Tuesday, June 2, 2009

When I Almost Met Neil Gaiman: Part II

In case you didn't gather this already, Neil Gaiman is my favorite author. He is at the top of the list. I admire his storytelling, his voice (literary, though his speaking voice is certainly nice too), his combination of whimsy and darkness...I could go on and on.

I have other favorites, but they tend to be on the dead side and therefore don't offer me much chance of meeting them any time soon. And Neil is the author I'd most want to be compared to, were I published. I too would like to be respected by the lit snobs and loved by the genre geeks. (I'm a card carrying member of the geek group, in case you were wondering about my street cred.)

So you can imagine that the discovery that my Favorite Author would be mere inches, feet, whatever away from me was pretty overwhelming. I mean, I got butterflies when I saw Jodi Picoult doing a signing at the Barnes & Noble in the Pru and I'm not even a fan of hers.

I kept darting over to the HarperCollins side of the booth to ask the friendly employees there when Neil was going to show up. They were very patient with me and suggested I line up early. Dilemma. I know from reading Neil's blog that people show up in droves to meet him. How was I going to slip away from my pimping post for that long without anyone noticing? And how could I abandon those other authors that needed my help??

Well, the answer was that I wasn't going to do any of those things. I'm the girl that never skipped class, that wrote her papers weeks in advance, that wanted all of her teachers to really really like her. Dean's list, Phi Beta Et Cetera. Old habits die hard. I had to stay at my post.

I am an idiot.

The line began to congregate over an hour before the signing was scheduled to begin. It grew and it grew. It snaked around the corner and outside the HarperCollins booth. It flirted dangerously with the Midpoint booth and the fledgling author signing at the lemonade stand.

Then, as though it had a life of its own, the line overtook us completely.

And that's when I somehow got promoted from anonymous book pimp to anonymous book pimp and assistant manager of the HarperCollins Neil Gaiman signing line. I directed people, I moved them around in little clumps, I chatted with the fans about how much I wished I could join them.

I got very annoyed when people asked where the line for "Neil Guy-man" started and considered directing them to the other end of the room. But I am chronically bad with pronunciation myself so I sent them to the right place. Besides, everyone deserves a chance to meet Neil even if they don't know how to say his name correctly.

The HarperCollins people were very impressed. "Thank you so much!" They said. "You're really helping us out." They were nice but I couldn't help wondering if they'd eever read Neil's blog before because they seemed wholly unprepared for the outpouring of fans he attracted.

"I'd do anything for Neil," I told them, "and his fans."

"Oh, your sweet! Have you gotten a book?"

"I already own The Graveyard Book." Obviously I bought it as soon as it came out. I didn't say that part out loud. Then I got slightly courageous. I think it was the utter lack of food or bathroom breaks. I said, "I don't even need his signature but I would love to meet him."

"Oh! Yes! Maybe!" They said vaguely.

I liked these HarperCollins people. They worked with Neil Gaiman. Also they worked for HarperCollins, which is my dream publisher. I imagined myself in Neil's place in the not too distant future wherein we would all reminisce about when I helped them manage Neil's signing line and how it launched my literary career.

Neil signed and signed some more. The line moved up in polite little clumps and some kind people even said hello to the unknown author as they slowly moved past, and took a copy of her signed book as well.

The HarperCollins people didn't come back to get me. They didn't sweep me to the front of the line and tell Neil that I had saved the day with my patience and devotion. They didn't ask to see a partial of my manuscript or offer to take me out to lunch afterward.

The thought occured to me that I might have let my imagination runaway with itself. Also I really wanted a bathroom break.

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