Why Neil Gaiman needs a pen woman.


I met Neil Gaiman.  He is, in fact, very awesome in person.  He is witty, and smart, and nice.

And it’s a good thing he’s nice, because having never helped with a signing event of this magnitude, I had no idea what I was in for.  Or what he was in for.  But I now understand why it is his last signing tour.

Before the signing event.  There is a team of people, both from Indigo and Neil’s assistants and editor, helping him sign more than a thousand books which will be for sale in the lobby of the theatre.  So nobody’s here yet, and he’s already signing.  Before anyone had arrived, he had signed more than a thousand books.

There were 1200 people at the event.  The rule was they could have as many copies of The Ocean at the End of the Lane signed as they wanted, and one other item of their choice.  They could also have one signed item personalized.  This meant, that at bare minimum, he would be signing at least 2400 more books.  It was probably upwards of 3000, at a guess.

Neil’s presentation started at 7 pm.  He had already done interviews for local and national news earlier, by the way.  The presentation was fantastic, with readings, and some excellent questions from the audience, which resulted in an amazing anecdote about Shirley Maclaine asking to touch his hair, and the information that the maximum number of cats you should ever own is eight.

He then took a minimal break, and started signing.

And signing.

And signing.

He signed books, he signed posters.  He signed a violin.  He signed dolls.  He signed e-readers.

I gave him a band-aid out of my purse, to hold his thumbnail on.  It was falling off from signing so many things.  And apparently his previous tour had been worse.

My job was to keep the ink for his fountain pen available, and to hand him various coloured Sharpies.  This does not sound like a difficult job, right?  Unless you’ve been holding your hand in the same position for so long that it cramps, and the stage lights are making your hands sweaty, and after a while markers are flying everywhere and it’s incredibly embarrassing that Neil Gaiman is witnessing your inability to simply hand someone markers.  Sigh.  Which he was very nice about.

Despite the fact that he was signing books for so very many people, he made a concerted effort to make a personal connection with each one.  He seems very aware of the fact that he is, for some people, very important to them, despite being a perfect stranger.   One of the other women there and I were discussing how you could do an amazing series of photos, just capturing the expressions of the people meeting Neil.  These weren’t just squealing fans, these were people whose lives had been touched and transformed by him.

Despite being in excruciating pain, how could he leave before he saw everyone?  Before the woman who he hugged as she broke down, saying that his work was the only thing that got her through high school?  Before he was handed beautiful art, paintings and sketches and crafts?  Musicians and writers who brought their newly published first book, first cd, and credited him with inspiring them?  Before the couple who had FLOWN IN FROM AUSTRALIA? And he truly was happy to see them all.  So he couldn’t say no partway through the process, and so he has to say no to the process.  Before his hand falls off.  Or worse, it becomes something he no longer enjoys.

Edit: Since so many of you have asked, the signing finally finished after two in the morning, and we were all a little loopy.  There was a big bowl of ice waiting for Neil’s hand, and we all sighed with relief when he plunged his hand in.

I am so glad I got to meet him (and get my own books signed!), and I learned a lot.  Neil Gaiman is a pretty amazing person, aside from being a pretty amazing author (the two things don’t always go hand in hand, sadly) and his legions of fans are lucky to have him.

Oh, and although The Ocean at the End of the Lane is an amazing, amazing book (and I highly recommend picking it up, I guarantee you’ll love it, it’s so beautiful), what was even better was him reading it aloud.  So go get a copy of the audio book as read by him, in preparation for which he apparently stayed up nights listening to Sussex farmers speak so he would get the accents right.

Happy, happy reading/listening.

Be inspired.



Filed under Authors, Books, Books in the News, Bookstore, children's books, geek lit, Graphic Novels, Review, Writing

22 responses to “Why Neil Gaiman needs a pen woman.

  1. Merilyn Fox

    It sounds sappy to say this, but he is a truly great man. Your are so lucky to have been able to help him through he event.

  2. Eleana

    He truly is amazing as I witnessed and met him at last night’s event in Vancouver. What a great experience for you to be a part of. I recognized how tired he was last night and yes, he still was making a connection to each and every fan. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂

  3. Thank you for writing this Christie. You were all friendly, courteous, helpful, and doing an overall excellent job. It was really interesting to see the Event from this perspective–from yours–(I wrote on the event on my Blog as well) and I am glad that it happened and that you were there. It was an awesome night. 🙂 Take care.

  4. Christie, you did an amazing job. I saw Neil change pens three times to sign things for the couple in front of me, all done smoothly and without fuss or bother. He was smiling at everyone, had kind word and kept going. Well done.

  5. phasersandspells

    I was there, and got my own books signed. It was great to meet him.

  6. Haley

    I was there! I remember you, you seemed quite lovely and unfrazzled. You did great (love your hair by the way)!
    He really was kind wasn’t he? I was one of the ones who gave him a painting (of feet!) and his genuine thanks just bowled me over.

  7. Oh, I so agree. Thanks so much for writing this. When I heard this was his last signing tour I somehow thought that was his last tour period and was both sad and dissapointed. But after actually attending one of his events and he explained… I’m all for it. The signature isn’t important to me anyway. What I really want is more Neil Gaiman books, and more Neil Gaiman readings, and I agree. Going through all that isn’t really worth it. I felt almost guilty bringing my own books to be signed, after seeing the pictures on Twitter and hearing about late nights… and yet he was still soooo nice. So kind to everyone. Bravo, Mr. Gaiman. I look forward to seeing you on your first non-signing tour.

  8. Bran MacFeabhail

    Loved this. I’m glad Neil’s not doing any more signing tours–I’m a huge fan and would love to meet him, but not when it takes so much out of him. 🙂

  9. That’s so sweet of you to help Neil and give him band-aid!

  10. meet him on a signing in London (I was a trembling wreck in the queue) and wow, amazing that anyone would do a signing for so many people and still stay fresh and happy.
    And agreed, the book is GREAT!

  11. Kate

    Thank you for sharing your experience. It was a memorable night. I would like to thank you and all the folks from Indigo for your efforts, your patience and kindness in helping us all through…Mr. Gaiman included.

  12. I was at the Toronto event with my 13 year old son, who was very excited to meet his favourite author and was not disappointed. It was after midnight before we got a chance to meet Mr Gaiman – and despite looking absolutely exhausted, he was all warmth and smiles. It was a truly inspiring event for my child. I remember you as well, Christie, and asked how you were holding up (you had big tired eyes) and you voiced your sympathy and concern for Mr Gaiman. It was an incredible night that I we will never forget. Thank you for your part in making it happen! ;D

  13. Aly

    I was lucky enough to go to a recent event in San Francisco. Sadly (for me), I couldn’t stay long enough to get my book signed personally, but I was able to observe him with his fans. What a generous, amazing man!

  14. Ronna

    Glad I got to read this. I guess you know Neil put it on his FB page. I was the woman you talked with while we were waiting for Neil to first appear at his signing table. Who would think an author’s life would be so tiring and painful?! It amazes me how he can stay so pleasant and genuine with his fans. Clever you, to have band-aid ready.

  15. He really is a beautiful human being. When he was in Denver, I got a chance to meet him. Honestly, it is a bit of a blur. I was in the 300-block of the 1000 guests for that event and when I got to him, I was in tears. Short version, I struggle & fight with anxiety of the “general” and “social” disorder types. I’d driven myself to the location and come alone to this very busy event to meet a man who is utterly inspiring. My brain shorted out, and I told him he was my unicorn before I started crying. He hugged me. Longer than I expected and it was worth all the stress and pain and fear of the journey.

    It’s amazing the stories he inspires in the lives of others, on his way through his own. Thanks for sharing this one. It brought me back to reflect on an amazing time.

    ( longer version: http://jennaelf.blogspot.com/2013/06/neil-gaiman-shared-love-of-things.html )

  16. George Baillie

    “I don’t always sign a thousand books an evening, but when I do I use a quality fountain pen. Stay reading my friends” should be said by the truly most interesting man in the world!!

  17. neil is a real gent. i first met him (and pterry) when they were doing a signing in berkeley, ca. for “good omens”, and i went to several signings in san francisco over the course of “sandman”. once it was my birthday, and he did a little drawing of morpheus in silver sharpie for me. and he sent me one of the “nicholas was” christmas cards later on that year. the most recent signing was in santa rosa, and i was sure he wouldn’t recognize me after signing for so many untold thousand of fans, but he said he did remember me, and wrote “nice to see you again” in my copy of “ocean”. now, perhaps he was simply being polite, but it definitely made my day. he is so NICE, and he deserves only the best, even if it means no more signings. bless his heart!

  18. Kelly Anso

    I managed to see this process in action in Wellington, New Zealand a few years ago. I wanted to get a book signed, but there were so many other people there who all wanted to meet him so badly, so my present to him was to know that I had seen him and not get his signature. He truly is amazing. he doesn’t have to do this, but he does. He doesn’t have to do it with the warmth and love he shows, but he does. What a remarkable human being, we are all further touched by such dedication.

  19. Pingback: I’m sorry Mr. Gaiman, but thank you. | The Musings of an Author in Progress

  20. Pingback: Fanpires – | bibliophiliacs

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