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Fans wait up to 7 hours to meet Neil Gaiman in Decatur

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The view from the balcony at the Neil Gaiman reading at Agnes Scott College on Dec. 14. AJC/Jamie Gumbrecht

UPDATE, 4:50 p.m. 12/15: Here’s Little Shop’s thank-you post for Neil Gaiman.

How devoted are Neil Gaiman’s Atlanta fans? Well, devoted enough to lure him here with  a fabulous party at Decatur’s Little Shop of Stories, devoted enough to stand in line for free tickets and devoted enough still to wait up to seven hours at Agnes Scott College to get his signature inside a book.

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Gaiman

I did not wait so long for a signature, but I was there last night, along with 1,000 or so people, for his reading. Gaiman is an unusually entertaining reader — yes, he does voices! — and even as he read from children’s books “Odd and the Frost Giants“and “The Graveyard Book,” it felt like storytime for grown-ups.

Which is good, considering that he signed the last book around 1:15 a.m., then caught an early flight to Winnipeg, where another store (and another giddy audience) waited.

Here’s some of what you missed if you weren’t there last night:

  • Gaiman was indeed delayed by yesterday’s overwhelming fog in Atlanta, but that seemed to be OK. “I really like the fog. Really good fog. I thought, ‘I wonder if they did it special for me.’”
  • Coraline” was inspired by his daughter, Holly, who turned out “frighteningly normal,” but once was a solemn child who dictated stories about little girls whose mothers were replaced with evil people who were definitely not their mothers. Knowing what his daughter liked, Gaiman went to his local bookshop thinking, “I will go and find some really good horror for 5 year olds.” Except no, he wouldn’t, because it didn’t exist. So, he wrote it, and filled it with things Holly would love. He can’t, however, explain the button eyes. They’re there, but he has no idea what inspired it.
  • “The Graveyard Book” was something like a gothic version of “The Jungle Book.” It was inspired by his son, Mike, who is now a devoted bicycle rider, but many years ago, was  was just as devoted to his tricycle, regardless of where he was. As Gaiman explained it, “2 year old, tricycle, stairs, death.” Instead, Gaiman took his son to ride across the way, inside a cemetery, where nothing much could get in his way. He looked more at home there than you expect any boy to look, and there was the story. Still Gaiman put it off for decades, sensing that he wasn’t good enough to write it. “Round about 2004, I thought, ‘I’m not getting any better.’” He was, apparently, good enough.
  • Will he ever come back to Dragon*Con? “Oh, probably, eventually.” After a few  good rounds at the annual Atlanta conference, he had a run-in with poor organization — the kind that meant he had to stay in his room and wait around while cool things happened below. “They kept trying to present me with a lifetime achievement award, which they managed never to present to me.” (It showed up much later, although, being 39, it seemed a bit early.) Regardless, he said, “it may happen one day.”

The big lesson of the night, though, came from Little Shop of Stories co-owner Dave Shallenberger: “Amazon does not put Christmas trees on the roof, Barnes and Noble does not ask you to bring your dogs to story time and Borders does not bring Neil Gaiman to Atlanta.”

If you went, what were your favorite moments from the night? How long did you wait, and what did you talk about with Neil? Share in the comments!

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15 comments Add your comment

[...] The momentum kept up through the second reading by Dionne, Tom Bell of Decatur Book Festival fame and former AJCEr Kay Powell. Kavarna was packed, despite sharing a city and time slot with Neil Gaiman. [...]

Mel

December 20th, 2009
2:48 am

First of all the staff from Little Shop of Stories did a great job, as did the campus police as others have said. So thank you to both groups. And thank you to the college for giving up the space for the event.
I was one of the last to get a book signed and it was worth the wait. Mr. Gaiman truly does care about his fans and it shows. If ever I get a chance to see him again somewhere I will not hesitate to do so.
It was enough to get my book signed and to say hello and thank you to one of my favorite authors. All in all a very nice night.

Indi bookstore owner & ASC alalumna

December 17th, 2009
7:04 pm

Melissa- You hit the nail on the head. Very well put and thank you.

Melissa

December 17th, 2009
6:15 pm

To all of those insulted by the owner’s statements on indies vs. chains – B&N, Amazon and Borders would run us all out of town tomorrow if they could. Do you know what B&N has to do to get a major author to come to a store? Nothing. NOTHING. In fact, they often make it a condition of buying the author’s book that the particular author make B&N appearances on a given tour. (That B&N is not “bringing” Jasper Fforde to you; the publisher is sending him there because they are contractually obligated to do so, or because they promised in return for B&N buying a certain number of copies.) Do you know what an indie has to do to get a major author appearance? No, you do not, but I can assure you that nine times out of ten it involves begging of some sort. AND that if indies don’t manage to sell a decent number of books at an event, that publisher might not send them another author. That? Does not happen to chain stores.

Dave didn’t insult B&N’s hourly employees. This has nothing to do with you. You work for a giant faceless corporation bent on taking as much business away from small stores (and other chains) as it possibly can, and that’s an undeniable fact. Just because it’s prettier and smarter than Walmart doesn’t mean it’s not doing a similar kind of damage. When chains start paying the taxes that allow your community to thrive, then maybe indies will shut up about them. When chains no longer have most of the control over what’s published, then maybe indies will shut up about them.

LSOS knocked themselves over to win a contest and find a venue large enough so that a thousand people could see and meet Neil Gaiman. I think they can say pretty much anything they want about independent bookstores, and if you object to what they say, then you don’t need to go the next time they bring some kind of awesome event to town.

Terence Broxterman

December 17th, 2009
11:55 am

Neil and LSOS, to Neil: You’ve got a 7yr old new fan who can’t help but tell EVERYONE that she met “Neil”. You really made her day and made a devoted new fan. To LSOS, ya’ll ran things so well, we found out only that day that Neil would be in town…you were extremely accomodating to our “Johnny come lately” needs….and having a special exception for children because of school the next day was a masterstroke…thank you again to all of you