Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Neil Gaiman, again

Living in the DC area, I was lucky in that Neil Gaiman had two scheduled events nearby on his book tour for Anansi Boys. Saturday September 24th he was at the previously mentioned National Book Festival and on Sunday, September 25 he was at a Borders Books in Northern Virginia.

I arrived at the Bailey's Crossroads Borders Books sometime around 7 pm for Gaiman's 7:30 reading and bought a copy of Anansi Boys with part of the birthday money I got from my mother-in-law. I doubt she would be pleased. From the looks of the crowd, it was obvious Gaiman was a science fiction writer. Lots of black clothes, pony-tailed men and a smattering of individuals who looked like their last event that day had been the Maryland Renaissance Festival. Either that or they were dressed as characters in Gaiman's graphic novels.

Another blogger, Puzzledance, and I planned to meet at the the event so I walked around the store for a while looking for someone wearing what she said she would wear. After a while I came to the conclusion that she had been one of the lucky few who got a seat and didn't want to risk giving it up to find me and we would meet up after the reading or had not gotten back from her dance camp event yet and would either be late or be not able to come. I finally found a spot behind the other Gaiman fans, but in front of a low table against which I could lean.

Gaiman opened with a few words about what would take place that evening, chatted a bit and then began reading from his book after telling us the "story so far". Because the sound system was a little wonky and I was tired, I decided to sit on the floor instead of stand. I also thought I may have given Puzzledance an incorrect phone number so I tried to check one of my gmail accounts to see what number I gave her, but I could not figure out how to do that on my Sidekick. (although I know it can be done, having done it in the past). As I was giving up on my email, I noticed a pair of shoes pointing at me and not towards Gaiman. I looked up and saw that Puzzledance had arrived.

We listened to the reading, but I left before the signing as I was #287 and didn't want to stay that long. I hear the signing went smoothly though, but am not sorry that I left. I think I may have had a literary burn-out last weekend as I over-indulged in authors. Is such a thing possible? I also think I was intimidated by the crowd. After all, I've only read a sprinkling of Gaiman's works, although I am quite a fan of his journal. I never feel quite comfortable actually talking to authors in person as they sign their books. First of all, I think I am somehow putting them out by making them write their name. Secondly, if I really like the author, I usually say something stupid and feel stupid. So, I saved myself from the possibility of being embarrassed by myself.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Hair Mayonaise, Grins, Awe. Obsessions and a Sullen Teen

My trip to the national mall yesterday to see several of my favorite authors was better than I expected in some ways, but worse in others. I saw four of the authors I planned on seeing, but missed most of the talk of one of them because my daughter was boredtiredcoldandfeelingsick and wanted to leave. Since the festival was sharing the National Mall with a large peace demonstration, it was much more crowded than in previous years.

It was a amazing to see John Irving. I'm not sure I'd ever seen him interviewed at all before, although did read the interview he gave for Pages magazine about his newest book that I am listening to on CD. I've loved Irving's writing since the late 1970's when I read The World According to Garp before seeing the movie. After reading that, I read all of his books, and immediately devoured each new one as it was published. I've only missed out on reading a few of his books. I lost interest in his style of writing for a few years, but began reading him again with Widow For One Year. It was a pure pleasure being under the same roof (OK, tent roof) as Irving.

I really should learn that obsessions are not contagious and should not try to drag others into them. My daughter loves to read but she cares little about seeing the authors who write the books she loves. And she cares even less sitting through book talks by authors she has not read. Combine that with being hungry and tired in a very crowded place and you have a slightly sullen teenager. She was funny about it though. She refused to try to push through the mass of people while I was listening to John Irving's interview and suggested I leave my semi-prime location to stand outside with her. She text messaged me several pleas, finally stating that she was tired, hungry, cold and "about to be trampled by peace ppl". Luckily that was at the end of the interview and we both found seats for the next author, Neil Gaiman.

I first heard of Neil Gaiman during my volunteer orientation for last year's book festival but since the name was unfamiliar to me, it didn't stick. At the festival itself, my daughter saw a book in the sales tent that she had heard of and wanted to buy. The book was called Coraline, but she didn't know the author. A few weeks later, at a book store, we tried to find Coraline, but it had been sold out at that store. The sales clerk wrote the name of the book and author, Neil Gaiman, on a sticky note. At Christmastime Clare put the book on her wish list. We were able to get the recording on CD for our drive to Illinois, and we all thought it a wonderful story and well read by the author himself. Since then I have been reading Gaiman's online journal and looking forward to his book tour so I could see him for myself.

Gaiman looked thinner and frizzier than I expected him to look. He seemed tired as well, but having read his latest journal entry it was understandable. He commented on the helicopters overhead and once stopped talking to make a remark about a very loud protester outside the the fiction and fantasy tent. "He's not going to make many friends that way." He also tasked a question asker with finding the answer to her own question regarding "hair mayonnaise" and posting it to the FAQ part of his web site. As excited as I was to see Gaiman, I was left feeling let down. Must be the day after Christmas phenomena.

After eating a lunch of pasta salad, vegetarian pita sandwich, cheese pizza, apple and free water, Clare was less interested in hearing authors talk than before. She began to complain in earnest. We decided to sit in the Teens and Children's tent to hear the author. Walter Dean Meyers, before Sharon Creech. It was good we did because the rain began just as we sat down. I was glad to see that author since Creech used him as a character in one of her books.

Dean and Andrew arrived (noisily and distractingly) during Mr. Meyers' talk. Clare decided to go to a museum with Dean while Andrew loyally sat with me. We got a front row seat (albeit on the ground) for Sharon Creech's talk. The highlight of my day was when she was being introduced. I must have had a big grin on my face because as she looked out at the audience, grinning herself, her smiling eyes met and held my eyes, and her grin widened. A small connection, but one that I'll remember for a long time. She was entertaining in her presentation, calling children from the audience to play out scenes in her latest novel for kids, Replay. The only disappointment was that she said she had a wrist injury. She said she had a wrist injury two years ago too when I was helping out with the signing lines. Perhaps she has a chronic injury and can only sign one book per person, but I briefly wondered if she made it up both times.

Andrew was hungry so we headed over to the food area where he got in a very long line for a piece of over-priced pizza. I ran over to the Children's tent to see Phyllis Reynolds Naylor, but was interrupted by a text message and then a phone call from Clare who claimed we had a deal to leave at 3:30, even if it meant I could not finish listening to Ms Naylor. While I would have liked to hear what she had to say, I was fine with leaving. I'd spent an afternoon with Phyllis Reynolds Naylor when she visited my daughter's school. I got to sit near her, help her with the autographing (I got to be Shiloh that day, stamping his pawprint in the books she autographed) and talk to her about writing. I think I she was pleasantly surprised when I told her I read and enjoyed her adult novel. I sort of tired of Ms Naylor after reading some of the Alice books and being uncomfortable about some of the material in them.

The trip home was uneventful except for one line overheard on the metro. A still psyched up middle-aged protester asked a young man what language he was speaking. He replied that he was speaking Russian. They discussed his visit to the US and she remarked that "we had a pretty good meeting down there today" to which he smiled and pointed at the anti-war slogan on her t-shirt. He then asked when the big protest was taking place. She looked taken aback and said that it was today. He smiled, shook his head and asked again. "But when is the big protest?" He got on the metro at the same stop we did so I am surprised he didn't see the throngs of protesters. Or perhaps he was joking with her. I thought it was kind of funny.

Clare seemed to feel guilty for dragging me away from the last speaker and was very chatty on the way home.

Below are a few photos I shot with my sidekick. They are all very low resolution.

John Irving
The tiny speck on the right of the stage is John Irving. (the seated one)

Neil Gaiman
This is Neil Gaiman. I think he forgot to use his hair mayonaise.

Sharon Creech
Here is Sharon Creech getting ready to call up audience members to play out some
scenes from one of her books.

Friday, September 23, 2005

National Book Festival

If someone gave me a choice to spend a day among authors or a day among famous actors I'd choose the day with authors without hesitation. Tomorrow is such a day. Tomorrow there will be more than 80 published authors in Washington DC between 14th and 7th Streets on about 12 acres of land.

Tomorrow is the National Book Festival on the National Mall.

This will be the third year I've attended, and the first year I didn't volunteer. The first year - 2003 - I got to see several of my favorite authors who write for children and young adults. It was a cold damp day but I was prepared with sweaters, gloves and raingear. I was lucky enough to be working with the signing tables, so saw these men and women up close. I also heard a few during their talks. I was not brave enough to talk to any of them - most were preoccupied with signing hundreds of books. I wished I had talked to Nancy Farmer whose The Ear, the Eye and the Arm was a favorite of mine when I was a teacher. Her line was the shortest and she was free for a few moments before the end of her designated signing period. I also got to hear Avi, Jane Yolen, Sharon Creech and R. L. Stine. I was surprised that Stine was the most outgoing, but maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised.

The second year, last year, was a beautiful day, however I had a less interesting job of picking up debris and straightening chairs between authors in the Children and Children and Teen tents. I was able to hear a few interesting speakers including Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi who co-wrote the Spiderwick Chronicles. Another interesting author was Richard Peck. He happened to be reading from his book The Teacher's Funeral. During his talk he claimed to have thought up the best opening line in the world for the book he was writing: Here Lies the Librarian which comes out in January 2006.

So tomorrow I will get to hear some of my favorite authors but not have to work. Here is my schedule for tomorrow:

I'll try to get there by 10 so I can go to the pavilions and maybe pick up one of the coveted Book TV(?) bags that usually run out by noon.

I'll head over to the Fiction pavilion close to 11:30 to get in line to get a seat for John Irving's interview at 11:50. Getting a good seat for him will be great since Neil Gaiman follows him at 12:40.

I will probably try to find a bite to eat, or eat a bag lunch I brought and then head over to see Sharon Creech in the Teens tent and then Phyllis Reynolds Naylor in the Children's tent. Finally, if I still feel up to it I want to see Jon Kabat-Zin.

Sunday night I plan on going to Virginia to see Neil Gaiman once more. So I guess this will be a literary kinda weekend for me.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

If I dig a very deep hole, where would I end up?

If I dug a deep hole in my backyard,

I'd end up somewhere west of Australia, in the Ocean.

Pileated Woodpeckers

Went to bed late last night and didn't sleep well and got up early due to some volunteer work issues.

Decided to get some work for pay done early this morning when my husband called me upstairs to show me some "big red headed woodpeckers" in the neighbor yard. I assumed they were pileated, and was correct. What I didn't expect was to see four of them, three foraging on the lawn and one hammering on the nearby tree trunk.

I've seen several pileated woodpeckers in my life, and have seen up to two from my front porch (there used to be a dead tree kitty corner from our house where they may have lived). I had never seen four of them together though. I imagine it was a family, but I don't know the family dynamics of woodpeckers.

I pronounce pileated with a "long i", but most people pronounce it with a "short i". I once read in a Northern Wisconsin publication it should be pronounced with a "long i". gives says both are correct:

pi le at ed (pi-'le--a-'ti(d) pronunciation also pi le ate (-i(t) adj.

It was a nice surprise on this morning of minor worries.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Globetechnology: Please -- it's LEGO, not Legos

I had no idea I was incorrect.

Forgive me LEGO. I won't make the mistake again!