Yesterday my sister and I made our way over to Madison to meet Neil Gaiman at the wonderful RJ Julia Booksellers. This event came about in a really fun way: last fall Neil (or his publishers, or someone in the general camp of Gaiman do-gooders, I'm not sure) hosted a contest that gave independent booksellers across the country a chance to win a signing event. I believe the winner was determined by how many copies of his 2013 novel The Ocean at the End of the Lane they could sell over a period of time. In the end, RJ Julia came out on top and that meant we Nutmeggers got to host Neil Gaiman to celebrate the paperback release of The Ocean at the End of the Lane on its pub day.
To give you an idea of the kind of immense audience that showed up, the signing line wrapped around the front of the store, down an alley way, out the other side, and...maybe a good half-block down the road? But this is what makes Neil Gaiman fans so great: when I was leaving the store and passing by all these poor people who'd been standing in the sun for goodness knows how long (and with goodness knows how much longer to go) they were all smiling and happy and chatting away. People were making new friends as they waited in line and everyone was just thrilled to be there. It was so nice. We got to the store about an hour and a half early so we were pretty close to the beginning of the line. I have so much respect for everyone who arrived later and waited out that incredible flock of attendees.
I was so happy for RJ Julia when they announced that they'd won Neil's contest. It's one of the most beautiful and truly dedicated bookstores you'll ever visit. (If I lived closer they wouldn't be able to get rid of me.) They put so much into their author events and their attention to detail shows; everyone was very accommodating to the small army of us waiting to get our books signed. Incidentally, RJ Julia was also one of the indie bookstores to recently receive a grant from James Patterson. Lots of well-deserved good things happening for this lovely shop!
He was so very, very kind and gracious to us all. In addition to signing the paperback copies of The Ocean at the End of the Lane that were our tickets to the event he also happily signed any of his books that were purchased in the store that day. In the end he signed the beautiful blue hardcover gift edition of Stardust and the Make Good Art book for me, as well as signing the paperback of The Ocean at the End of the Lane for my dear friend Berenice in Mexico (I surprised her with it on Twitter which was incredibly fun). I told Neil how grateful I am for his Make Good Art speech (his 2012 commencement speech at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia which graphic designer Chip Kidd transformed into a book), but that was really an understatement. From the first moment I heard it I took it and locked it away in my heart, and special bits seeped into my bones where they continue to remind me to make awesome mistakes and encourage me to pursue my art. Having it signed is the perfect little-big memento I'll always treasure.
Aren't they pretty? Many thanks to Neil Gaiman for his kindness in taking the time to sign for the hundreds of us in attendance, and to the splendid staff at RJ Julia for being so amazing at what they do!