Author extraordinaire Neil Gaiman gives reading in Calgary
With free tickets “selling out” in under sixty seconds, fans packed into MacEwan Hall for the chance to sit in the presence of literary legend Neil Gaiman. Gaiman was in town to give a reading as a part of the Calgary Distinguished Writers Program (CDWP).
The CDWP is a program that was established by the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Arts in 1993 that celebrates and encourages the local writing and reading communities. The program offers a 10-month residency for an emerging author — this year it is Sara Tilley, author of Skin Room and Pochinko Clown — as well as hosting a free reading by an internationally distinguished author.
Joining previous distinguished authors, such as Art Spiegelman and Margaret Atwood, this year the stage was populated by Gaiman. This was only his third appearance in Calgary — the previous two, he noted, were both in December and just as cold. The event was so popular that in addition to the 1,100 ticket-holders in attendance, the event was streamed live via the CDWP’s page on the University of Calgary website and available to those unlucky enough to not have tickets.
After an introduction by Mount Royal instructor Richard Harrison — who was also the CDWP writer-in-residence for the 1995-1996 year — Gaiman told stories, as well as read from his poetry works. He began with “Click-Clack the Rattlebag,” the spooky story about what hides in the shadows, and from that moment he had captivated the audience. He told the story of a human-statue-turned-stalker, and how he found old poetry from when he was 16 that was “was gloriously terrible” because he “meant every word of it.”
It was no surprise that Gaiman’s appearance garnered such a successful turnout. His work, which has an enormous scope, reaches a huge audience. Gaiman, it seems, has been involved in just about everything — from comics to novels, short stories to children’s books, and even a few episodes of Doctor Who — including the well-known episode that saw the Doctor’s TARDIS take human form.
“I never want to live in a box and be that successful that I have to do the same thing again and again,” said Gaiman during his reading.
Following the reading, Gaiman was handed a stack of cards with questions on them, the first of which asked how he kept his hair looking so good — to which he responded, “there is nothing that can be done about it.”
With answers to inspire both readers and writers alike, Gaiman gave advice on just about every aspect of writing — from the beginning stages to the end — such as the writing process, dealing with rejection, and what happens after something gets published. He also spoke of the importance of poetry.
“Sometimes you only need one person to read it, and you’ve changed the world,” he responded to a question asking why write poetry at all. “It’s still read. It still matters.”
Unquestionably a successful evening, Gaiman exited the stage to a standing ovation, once again proving that stories do matter.