The National Book Festival!
Saturday was the National Book Festival on the Mall (which I went to last year for the first time), featuring, among others, Neil Gaiman (a.k.a. Wonderful Neil), and Katherine Paterson (yay!). Dave and I went, with plans to meet up with virginia_belle (Amy) and rivian (Marshall). We got there around 10:45 and made our way over to the Teen & Children tent, where Neil would be speaking at 11:45, to meet up with Amy and Marshall. Joseph Bruchac was speaking when we got there, so we edged in, grabbed seats as they became available, and listened. He was very interesting, and also played some lovely Native American music on a native flute. After his talk, Neil appeared, with Michael Dirda introducing him.
Neil, appearing (he does that sometimes), with bonus appearance by Lovely LoC Employee Tim (to be introduced shortly):
Michael Dirda introducing Neil:
Neil talked a bit and then read a selection from The Graveyard Book, which sounds like it is awesome. He then did some Q&As, but honestly I can’t remember much about the questions now. *sigh* I can say that he was, as usual, lovely and charming, and it was very enjoyable.
Neil, talking and answering questions:
After Neil’s talk, Marshall had to go meet Meg for lunch. Amy and I stayed for the next group (a panel with Katharine Paterson and several others) and Dave (ever-patient and kind) went off to Neil’s signing line to save us spots. (YAY, Dave!) The panel talk was about a White House-related book for kids, and I’m glad we stayed for it, because not only was one of the guys particularly funny (John someone?), but also Linda Johnson Robb (Lyndon Johnson’s daughter) was a “surprise guest,” and read her piece from the book, about her bedroom at the White House. It was my favorite selection, although the funny poems were good, too.
The White House book panel, with Katherine Paterson at the podium, Linda Johnson Robb in blue, and the funny poem guy in yellow:
After that, Amy and I headed over to the looooong signing line for Neil. We located Dave, who, despite having left right after Neil’s talk, was in the fourth (I think) of the seven-ish signing lines. So that gives you an idea of how many books Neil was signing. And with a broken finger, too! That’s true dedication to fans, right there.
I wandered up to the front at that point, because I had promised Neil’s Web Goblin, Dan, an origami black orchid to wear, as per his comment on Neil’s journal about how people should wear black orchids to the festival, and I figured he might be up near the front. A lovely Library of Congress employee said he had been there but had wandered away, so I figured I’d try again later and took some pictures of Neil signing instead, and also of Salman Rushdie.
Neil signing; photoshoot #1 (yes, I took many photos. Hey, I had nothing better to do.):
(Not sure what's going on here, but my guess is Neil was lamenting the fact that he had to sign a frillion books with A BROKEN FINGER. Poor guy.)
Fortunately, Neil looked like he was having some fun even with the broken finger:
Look! It's Salman Rushdie:
Then I went back and hung out in line some more.
Me and Dave, in line. Note my black orchid:
A nice photo of the Capitol. I liked the umbrella:
After more time in line, I went up again to see if I could spot Dan, and this time, Lovely LoC Employee (Tim) actually offered to go through the crowd with me to find Dan. So there I was, being escorted through the lines with an LoC guy in a bright turquoise Book Festival shirt. Hee. But I had no idea how else I’d find Dan, so I went with it, and Tim actually did manage to spot Dan in the crowd, for which I thanked him profusely. So then I gave Dan an orchid, and he gave me a Never Wear sticker and some little promotional cards, and we chatted about the Secret Plan to present the Robo-Panda, and other things. And the line, meanwhile, slooooowly crept along. During the time in line, I was pleased to have at least 10 people come up and ask me about my Discworld Con shirt, and happily promoted the hell out of our Discworld Con to anyone who was interested.
HOURS later, we finally got within shouting distance of the front of the line, so I left Dave and Amy as planned to go up and get some pictures of the Robo Panda presentation. SADLY, it had just started to rain about the same time as we could actually sort of see Neil, and continued all the rest of the time we were there, but I did manage to juggle my umbrella and camera and get some pics. When the panda was presented to Neil, he seriously stared at it with an expression of, “What...?” for a second, before proclaiming it “possibly one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen.” Which, you know, it kind of is disturbing, at that. But he smiled and laughed at it, and the little stuffed panda that came with it as well.
The Ingenious Wrapping of the Robo-Panda, which caused Dan to worry about whether the security folks might think he was Up To Something. Something other than giving Neil a panda, that is:
The Robo-Panda unveiled (with bonus bit of Dan's arm as he switched it on):
Neil examines Stuffed Panda:
The Robo-Panda in all its slightly creepy glory:
Soon after that it was our turn, so Amy handed over Coraline and I handed over my Terry-signed Good Omens. I could tell Neil was really trying to go quickly because so many fans were stuck standing out in the POURING RAIN, so I juggled the umbrella and my bag and somehow managed to quickly extract the little gifts I’d brought along from the plastic bag (well, ok, I dropped one of them on the table. Oops. At least I didn’t accidentally hit him in the nose with it or something). Neil asked which of us was Amy because he had her book but I was standing more in front, so I waited until he’d signed her book and then presented the gifts - a blank journal with the North American Discworld Convention seal on it (part of the CafePress order from before the UK Discworld Convention Trip last month), and a watercolor-painted origami black orchid. He remembered the first time we’d met (during which apparently he gave me a cookie) which was in 2005, soon after I’d met Terry and started brainstorming with Anna for the then-nascent Discworld Convention, and recalled that I had told him I was planning the convention then, to which I happily replied, “And now it’s a reality!” He seemed pleased with the journal, (I mean, hey, what writer doesn’t need a blank journal, right?). He didn’t open the orchid because of the line, but hopefully he will enjoy that as well when he gets to it. :) And then he signed my copy of Good Omens, and I told him it was nice to see him again, and then Dave and Amy and I scooted along, doing our level best not to get completely drenched.
Neil signing Good Omens:
Origami orchid (a little crushed after its festival adventures):
And that? Was the Book Festival. What fun! (We would have stayed longer, but...THE RAIN.)
P.S. Dave is now interested in reading Coraline, after hearing more about it.
P.P.S. Apropos of nothing, Rogue is carrying one of her chew toys around like a St. Bernard again. I love my chinchilla.