For some reason, the first thing that came to mind when I saw today’s photo challenge prompt was how much I value the autographed copies of my books, especially those with the dedication, “To Michelle.” Here are the stories behind the encounters with some of my favorite authors.
I had the opportunity to meet Sir Ken Robinson at an extremely difficult time in my life. He was the keynote speaker at the Pennsylvania Educational Technology Conference and Expo (PETE&C), and I would have backed out if I didn’t want to hear him speak so badly. When it was my turn at the autograph table, I thanked him for his work and told him that my students always love his TED Talk, “Schools Kill Creativity.” He treated me like the most important person he’d ever met, had me sit beside him, and picked my brain about how I was using his work in my classes. It was a moment I’ll never forget, and it was exactly what I needed to bring me out of the funk I had been in.
In 2019, Dr. Ibram X. Kendi spoke at the Harrisburg Book Festival, so of course, I HAD to be there. He was speaking with Dr. Imani Perry, whom I had never heard of. I purchased a copy of Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, to familiarize myself with her work, and I was mesmerized by the brilliance of her writing. On the day of their talk, I was set on making myself look like the biggest dork in the world. On my way into The Midtown Scholar, I walked in front of a car and almost got myself run over. I was mortified when Dr. Kendi got out. He was very nice and held the door open for me, so I guess he wasn’t judging me too harshly! Then, when I was in the signing line, I was fangirling over Dr. Perry’s writing. Dr. Kendi laughed and told me that he felt the same way the first time he read her work. They were both so gracious and wonderful to talk to.
Dan Pink and Guy Kawasaki were also keynote speakers at PETE&C. I don’t have a funny story about Dan Pink, because I didn’t have a lot of time to interact with him. Guy Kawasaki was Apple’s Chief Evangelist, and I was trying to hide all my Windows devices from him during the smaller breakout discussion after his keynote. I remember joking with him about the Borg and Star Trek, which led to what he wrote on the cover of his book.
Another highlight of my life was getting to have lunch with an astronaut at Kennedy Space Center. As soon as I told Tom Jones I was a teacher, he treated me like a total rockstar. I kept thinking, “YOU’VE BEEN TO SPACE FOUR TIMES!!!” as we were talking.
It has been a long time since I’ve had the opportunity to see an author speak and then meet them. I need to work on that. As much as I appreciate interacting with authors on Zoom, I’d love to have more in person experiences. That may be a good reading goal for 2024!