Sunday, November 9, 2008

Happy happy joy joy: Neil Gaiman & Chip Kidd

Here are my autographed sketches. I apologize to Mr. Kidd, I wasn't close enough to get a good likeness... and I have a better idea of what Neil looks like due to chance to sit up close and see him read the first chapter of The Graveyard Book.

Tonight I heard Chip Kidd, graphic design Jedi master, Batman enthusiast, and talented author interview Neil Gaiman the talented novelist, graphic novel author, screenwriter, up and coming director, and bee keeper. The event was at the 92nd Street Y, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, rather pricey but totally worth it. Chip asked all the right questions. Neil is such a superb natural story teller he could undoubtedly make a visit to his dental hygienist sound humorous and satisfying. I loved finding out he used to have wake yourself up and feel haunted bad dreams until he started mining them for material in his Sandman comics. It is incredible he wrote 75 issues of Sandman. 20 years later. A lovely commemorative event.

But wait, for a fan like me, this was a double header. Thanks to Neil I read about NaNoWriMo and am now in my second week of writing my first novel. Thanks to Chip I have seen the path a book designer can travel and his creative process has helped me take courage.

So I waited in line to have Neil sign my copy of Stardust, already signed by Charles Vess. I told Neil I'd sat next to Charles at the world fantasy convention and caught his dreadful cold in order to have his lovely sketch and signature in the book. (I really like Charles, he treated me and a friend to a whiskey too) I said I had also published Neil in The Poets' Grimm anthology and he remembered it fondly. Then I had him sign the sketch I'd done of him with my Pelican and he knew a good pen when he fisted it! Looked it over in the way we pen people do. And I use a lovely reddish brown, really a scab colored Mont Blanc ink (I've been using for years, even before I read Neil) in a hue he uses although a different manufacturer I think. He asked if it was a flexible nib and I said no, just that I'd used it a lot. He shook my hand and I am pleased to report that he does not have a cold clammy hand. It is good to know. I felt so happy I sort of floated away. My husband Jim got a shot of it.

I also got to talk to Chip Kidd and get his autograph on my sketch of him and tell him how tremendously much his work, career, talks, book on design, and slideshows about his creative process have helped me. I told him I came in first place in a category in the NY book show last year because I had stolen his ideas and in the process had created something, Alimentum, that looks nothing like his work. And the fact that he has turned his vision to writing novels is also inspiring to me. He was interested to hear I'd quit working as an art director to go freelance. Told him that so far I was getting plenty of work. He flipped through my sketch pad and saw the beginnings of my sketches for a piece on water. And found it interesting. How cool is that! I mean this is Chip Kidd! He was gracious and lovely in person and just as handsome up close.

Jim enjoyed the interview and he reads no comics, graphic novels, and has never once read anything by Neil. But I knew he would be captivated. Luckily someone asked Neil about mythology and and he answered in depth about how religion becomes myth becomes story, comparing the excised gospels about young Jesus and how they read like superboy's education. Complete with naughty killings and resurrections that are at odds with the gentle Jesus I got in my two years of Sunday school (the part of my religious eduction not covered in Synagogue). All of this is so part of Jim's creative landscape. Fascinating. Jim writes musicals, uses myth, I've heard him say many of the same things, explore the hero's journey... there is just something so nourishing about hearing accomplished witty people discuss their projects, past, present, and future. I am in fanville.

Jim says that Neil, like me, speaks in complete sentences, no ums. I had never noticed I was like this, but look at my mother and father, they spoke/speak in complete monographs, dissertations and books. Maybe the other faculty brats are like me in this way. I dunno. But tonight, after all that, I can only say "doh."

p.s. I wrote 1,800 words today in my novel. And a sonnet. I'm on a roll.


Sara said...

You just need to fluff up Neil's hair a bit and it's a rather good likeness ;)

I've never seen it THAT flat.

Jen Tanner said...

yes I agree with sara, the hair is not crazy enough!!