Wander across Edinburgh from my hotel past this:
to Charlotte Square, where the festival is being held.
3pm Excellent talk by Colm Toibin on “New Ways to Kill Your Mother: Writers and Their Families,” a book he wrote on writers and their families. Especially memorable, the story about Yeats and his father, a frustrated writer who sent his son his work to receive only…silence. (Good article on this.)
6:30pm Attend V. Campbell’s talk about her middle-grade book VIKING GOLD for which she brought lots of props like a replica Viking sword and helmet. I wonder what kind of props I could bring to a talk about DIE FOR ME: A replica Eiffel Tower? A beret? A box of macarons? A hot dead guy?
The festival tradition is that after each talk, the author goes immediately to the festival bookstore and signs books. I buy V. Campbell’s book and have her sign it for my son, who can’t read yet, but I’m hoping he’ll love it some day. (It has Vikings and mysteries and swordfights, so why not?)
8pm I pocket my copy of VIKING GOLD and jump straight into the line for Neil Gaiman’s event. I watch him and Chris Riddell talk about the 10th anniversary of CORALINE, and am completely enchanted. It is my first time to see Neil, and I realize why everyone I know who has met him has raved about it. He’s as amazing as I imagined him to be. Better.
One of my favorite parts of the event is when Neil reads a section from CORALINE and Chris does a simultaneous illustration on an overhead projector. Such talent with both the art and writing, I am swept away in the pleasure of pure creativity.
I had joked online about getting a picture taken with Neil, but hadn’t actually taken myself seriously. And when he announces to the audience that he has a family emergency and is flying off right after the talk and can’t sign books I give up all hope of meeting him. Following the crowd out of the tent and into the night, I head toward the festival exit.
And then, out of the corner of my eye, I glimpse Chris Riddell leaving the Author’s Yurt, and a sudden thought flashes through my mind. Could He possibly be there?
I slip my Author’s badge over my head and make my way into the Yurt. And there he is: Neil Gaiman, waiting for a taxi to take him to the airport. There are four or five people standing around, talking to him about logistics for his trip back. I stand there and nod as if I’m supposed to be there.
And then, as Neil is about to walk further into the yurt to where Amanda Palmer waits for him, I walk up and stick my hand out. “I’m Amy Plum. I write for HarperCollins,” I say, knowing that he too is a Harper author. Amanda leans her head around the corner to see who I am. (Can I just say…she’s so stunning – photos don’t even get close.)
Neil gives me this huge smile and says something and I say something back but I am so starstruck that I couldn’t tell you now what we said even if you hung me by my toenails over a barrel of piranhas. I ask if I can take my picture with him, and he agrees. And then he makes a joke about how he always has red-eye in pictures, and I promise to Photoshop it out.
And that is it. I thank him and walk out into the Edinburgh night, back to my hotel room, smiling because my Day 1 of the festival ended with a beautiful little dream coming true.