When I grow up, I think I’d like to be Neil Gaiman*


I’m pretty sure Neil Gaiman is worshipped as a minor god in some cultures.

And after seeing him speak Monday evening, I can kinda see why, to be honest.

I found out Sunday morning that the author would be speaking at Washington College in Chestertown, MD on Monday. The silly part is, I didn’t decide immediately that I would be there. He announced that, since the original 250 seat venue had totally sold out, the school had moved the event to a bigger one (or he had requested that they do so. not sure which).

This is Neil FUCKING Gaiman, I thought to myself. Even with 1000+ seats in a gym at a college in the middle of Bumblefuck Nowhere, MD (and I can say that because I have family on the Eastern Shore, thanks), there’s a chance it’ll be full by the time I could get there. Even on a Monday. Even on the Eastern Shore.

So I debated. I went back and forth. I had no guarantee of getting a seat, which gave me serious pause. It would suck utterly and totally if I were to drive two hours over there by myself, and be turned away. (I think that’s why they changed the venue in the first place.)

And I debated some more.ย  I asked both Twitter and Facebook for advice (yes, I’m lame like that). It didn’t help that I was working on about five hours of sleep, due to pretending to a life Saturday night. I was exhausted. I’ll see how I sleep tonight, I thought. That’ll decide me.

Then Genny said she’d be interested in going with me. Yay! Not just company, but a Pajiban, too! (Is it weird that we’ve started referring to ourselves like we’re citizens of some small country?)

So of course I slept like crap Sunday night.


Naytheless, I said screw it, this’ll be worth the lost sleep. Yes, I am a crazy person about my sleep. I’m aware of this matter. I do not care to change, thank you.

Monday afternoon, I checked twitter (because yes, I follow @neilhimself), and found out they’d moved the talk outside. My fears were considerably aleviated. Also found out he might be signing after the talk. Freaked out just a wee bit because I didn’t have a book with me. (I wondered if he’d maybe be willing to sign my planner…?)

Lithia, who is 27 different and awesome kinda of awesome and supportive (and a bit jealous, I think), let me leave early, so I’d have time to swing by the house and pick up a book before meeting Genny.

I spent all day before writing this thinking about all the cool things Neil talked about and all the things I want to remember about it.

So I probably won’t be able to remember it all. That’s the way of things, innit?

The talk lasted better than two hours, I think. I was getting to the point of glassy-eyed staring towards the end, to be honest. I might’ve rolled my eyes at some of the audience questions, though some were definitely fun. When he first got up to the podium, he announced he’d be reading, then doing a Q&A, then take questions from the audience, and then a signing.

Commence audience geek out.

Lord, he talked about everything. I can’t even do it justice.

Some of what I took from it (regarding writing, mostly. I mean, I am a writer, ain’t I?):

  • write what you know (which isn’t to say: write about *reality*. Now I get what that actually means. Thanks, Neil)
  • have readers you can trust
  • but don’t listen to anyone
  • Delerium is not Tori Amos; he’ll steal from one for the other.
  • he loves characters that provide their own dialogue (Delerium does)
  • he has a “place where the writing happens”
  • and a talent for seeming to be paying attention when there, to the point of being able to repeat what’s being said, without actually hearing or absorbing any of it. color me impressed. even i can’t do that.
  • he writes on paper because it’s different from the computer; the computer is a magnificent time suck (word.)
  • he advises writers to read their work aloud; to yourself, to whomever will listen. it’s great for finding the problems in your writing. if it’s a tongue twister for you, it’ll be the same for anyone else.

Neil Gaiman is a fabulous reader. He’s got a great voice for it, and the accent can’t hurt (but I’m pretty sure y’all know how I feel about accents). Some people are just born good at reading aloud, and he’s one of them. (Not to self: get an audiobook of anything as read by himself.) He read from The Graveyard Book. It was lovely hearing it the way it sounded in his head.

If you haven’t yet read this one, consider this my recommendation.

He talked about some of his favorite characters when asked by one of the audience members; the ones he’d like to go drinking with. I am pretty sure I would like to go drinking with Misty (of my own characters), personally. She’s one of those that provides her own dialogue, too. Not laconic, that girl.

He also talked about how he doesn’t believe in writer’s block, but getting stuck is a real bitch (uh, I’m paraphrasing) (oh, and again I say: word.). Recommended having at least two things going at once. That way, when you get stuck on one, you can put it down for a few days or a week, and go work on the other. I think that may be the most obvious advise I’d never thought of before. I vow to start doing that immediately, if not last night (and actually, I did start writing something new last night–so that bit in today’s post makes me a liar).

He talked a bit about sequels, and that there are a fair few of them in his head. He listed a whole bunch of them, some of which have even been started. (I’m so glad I’m not the only one with bits and bobs started here and there and languishing in the far corners of my brain.) But, he said, when the option is between something he knows and knows will be good and enjoyable to write, and something new and different with a distinct possibility that he’ll cock it up, he goes with the cock up every time. I think I aspire to do the same. I can see how he does that, where everything he writes is almost entirely different from the whatever came before it.

Unfortunately he didn’t get to answer all of the questions from the audience. Genny had a really awesome and intelligent question about fantasy and magical realism. It was getting late, though. So Neil read a bit more from later in the book (why did people vote for Bod when they could’ve voted for something new?! Had a seen that tweet, I totes magotes would’ve voted for new!)

And then Neil did a signing. At nearly ten o’clock at night. How awesome and gracious is that? I don’t even think we got to the front of the line til about eleven. They handed him my book, and he said, mostly to himself, “Elizabeth with a zed,” before signing it. I now have my own little grave with my name on it (in magenta!) and his signature in the front of my copy of The Graveyard Book. I squee a little bit inside every time I think about it.

Really, it was a completely awesome night. I am thoroughly impressed. I was a fan before, now I might be approaching fangirl status. I’ve only read a couple of his books, and the first volume of Sandman so far, but I plan on changing that post-haste. I’ve got a few more laying around the house, in various “to be read” piles. I’ll have to go dig them up.

I’m really glad I did this. Really glad.

*when I say that I think I’d like to be Neil Gaiman when I grow up, I mostly mean in the sense that I would like similar success to his. Fame of the geek variety, that sort of thing. Not that I actually want to be Neil Gaiman. I, uh, really like being a girl, thanks.
**also, is there a way to change the size of the damned font on wordpress? cuz I haven’t figured it out yet.


11 Responses to “When I grow up, I think I’d like to be Neil Gaiman*”

  1. Wow, it sounds like you girls had an amazing time. And, got some great info to boot. (You should, p.s., take a pic of that sig and post it. I’d love to see it!)

    Delerium is not Tori Amos; heโ€™ll steal from one for the other.

    I don’t know what this means…. but I do like a lot of the stuff he said, as per example writing by hand rather than on the computer (I certainly am easily distracted by other things when I’m trying to write anything, and even though I’m not a fiction writer, I think that’s a helpful idea) and having more than one piece going at a time in case of stuckness. Also, reading aloud. I think that works for non-fiction as well.

    Ooh, I’m a little jealous now! this sounds like an awesome (albeit tiring) time.

    • 2 lizzie

      I think what he meant was that he’ll attribute things that were originally said by Tori to Delerium, and verse vicea. At least, that’s what I took it to mean. And I’ve probably done the same thing.

      I pretty much have to write by hand anymore–every time I try to sit down at Alice and do actual writing, I end up on Pajiba or FB or just wandering about, calling it “research” when it’s really procrastination.

      Which is all well and good when it’s a paper I’m supposed to be writing, but when I’m trying to get a story out of my head, it’s not. I had to go write the above in my notebook before I could get it up here. I’m so lame.

      On the other hand, I love having a notebook that’s starting to fill up with bits and bobs and pieces of things. It’s too big to take everywhere though, I might have to switch to a moleskine or something.

      It made for a long day, but I can’t state enough: it was worth every minute.

  2. 3 Stacey

    So sorry!! I’ve got you on my reader, now!

    • 4 lizzie

      Stace, it’s all good. Apparently I’m not above throwing an entire hissy fit. I feel like a jackass now.

      But thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. 5 SteveB

    I am very jealous. I’ve really grown to like Gaiman’s writing and would love to hear him speak on it. What a cool event!

    • 6 lizzie

      Steve! Hi! Welcome! and all that good shit. ๐Ÿ™‚

      It was really awesome; I’ve really come to love Neil’s writing as well–like I said, i wasn’t a super-fan, but I knew enough of him to know that I wanted to see him speak. He’s got that geek-fame thing going on, and I just think the dude is cool.

      More so now than I did before, in fact.

      (hey, are you and the Beloved Right Coast bound at all this summer?)

      • 7 SteveB

        Hey! I think our only trip east this year is going to be “down the shore” (in NJ) with my bro + sis. (Yep, we’re flying 2800 miles to go to the beach…sigh…)

        I will keep you posted if the plans expand to head down B’more way! ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. 8 lizzie

    awesome. let me know! (I might be up the shore for a weekend this summer too. I’m not sure when, though.)

  5. 9 J

    Thank you for a lovely review of the night, green with envy lol, although Neil Gaiman does come and do stuff over my side of the pond it is always guaranteed at a time when I can’t even think about making it.

    So much of what you wrote he said about writing makes sense and I’m particularly glad he said about the having two things on the go is good, I’ve just started having two projects on the go and I’ve been beating myself up a bit about whether that was actually a good idea but I can see it makes sense if you’re stuck on one of the projects.

    J. (who would also like to be Neil Gaiman when she grows up, in particular because he is so successful in writing in multiple formats / age ranges, I like writing children’s stories but I in no way want that to pigeon hole me, I’d like to write adult stuff to and TV and oh what about the odd movie whilst I’m about it!)

  6. 10 Nadine

    Lizzie, darlink, this is getting scary, YOU LIVE IN MY BRAIN!

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