Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Man in Black

Writers & Readers Series - Neil Gaiman
04 October 2009: Lake Shore Facility Auditorium, Cleveland, Ohio

A week and a half after my author visit as a part of the Fall for the Book Festival at George Mason University, where I presented Deus ex Comica to an audience of 50 or so people with a couple of prepared readings and a fun Q&A session, I got to see how it’s really done when Neil Gaiman visited the Cleveland Public Library for their Writers & Readers Series. It was an amazing opportunity that took me by surprise!

Our friends Chad and Heather came in town from Fort Wayne to visit with us and to have the opportunity to hear Gaiman speak and meet him. We made it up to the Lake Shore Facility Auditorium right around 12.45 for the 2pm talk. Doors opened at 1pm and, although there was a long-ish line of people already queued up in front of us, we were able to get right in and find great seats.

After going to the overflow room to greet those folks in person (they would be viewing the talk on closed-circuit TV), Gaiman returned to the main hall and began his talk. He read from both his new book, Odd and the Frost Giants, and his current bestseller, The Graveyard Book. Although there wasn’t time for too many questions to be asked, Gaiman provided lengthy and thoughtful answers for the appreciative crowd, leaving us feeling like we’d had a glimpse into his personality outside of the written page.

After the talk and Q&A was over, we queued up to meet the author and have the books we’d brought with us signed by him. This was the one place where the event organizers dropped the ball: They really should have given attendees numbered tickets when we entered the building initially, and used that as the queuing order for the signing session. Regardless, the crowd was very easy-going about things, and everyone in our party
felt the time passed very quickly and didn’t feel nearly as long as it actually was.

cy and I have only recently discovered Gaiman’s work, but are thoroughly enjoying it! Tracy loves The Graveyard Book and Coraline, and while waiting for our turn to meet Gaiman, she read half of The Eternals hardcover we’d brought for him to sign. I fell in love with Marvel 1602, so much so that I included my thoughts on it in Deus ex Comica. I was on the fence about giving a copy of my book to Gaiman (unsure how receptive he might be to it), but after hearing his talk, I felt completely at ease with the idea.

Chad and Heather went first, having their daughter’s copy of The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish inscribed with a request from Gaiman to not swap her little brother, and their gorgeous Dave Wachter-drawn image of the Gaiman character Destiny signed. Gaiman asked who drew the commission and was kind enough to pose with it for us. Then Tracy had him sign her copy of The Graveyard Book, and we all got a kick out of him putting her name on a tombstone for the inscription.

When it was my turn, I handed him the copy of The Eternals, and while he was signing it I set the copy of my book on the table next to him and explained that I was comic fan in the ‘80s who drifted from the hobby and had recently rediscovered the culture and wrote a book about the experience. He stopped midway through signing The Eternals, picked up the copy of Deus ex Comica and flipped quickly through it, and gave me an “Awesome!” (And a couple of the folks around him – handlers or librarians, I’m not sure which – agreed and chimed in with encouragement.) When I explained that I wanted to give him the copy, he wanted to make sure that I had signed it for him! It was an unexpected experience that made me feel incredible, if only because the courteous and genuinely appreciative way he accepted the copy of the book.

I had no idea what to expect from Gaiman with regards to the talk and meeting him, but he was charming, self-deprecating, friendly, and gracious. And that encounter has solidified me as a fan of both the man and his work.