Sunday, August 11, 2013

Make Good

Neil Gaiman was in town on Tuesday, and there are many accounts of his visit floating around the interwebs. I loved Adam Carter's about why he didn't stay for the signing. He has Spider-Man with a camera as his Twitter cover image and is therefore COOL. I also love Christie from Bibliophiliacs post about being Neil's penwoman for the event. Because table-side perspective allows her to give everyone the reason for why this signing tour had to be the last.

It's always a joy to see someone whose work has had such an impact on me, listen to him read stories as only he can, and share a moment—be it an introduction over The Graveyard Book, giving him a book for All Hallows Read at WFC in San Diego, or saying hello on behalf of a mutual acquaintance. Please note my guilty sense of privilege here, as our paths have crossed a number of times. I wouldn't expect him to remember. He doesn't need to, so long as I remember them.

That's part of why I almost didn't go on Tuesday. The larger reason being that I had had a defeating, exhausting day. Really, I wanted to go home and curl up in a ball and not talk or have anyone asking me for things. Because I have nothing left to give. Just dust and fumes.

My boss left work to pursue an amazing opportunity at the beginning of July. I am incredibly happy for her, but it hasn't been easy for me. We'd worked together for three years. There's a silence to my work-life that my voice alone can't fill. My coworkers are doing whatever they can to help, but there are things that only I can do, and if I don't do them then they don't get done.

When you are thigh-deep in impossible, it becomes so easy to lose sight of everything else. You fixate on tiny things, on what's right in front of you, because it's what seems manageable. If you think of the scope of it all too much, you freeze. You shut down. And you can't, because you are the only one who can do those things that need doing. (Maybe you aren't, but it feels like you are.)

I had bought my friend Jenn a ticket to the Neil At Indigo event for her birthday. I'd also promised Amanda Sun to get a book signed for her. (She was at BEA, but had a signing at the Harlequin booth the same time as Neil's talk. For his Toronto event, she had to be in Calgary to do one of her own.) At coffee with Amy McCulloch, who listened when I really needed someone to, she said to tell Neil hello from her. And I promised I would.

And that's three reasons why I did go to the event. Another being Chelsey, who invited me to write the Indigo Blog review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane with her. She made sure I left work on time, ate before the event, and remembered to be excited. Unfortunately, we didn't get to sit together because it was reserved seating and we'd bought tickets at different times. But we texted a few times to keep track of each other.

It was a great event. Neil read, and he answered questions, and he was generally wonderful. I livetweeted so that people who weren't there could share in the experience a little bit. And I forgot how awful my day had been and how difficult my month had been.

So when I got up to Neil, I told him hello from Amy. (I hope you have a chance to meet her one day, if you haven't, because she is a wonderful person.) Then I thanked him for retweeting our Indigo review. Because I couldn't say "thank you for being one of the people who taught me how to do my job well and writing things that inspire me to keep doing it even when it feels impossible." You can't put that weight on a stranger, not when you've already taken more than your thirty seconds of his time and there are 1000 other people waiting for theirs.

While the crowd was waiting for rows to be called up to join the signing line, a Twitter follower of @IndigoTeenBlog came over to say hello and thank me for a book she'd won via a giveaway. (Her account of the signing is here. It was her first author event.) This is the thing about Neil's events that we don't talk about—yes, he has had tremendous impact on creative people. We Make Good Art because he reminds us to, but we don't talk about the less visible kindness entanglement he creates. When he indulges someone for a moment, gives that bit of kindness, that person goes out and spreads it to others.

And if we're really, really lucky we get to give it back to him. Maybe as reassurance that a book he wrote is good enough to be read twice before it's been released. More often we get to give those moments to others. We practice the art of kindness. We make good.

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