Saturday, November 27, 2004

probably not a gold watch

This morning I went down to Comics Showcase, where I was presented with my Eagle Award. The Eagle Awards date back to 1976, and are the UK's foremost comics award, as well as being the oldest award in English-speaking comics. (They've dropped out from time to time, so it's nice to see them back.) This year I was put on the the Eagle Award "Roll of Honour", which is close enough to a Lifetime Achievement Award to send me into a state of panic. Mike Conroy, the Eagle Awards organiser, did his best to reassure me that this wasn't the comics equivalent of a gold watch and a farewell pat on the back. (The last time I got an Eagle Award it was a certificate: it's now a bloody great eagle, and is magnificently heavy into the bargain.)

This afternoon I saw Julian Crouch (from the Improbable Theatre Company) and we paid a visit to Dave McKean who played us several bits of the so-nearly-finished-you-can-taste-it Mirrormask. The main difference between this version and the last one I saw is that the sound is now finished -- all the foley work and post-production dubbing, and I couldn't believe how much difference it made. It sounded like a real movie. Dave's just doing some final colour grading and then it's done. After that I went to see Julian and Nick Powell in the Animo Project at the Little Angel Theatre -- astonishing improvisational puppet, mask and everything else work. Some nights, they told me, it doesn't work. This was one of the nights it did. (Tomorrow -- Saturday -- is the last couple of performances. Catch it if you can.)

Julian is designing and co-directing the theatrical Wolves in the Walls children's pandemonium, and Nick is making the music for it. (I'm writing the words.)


Somebody wrote asking you for advice on what to look for in a good MFA program. I think the simplest answer to them is: figure out what you're looking for and then find a school that has it.

There are lots of MFA schools, and I'm sure there's some directory out there, and there are school ads in Poets & Writers magazines, with website addresses where you can check them out and request info and application packets.

The most important thing is to know what you want to get out of your couple of years and thousands of dollars. What will your concentration be (poetry, fiction, writing for children, etc.) do you want structured writing classes, or looser workshop classes. It's also important, I think to get an idea of the faculty, and possibly even to read some of what they've written. This was a big factor when I chose my school. I wanted to be taught by writers I had heard of, and by writers who I thought were good, and who I thought I'd have something to learn from.

In the end the name of the school you've gone to, or really that you've gotten your MFA at all doesn't matter. I have an MFA in Creative Writing, and there's no job that I can get with just those letters. In the two years I spent in my MFA program I enjoyed books I wouldn't have read otherwise, I met wonderful people I wouldn't have met otherwise, and I wrote more, and more often than I would have written otherwise. It was wonderful, hard, exciting and frustrating. However, now there are loans to pay back, no immediate and high paying job, and I still have a ways to go before I'm published. I don't regret going to grad school, but I'd advise caution. Know what you want. Know what you're getting into.

Hope that helps.

:-) Carol

So do I.

This is a question about the buttons on the left hand side of your website. All of them except FAQ have their individual letters reversed until I wave my mouse over them. For FAQ this happens in reverse, so it's quite easy to read until I wave my mouse over it. Why is this? Am I missing something of deep and meaningful significance which would, if I knew about it, cause me to be a good and happy person for the rest of my life? Rosie

Dear Rosie,


Yours apologetically,


Dear Neil,what would it sound like, if Michael Nyman met Bjork? Strange? Ever heard of "Under Byen"? Danish Band. Name means "Below the City", or so. Neverwhere? I just found them by pure coincidence. Lovely video, strange music: Have a nice time, Jamilah

It's really lovely, yes. Reminds me more of the wonderful Stina Nordenstam than Bjork (and also of the lady whose name I have shamefully forgotten who sings "Close to You" and "If I Apologise..." on Mirrormask) -- that strangely affectless Scandinavian way of singing, like small girls singing nursery rhymes about dead people straight into the middle of your head.

Hey Neil, I'm usually really wary of people turning books I love into films, but I found the news that the animated version of 'Howl's Moving Castle' by the wonderful Diana Wynne Jones broke Japanese box office records and took 14 million dollars really exciting! It's just so strange to think that an author I love, who's books were going out of print as I read them (they started to get re-issued a couple of years back, thank gods) is now responsible for this monster hit.

I was really excited by MirrorMask from the start though, because it's a new thing a won't have the option of ruining something I love, but am now doubly excited - I didn't know Stephanie Leonardis was taking the lead! She is an excellent young actress (she starred in a British series called 'Night and Day' which was utterly bizarre and wonderful -when ITV realised they'd accidentally made something really strange and interesting they cancelled it).I'm hoping that the success of 'Howl' in Japan will help it get a British release (which was looking doubtful before) - hopefully Mirrormask will do the same at Sundance - the trailer looks amazing. Best wishes, Luke.

I'm glad you reminded me: is the news about Howl's Moving Castle. It makes me very happy indeed. And yes, Stephanie Leonidas is the lead, Helena, in Mirrormask, and is marvellous.

I'm thrilled for Diana, who's an old friend (I've known her for almost 20 years) and would love to see more films of her books. Dogsbody would make an amazing animated film. The Time of the Ghost could be heartbreaking and intriguing.

I'm still hoping that David Goyer will find someone who will bankroll his version of my story Murder Mysteries. He wrote it for Miramax, and everyone loved it except for Bob Weinstein, who didn't like it one little bit. It's an astonishingly fine script -- as tricky as the original short story and then some. (David talks about it at

Mister Punch rehearsal and recording in a few hours, so I had better stop writing and go to bed now. (And yes, I'll put up on the blog as soon as I know when it's going to be broadcast.)