October 30, 2018

A Moment That Could Change Everything: The Oprah Winfrey Author Connection?

She looked at me and said, "Have you ever met that one person that changed everything." She wasn't looking at me when she said it. Instead, she was looking in her bag for her non-fiction book, her long blonde dreads falling by her side. Her hands frantically searching with no thought as to what she was saying. However, when she stated her words, my heart stopped. The world slowed down for a moment, and I registered it. It was in that moment that I met Paul*.
"Have you ever met that one person that changed everything."
Have you ever met that one person that changed your whole life? The answer was right in front of me. Yes, I had. I was meeting them right then. I was meeting Paul*-- an ordinary man wearing a blue and red plaid shirt and jeans and a goofy smile on his face. He was the type of man whose mind was everywhere all at once, and he carried his kindness in his eyes. He was dark skin, and short, and he laughed a lot, but his excitement for life was contagious. You could see it radiate from him. He looked at me and said, "Oprah." I smiled and listened to him as he told me that he knew a man that knew Oprah. Well, you don't hear that a lot, but then again you do-- so I took it as a grain of salt. I knew a man that knew a man that knew a man-- was a pretty common occurrence in Atlanta. We are all six degrees from separation, but Paul* said he was only two.

I laughed a little and smiled and shook his hand. But, something inside told me to go with it. To take the gamble. What if he did have a connection to Oprah-- as far fetched as that sounded. I shook his hand and gave him my business card, and I said, "Well, if you can get my book to Oprah, I'll give it to you for free." He smiled and took my card and insisted that he could get me on the Oprah show. It was like a game, and I was gambling, making a roll of the die. He says he knows a guy, and whether I believe him or not, I decided to give him the opportunity. What did I have to loose?

It was like a game, and I was gambling, making a roll of the die. 

So, I gave him a copy of my novel-- a free copy, we snapped pictures, I threatened to repossess my book if he didn't get it to Oprah, and we laughed-- but what if this moment could actually changed my life. That moment in that small room on the first floor of a Hampton Inn could change everything. When we parted ways, I didn't expect to hear from him again. I packed up my books, gave my friend
May* a hug, spoke about some other events, and then I got into my car. I sat there for a minute talking to my daughter about the event, and the fact that my phone battery had died. We laughed about the man named Paul* who said he had a connection to Oprah-- but then for a moment, we indulged him. I told her what it would be like to walk up to Oprah, to see her big smile and overly big black glasses looking at me with her bright eyes. To see my book in her hands, as she grinned, and for her to reach out and hug me-- me-- a nobody. For her to say, "Dawn, I loved your book The Shade of Devotion. I started reading it on the airplane and I couldn't put it down." Then, I thought about what I would say.

Would I smile? Would I laugh nervously? Would I put my foot in my mouth and say something stupid? Or, would I quietly shake her hand with my head held high and respond, "Oprah, I wrote you when I was a teenager, and I had lost everything. I wrote you when I was in my twenties when I gained custody of my brothers-- to tell you of my success. Oprah, I wrote you when I wrote my first novel in hopes that you would read it. I've been trying to reach you for a very long time, and now, I finally get to meet you about my book. I knew that you would love it. Thank you for being my silent inspiration." Then, she would turn me around to face the photographer, and he would bend low to take a picture of me, Oprah, and my book. All together-- standing in the center of her room. I would even try to coax her to come to my school and do a speech for my students as we discussed a movie deal.

My daughter and I laughed at the story. She said, "I don't know, Mama." But she couldn't help but list the things that she would buy with the proceeds for my book, and I couldn't help but join her as we drove off in the cold dark. It began to drizzle a little, but I didn't mind. All I could think about is how my brother's college would be paid for, I could finally pay off my student loan debt, I could pay off my home and be debt free, and I could pursue my passion for writing full-time. I could finally do what I always wanted to do-- write. We road all the way back to Columbus like that until my daughter fell asleep. Then, I called my friend and told him about Paul*.

He laughed at my childish faith. Then, he brought up a film "Hustle and Flow." He said "Remember when the main character struggled so hard to get his mix-tape to the entertainer?"
I said, "Yeah, I remember."
He said, "What did he do to him?"
I frowned knowing he couldn't see me. I thought about the scene. Terrance Howard was standing in the bathroom, and turned around. The rapper he had waited so long to give his mix-tape, his hard work, his dream-- was literally--
"Pissing on them," my friend laughed, finishing my thoughts. "He pissed all over his mix-tape. You remember that?" and he laughed, again, making the connection that Oprah would piss all over my book. She would squash my dream-- but I didn't believe it. I refused. I knew that somehow, someday, someway, I would meet Oprah, and she would look at me with a smile and say, "Dawn, I absolutely loved your book." So. I waited and counted the days. Three days, I told myself. In three days, something big would happen.

"He laughed at my childish faith."

So, in the meanwhile I get an email from Paul*. His friend, a book agent, decides that he wants to meet me to discuss my book and getting it into the hands of Oprah Winfrey. When I get the email, I am ecstatic. Like a maniac, I leap from my desk, dance around my room, and I am overwhelmed with excitement. My book hasn't even reached Oprah yet, and here I was discussing handing it over to a book agent-- our connection to the holy grail, Oprah Winfrey. So, he says he needs my book by 2:00 and of course, I look at my clock-- it's 12:30. Atlanta is literally 2 hours away. However, I refuse to let this opportunity go. This is the opportunity of a lifetime-- my novel in the hands of Oprah Winfrey. So, I race to my car. I am out the door with my briefcase, my laptop and of course my books. I am racing down I-185 with rap music blasting and my spirits in high hopes.

When I finally made it to the station, Paul* is waiting on me in his usual plaid shirt and jeans. I think this is a staple look for this guy. He has that same excited gleam in his eye and the same smile. He gives me a hug and we walk in. I listen to him drop the names of all the people he knows, and all the people in the building and all the connections he has with awe. The only problem is that these are music people, and most of the names he drops-- I don't honestly know. So, it was hard to keep up. The building was tall-- maybe 10 stories. It was white and glass with gleaming tile floors and flat screen televisions and a high end restaurant that serves stuff like sushi to my left.

Here I was with broken glasses (of course they broke that morning before work), over grown braids, and no make up. I was feeling awkward and out of place-- but Paul* was cool. He didn't care. He said "When I saw you up there, I thought the other's were good, but you were the best. When I looked at you and heard your story-- I saw Oprah."

"When I looked at you and heard your story-- I saw Oprah."
I couldn't help but smile. No one had ever looked at me and said they saw Oprah. Heck, most people didn't even really believe in me like that. My friends laughed when I said I was putting out a 500 hundred page book. "Who is going to read a 500 page book," one asked incredulously. In fact, one of my friends read chapter one, before I had published it, and said it was boring. She said, "Nothing has happened yet." Yet, the reviews were sweeping in that people loved it, strangers were reading it, and people I didn't know halfway across the world called me an author-- and now, so was Paul*. When he introduced me to all of his friends in radio, music, and even one or two celebrities-- he said, "This is an author-- Dawnell Jacobs." People scrutinized and scrunched their eyes and looked at me funny-- but they shook my hand anyway. Some took my cards and a few asked for books.

Finally, when it was time to meet his "Connection," we waited in the lobby. In walks this tall man with broad shoulders, a bald head and startling, hazel eyes buried in smooth caramel skin. He reached out shook my hand as Paul* introduced me as "Dawnell Jacobs the Author." I loved they way he said it. I loved the way he made me feel like I was important-- like I was somebody.

His friend looked at me, "You got it with you." And suddenly, I felt like I was in some covert drug operation. Everyone was waiting expectantly at me to produce my "package," like the mule I was. I
may be exaggerating a bit-- a bit-- but I couldn't help but feel nervous as I started scrambling in my briefcase.

"Yeah," I said as I scrambled breathlessly reaching into my small briefcase for the book as he and Paul chatted about things that were way above my head-- things like:
"I normally don't do this."
"I know."
"I usually get a retainer."
"I know."
"If it weren't for the timing."
"I know but I saw her and I saw Oprah."
"I am only doing this cause you're my friend."
"I know. Look she's going to be big."
"She's going to be here today at 6. You're making me feel like I should draw up a contract right now."

And, then I plopped my book on the counter, interrupting the exchange. He looked at my book and flipped the pages. He was quiet for a moment. It was uncanny, the same thing my friends made fun of me about-- was getting me noticed. He hit me with a barrage of questions:
"Do you have a book agent?"
"Can you give me a verbal agreement?"
"Who did your design?"
"Your layout?"
"How did you create your publishing business?"
"How many have you sold?"
"With no marketing? You mean just by word of mouth?"
"Do you ghostwrite?"
And I answered each one in turn: "No" "Yes" "Me" Me" Yes" so forth and so on until there was a silence. he took my book in his hand and looked again at Paul* as though he was contemplating. Then, finally he looked at me and asked the most important question of all, "What is your book about. Tell me how you want me to pitch it to Oprah." And those words made my insides want to splatter out and crawl all over the station.

I had no idea how to pitch my novel to Oprah-- the richest black woman in America and maybe the second most wealthy black woman in the world. What would I say to her to make her want to read my novel? So, I looked at him quietly, then I let all the words tumble from my mouth. The same words I used at the Author's Chat but with more brevity. When I was done, he told Paul he had to go, and he took my book with him and disappeared. My heart was racing.

I had no idea how to pitch my novel to Oprah-- the richest black woman in America and maybe the second most wealthy black woman in the world. 

Then, of course Paul showed me around to other people who were successes and people who were big names in the Atlanta music scene, but the whole time in the back of my head-- all I could think was: at 6:00 my book could be in Oprah's hands. Finally, when we parted ways, I headed back to my car and I drove the long journey back to Columbus, Georgia. The evening was setting in and the sun was going down and here I was . . . riding home to my house in suburbia. It was going on 7:00 by the time I reached my hometown, and I knew it would be even later before I pulled up to my driveway. However, none of that mattered, because the whole time I kept looking up at the sky, looking at all the planes flying overhead, and thinking that on one of those planes-- Oprah could be sitting in first class, exhausted and run down from filming Queen Sugar for her OWN Network-- and she would slip on her glasses, pick up my novel and read the title aloud, "The Shade of Devotion." She could be flipping the pages way up there in the sky at that very moment-- and falling in love with Yasmin and Nisay and Kaleb-- just like I did. I kept thinking how this moment, this chance, this meeting-- could be the key to changing everything. And, even if it didn't, it was proof that I shouldn't stop trying, I shouldn't stop fighting, I shouldn't stop believing that one day my book will be on the New York Times Bestseller's list. One day, my book will be the voice of the unheard-- the black woman: the intelligent, non-stereotypical, humanized, beautiful, natural, dark skin, American minority. As an author, every opportunity is another step toward your dream; never miss an opportunity on your journey to greatness. You never know how it will end.

As an author, every opportunity is another step toward your dream; never miss an opportunity on your journey to greatness. You never know how it will end.

Dawnell Jacobs is the author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, Black Magic, and The Monsters of Within: Heart of Darkness. She has also published a self-help book Your Story Matters: Leaning How To Be The Author of Your Destiny. You can find all of her books on Amazon, Kindle, Nook, and Barnes And Noble. She is also a motivational speaker to young audiences. She uses her personal journey to inspire hope and change. All pictures and entries in this blog are subject to copyright laws. ©Dawnell Jacobs 2018. 

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©Dawnell Jacobs 2017 Author of The Shade of Devotion, Brains Not Included, and The Monsters  Within: Heart of Darkness. Now on #Amazon, #Kindle, #Nook & #Barnes And Noble. Buy your copy of The Shade of Devotion now and Brains Not Included today!