On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to attend Neil Gaiman and Philip Pullman in Conversation, an event held by Waterstones at the Oxford Playhouse. It was a brilliant evening, where my two favourite authors discussed badgers, dreams and libraries, amongst other things. (If you couldn’t make it, then don’t despair. A Waterstones podcast is available here!)
After the talk, both authors kindly offered to sign books, so we duly waited (I was nervously clutching my friend Emma from MabisMab‘s copy of The Subtle Knife for Phillip Pullman and my favourite short story collection of Neil Gaiman’s Fragile Things). When I say nervous, I mean, pretty much terrified actually! It’s one thing to have literary heroes that are safely distant, but quite another to realise that you’re about to come face to face with them!
I managed to have a quick but slightly stuttery conversation with Philip Pullman about how much I appreciated his depiction of the Gyptians in Northern Lights. As you may know from my previous posts, I’m part gypsy (or ‘poshrat’) myself and Gypsy/Roma/Traveller rights are an issue close to my heart, so I told him how refreshing it was to see travelling people in a story just as characters and not as clumsy stereotypes. But when I got to the desk where Neil was signing, I just clammed up! My mind turned completely to jelly and my throat went dry in a way that hasn’t happened since I was a tongue tied 14 year old. I managed to stutter out a ‘hello’ and a ‘thank you so much’ before tottering off in shock!
Of course, ever since I’ve been torturing myself with all the things I should have said!
“I’m glad you like Badger – my daughter dressed up as him for World Book Day this year.”
“Jenny the Huldra is probably my favourite character you’ve written because she still tries to do the right thing even when all hope is lost.”
“Your stories feel like fairytales – they have a timeless, universal quality.”
“It’s so amazing to meet you in person when I’ve been reading your stories and comics since I was 14!”
or even “How’s your hand bearing up? I really appreciate that you’re taking the time to see everybody tonight.”
Instead of just “Hello” and “Thank you”.
Does this ever happen to anybody else? What does everyone else say in this situation? How long should I tell myself off for being so silly? Answers on a postcard, via rat, pigeon or in the comments box please.
Also: If you have kids, you have to buy Neil’s new forthcoming book Fortunately, the Milk – the bit I heard was absolutely genius and I know my kids will love it!