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.