As most of you know, last month I went to one of my very first author readings and signings. I have a saying I toss about often when referring to myself or my girls, “We do nothing by half.” For example, when there was a funeral for the girls pet skink it was complete with flowers, black dresses, readings, music, and hugs.
So, of course, my first author reading and signing was with my literary hero, Neil Gaiman, the man who has graced just about every positive Top Ten Tuesday since I began participating in them. You might guess that this was going to be huge, monumental even, for me. What you might not know is that I am a bit of a weeper. I cry when I am sad, which is normal, but I also cry when I am happy or angry or tired or overwhelmed, which is, apparently, when I meet my literary hero.
The day was lovely. I got to share it with The Girl, who also looks up to Mr. Gaiman.
And with two of my dearest friends in the whole universe, who also think Mr. Gaiman is the bees’ knees.
And it was a beautiful day.
But what I did discover was that I was wholly incapable of managing to articulate anything to Mr. Gaiman when I got my 15 seconds of signing time. As I have mentioned, he was gracious and kind but I would like to tell him what I was trying to say. So today I will.
Dear Mr. Gaiman,
In 2002 I read this book called American Gods. It kind of rocked my world. Its reading corresponded with a number of changes taking place in my life and it was just what I needed to be reading then. You see I am a bookie. I have read as long as I can remember and as much as anyone who is a bookie, I was that kid for whom books were an escape and a soft place to land. What I didn’t know was how much I need that again and there it was in American Gods. I remember reading the “I can believe …” speech over and over and over. I would bet that my book still opens to that page. I debated having you sign that copy but I purchased a new one for you to sign so that I could still loan my well-loved copy out.
I want to thank you because for the next decade plus some your books have been that place to land and more. Some of the very best moments, things, and events have been framed by your writing or your voice.
One day this young guy I met through some dear friends asked me what my favorite book was. I told him it was American Gods and lend him my copy. He and his partner were with me when I met you last month. Because I am not you I can’t even begin to come up with the right words to describe what he is to me, friend is a ghostly wan thing to use and family is not quite enough either. But I would be so much less without him in my life. And you were there at the beginning of that.
Then there is my daughter who you also met at the signing. She was the poised young woman who you signed for just after me. I my heart exploded just a bit more watching her and you interact. You see she is an introvert. She hates crowds and loud things but she sat in a room with 900 strangers and tolerated being pestered by the drunkard in front of us because you were there. She wants to be a writer. She reads voraciously, 5 books on the day we waited to meet you. She writes every day, 20 minutes at least and in the past 18 months or so has begun finishing things because this writer she admires, one who she reads and listens to on audio, said in a FAQ “How do you do it? You do it. You write. You finish what you write.” When she was done getting her books signed she beamed at me and said “I just had words with Neil Gaiman!” You inspire her.
Then there where the endless nights of hearing to you and Maddie talking to each other as The Girl went to sleep. She listened to that interview for at least a solid year when her overactive brain made sleep difficult. You helped her.
There was sitting with my 6-year-old and stumbling through Blueberry Girl which she got out of the library as I realized that YES, these are the things I wish for them.
“Help her to help herself, help her to stand;
Help her to lose and to find.
Teach her we’re only as big as our dreams;
Show her that fortune is blind.”
You gave my dreams for them words.
There was discovering graphic novels through Sandman, although you have set a very high bar for my taste in the genre. There was falling in love with fairy tales all over again with Stardust and Instructions. You reminded me that in words there is art and love and joy.
There was laying in a hospital bed in the wee hours with a tiny girl new to the world, exhausted and too keyed up to sleep and alone because The Girl needed her Poppa at home, and Neverwhere on my nightstand. You were there to keep me company.
There was sitting on the floor in my local book store with Bean and The Girl next to me reading The Dangerous Alphabet because we were on day 5 of no power during a heat wave and when I asked them where we should go to escape the heat they clamored for the Bookstore because the library also had no power. You were there to help distract us.
You see there were all these moments. Some big and some so mundane. And you had no idea you were there for them. And when I got the chance, when I had a moment to tell you, when I was face to face with the person who created a soft place, an escape, a backdrop to so many things, I lost all my words. I, in fact, did not have “words with Neil Gaiman,” but because you are kind and generous, I had a hug. I hope that it conveyed the tiniest bit of the thanks I owe you. Maybe next time, I will have words. But I think I might print this out, just in case.
Carrie, AKA West Virginia Red Read
PS – I still say that while all new doctors become The Doctor, everyone has one doctor who is their own.