Saturday, June 25, 2011

Neil Gaiman at MPR's Wits

"Our worries, fears, and dreams make fantastic stories. Take them with you as you grow up."
-Neil Gaiman at Wits

Ten years ago I was working at K-Mart. I remember meeting this guy that was wearing a Star Wars shirt that I wanted. Despite that, we hit it off pretty quick and I remember smiling as I walked away from the encounter. It was his first week of working and we became fast friends. That guy became my boyfriend six months later and is now my husband. We haven't celebrated how we met before, but this year it was different. It has been ten years and we have been married for five of them. That is what I call a Blue Light Special.

To celebrate, we decided to drive to the Twin Cities to attend the MPR Wits event that featured Neil Gaiman, who is one of our favorite authors. We have had a hard time catching Neil Gaiman in person. I was fortunate enough to ask him a question on NPR about his book Anansi Boys while he was recording The Graveyard Book at the NPR studios in Minneapolis. The two times we were hoping to see him in person were thwarted by a scheduling conflict and the second time by the death of our beloved pet, Cherrie. We almost didn't go this time due to Joey's work schedule, but we managed to book the tickets.

I am so thrilled that we were able to attend. The whole event was more than I ever could have imagined or hoped to have witnessed. The atmosphere of downtown St. Paul where the Fitzgerald Theater helped set the tone that something special was about to happen. We have never been there before, and walking through the doors, we were surrounded by many conversations of different that I wanted to jump into (like someone talking about the Nook, which I adore mine). Outside were Neil Gaiman's infamous dogs, Cabal and Lola, and we spotted his younger daughter, Maddy (I recognized her from his tweet photos).

To entertain the audience, they used the projection screen to show off the tweets by the audience who used the hashtag #wits. I am a huge fan of Twitter and this was a great way to get people to interact with each other and kept people entertained. There was also an accordion player who started to bring the audience together, and once mixed with Twitter, we were able to hear delightful versions of "Freebird" and "Smoke on the Water".

The interview with Neil Gaiman reminded me of how much I love to listen to him talk about his
writing, and really, anything in general (Daleks!). There is something about the way he carries himself, uses his words wisely, and has me learning something about the way I approach writing. The quote at the top of the post really gave me a moment to pause, to really dig into my own experience. I had to pull myself back for a moment so I could listen to the rest of what he was saying. It wasn't a bad thing, but he really helped with the formation of my current work in progress where I decided to look at the story from a different angle to see how I can make it better. I did this after finding a quote of his that made perfect sense to me. I now always pause before writing with these words in mind: You can take for granted that people know more or less what a street, a shop, a beach, a sky, an oak tree look like. Tell them what makes this one different. He reiterated this point during the interview (in more or less the same words).

Josh Ritter was the musical guest and we were treated with his songs, as well as his humor (and Neil's) during the games that were played with Mystery Science Theater 3000's Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy. We found out some interesting tidbits about historical figures such as Emily Dickinson and Ben Franklin, as well as the "real" stories behind familiar songs.

Phone guests Wil Wheaton and Adam Savage from "Mythbusters" brought a lot of laughter to the theater. I broke into tears of laughter when LotR's Gollum decided to come on the line during Adam's bit to sing us "I Will Survive". I am curious to hear what it sounds like over the amount of laughter since I could barely hear his voice over it at times (I am sure that will be fixed with the magic of radio).

We were graced with two readings by Neil Gaiman. His book American Gods came out ten years ago (odd, right around the time Joey and I met so it worked with our little celebration!) so he read Sam's "I Believe" speech from the book and his short story "When the Saucers Came"(I believe from his Fragile Things short story collection). He also sang us a song about Joan of Arc that he wrote called "The Problem with Saints".

The Wits event wasn't just an appearance by the guests, but it was recorded for Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). We caught some of the magic of a radio show, and really, I think they produced a terrific piece for their listeners (and viewers who watch the online event). There was a sense of magic in the air, the kind I find when I attend geek conventions, and it was a real treat to be a part of something like that. We may have missed a panel at a convention, or a reading at bookstore, but this was something entirely different and original. It was a piece of radio, a visual treat, and geek art.

If you have the time and interest, you can go to this link to watch all the things that I have spoken about. If you want to jump right into the show, you can go around 18 minutes in. The total video is about 3 hours long.

If you want to go with two of the highlights, MPR posted two videos on their YouTube Channel that include the Josh Ritter's video of "Galahad" (they aren't able to use it on air and it was after the taping) and Neil Gaiman performing "The Problem with Saints". I'm sure they will make you wish you were there or that you watched the whole event! You can still do so with the link in the paragraph above.

If you haven't (or have!) read Neil Gaiman, go out and purchase the 10 year Anniversary Edition of American Gods. It has additional scenes that weren't in there before. Be check out the other guests, as well.

My Other Neil Gaiman Related Blog Posts:

Additional Links:


1 comment:

  1. Great writer!
    It seems The Rhyme Maidens is finally going to be published but the price is brutal! The Rhyme Maidens by Neil Gaiman to be published


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