Award-winning author and screenwriter Neil Gaiman was the guest of honor at the June 13 meeting of a group of Ulster County school librarians, coordinated by Ulster BOCES. Throughout the year, the Ulster BOCES School Library System provides professional development workshops, training, and learning opportunities to both public and non-public school librarians in Ulster County.
The well-attended event, held at Frank Guido’s Little Italy in Kingston, marked the revival of a long-standing tradition: librarians getting together to celebrate the end of the school year and inviting a local author to come and speak. Following dinner, Gaiman read from some of his works, answered questions, and signed books for attendees.
Gaiman has lived in America for more than 30 years and in the Hudson Valley for about a decade. Dr. Maura Albertson, the event organizer, took a chance and contacted his assistant in London to invite Gaiman and was thrilled when he accepted. Albertson, the Coordinator of the Library System on the Ulster BOCES Instructional Services team, spent time chatting with Gaiman during dinner and described him as easygoing and very down to earth. “We talked about our siblings, our children, and his work,” she said.
Once dinner was finished, Gaiman read “Click-Clack the Rattlebag” from his book Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances. It is a story of a writer visiting with a child who wants a scary–but not too scary–story before going to sleep. He also read his poem “The Mushroom Hunters,” which he said was for the teachers in the room. The poem talks about science before there was science, and the observations, experiments, and learning accomplished by prehistoric women–mushroom hunters–while men went off to chase beasts.
Following his readings, Gaiman gave a brief summation of his career, describing his start in England as a journalist with aspirations of writing comic books, and his collaboration with Terry Pratchett on the book Good Omens. Recently, he noted, he brought Good Omens to television, fulfilling a promise he had made to Pratchett before his death in 2015. Gaiman has been busy working on the second season of this Amazon Prime series, which is set to premiere on July 28. He also discussed the difficulty of transitioning from a writer for adults to a writer of children’s books.
Answering questions from the crowd, Gaiman talked about topics ranging from the effects of artificial intelligence (AI) on writing, students, and their development, to how real life inspired his story “The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish.” He discussed balancing the darkness in his writing with lighter scenes, especially in The Sandman, and how American Gods hasn’t dated itself as much as he thought it would have by now.
To cap off the evening, Gaiman generously offered to sign a book for each attendee. While autographing a copy of Stardust for the last person in line, Gaiman commented, “I think everyone brought a different title!” With an author as prolific as he is, that wasn’t too hard to do.
- Instructional Services