My Night with Neil (Gaiman, That Is)

 

Photo by flickr user "photognome."

Photo by flickr user “photognome.”

 

I’ve only been starstruck twice in my lifetime.

The first time was three Halloweens ago when I met Matt Nathanson during his Modern Love tour and consequently lost my shit. My first words to him were, “Can I give you a hug?” after which I proceeded to tell him that his Some Mad Hope album inspired me to work through a bad knee injury so that I could dance again – specifically to his music. When I walked away from that meeting – after he signed my set list and took a picture with me – I nearly yelled, “I’m losing my shit.” Matt told me to hold on to that; that I needed it.

I was giddy for days. Okay, maybe weeks.

Yes, that was definitely round one.

Round two, happily, occurred last night.

Because I met Nail Gaiman. I need to type it again. I met Neil Gaiman – who is hands down my favorite author and who I think has one of the most beautiful, interesting, and creative brains on this planet.

American Gods changed my everything. Neverwhere scared the crap out of me in the best way possible. Stardust is simply lovely and whimsical. The new book that I received last night, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is stunning and horrifying and sad…and I’d love to ditch everything I’m doing today to snuggle up with my dog with a cold glass of lemonade and Neil’s newest masterpiece.

In short, I want to devour every word he’s ever written. Because he’s that good.

So when Changing Hands Bookstore announced that Neil Gaiman would be in Arizona and it would probably be his last book tour, I knew that I needed to be there. And I needed to look fabulous.

Because you must wear an amazing hat, a little black dress, and red lipstick to meet Neil.

Because you must wear an amazing hat, a little black dress, and red lipstick to meet Neil.

At this signing, we all received a copy of Neil’s new book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and were told that Neil would sign that copy along with an additional work of our choosing. Most recently, Neil transported me to the London underworld in Neverwhere, so I brought my copy of that book to be personalized.

A standing ovation greeted Neil when he walked onstage at South Mountain High School. And it was a long round of applause, which warmed my heart. We see people go crazy over Backstreet Boys and Kardashians, but to see people react so profoundly to an author and an artist renewed my sense of hope. Yes, there are still nerds in this world. Weird ones who like to read about things that go bump in the night, magic, flying pirate ships, and falling stars that are, in fact, girls, not rocks.

Neil

Delightful. Neil is delightful. I’m very aware that he’s not a fan of book tours, but you wouldn’t know it watching him onstage. He’s comfortable and charming and gracious and witty as hell.

We were lucky enough to see him on the day his new book officially hit #1 on the New York Times Bestsellers List, beating out Dan Brown’s latest novel.

He said something to the tune of being grateful that his little book didn’t get stomped off the charts by “Dan Brown’s Dan Brown-like boots.” The fact that there are people out there “like us” made him rather happy and grateful. With that comment, Neil invited us into his circle. And we stayed there for another hour or so as he answered questions from the audience, and read excerpts from The Ocean at the End of the Lane and Fortunately, the Milk, which is his next book, slated to come out in September.

When Neil announced that The Ocean at the End of the Lane had reached #1, he joked about reading us the entire book in celebration. We all laughed, but I think we secretly hoped he would. And that was before he’d read us anything. Neil is a wonderful storyteller, and he’s a great orator as well. I could have listened to him read all night.

And then the cattle calls began. Groups lined up to meet Neil and have him sign their books. We were given a letter of the alphabet and we’d proceed alphabetically, about 40 people per group. I was in group K, which gave me plenty of time to go outside and enjoy a Shortleash hot dog (God bless those food trucks – we all would have been grumpy and starving without them!) before adjusting my veil and getting in line.

I was fine until I caught a glimpse of his infamous hair through the bobbing crowd. And then we approached the table and I handed off my books to his helpers. And I couldn’t stop smiling. Like a loon.

Oh, here it goes again, the starstuck thing…

When I stepped in front of Neil, he smiled – probably because I was smiling so hard. He told me I was wearing a lovely hat, that his daughter is studying to be a milliner, and it’s a shame that hats seem to have lost their place in the fashion world. I told him I’m trying to bring them back. As he handed me my freshly-signed books, I thanked him for both delighting and terrifying me. It sounded rehearsed – and to be fair, it was; I’d been practicing that line in my head for the past hour – but I’m so happy I said it. Because I knew he’d understand the sentiment it. He shook my hand and then I ambled my way offstage, my heart beating hard in my chest.

Today, all I want to do is write. Read and write. Read his work and then create my own.

Thank you, Neil, for lighting fires – beautiful ones. I vow to keep the world burning through storytelling and art and creepy things and hats.

Photo licensing – photognome

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