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Meeting Neil Gaiman

Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I found out that Neil Gaiman was coming to Decatur on December 14th to speak and sign books. Tickets were to be acquired from Little Shop of Stories, a children's bookstore that had thrown one of the two winning Graveyard Book Halloween parties.

So, bright and (relatively) early on the morning of November 30, I took MARTA down to Decatur station and picked up a bright orange ticket from Little Shop of Stories. My ticket was numbered 191. I asked the guy behind the counter how many people had been waiting when the store opened and he told me that ninety-nine people were lined up when the doors opened.

Between the day I obtained my ticket and the day of Neil's arrival, I started an art career and since I was already doing a piece for Mr. Imagination (by request) I thought I might as well do a piece for Neil while I was at it.

This was the result:

I'll probably go more into the process on the other blawg, but I'll just say that the outline is of his dog, Cabal, and the words are sort of about the dog and sort of about stories.

Monday afternoon, I packed these with me:

The book is a collection of poems that Neil has a poem in and, well, so do I. (I'm a few pages before him.) I thought it would be a fun and less-than-obvious thing for him to sign.

So I hopped on the bus and as I checked Twitter I found out that Neil's flight was delayed by the fog that had settled over the city that day. (I'd noted myself that it was a misty, foggy Nick Drake soundtrack kind of morning.) I tried not to worry myself into a tizzy about it, and by the time I'd gotten to Decatur and settled down to a cup of hot chocolate at Java Monkey before taking my place in line, I was relieved to discover that he had arrived safely.

I finished my hot chocolate (and ended up having a nice conversation with Tim O., who had dropped by to take a break from his usual video editing work) and then hiked on down to the campus of Agnes Scott College, where the reading and signing was to take place, since cramming over a thousand people into the confines of the bookstore itself would have been physically impossible. The fog was still thick and the grand old buildings seemed that much grander in the misty weather.

Thankfully, the weather was chilly but not bitterly cold, so waiting outside wasn't as painful as it could have been. I kept myself amused with scribbling in my catbook until they let us inside. I found a seat near the front in a row with a fellow who had come from Tennessee and been given his ticket as a Christmas present from a friend. Since he was by himself, I was able to wave people over to the remaining seats near me and so I found myself sitting with old friends Al and Trudy and the infamous photognome.

I'd brought my materials with me to do some word art, but as the time progressed I found it harder to concentrate on the work and set it aside. (I may abandon the piece I started there, since it didn't seem to be working the way I would have liked.)

At last, after an introduction from the director of the Decatur Book Festival, Neil came forward and took the podium.

(This is the only picture I got with my iPhone. Try photognome for closer shots, since he had the nice lenses to work with.) Neil explained, almost a bit sheepishly, how this evening had come about and then he read from both Odd and the Frost Giants and The Graveyard Book (borrowing copies from children in the audience!) and answered a few questions written on index cards in between.

And then it was signing time. They decided it would be best for everyone if the children who needed to go to bed went first, so all the families lined up and got things signed. Then they called by rows and since I was within the first five, I got up and took my place in line. I ran into Anya, one of my sister's high school classmates, and we chatted a bit as the line progressed. Mostly I wrote a lot in my catbook and tried to calm my pounding heart. I was getting ready to present one of my first creations in this strange new art form I've started working in to a man whose creative endeavors I've admired for some time and who is internationally famous for said creativity as well. Yeah. No pressure there.

Finally, I made it to the table, opened my book to the necessary page and the book was placed in front of Neil, who bent over it, preparing to sign.

"I come bearing greetings from Kathleen David," I announced.

That got his attention. He looked up to face me with an expression that may have been recognition but was at least surprise.

"She told me to wish you a Happy Hanukkah," I continued. (Which, in fact, she had.)

"Definitely give her my love," Neil replied, smiling. He turned back to the book and remarked that he hadn't seen one of those in a while. I explained that I was a few pages ahead of him, so he turned and looked (I still had a business card acting as a bookmark on that page) and I blushed and explained that it was a sonnet I wrote when I was twenty. I don't think he read it, but he did inscribe the page with his signature "To Sheila (on Page 49.)"

He handed the book back to me and I presented him with the word art.

"Wow," Neil said.

My brain kind of shut down after that point. It was a good wow, a genuinely impressed wow and his exact words after that point are pretty much lost to me as I was too busy doing mental backflips in elation that he liked it. I stammered out something about how this was one of my first works of my nine-day-old art career.

He told me the tricky part was going to be getting it home safely and handed it over to the woman standing next to him (his assistant, I'd gathered) and tasked her with making sure of this. She said that it was beautiful and then asked Neil "Is this your dog?"

"That is my dog," Neil declared with a nod, "That is Cabal."

That, I have to say, was the big YES moment. Because I didn't say a word about it being his dog when I handed it to him. He figured it out without any prompting from me. That felt exceptionally good.

I picked up my book and slipped out the door into the damp night and yelled out "NEIL GAIMAN LIKED MY ART!" to no one in particular. Nobody noticed. So I told the nice folks on Twitter and Facebook via my iPhone.

I said goodnight to Anya (who was just behind me in line) and Al and Trudy (who were not far behind) and then walked back towards Decatur station. A flare of lightning went off, followed by a huge thunderclap (that startled some passing students) and the rain started to come down, so I stopped by a cosy Mexican restaurant for a taco and a margarita in celebration and waited a bit for the rain to let up before taking MARTA all the way home.

So. Yeah. Neil liked my art. Whew. My confidence, she is boosted.

More to speak of about the rest of my exciting week, but I figure I'll wrap up this entry here and get to the rest of it later.

Today I took pleasure in something to anticipate for tonight.

Today I learned where the art mixer I'm going to is supposed to be.



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Dec. 17th, 2009 08:24 pm (UTC)
Yipee! Now you know how I felt about 20 years ago when I first showed Neil littl' Morphie. His single "Wow" says volumes.

I am proud of you sis.

Hey I am happy I could give you the "in" to get his attention.
Dec. 17th, 2009 08:48 pm (UTC)
Totally excellent!!!

And to this day I wish I could find my DD book for him to sign hehehehee. I loved telling my (non Duran loving) step son that Neil Gaiman's first book was about THEM! BWAHAHAHAA!

Anyway I'm not Neil Gaiman but I totally dig on your new art venture too!
Dec. 17th, 2009 09:01 pm (UTC)
Awesome story!
Dec. 18th, 2009 04:06 pm (UTC)
Just want to chime in and say I LOVE your art! It is so unique and I love that you just kind of "tripped" into a possible career.

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )