Repost: An Evening With Neil Gaiman

I’m slowly migrating my posts from my other author-ly blogs (between my old author name and my self-hosted one, I have too many!), and decided to use the Wayback Machine to see if I’d missed anything of note.  And I did.  It was the evening I got to listen to Neil Gaiman.  And it’s so worth a repost!

Here you go!

photo-nov-14-10-45-33-pm11.15.15 – Last night, I was lucky enough to see Neil Gaiman speak in Long Beach.  It was his penultimate appearance before taking “a year or so off to become a writer,” he said.  He opened with two never-before-heard stories – the first about Harlan Ellison and a dead gopher from around 17 years ago, the first time he’d been to Long Beach and speaking at the Queen Mary, and the second was about the late Sir Terry Pratchett and soup advertisements.

He also answered questions from the audience, which had been collected before the talk started.  One of the questions was about poetry, and how one could sharpen their pen, so to speak- “don’t sharpen your pen,” was his quick answer though the long answer was to try out antique and antiquated forms of poetry, like villanelles, ballades, rondeau, even sestinas, “like the crossword puzzles of poetry.”  Poetry also helps one focus on words.

When asked how long it takes him to write a story, Gaiman replied from 2-1/2 months (Oceans at the End of the Lane) to 22 years (The Graveyard Book).

To answer the question from a 12-year old about his advice to young writers, Gaiman said three things:

  1. Read everything.  First, read the things that interest you, but then read everything else.  He said that he and Pratchett used to share books between each other (what they were reading) and only 10% were fiction titles. The rest were nonfiction, which is also a great place to get ideas.  The last book Pratchett had recommended to Gaiman had been Feeding Nelson’s Navy.
  2. Write.  It’s not enough to want to write, but you have to write.  And not only that, but you have to finish what you write. Gaiman admits to being the world’s best starter, starting stories and then not finishing them after writing three to five pages.  He said that you will learn more from a finished story that doesn’t work than from many stories started but never finished.
  3. Get people whose opinions you trust to read your stories.  He added that if they tell you something doesn’t work for them, they’re almost usually right.  But if they tell you how to fix it, they’re almost usually wrong.

And with the talk happening the day after the Paris attacks, Gaiman also read a poem that he wrote during the attacks at the offices of satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, earlier this year.   He also read a short story from his latest book, Trigger Warning, The Man Who Forgot Ray Bradbury.

Gaiman also read two short stories from A Calendar of Tales, his collaboration with Blackberry in 2013.  I didn’t get the April duck tale, but I did love the December tale.  You can get the PDF version here.  It definitely reminds me to dust up all my short stories that are hidden away, and also get a short story ready for a holiday anthology to be released on Wattpad.

He ended the evening with a story about the night before his wedding to Amanda Palmer, followed by a poem he wrote about that evening, called The Rhyme Maidens.


I came home with The Sleeper and the Spindle, autographed by Gaiman though I wish I’d been able to pre-purchase one that would have been personalized, like he did for the women sitting next to me.  But that’s what I get for waiting until the last minute to find someone to come with me and then finally ending up with the last 2 seats available in the nosebleed section.

Not that I’m complaining, since I had my serious glasses on.

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