Jim Barnes presents the Moonbeams gold medal.

Jim Barnes presents the Moonbeams gold medal.

I attended the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards ceremony January 23rd in Denver. One of Stephen’s Press’ books, Ensoñsación el Jardín de Sueños (Dreamygirl’s Field of Wishes) won a gold medal for best Spanish language picturebook. Since I live here in Colorado, and the book’s author Jorge Betancourt Polanco  wasn’t able to come I came instead. The book was warmly received and Jorge will receive a very cool medal. Congratulations Jorge!

I also took a quick walk through the exhibits at the ALA (American Librarians Assoc.) Midwinter Conference. There were a number of publisher’s booths and children’s books were much better represented than adult books. It was like a mini BEA except like 1/8 the size!

And on Monday it was anounced that Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book won the most prestigess Newbery award. That’s cool.  Congratulations to him too.

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As promised here’s the scoop: Vegas Valley Book Festival 2008 got kicked off with a keynote address by one of my fave authors, Neil Gaiman.

Gaiman’s address began with a short reading from his latest The Graveyard Book his spooky homage to Kipling’s The Jungle Book. Gaiman spoke about the impact of books, stories, and reading on his life as a youngster in England and the impact that stories of all kinds and from all mediums continue to have on children and adults everywhere and in every time. In his rambling address he talked about writing, publishing, genres, and “where do writers get their ideas anyway?” (answer: everywhere).

We should not stop kids from reading crap, because clearly some great stuff can be grown in crap.”

—Neil Gaiman
(on what kids read, imagination of the reader making any book better)

He so clearly enjoys speaking, and covered so much about the writing life, though it was dark and I didn’t take notes. The auditorium was packed and my guess is about 400 people attended. After the intermission Gaiman took audience questions and continued to  wax poetic a half hour after he was supposed to be at the private gathering over at the Mandalay Bay. And speaking of that…

neilsue

Yours truly gets a pictures with the gregarious and gracious Mr. Gaiman.

His next work for adults will be (I believe) his first non-fiction book about China, and Chinese mythology. Part travelogue, and part mythology? This will be in the works for most of next year. Due out sooner are two picture books Blueberry Girl, charmingly illustrated by Charles Vess and first written as a poem for friend Tori Amos, and Crazy Hair a poetic romp with equally crazy illustration by Dave McKean. He read this one for us and said we we’re first audience to get to hear it. It’s very funny and cute, and we paged through it at the party and the design is fab. He’s currently working on a two part Batman comic story, and hinted that this is the R.I.P. issue for the caped crusader. (Well, sure but y’know he’s a super hero, with like, super powers.)

People asked whether there will be sequels to several of his works. He said he’d really like to do one for The Graveyard Book, and hinted that there may someday be one for American Gods (I’m so there!) and maybe Neverwhere. Had a great time. Late night, and Neil totally deserves some time off, but as we now know he doesn’t do holidays well; sneaks off to write in a deck chair. That’s OK Neil, use some sunscreen and take extra ink, we’ll wait.

PS: The Mix at Mandalay was the site of the after party. On the 64th floor dark, all painted black with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the strip. Fabulous, but LOUD, and disorienting. The restrooms feature a wall of glass in every stall, black “throne” facing out to space, darkened interior, you pee facing the world. Weird. And yes.

Here’s where I’ll be tonight: http: Vegas Valley Book Festival Keynote address. Have I pimped this enough yet? Later on a party… photographic evidence coming later.

My girls and I had a lovely evening at the Neil Gaiman event last night in Boulder. I’ve been a Neil Gaiman fan since reading (well really listening) to American Gods, and then seeing Mirrormask, so perhaps I came about my fan-girliness sort of backwards. By the time I became a fan, Neilhimself was already a seasoned and mature author. And while I had seen and marveled at (no pun intended) his graphic novels in the Sandman series, I’d never purchased or really read one. But apparently I’ve been misled.

When we arrived at the event a half-hour early, there was already a line of folks 2-3 abreast snaking all way round a rather large church building. As we passed by on our quest to find the end of the queue, I noticed that the first half consisted mainly of younger (under 40ish) people dressed all in black, gothic style. I expect that I was among those in the minority looking quite midwestern and matronly by contrast. I didn’t even know we had that many goths in Boulder. Perhaps they normally only come out at night.

Our position in the line was as it turned out was only about three-quarters back and later-comers (looking even more parochial than me) uncoiled out further into the back parking lot. But it was fortuitess in that Mr. Neil arrived and walked right through the line by us to enter the back door, slowing briefly to exclaim that we’d be let in directly after the sound check. And yes, he’s just as handsome in his way as his pictures.

Anyway at some point during the intro the Sandman books were mentioned at which point the goths cheered loudly, so that explained that. There were in this large church auditorium I’d guess around 600 people, perhaps more.

Neil began the reading by giving a brief “story so far” recap of The Graveyard Book because he is reading in a nine city tour all eight chapters of the book in order. I’ve never heard of this being done before. It’s quite ingenious—and he is video recording each chapter and posting them to Mousecircus where you can watch and listen to the entire novel for free! (For a limited time of course.) You can also purchase the audio or print version of the book there. If you’re going to buy it online, do it there rather than at Amazon, the author and publisher will get more of the profits that way. But back to the reading…

Neil explained that because chapter seven was so long that folks in L.A. got the first half and we’d be getting the second half. He explained that he’d ended in L.A. on a bit of a cliff-hanger and to appreciate this you really need to listen to the recording. Let’s just say that at the end the hero of the story was about to be very, very dead. Neil claimed that this was not planned, but the exact middle of the chapter ended with these words: He straightened up. The hand that had been in the hole in the floor was holding a large, sharp knife. “Now,” said the man Jack. “Now, boy. Time to finish this.” The response of the crowd was a resounding, Nooooo! And then Neil read to us for the better part of an hour more. The reading was very enjoyable, Gaiman reads with wonderful characterization and one can imagine him sitting his little writing gazebo staging his characters in spoken dialogue as much for his own enjoyment as for facilitating the writing.

After the reading, we were treated to excerpts from the new movie Coraline based on Gaiman’s book. The movie is being done by the people who did Nightmare Before Christmas and all in claymation. It looks like it will be very good—and fun to look at. Following that he answered a stack of audience questions. Mine was, “How do you find time to work on new work when you are out on tour?” To that he answered that he often finds snippets of time and it’s best for him to write on airplanes, because they do not as yet, have Internet service. Apparently the web is quite the distraction for Mr. Neil. I can relate. Another question that elicited lots of audience titters was “Do your fans creep you out?” He related a charming story about one particularly creepy, but so not scary fan at Comic Con…but over all says that no, you lot are quite nice, actually.

And after that, we were among the first to hear him read a new children’s book, Blueberry Girl, a poem he wrote for friend Tori Amos’ baby girl a few years back. The book was in page proofs not even bound yet! It is illustrated  by reknowned artist Charles Vess of Stardust and Sandman fame. The book is due out in February 2009.

So ended an evening’s entertainment that went on for three hours! Much more than I ever expected. Neil reads the last chapter and wraps up his tour in Minneapolis, his home city tonight.

I was lucky enough to read an advance copy of The Graveyard Book I picked up at BEA. My review will be posted later in my reviews section of this blog.