I checked out and read thousands of books as a girl, and religiously devoted many hours to searching the shelves of the Oak Forest Branch of the library. In high school, we used the Collier Regional Library as the backdrop for all of our group projects and as our meeting place to do home work on the weekends. It was in the Beulah Shepard Branch of the Houston Public Library where I studied mornings for the Texas Bar Exam after I graduated law school and ultimately became licensed to practice law in the State of Texas. I never realized how much of a role books and the public libraries played in my life. Without the desire to read everything I possibly could, I know for certain this would not be my testimony. I’m grateful to my aunt who encouraged my love of reading. Grateful to my family who always supported my reading habits, especially my parents whose home is still partially covered with all of the books I made them purchase in my lifetime. I’m grateful for all the moments in my life that inspired me to write and to share parts of my story with the world, both good and bad. The friends who hyped me up about my writing and provided insight when needed and sometimes when not… For all of you all, I am forever grateful.
To everyone who has experienced my poetry, and supported my book this past year I thank you a thousand times. An Ode is definitely here. To purchase a copy please feel free to message me below or click the link to purchase it directly from Amazon.
The next stop for me will be at the National Black Book Festival October 24-26th in Houston, Texas! I hope to see you there.