Monday, July 15, 2013

I Met Neil Gaiman


When I heard Neil Gaiman planned to sign books in Cambridge, I
knew I had to see him. What I didn’t know is what it meant to see
Neil Gaiman.

First clue, tickets to see him were going on sale. I’ve seen some pretty big authors at Porter Square Books. They always talk right at the store. For free. This time, the tickets would be $5 each and the event would be held at a church.

The day before said tickets were going on sale, I called to ask what time the sale started.
7:00 am.
???
And they told me the tickets would sell out quickly.

I arrived at 6:45 am. There was already a long line. I needed to be on my way to work by 7:20 if I was going to make it on time.
On said line, two people offered to get me a ticket if I had to leave before I got in. I learned that they were waaaay bigger fans than me. I haven’t read every single book he’s ever written. I also don’t see him each chance I get. I was a Gaiman book tour attendee virgin.
Just like with the midnight sale of Harry Potter Book 7, Porter Square Books took us in quickly and efficiently. I got my tickets!

I went with the host from Kid Lit Drink Night, one writer I met at NE-SCBWI, and one woman from the Neil Gaiman Porter Square Event Facebook page.

Even though we had tickets, it was first come, first serve for seating.
We arrived an hour early.
There was already an impressive line.

It’s not a big church, so all the seats were good. Everyone was so happy to be here.


The Director of Creative Writing at Harvard movingly introduced Neil Gaiman. Clearly a HUGE fan. He started off talking about a boy who gave the author a “book” he’d written years ago. After telling more anecdotes about (slightly scary) fans, he ended with telling us he’d been the boy with the book all those years ago.


Neil Gaiman was gracious and funny and witty. He genuinely appreciates his fans maybe almost as much as they appreciate him. He doesn’t have to be like that. He’s just so… cool. It was hot and we were cramped together, but I could’ve stayed for hours. While he talked, I felt like he was in a room with a handful of people he knew instead of on a pulpit of a church before hundreds of people.



Highlights:

1)   He asked if anyone had been to previous stops on the tour. A few reluctant hands when up. He said*, “You’re not in trouble. I just want to know what you heard, so I don’t reread the same passage.” He then called on them to find out.
2)   He read a passage from chapter 3 from, The Ocean at the End of the Lane. I could listen to him read all day.
3)   He also read part of an upcoming picture book. I’m already thinking of children to buy it for. It’s ridiculously funny.
4)   His Q&A was awesome. He told a story about a recent conversation with Terry Pratchett, who is in the first stages of Alzheimers, but is writing his memoir. This led to an old story of a joint interview they’d done when they’d toured for Good Omens. The interviewer thought the book was nonfiction. The producer in the background was going ballistic. Gaiman wanted to keep going with it, but Pratchett let the interviewer know.
5)   He said when he’d toured for American Gods, he often got booked in churches and wound up reading passages with curses.
6)   At one stop on this tour, he’d read further into the book, even though there would be spoilers because a thunderstorm roared outside and he wanted to read the with part with a thunderstorm.
7)   Advice to new writers: Keep writing and finish what you write.

I loved seeing the variety of items people brought to be signed, from boxed sets to first editions to laminated tickets from previous engagements. Everyone was in good spirits while they waited.

Thanks to a Facebook friend, I found out Gaiman personalized The Graveyard Book with names on headstones. I needed THAT.

When the bookstore employee asked what I wanted on the sticky note, I gave the names of everyone in my family, so we could all have gravestones. When I got closer, the next employee told me only one name (sad), so I chose mine.

When Gaiman saw the sticky note, he said, "You want all the names? I can add everyone in your family."
I said I was so happy to meet him. (Or something partially coherent, like that).
He replied in the most genuine voice, "Thank you so much for coming."

I didn’t shake his hand like so many others did because I wanted to give him more time to make the stones. I was rewarded:


Because he has so many books to sign, he can’t stop to pose for pictures, so I sort of snuck near him while the woman in our group took a picture.



As we left, we watched people enthusiastically being interviewed about their experiences. Some people had come from far away places just to see him.

I understood now. It was worth it.

It’s supposed to be Gaiman’s last book tour forever. I can only hope it’s like when I saw the “last” Rolling Stones tour back in the 1980s.

I hear he’s living nearby for a while. The only thing to top off that night would be to run into him and… I don’t know… maybe have a drink somewhere.

(I can tell him about the time I was so engrossed in his audio book, I forgot to make a telephone call to my dad to tell him I was an hour away. I didn’t realize it until I surprised my father by arriving on his doorstep. Or I can share a recent dark story I wrote based on his writing prompt in a British newspaper. Or... .)

What are the chances I’ll run into Gaiman?

Maybe as good as getting to read a scene about a thunderstorm during a thunderstorm.


* These are close to the exact quotes. I didn’t record anything, but I do have a good memory.

Update: This post is also on the Arlington Patch. 

98 comments:

  1. I'm trying hard not to be jealous, but it's not working. Ahhhh, how wonderful!

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    1. Shelly, I know what you mean. I was jealous when I'd hear about other people who met him!

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  2. Theresa, you captured the magic - thank you! So glad to have been there with you and to relive it in these words.

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  3. Wow, that's awesome! Sounds like you had a great time.

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  4. I have a huge grin reading this post about your experience. Your enthusiasm is infectious. I so wish I could've been there with you!

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    1. Lynda, I wish you could've been there too. He was just amazing.

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  5. It's always nice to meet an author who is genuinely kind to his fans. I once went to a book signing where the author had the exact same smile for every single person who approached her; it was kind of disillusioning. But I went to other booksignings for people like Sophie Kinsella and Jen Lancaster; they were so warm and friendly to everyone that it made me want to buy more of their books.

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    1. Neurotic Workaholic, I'm so shy. If I ever get to do a book tour, I'm going to try to fight it and express how grateful I'll be to people who bother to show up. I'm just so impressed Neil Gaiman can still be so genuinely grateful.

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  6. I felt like I was living your experience through you, Theresa. How wonderful! You never know...you may run into him. Stranger things have been known to happen :-)

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    1. Susan, if I just get to meet him this once, I'm still happy. Though I'll keep my eyes wide open walking around Cambridge... .

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  7. This is on par with everything I have ever heard about him. He is,a,rock star and even more,so because he doesn't act like it. How,wonderful is that in this day and age? I'm jealous you got to go to this and ended up with a beautiful heirloom. The gravestones are fantastic!

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    1. Martina, he truly is a rockstar! I LOVE the gravestones. The next day, when I had Skyped my son, who was in Japan, I showed him the inside cover. He told his family it was an autograph from a "famous author." I don't know if anyone in my family cares as much as me, but I love it!

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  8. It sounds like a great event. I wonder how he manages to write if his tours are so epic - perhaps that's why it's the last?

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    1. Annalisa, I've heard he has to put his hand in ice during these long signings. And he'd signed books for the pre-sale for Porter Square Books--5k of them! Plus he signed for Porter Square Books before the event that day. I'm sure it's so draining and he really doesn't need to do it.

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  9. Hi Theresa .. what a great tale - and what fun you must have had once settled in and listening .. and he truly does seem to care about his fan base doesn't he ...

    Roland's latest post .. contains a brief 5+ minute interview with Gaiman - done by the BBC ...

    http://rolandyeomans.blogspot.co.uk/2013/07/masters-of-shadow.html

    I put the link in if you or your other readers are interested ..

    Cheers - and I loved this - I've never read anything of his! Better rectify that ... Hilary

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    1. Hilary, thanks so much for the link. He was on NPR a couple of weeks ago and said that his publisher is so flexible about the genres he writes, he could write a "pornographic cookbook" and they wouldn't care. The thought of it still keeps making me laugh.

      http://www.npr.org/2013/06/15/191353158/gaimans-new-ocean-is-no-kiddie-pool

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  10. So glad to have been able to be there with you! It was a great night.

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    1. Sam, I'm so glad you were there too! Such a great experience.

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  11. Lucky you! And you got the headstones for everyone :) I love the picture of you edging your way towards him - it sounds like an anazing experience and that he's very down to earth despite being such a huge name.

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  12. Replies
    1. Words A Day, I feel so lucky to have met him. He's an amazing writer, speaker, and from what I can tell, person.

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  13. YAy! Good for you! Wasn't it just a blast?? He's such a great guy and totally worth the effort to hear him speak in person.

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    1. Pk, it was definitely worth the effort. To me, talented authors are like rockstars. He really is one!

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  14. Oh well, I had an opportunity to get tickets for the Rolling Stones in the early 80's and I passed on those, too. I'm not known for grabbing at terrific opportunities. Next time I'll follow your lead, no questions asked.

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    1. Judy, the good news is that the Rolling Stones keep touring, so you can still catch 'em!

      Yes, stop resisting my invites!

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  15. Theresa, that is SO COOL. Neil Gaiman is not only a fantastic author, but from all of the accounts I've heard of him, he's also a great guy and very fun to listen to. Glad you got to meet him and hear him speak!

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  16. That was really nice of him to write down the names of your entire family. Last tour? Probably not!

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    1. Alex, I guess we'll see. He seemed really final when he talked about it. If he does speak or tour anywhere near me again, I'll go!

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  17. What a great event and what a persistent fan you are! 6:45AM? Loved how you sidled up next to him for that picture!

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  18. Cleemckenziebooks, I know, it was an early morning, but I bet that line started at 5:00 am. Gaiman has committed fans!

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  19. It sounds awesome, Theresa. He came to Ann Arbor in early July but I was too busy to go to the book signing. You had to buy a ticket for it too and it was at a theater. Sad to know he's not touring anymore.

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    1. Natalie, sorry you missed him. He came here in April, but I didn't go because... stupid reasons really.

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  20. Thank you for sharing your account. I missed the opportunity, but I can vicariously experience Neil Gaiman's coolness through your blog.

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    1. Bond Hsu, I'm glad you enjoyed the vicarious Neil Gaiman talk and signing!

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  21. How fun. And you never know. When you least expect it, you may just run into him.

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    1. Liz, I hope so! I never run into any of the other famous authors, but there's always a first.

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  22. That. Is. So. Cool!!!!!!!! I'd probably babble like an idiot. I laughed out loud about reading passages with curses while in a church :)) I'm soooooooooo glad you got to do that! And hopefully, it won't be his last tour. Like the Stones:)

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    1. The Words Crafter, if it wasn't so packed, I would've totally babbled. One of my companions was actually shaking. And she's met him before!

      Yes, I hope he tours again. He's amazing.

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  23. YOU!! I'm starting to get jealous now. And you're the second person I know this week who got to see Neil Gaiman in person. Good for you. Sounds like an incredible night. :)

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    1. LG Smith, in the last 3 months, I've met 4 authors I admire. Top ones: Sharon Creech, Grace Lin, MT Anderson, and now Neil Gaiman. I'm so lucky.

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  24. So awesome, Theresa. You are very lucky. It is sooo exciting to meet authors. I've meet some in college and a few on my own. It's a shame to hear Pratchett has Alzheimer's. I've read his books, too. Thanks for sharing your wonderful experience.

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    1. Thanks, Victoria. I feel lucky. I'm so sad about Pratchett too.

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  25. I've wanted to read some of his books for a long time. I see his reviews on Amazon. His books are 4.5 stars with like 300 reader reviews.

    Great that you were able to meet him.

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    1. Stephen, he's so talented. I've read 7+ books. I'm impressed with each one.

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  26. Oh my gosh I'm totally jealous. I missed out on seeing him when he was in L.A.! Looove the pictures!
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Nustchell, sorry you missed him. You see more authors than just about anyone I know.

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  27. Oh, my! You got to actually meet him! Squeee...am jealous!

    Nas

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    1. Editors at Work, I feel very lucky! I'm glad I went.

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  28. Wow! How awesome. I'd love to meet him one day. Thanks for sharing your Gaiman experience! :)

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    1. Christine, I hope you get to meet Gaiman one day.

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  29. What an amazing experience. I've only watched videos of him.

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    1. Medeia, have you read any of his books?

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    2. Good book. I loved The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere. I just finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane today. Reminded me a little of A Wrinkle in Time for grownups.

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    3. Oh, I'm not the only one! The importance of naming things really reminded me of l'Engle.

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    4. I didn't even think of the naming, Deniz! I though more of the three women and the mysteries of the universe and how they seemed to be a part of the fabric of everything.

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  30. That is so awesome, Theresa! Thanks for sharing your night with us! I must remember that, so I can bring my copy of The Graveyard Book. I'd really really like to give him a hug on behalf of his wife - they talk about this on Twitter, where fans hug Neil on behalf of Amanda, and vice versa! - but I just know I'll be so shy and tongue tied and... Also would like to bring him a gift, but I can't think of anything original...
    I hope you DO get to run into him and have a drink!

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    1. Deniz, yes, bring a copy of The Graveyard Book.

      That church was so hot. I would've felt bad to hug him.

      I hope I run into him too. Between his tour and ComicCon, it may not be for a while.

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  31. Ocean is a great book. I read it in a couple of hours (it's super short). Gaiman is one of my favorite authors because he gives off humble airs. If GRRM kicks the bucket, I want Gaiman to finish A Song of Ice and Fire. It could happen. The dude's fat and old.

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    1. Michael, Gaiman is one of my favorite authors too. I just finished Ocean too. It IS short.

      My friend is worried George Martin won't make it before he finishes too!

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  32. Thank you so much for this experience...loved GRAVEYARD!

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  33. Wow! So jealous! I love that you snuck in there for a picture. I would've done the same. ;)

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    1. Kelly, I got closer than most people do. But I've heard people hug him, so I kept my space in comparison!

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  34. That must've been so cool - and I love the gravestones he drew! I adored the Graveyard Book.

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  35. Oh wow! That's awesome! How wonderful is that :O)

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  36. Wow. Awwww Theresa!! What a joy to behold! You standing behind Mr Gaiman!! And your book with all your family's names in his handwriting! LOL!! How brilliant!!

    I hope to goodness you to run into him! Why not!??! :-)

    What a guy!! Take care
    x

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    1. Old Kitty, I hope I run into him too. I think he's at ComicCon now.

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  37. Sounds great! I love your creative idea for getting a picture with him. :)

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  38. Karen, it seems anyone is allowed to go near him, but people can't ask him to pose. I just got a little closer than some of them.

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  39. How wonderful!!!! I love the sneaky photo you got with him. Xxxx

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  40. Michelle, your name has disappeared! How strange. Thanks for visiting!

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  41. I saw some of your pics on FB! So SO cool!!!

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  42. Great that you got to see him. I saw him in Cleveland. It was packed; there was an overflow room, but I got there early enough to sit close and watch him. He's mesmerizing. I can't believe he's giving up personal appearances!!!!! He's so damn good at them!!!

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    1. Kim, I'm glad you got to see him. They could've sold so many more tickets in Cambridge. I'm glad they didn't, so he wasn't so far away.

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  43. Gaiman's one of those authors I keep meaning to read and then forget, but I know he's awesome because I've heard him interviewed a bunch. And my high school boyfriend was obsessed with Sandman. So I am reminding myself again -- read Gaiman!

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    1. Missed Periods, I recently got The Sandman for free on Amazon. Now it's up to $1.99. http://www.amazon.com/Sandman-1-ebook/dp/B00CIGXTAM/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1374873491&sr=8-3&keywords=the+sandman+neil+gaiman

      My favorite books are Neverwhere and The Graveyard Book.

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  44. Hi Theresa! Just dropping by to say hello. Also I 'm so jealous you got to see him. :D
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

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    1. Nutschell, I hope you get to meet Gaiman one day. Nice to hear from you! We've missed you on Write On to Build On.

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  45. Wow! What a special day! I would love to hear him someday. I hope this won't be his last tour! Maybe he'll speak at an SCBWI conference or something... Wishful thinking! :)

    I'm glad you were able to experience his reading! So happy for you! Love the tombstones and the cute "sneaky" pic! ;)

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    1. Dawn, I hope he changes his mind and tours for his next books, which is for children. Then he should hit the kid lit circuit!

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  46. Stopping by again to tell you I've left a little something for you on my blog. Hope you'll come over and pick it up!

    http://cleemckenziebooks.com

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  47. What a great experience. He sounds like such an original. I have only read The Graveyard Book, but you make me want to read his others.

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  48. PS: I hope your wish comes true and you do run into him somewhere and get to tell him about your story.

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    1. Elizabeth, he can write so well in a variety of genres. It's so impressive.

      Haven't run into Gaiman yet!

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  49. Great post! Neil is such a rock star : ) I saw him speak at MIT- he was amazing to listen to. Thanks for sharing- I love the pic with you and him. I would have been so nervous to be that close to him- lol. ~ Jess

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    1. DMS/Jess, Neil is a rockstar. I was nervous. One of the person who came with me actually trembled.

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  50. You looked so cute standing next to him, Theresa.

    I'll admit I've never read any of his books, but I hear he's amazing to listen to when he does speeches. The lines don't surprise me.

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    1. Thanks, Stina! If you want to read a Gaiman book, I can give you a few recommendations.

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  51. Oh I could just weep. I am also in the Gaiman cult but separated by oceans ebing in South Africa. The first question I ask both new and used books stores is: Do they have any of his boooks. I am sad that he never makes it to this side of the ocean. One day when I'm rich I'll make a trip just to see him and I'll hound him from everywhere where i follow him so his peeps and he know that I'm on the prowl.
    Wendy
    http://fabulosityreads.blogspot.com/

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    1. Wendy, I hope he makes it down there one day. I know how lucky I am to live near so many authors I admire.

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