I'm really failing on the blogging front. Thanks grad school. Next week I'll have a much better idea of where I'll be come September, and then I'll know if I can start updating regularly... or continue this sporadic update schedule.
A little over a month ago I entered and won a contest hosted by the creators of the blog Cabinet of Curiosities. Four YA authors banded together and created this creepy little site that posts short stories based around a monthly theme. I really enjoy reading their stories, so when they announced that their stories were going to be collected and published by Greenwillow Books, I was elated. I entered their contest and won a book package from Katherine Catmull!
I received the package and opened it up to discover Katherine Catmull's debut novel, SUMMER AND BIRD, as well as a collection of Ray Bradbury's short stories.
Katherine wrote me a lovely message in my book, which I have covered up in the following pictures - sorry, it's just for me. It's very kind and encouraging, I'll tell you that. Thank you, Katherine.
Her book also came with a lovely SUMMER AND BIRD bookmark, as well as two grey-brown feathers. They meant a lot more to me after I finished reading. SUMMER AND BIRD is a delicate and poetic novel with some of the most amazing imagery and prose I've had the pleasure of reading in quite some time. I totally adored it and will be looking for Katherine's novels in the future.
About two weeks later, I went to see Neil Gaiman speak at the Michigan Theatre in Ann Arbor.
Yes, it was amazing. Yes, he was wonderful. Yes, he's witty and gracious and incredibly patient.
I was attending alone, but I was coincidentally seated next to two people from my grad program. That was a lucky thing too, since Neil was an hour and a half late due to flight complications! In the meantime, the theatre played old interviews and audio book recordings. It was pretty enjoyable, but when Neil did arrive... it was kind of crazy. People went wild. Neil was incredibly apologetic and told us some hilarious stories about his holdup. I distinctly remember that he compared his sushi consumption to the penguin feeding time at a zoo.
He read from THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE and I was really struck by how much I liked listening to him. Like, yeah, okay, it was Neil Gaiman reading his lovely words to us in PERSON, but he really does bring his words to life.
Neil also answered questions. I really wish I could do his anecdotes justice, but alas. Let me just say that he's hilarious and I want him to tell me about his life forever. And he does a really great impression of a stoned bee. He was also, according to an aunt, a very "weird child."
He also read from his new children's book, FORTUNATELY, THE MILK, which is coming out in September. It's totally unexpected and ridiculous and a complete joy. I can't wait to read it.
Then came the book signing. I was nervous. I'd spent the past four months imagining different things to Neil, and all of them seemed pretty cliched and pathetic. In the end, I decided to just go with the cheesy, heartfelt message that had been floating around in my head for the past couple of weeks.
I got into the line relatively early and spent the wait chatting with a girl in front of me. I was holding my copy of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, and the gift edition of STARDUST with illustrations by Charles Vess.
I got up there and Neil started signing my things and I blurted out, "Hi Neil, I'm a librarian-in-training and a writer and you've inspired me so much. I love your work and thank you so much for everything you've done." He looked up briefly and smiled and thanked me and began personalizing my copy of Stardust.
Then I leaned in. "Neil," I said. "I was also a weird child."
He immediately looked up at me.
"When I was seven years old, I asked for deer antlers for Christmas." I paused. "And I GOT THEM."
Neil immediately stuck out his hand and shook mine, and then I died (inside).
He finished signing my books, all the while saying, "Oh, that's not weird... that's just sensible."
It was a pretty fantastic night. I was taken by how dedicated and gracious Neil was - he engaged with everyone in line and signed until 3 a.m. What a superstar.
I also finished reading THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE and I adored it. A very different flavour than his other books, but it is still recognizably Gaiman-esque. It's sparse and lovely, deep and fathomless, and it touches on so many little life truths. It's like the ocean.
If I had had a little more time with Neil I might have told him about how his books, like many others, carried me through some rough times and made reality fade away for a little while. I'm really grateful for the experience I got, though, and I hope that I will meet Neil again one day. What an inspiration.