Saturday, October 10, 2009

It Snowed This Morning

It snowed this morning. I thought it had all melted by the time I went out walking with a camera, but here's a sprinkling of snow on a tree-fungus. It's just wrong. I am not ready for winter. Not yet.

And below is Cabal and some leaves (and Maddy). Many of you have written in to ask why he's not wearing his Go Away Hunters And Do Not Shoot At Me orange cape. It is because he dashed off into the woods the other night after a deer, and returned without it.

Probably the deer is now wearing it to bamboozle hunters.

I'm madly trying to finish things before I head out to China for a few weeks, to wrap up the research on my Journey to the West project (this trip was meant to have happened in Feb/March, but the one-two good-bad punch of winning the Newbery Medal and my father dying threw the whole planned shape of the year out of whack, and it's not back yet).

I finished a short story called "The Thing About Cassandra" and the editors accepted it (hurrah, especially because they were most gracious earlier this year when a story I was writing for them crumbled into dust and ash in my hands before it was done). I'm trying to finish a short story about a cave on the Misty Isle before I leave, and I'll be recording my stuff for my NPR Morning Edition piece. Sxip Shirey is working on the music for my short film soundtrack and every day he sends me bits of music and I play them, and send back a yes, or a no, or a why don't we try this?

We harvested the honey on Thursday, and Cat Mihos chronicled it all on her blog ( including film footage of me shaking bees off a frame, so I refer you there for photos and an account of our day's Beeing. Strangely my favourite moment was when the bees from the Green hive got upset, and suddenly I found myself crouching by the hive in the middle of a storm of very angry bees... and found myself feeling very peaceful and placid, and didn't move and I let them stop being grumpy, and all was good. (Except for Hans and the Birdchick both being stung on their ankles and through their bee suits).

Both were fun, and started giving me ideas for how to do the CBLDF Reading Tour next year.

Hi Neil,

I know Banned Book Week is over, but since you discussed it on your journal, I hope you won't mind one more question about it.

When is it OK to challenge a book? Should a book be challenged at all if it seems inappropriately placed? For example, I read a lot of young adult, and I found myself reading a book that was distasteful to me, as an adult. (I thought the language and sexual incidents were gratuitous to the story, and beyond what I would want a teenager reading.) I pointed this out to the children's librarian, and she said it would be reviewed. Afterward, I panicked a bit. Had I done something wrong, I wondered. Had I just banned a book?

In your opinion, is there ever a time to challenge a book's placement? For the record, I still don't believe in outright banning a book from a public library, but now I'm not sure how I feel about challenges to young adult sections.


Amanda R., Louisville, KY

I'm not a librarian or part of the ALA, so you're getting one author's opinion here.

I don't think drawing a librarian's attention to a book, or even suggestion that it's been mis-classified is in any way wrong, or an attempt to ban books. My collection M IS FOR MAGIC exists mostly because I'd noticed some middle schools had begun to buy Smoke and Mirrors and really wasn't comfortable with that book, which contains some stories that really were just intended for adults, being in middle school libraries. (I don't have a problem with it being in High School libraries.)

I think librarians make judgment calls all the time, judgment calls based on community standards, on what they believe about books, and about those books that exist in the grey areas between Children's Books and YA, between YA and Adult Fiction. (Occasionally, as when I hear about The Graveyard Book being kept under the counter, or away from kids under 14, I find it irritating. But, as I say, I also think that librarians are allowed to make judgment calls.)

At the end of the day, I don't think the problem is the people who want to figure out where books get shelved. It's people who want to remove the books entirely, and would very much like to burn them. It's people stealing books as a way of making sure that other people don't read them.

(Here's an excellent article from the School Library Journal about the dilemma of shelving The Graveyard Book - -
which concludes,
Are some libraries shelving Gaiman’s book in the YA section because of its disturbing opening scene? If so, then that “clearly smacks of self-censorship,” says Pat Scales, president of the Association of Library Services to Children. Scales, who says that although determining what materials belong in the children and young adult section is oftentimes difficult, “Anytime you keep something from its intended audience or make it difficult for them to find, that’s self-censorship.” And that’s against professional ethics.

Scales’s advice is to buy one copy for the children’s section and another for the YAs. “Kids have loved ghost stories from the beginning of time,” she says. “What are you going to do? You can’t keep all ghost stories out of the children’s room.”

but truthfully, I wouldn't blame any librarian who decided they wanted The Graveyard Book kept in YA. I would get grumpy if confronted with librarians who had decided not to get The Graveyard Book for their libraries, despite the Newbery Medal, because they thought kids should be protected from it.

Dear Neil,

I’m sure you get loads of nice mail from lots of people around the world. How much nasty mail do you get, though, and does it make you feel bad? If it does, how do you deal with that? I’m a beginning author and I just got my first piece of nasty mail, wherein the writer said she had an absolute “hate crush” on me. I consoled myself with cake and wine but the effects were predictably fleeting.


There are mean and crazy people out there, and the relative anonymity of the Internet means that there are always those who will glory in their ability to do the online equivalent of pushing a dead rat through your mail box and running away. You just have to pay attention and you rapidly notice,

a) they're a bit mad.

b) they are very few in number and

c) it's only the internet.

I get well over ten thousand FAQ messages in on this site every year. Most of them don't get posted, because most of them are people saying, in various ways, thank you. Out of that ten thousand there will be a handful, no more than a dozen or so, of weird, poisonous, creepy or crazy ones that come in (from a distinctly smaller number of people than there are email addresses). Most of those get filtered before they reach me. And the ones that make it through normally leave me with a strange, joyous feeling that I must be doing something right if those people don't like me. I'm fascinated by how much more upset they get whenever I get a big award or something good happens.

(On Twitter, I learned very rapidly that any people who posted something nasty, to whom I gave a second chance, would then post something REALLY nasty. So I learned to block first offenders without any troubling of my conscience.)

My advice to you would be to do with creepy emails what Kingsley Amis used to say he did with bad reviews: he let them spoil his breakfast, but didn't let them spoil his lunch. Let the effects of the creepy people be fleeting too. And keep writing, and keep doing well, because it really seems to irritate them.

Which reminds me, The Graveyard Book was made a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honours book, this year, and you can see video footage of the awards ceremony at, including my editor Elise Howard reading the actual speech I wrote, and the video I recorded for them just as I went down with the hell-flu of last week.


Right, more Tabs closing:

I was sorry to learn that Henry Selick and Laika, the director of and studio who made the Coraline movie, are parting company. They were an unstoppable combination, and I wish both of them extremely well in whatever they do in the future.

Was thrilled to see One and a Half books by me on the Australian Favourite Books of All Time list.

Was fascinated by this New Scientist article -- I've been interested in this ever since I read Ann Hubble talking about the experiment breeding Arctic Foxes for tameness, which, in a couple of decades, produced an animal profoundly doglike. (And the footage of the tame vs aggressive rats is a little chilling...)


I just noticed that to celebrate our Year On The Bestseller Lists, over at, where you can still watch me read ALL of The Graveyard Book for free, new Q&A videos have started appearing.

(It looks like they've been going up for the last 5 weeks. I should have mentioned them here, sorry.)

If you head off to you will see lots of me answering questions. It's surprising to me how tired I look in them -- I'd forgotten just how gruelling the schedule was, and now all I remember is how immensely enjoyable it was to read stories to and answer questions from so many people across the USA.

Labels: , , , , ,