Tuesday, September 29, 2009

On banning books and escaping from the attic...

Another not-quite-back-on-top-of-things-yet day. Awake at 5.00am expecting to drift back to sleep, and I didn't. Ah well. Wandering around the house unshaven, in my oldest dressing gown, feeling vaguely scary, like a crazed uncle who has escaped from the attic.

Frost is predicted for tomorrow, so lots of frantic apple-picking and tomato-gathering is happening right now. But I am not doing it. I am wearing a ratty dressing gown and blogging.

Hi Neil,
I know you're a wonderfully self assured and present writer who may not need more Positive Thoughts, but what the heck, here's one.
I wanted to say in response to the "tired of hearing about Amanda" reader that I'm on the other side. Not that I want every post to contain Amanda, but I always smile when you do mention her and what fun you all have been having. You do the same when talking about Holly, or Maddy, or Mike, or Bees, and that's cool. Maybe people don't want to hear about them either, but whatever. :)
I think they're all great and I love to hear your stories. It makes us feel a little part of your life (for those of us who know you're a Real Life Person and not just an Award Winning Writer.) I will sometimes tell my husband, "Guess what Neil and Amanda did!" Or, "Maddy's going to meet the Jonas Brothers!" or "Amanda just auctioned off a date with Holly!" or "Mike works at GOOGLE!" (My husband is a computer programmer so he was very excited about that.)
Anyway, if that makes me weird, so be it, but the internet has a way of forming a community that we're all still figuring out, and is wonderful, and intertwined, and sometimes fantastically small. Just the way I like it.

Love and Laughter,

Oh. Good. That makes me happy. I don't think I like being an Award Winning Author very much -- it seems to carry with it an awful lot of respectability and such that I know I didn't sign up for, but I love being a Real Life Person, and delight in being Maddy and Holly and Mike's dad, or being the person who comes up with the plan to unite Zoe, the blind cat in the attic with Hermione, the deaf cat in the basement. (NB. This plan may not work.)

And the most interesting thing to me about this internet thing is that we all are sort of making it up as we go along.

Hey Neil,

Just wanted to let you know that I, personally, have no issue with you talking about Amanda. On the contrary, it let's me (and the other fans) know that you're happy. And that makes me happy to know it.

My question for you is, with Halloween coming up, do you have any favorite traditions? I'm trying to think of some good ways to celebrate the spookiest night of the year, so any ideas would be welcome!

By the way, congrats on staying on the bestsellers' list for so long! The Graveyard Book is amazing!

- Samantha

Hallowe'en traditions? Not really. For the last few years I've gone to my assistant Lorraine's house (she's been away) and scared children with a rather sweet looking rabbit that opens to reveal huge teeth and tongue... and a small bar of chocolate, sitting on the tongue.

And there are poems I like to read to Maddy on Hallowe'en.

(This year, however, I will be in Singapore on Hallowe'en. So I will read Maddy her poems when I get home.) (


It's Banned Books Week. There's a rather mad Wall Street Journal Editorial explaining how silly a Banned Book Week is (after all, if you're a kid and a book that somebody's parents didn't want any of you to read is removed from your school library, it's not really banned: you have the freedom to save up your pocket money and go out to the well-stocked bookshops you can somehow find in every American small town and buy a copy for yourself). The editorial doesn't quite go as far as claiming that libraries are UnAmerican, but it strongly implies that all librarians and people who work in libraries are, along with people who support the First Amendment -- unless they're trying, reasonably, like Good Americans, to stop other people's children from reading things they don't like. There's a cartoon of Good Americans being intimidated by a Scary Librarian too, for anyone who missed the point.

There's a ( from my perspective) sane reply to it over at the Huffington Post although I was more interested in the pie charts over at the ALA site, showing what books get challenged and who challenges them.

I've got a few letters from librarians over the last few months copying me on conversations about middle school libraries getting nervous about The Graveyard Book (the saddest bit of which was one worried middle school librarian explaining that she had no intention of reading it, but wanting to find out from other librarians if it was the kind of book that might get her into trouble) but on the whole my books seem to be relatively unbanned and unchallenged. I'm always aware that the next book I write might tip things over the edge. Or that some twerp might decide to challenge Coraline or The Graveyard Book, or Blueberry Girl...


According the the Guardian,
After winning a trio of major literary awards in the US, Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book has landed a nomination for the Booktrust teenage prize on a shortlist which is being described as the award's most subversive yet.
Hurrah for subversive award nominees.

The nominees are
Auslander by Paul Dowswell
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Ostrich Boys by Keith Gray
The Ant Colony by Jenny Valentine
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden by Helen Grant
The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness

Details and a photo at

Jonathan Carroll on Twitter pointed me at the photos of Australian criminals at from which I wandered to Haunting photographs. Much more fun than mug shots at the Smoking Gun.

Right. I better post this and start signing sheets for the limited edition of Neverwhere that Harper Collins are bringing out this year. (And that reminds me: Subterranean Press are doing an edition of Smoke and Mirrors, illustrated by and designed by Dave McKean. It's not cheap, but it gets more expensive on Friday. (If you liked Dave's very sold-out Subterranean edition of The Graveyard Book, this will be like that, only more so, because all the illustrations are original.)

And finally, we have a Magical Hallowe'en Party Map. It's at Five independent bookshops have listed their parties. I know -- from things booksellers have said to me -- that there are more to come. So, if you have a shop and a party planned, let the webgoblin know and he will make sure that your store is on the list.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Bet you thought I was... oh hang on, I used that one already

I'm home (for a little bit), and, as of yesterday, down with vague travel crud - a sort of combination of somewhat-sore throat and chest and low-level headache, general ache and cold, none of which would be enough to bother me on their own, but all together have felled me - possibly just so that I can catch up on my sleep instead of getting back home and immediately trying to catch up on work. So I'm sleeping a lot and drinking lemon and honey (we have honey. See for details) and slurping occasional soup.

I had a great time on the road (the most exciting bit was making my short film, the most upsetting bit was fearing my bag had been stolen while making my short film, while actually all that had happened was a helpful hotel person had put it into a hidden closet and closed the door, so the closet was hidden again). I went to Scotland and to Watford and to Berlin and Hamburg. I stayed in Imogen Heap's lovely flat in South London, and still have not met Imogen Heap. Saw an awful lot of my daughter Holly, who moved to the UK when she graduated, and who I miss.

Spent a lot of the time off the web, which was good, and something I'd been looking forward to. Wrote two longish short stories which I now have to type.

It got autumnal in the UK toward the end of our stay, and cold, wet and dark in Scotland. I had a couple of days of warm when I arrived back in the midwest, but it is now, today, officially, chilly Autumn. The trees are laden with apples, the grape-vines are covered with grapes, and the tomato plants are hung with very late tomatoes that need to be canned or salsaed or just cooked before they rot.

I landed in Minneapolis (after a massive 22 hour journey which began in Scotland), spent a night at home, saw my bees and went straight to the Midwestern Booksellers Association meeting, and was honoured with their Children's Literature Award (for The Graveyard Book). Also I chatted to a breakfast of booksellers about Odd and the Frost Giants.

I don't think I've said much about Odd here recently. It's out in the US now, in a shiny new hardback edition, with new illustrations by Brett Helquist. It's a book about using your head, I think. And about beauty. I talk about it at

There's a "trailer" for it here:

and you can read the first 25 pages from it at
(and, for those who do not have a helpful bookshop locally, the Amazon link is

I learned this morning that The Graveyard Book Audiobook I recorded won the UK Children's Audiobook of the Year (Dawn French won UK Audiobook of the Year for Dear Fatty, although I was disappointed that the article from the Independent doesn't mention the talented Lisa Tarbuck, who actually read the audiobook).

Strangely enough, the most frequently asked of all the questions waiting for me when I got back was What do bees smell like? Honest. So picking one of those from the pile...

Dear Mr. Gaiman,

My 5-year-old son, Avi, asked me what bees smell like. I told him that I don't know and was sad not to be able to answer such an excellent question. Today it occurred to me that you might have smelled bees. If you have, would you be willing to answer Avi's question?

Thank you for your time!

Elizabeth Israel-Davis
Portland, OR

Mostly bees, and bee-hives, smell honeyish, a thick sweet smell. If they get sick they can smell bad. But mostly they smell like honey.

Hey Neil, All Saint's Day is coming and I want to dance the macabray with my friends. Do you have any dance instructions other than "Step and turn, and walk and sway"?

Loved the book.


I think that readers of The Graveyard Book who perform their own version of the macabray will always be right. And should put video footage of themselves performing it be put up, I will try to link to it.

Which reminds me -- around this Hallowe'en many independent bookshops in the "lower 48" of the US are going to be having The Graveyard Book parties, in a bid to lure me out to sign in their shops in December. If you want to dance the macabray, or just enjoy a particularly graveyardy night, you may want to check if your local bookshop is doing one, and when.

(And if the bookshops who ARE going to be holding a Graveyard Book party want to let us know about it, then email your shop's name, the location of the party, the date and the time to and we will put a Master Graveyard Book Party list up here.) (Even if your party is in a location like Hawaii, Alaska, Manilla, Omsk or Edinburgh, places which do not qualify for win-a-Neil-Signing.)

Dear Neil,

I've been ogling over your bookshelves on Shelfari (of course) and noticed that you have the same bookcases that a lot of bookstores do, with the upslanted bottom shelf. I've been trying to figure out where to order these ever since I saw them in bookstores. Could you let me know where and about how much these are? Thank you!


Alas. I bought them from my local bookshop when they went out of business, some years ago, and do not know where they got them from.

Mr. Gaiman,

Are you aware of this:

"Young adult writers! Detroit teacher of blind kids wants your ebooks for her Braille printer!"

love you, love your work,
-- Justin

I was -- Cory sent it to me -- and I'll be getting them files for the Children's books. But I'm happy to spread the word further.

Amanda, Amanda, Amanda.

I miss hearing about your books and writings.

I am tired of hearing about your girlfriend...

You know, I wasn't going to mention Amanda in this post, until you reminded me. But we just spent six weeks together, working on the film and travelling and going to each other's events, and this blog, even when it gets a bit sporadic (as it has done over the last couple of months) is mostly going to be about what's going on, and who I'm with, and what I'm doing. If I'm somewhere doing something with Amanda, she'll get mentioned. (It's probably just as bad for some of her fans, who are going "who is this Neil and why is she singing to him anyway?")


There will be lots of catching up on everything in the next few weeks. And now the wonderful Cat Mihos is back from looking after the Jonas Bros, I can put some attention into helping her make into the website I think we both dream that it ought to be.

Olga Nunes, former webelf, designed a newNeverwear tee-shirt, with a line from Coraline suggested by a competition winner:


I wish that Blogger would get some apps for the android. I'm using a Mytouch as my phone right now, and while I like using it, it's frustrating how easy it is to Twitter, how hard to blog from it. I had discussions with people at Blogger when I started using the G1 about things that didn't work, which they agreed, after a short while, were actually bugs, and they suggested I try emailling things to the blog instead, which lasted one email, when it turned out that things a phone didn't think you needed to see in an email, like lots of people's email addresses, showed up in the blog version.


Finally, most of you probably know about the recent typhoon that hit the Philippines, and the flooding and loss of life. If you missed it, here's the BBC news, and here are some eyewitness reports

For right now, has a good rundown on ways to donate, from in the Philippines and out, while a donation to will help feed the hungry, and those who have lost their homes, in the Philippines.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I think I just made a film...

The film was finished. I spent the last few days editing it with a terrific editor named Amanda James, and it was handed in, with a cut-off of last night at 7:30pm, when we had to lock it (because today we will grade the film). At 7:28 we were sitting nervously looking at the phone waiting for the Senior Executive at Sky TV to tell us what he thought, and at 7:29 we had huge grins on our faces, because he had phoned and told us that he was very very happy indeed, had absolutely loved it and he wouldn't change a frame.

It's eight minutes and 21 seconds long.

So now it has to be graded, and our temporary soundtrack (a mishmash of The Velvet Underground, Owls, Rasputina, David Bowie, Steeleye Span, Bela Fleck, Kate Bush and Louis Armstrong) will be replaced by a real score, which will be written and recorded by the amazing Sxip Shirey.

And then it will be shown on Sky some time in the 12 days before Xmas (along with 12 other silent films, still being made).

I loved making it, loved editing it, loved working with talented people.

Tomorrow it's off to Berlin (not that I'm doing anything there. I'm with Amanda, for a donations-only gig she's doing) then to Hamburg ( where I am doing the book festival -- details at where you will also find out about me in Cleveland and Toledo in October and UC Santa Barbara in February).

Right. Off to grade my film now.

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Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Lights! Camera! Action!

Directing a film right now. No time to blog and barely time to breathe, but you can see Amanda's account of filming on Sunday and yesterday (with photos) over at

And my only comment is that everyone is so good at what they do, and my actors are so amazing (Bill Nighy is a dream to work with)( a good dream, not one of the scary kinds), that honestly I'm not sure what I'm doing apart from being made to look very good by everyone else.

Back to work now. We have to shoot Bill making sandwiches.


Friday, September 04, 2009

Back. Not dead. Hurrah.

I'm back from the Middle of Nowhere. I had a wonderful time with no internet, email or twitter. It was fine and fabulous. I caught up on my sleep. Amanda even persuaded me to go jogging with her in the Scottish rain.

Now in London.

On Sunday, I'll start shooting a short movie (you can learn all about it here). We'll be at Charter Place in Watford High Street (WD17 2BJ for the curious) and will be shooting on Sunday the 6th from around 11 until 6.00pm. There will be human statues, and people are welcome to come by and watch, throw money into bowls and see what the statues do, wave at a silent and statuesque Amanda Palmer and so forth. I'm happy for people to wander past and see what we're doing: I'll be working, so probably won't be stopping to sign books or say hullo, I'm afraid.

And, for the curious, this is what some of the downstairs library, and Hermione the Library Cat looks like. (I wish the upstairs library with all the good reference stuff was in it too.):

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