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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Skinny Dip with Nikki Grimes

bk_chasingfreedom_140What keeps you up at night?

My brain! I can’t shut it off. I’m con­stant­ly bom­bard­ed with thoughts about what’s on my to-do list (I live or die by the list), what arrange­ments I need to make for the next con­fer­ence, book fes­ti­val, or school vis­it; what work I need to do to ele­vate the rela­tion­ships of my char­ac­ters or ways to make them more authen­tic; what man­u­script I need to con­cen­trate on next (I’m always jug­gling three or four at one time). When those things aren’t keep­ing me up, it’s one of my mouthy char­ac­ters, decid­ing he or she has some­thing to say that just can’t wait until morn­ing!

What is your proud­est career moment?

Enter­ing the White House as a guest for the first time, on the invi­ta­tion of First Lady Lau­ra Bush, as part of the Nation­al Book Fes­ti­val in 2003, with my sister—my old­est fan—on my arm, beam­ing! Win­ning the Coret­ta Scott King Award for Bronx Mas­quer­ade is what got me there.

bk_bronx140In what Olympic sport would you like to win a gold medal?

Ice-skat­ing! I have absolute­ly no tal­ent in this area, but ice-skat­ing is the one Olympic sport that keeps me glued to the tele­vi­sion screen. That com­bi­na­tion of lyri­cal move­ment and tech­ni­cal skill fas­ci­nates me. I espe­cial­ly love those moments of spon­tane­ity when each athlete’s per­son­al­i­ty shines through. The pro­grams are planned and chore­o­graphed, but the per­for­mances are very much in the moment. Any­thing can hap­pen, and I love that! I feel that way when I’m writ­ing a sto­ry. Any­thing is pos­si­ble. Any­thing can hap­pen! I put in the work, I lay in the struc­ture, set my character’s back-sto­ries, and then, some­where along the way, I get into the zone, and—boom! Mag­ic hap­pens, and I score tens across the board—in my mind, at least! Yeah. Ice-skat­ing.

What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?

Face down an armed rob­ber, high on drugs, in a Swedish bou­tique I man­aged in Stock­holm. I was work­ing behind the counter when this guy came into the store and con­front­ed me, his hand in his pock­et point­ing a gun in my direc­tion. He demand­ed the mon­ey in the reg­is­ter and, when I did not com­ply, he bared a mouth­ful of yel­lowed teeth.

I will blow you straight to hell,” he told me.

No,” I said. “You’ll blow me straight to heav­en.”

That got him off his game, I think. He took a step back from the counter and gave me a long, hard look.

What? What did you say?” he asked.

I, calm as the prover­bial cucum­ber, explained to him that, as a Chris­t­ian, when I died, I was going to heav­en, not to hell. Then, blan­ket­ed in the per­fect peace of God, I pro­ceed­ed to share with him the gospel of Christ, and invit­ed him to accept Jesus.

Now, mind you, this was an out-of-body expe­ri­ence, because part of me was stand­ing back, watch­ing, ask­ing myself, “Are you crazy?! This man’s got a gun!” But, some­how, in that moment, by God’s grace, I felt no fear.

I talked with him qui­et­ly, slow­ly as if I had all the time in the world.

He asked me a few hon­est ques­tions about faith and for­give­ness, which I answered. As the scene played out, his pos­ture changed. His shoul­ders soft­ened, his head began to bow, the hand in his pock­et relaxed and he let the gun drop.  Even­tu­al­ly, with both hands at his side, he shuf­fled out of the store, whis­per­ing a string of apolo­gies. 

Once he was gone, I returned to my body and trem­bled from head to foot, like a nor­mal per­son! It was an extra­or­di­nary moment that taught me the real­i­ty of the pow­er of God and the per­fect peace he can offer in any cir­cum­stance. Okay, so maybe this is as much a sto­ry about faith as it is about brav­ery. Any­way, there you have it.

What TV show can’t you turn off?

There are a few, but the one that most sur­pris­es me is Shark Tank!

There is some­thing riv­et­ing about a per­son bar­ing his heart in pur­suit of a dream, and fight­ing for that dream in a do-or-die moment, when self-con­fi­dence is the key to suc­cess. I have wres­tled in pur­suit of my dreams my entire life. Maybe that’s why this show res­onates with me.

One Response to Skinny Dip with Nikki Grimes

  1. Candace March 11, 2015 at 1:14 pm #

    I’ve nev­er heard that robbery/store sto­ry before. That’s incred­i­ble. Loved this whole inter­view. Learned some new things about you.

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