Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Neil Gaiman Is So Worth It

Because I’m an avowed Neil Gaiman groupie, Gale, my fellow Paper Waiter, clued me in on a recent war of words between Mr. Gaiman and Matt Dean, the Republican leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, which was first reported in the Star Tribune, the Twin Cities local paper.

If you missed the story, Dean called Mr. Gaiman a “pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota,” for accepting that amount to give a four-hour lecture at a Minnesota library last year. The money, by the way, came from a state-funded arts fund that was about to expire, so it was a case of use it or lose it.

As Mr. Gaiman clarified in his elegantly written and wonderfully titled blog post, “The Opinions of a Pencil-necked Weasel-thief,” the fee he received was actually $33,600; the money went to two charities (“a sexual abuse one and a library/author one”); and he only charges such a high fee to dissuade people from asking him to speak—not surprisingly, he says he gets a lot of requests—so he can focus on what he’s supposed to do—write.

Mr. Gaiman added that he doesn’t like being called a thief, but he likes “pencil-necked weasel” because “It has the word "pencil" in it. Pencils are good things. You can draw or write things with pencils.”

I just love his pencil defense. As for his neck, I happen to think Mr. Gaiman has one of the nicest necks I’ve ever seen on a children’s book author. And that lovely British accent. Sigh. After hearing him read from The Graveyard Book, at an author series in NYC, I’m convinced he could read from an air conditioner installation manual and make it sound like Keats.

But I digress. So tell me, are you Team Dean or Team Neil? (In the interest of full disclosure, Dean later apologized.)

Another question: Which other children’s book authors do you think are wonderful speakers? Richard Peck and Joan Bauer, both of whom reduced me to tears, are on my list. Like Neil Gaiman, I think they are totally worth the money, be it a speaking fee and/or the price of admission.

p.s. Event alert: While we’re on the topic of author talks, if you live in the NYC area, some top YA authors, including Ally Condie and Scott Westerfeld, will be speaking about “Writing for Teens Today” at the New York Public Library’s Mulberry Street Branch, on Wednesday, May 25, 2011, at 5:30 p.m. Here’s the link.


  1. J.L.
    I knew you'd get a post out of this! Anyone dissing Neil is enough to send you bonkers. And dissed he was. . . until he wrote that marvelous post on his blog.

    Neil Team for me - especially against the nudniks of the world.

  2. I sat next to J.L. at that author series and I swear, she totally behaved herself!

    As far as which team I support? Um. That is one of the easiest decisions ever. Neil, all the way.

    I also loved hearing Jerry Spinelli speak. His presentation was much more easy going that others I have seen, but no less inspiring.

  3. Should we get shirts?

    Team (effing) Neil. All the way.

    He's the yummiest pencil-neck weasel around...

    ...oh,and he writes really well...funny, poignant, just all together perfect...TGB made me laugh and cry, I kind of love that in a book.

    I've had the good fortune to see Laurie Halse Anderson speak a few times. There's a Speak pun there somewhere...Anyhow - always inspiring! At one talk she handed out daffodil bulbs and talked about how great things take time to grow. They need dark places, room to grow, air, water, etc. it was a lovely writing metaphor.

    Now hmmm...Neil Gaiman and the dark might be interesting too. :)

  4. Jay Asher gave a talk at an SCBWI NY conference a few yrs ago that has really stuck with me. He's awesome. And Jack Gantos spoke at the same conference- his wild enthusiasm for all things kids books was wonderful. Alan Gratz is also a fabulous presenter- I've learned alot from him.

  5. Gale: Yes, entering into a dissing debate with Neil Gaiman is a dumb idea. His response, be it oral or written, will no doubt out-diss the disser.

    J.A.: I only behaved myself outwardly. Inwardly, I was behaving very badly.

    Robin: I was hoping to hear from my fellow Gaiman groupie! In my post, I got so preoccupied with his neck, I neglected to mention how much I love his writing. I second your emotion for TGB...and I thought Coraline was great, too.

    CL: I'm a huge Jay Asher fan. I find his own personal backstory--about how he finally got published, after writing something like 11 unsold manuscripts--to be very inspirational. I'd love to hear him speak some day.

    Everyone, thanks for naming some of your favorite speakers. I need some inspiration today, so I'm heading over to YouTube to watch some of their author videos. It's the next best thing to being there..