I first learned about Neil Gaiman, not through his graphic novels but through his children’s book Coraline, as a read aloud for my fourth graders. Later he became an inspiration. After consuming The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish, I was drawn to the edginess, multimedia illustrations, and overall out of the box thinking for a children’s book.
I didn’t know what to expect coming to hear a talk titled What The @#$%&*! is a Children’s Book Anyway? He spoke candidly and honestly. He took a down to earth spin on what a children’s book encompasses. Neil inspired me that becoming an author could be an attainable goal, not left to an imagined elite group. Getting the chance to talk with him and meet him, I was scared and didn’t know what to say. Standing in line, there was an excited buzz that echoed in the great hall of Chicago’s Harold Washington Library. The “die hards” formed a line to get a handshake and picture, while most consumed a wine and cheese reception. Everyone around me had this reverence to Neil Gaiman as the Michael Jordan of books. I felt more intimidated by the people around me than Neil Himself, that is until it was my turn to meet Mr. Gaiman. Scared, I felt the nudge from my husband, ready, knowing I needed to be vulnerable in order to share. I made an easy connection after explaining my own path to writing for children. Asking the question he probably had so many other people ask before, “What would your advice be for an aspiring author?” I remember that he made eye contact and held my gaze and gave importance to my time with him. In all sincerity he explained to write every day and don’t give up. It’s funny how the same words you’ve heard so many times throughout your life, just doesn’t have the same effect as when I heard the advice from Mr. Gaiman. That short business meeting I realized and gave myself permission to dream a little bit bigger and a have a little more confidence. And the way to get where I want is to put one step in front of the other and write everyday. Write when you don’t want to write. Draw when you don’t want to draw.
Thank you, Neil. It meant a lot to take the time to look at me and to make a connection and talk openly. I felt excited coming away from our meeting with an adrenalin rush, ready to move forward. Neil says humbly that every author competes best with himself. No one can write a better Neil Gaiman book than Neil Himself. Through our brief interaction, Neil taught me that there is no one else that can write a Mrs. Weisz book like I can. And in turn that there is no one else that can excel in your passions.