I have not, as a rule, been a huge fan of any author since I sent a letter to Beverly Cleary in 1989 and got a reply.
I mean, there’s Stephen King, who I love and read and saw his house in Maine but if I ever met him in person I might cry and run away because Pennywise, but seriously I’m not what you would call a fan/devotee of any one author.
This brings me to Neil Gaiman.
I paid attention to Neil Gaiman because I have long been a twitter devotee of his wife (I remember when they got married – I saw the announcement tweet, even), and I figured anyone who recognized the awesome in her was my kind of cool.
I’d read The Graveyard Book, it was a book club selection when I was pregnant with Lucy and for some reason it had always stuck in my head, but I never really gave two thoughts to the brains behind the story.
Then we watched Coraline. And I fell in love with the very idea that someone could think this way. I admired it, I envied it. I ached with lack.
Then I read the book Neverwhere and didn’t understand the notion that I had gone my whole life and not known….well, this. It was kindred and it was home.
So when we found out that Neil Gaiman was coming to Nashville…well, there was no question. We had to go.
The problem was, however, that we found out about the appearance far too late in the game to have any hope of finding tickets. I mean, this was a huge deal. He signs for everyone who wants him to, and this was the last tour of that. Not to mention I’d never been to a book tour. I’d never heard an author read.
I stalked Craigslist. I trolled eBay. I begged on Twitter.
The day of the event rolled around and I had no tickets. I’d given up refreshing the venue’s ticket queue.
Until about noon that day. For some reason – I still don’t know why – I checked the ticket site. The quantities were listed as…
AND I JUMPED ON THAT SHIT.
Suddenly, we had tickets. We were going!
I had no idea what to expect. No idea of the number of people or the venue or anything at all.
We were going to be there, and that was enough.
Hours later, we arrived in Nashville and…guys. So many people were there to see Neil Gaiman. It was a little bit crazy. The perfect kind of crazy.
We waited in line, then we found some seats. All the things people do.
Then, once Neil appeared, he pointed out our section of the seating and said “Hey those people can’t see me, why don’t you move?”
Onto a front row.
There were intros, then there was the man of the night. Bizarre, really. A person whose name is on a metric shit ton of books, but he was talking to us in that insane British accent like we were best friends and that took me right back to 2007 Episcopalian Emily because Hey-I-worked-for-a-Brit-and-I-speak-your-accent-andohbythewaydoyouknowTim?
The actual speaking/performance to me is a bit of a blur, because I was in such awe of all the people. These were amazing people. Friendly and weird and the kind of people that would give you a ride in the rain. A front row right in the center that I’m pretty certain was packed full of Amanda Palmer fans.
Then there was the thunder. The storm outside and the blanket of stifling auditorium heat that transformed this huge building full of strangers into a group taking refuge from the weather to listen to a story.
As the talk was winding down, Neil mentioned musicians. Being in Nashville and how if he could have dinner with anyone there who would it be.
*Spoiler* the answer was Bela Fleck, but for one instant I was convinced that Amanda Palmer was about to pop out of the curtains. Once I was proven wrong I sent the following tweet:
To which, in a few moments, she responded:
And after I died, I stood in line. Clutching my copy of his new book and hoping I wouldn’t get brushed off in the well-oiled machine that was the signing line.
We arrived at the table, and in a burst of bravery that is all but extinct from me in times of great pressure, I simply showed him my phone.
“Of course,” he said.
And in one move, the little lady with the bookstore shirt stepped aside, Neil turned, and…
He hugged me like he missed his wife. I wanted her to be there just so he could hug her that much, because I had nothing to do with it.
Later we went home and went about our lives.
I received, in my email, a very special quote from the first book of Neil Gaiman’s that I ever read and loved..in his handwriting.
And then I decided to keep it forever, because I am, apparently…finally a fan of someone.