On April 1, 2017 I had my first Omaha, Nebraska Barnes and Noble book signing, and it was a doozy! Going to a new town and a new market, I never know how my book will be received. Omaha was a six hour drive for me, but it was worth every minute spent on the drive. Time after time, customers enthusiastically bought Bank Notes. There’s no doubt about it: once my second book comes out, I am scheduling a second book event in Omaha. Two customers even told the manager as she was leaving for the day, “You better have her come back!” A sold out event guarantees it.
Bonding with strangers, opening hearts and minds to the need for prison and sentencing reform, and sharing with customers details of their lives and mine, those are incredible experiences. I am constantly heartened by the love and compassion I find in the readers who take their time to visit with me. They more than make up for those who choose to judge Keith, me, and our life without taking the time to get to know us.
Omaha was very personal for me even though I’d never been there before. When my brother died on October 29, our family found silver linings to our sorrow. My brother’s stepson from his previous marriage flew in, from Omaha, to see the only father he’s ever known. Michael and I hadn’t seen each other in twenty years, but gathering around my brother gave us a chance to reconnect. The sweet little boy I knew years ago has grown into an outstanding young man. We agreed that as soon as I could set up a book signing in Omaha, I would. Michael and his mother, Emma, brought me into their home and made me feel so welcome. I definitely am going to see them again this summer.
My book signing brought a friend from years ago to the Barnes and Noble that day, and it was as though fourteen years had not gone by since the last time we saw each other. Amber and I began working at an alternative high school on the Navajo Reservation in 2002. We became immediate friends, but she moved back to Iowa at the end of the school year. Facebook has helped us keep in contact, but there’s nothing like real life togetherness and catching up. Her daughter, who took this photo, was an infant the last time I saw her. She’s a freshman in high school now. Time sure flies.
Another joyful reunion happened when one of my students I taught eleven years ago arrived at the bookstore, driving there from Lincoln with her husband, to see me. Rochelle is one of those people in whom greatness of character and faith reside. From the time I first met her as a teenager in my high school English class until today, she has continued to impress me. Her husband, Aaron, is a perfect match for her. It did my heart so much good to see Rochelle and Aaron. The last time we saw each other was at their wedding, nearly four years ago. Their love and support make my heart happy.
I never understood why Peyton Manning yelled, “Omaha!” Now I know why I do.