I had a curious evening on Monday, when I headed down to London for a Neil Gaiman signing. He has a new novel out: The Graveyard Book, and I have a, er, contact in the industry who invited me to what I assumed was a private signing for people in the book trade. The last time I went to one of his signings it turned out oddly – I stood in a queue for hours before getting himto sign a book on photographic theory – but this was a whole new level. It was a private event, but not like I thought.
There I was, in a private room underneath St. Martin in the Fields church at Trafalgar Square, feeling very out of place and trying hard not to look it. There were maybe 100 people milling about stone columns and becostumed ghouls, all drinking wine, looking very smart, and being worryingly well known. Here’s a guy who draws political cartoons in the Observer. Here’s the author of that children’s series you’ve been seeing everywhere. This lady runs the purchasing at x major publisher. Over there is a Telegraph reviewer. And is that Ruby Wax?!
I was so out of my depth it’s ridiculous. So I instigated Emergency Socialising Plan: stand up straight, keep head up, smile, do not drop glass, stick very close to friend. Thankfully I was at this point unaware of the enormous spot on my upper lip. This seemed to work.
A lady stops my friend to say she likes his shirt. Thank you, he says, and you are…? Oh, I illustrated some of Neil’s Sandman comics, she says. Holy crap, I think. General chit-chat occurs. I try to think of something clever to say, but then she’s gone. Said author, meanwhile, is mingling gently a few feet away.
Mingle mingle mingle. Do you work in the book trade, I’m asked. Not so much, but I’m trying to learn, I say. How are things going, asks the publishing rep. Ok, we say. Have you met Neil yet? No, not yet. Ok, I’ll bring him to you.
What do you mean, you’ll being Neil Gaiman to me? What? How is it possible this is really happening?
After a few minutes Neil Gaiman appears to sign my book, at which point my friend gets called away. I’m in a little bubble with just me and one of my favourite authors ever, and I am obviously unable to think of anything remotely interesting1, so I say something about being a long time blog reader. He’s very nice, does a wonderful little illustration in the front of my book, and grabs Dave McKean, who’s nearby. We both indicate he’s already signed it, and they move on. Not particularly coruscating on my part, but at least I didn’t say anything cringeworthy.
Later I’m chatting to Mrs McKean, who is quite possibly the nicest woman in the entire world, and she grabs her passing husband so I can say hello. I expect Dave McKean was sick of the sight of me by the end of the evening.
Overall, I think I held my own. A part of my brain said ‘be lively! be impressive! be memorable!’, which certainly didn’t happen; but I was ok, and I got to meet some very interesting people. And here’s the other thing that happened: a woman my own age came over to talk to me. I genuinely cannot think of a time this has happened before (I’m honestly not playing for sympathy, I just don’t go to the kind of places/events where it would). Admittedly I think she’d had a bit to drink, and I might have accidentally said something about not being in a cult, which was in hindsight a bit weird, but hey – that’s something new.
So it was an unexpectedly exhilarating evening. Worryingly, I quite enjoyed it. I’d quite like to be at such a thing without feeling like I shouldn’t be 🙂 Many thanks to my friend for wangling me a ticket.
- ten thousand things occurred on the way home, naturally [↩]