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Neil Gaiman on writing with kids

Thursday, 14 February, 2013

The wonderful Neil Gaiman was here in January, so of course the Hive Mind and I went to hear him at City Recital Hall at an event held as part of the Sydney Writers Festival (though out of season). I can't remember how many times I've heard Neil live—the first time at Continuum in 2005 (recounted here and here), then at Macquarie University in 2006 and at Kinokuniya in 2008. I missed his performance of “The Truth is in a Cave in the Black Mountains” in 2010 as part of the GRAPHIC Festival because I was heavily pregnant and couldn't walk very much, but I did get to see one of the panels he did the following day thanks to Bec's generosity. (Hmm, I guess this year makes it five times …)

Anyway, they had an opportunity to ask Neil questions via writing them on slips on paper and putting them in the box in the foyer before the readings began, and then after intermission he answered some of them. Most fortuitously he answered mine (which was written with The Divided Heart in mind). (NB I didn't phrase it quite like this, but you get the gist.)

Dear Neil,

How did you cope with being a parent and a full-time writer?

Relatively well. But mostly because when I was a parent of seriously small children, I was incredibly nocturnal as a writer. So I mostly coped by being the sort of parent who did the faffing around and making dinner—I would make the dinner and I would do all that kind of stuff, and put the kids to bed. And then, once the kids were in bed—I'd read to them or whatever—then, really, my work day would probably start about 9. And then it would go until about 5—6 o'clock in the morning, and then my wife would get up and do the morning part of being a parent—take the kids to school and stuff. So that was how we did it. I'm not sure how that would work for anybody else. But that was how I did it.

You can listen to Neil's reading of the first two chapters of The Ocean at the End of the Lane, plus the question time on SoundCloud. It's about an hour and 16 minutes long.

I did take pictures but they are not anywhere convenient for me to drop in this post. Ah well …

(Little incidentals about the night that I wish to record before I forget: the Hive Mind, Bec W and I had dinner beforehand, then went to a pharmacy to get a few things for people, and then after we crossed the road and entered the laneway that leads to City Recital Hall, we spotted Neil walking in the opposite direction with his handler/assistant, and Guan and I grinned at him, and I waved like an idiot and he waved back. Later that night after the performance was over, Bec W and I went for drinks with Paul and his friends in a pub very close by, but the rest of the Hive Mind went home. It was getting rather late, so Bec W and I said goodbyes and headed home, and in that same area as before, we found Neil surrounded by fans and members of FourPlay, signing things and answering random questions from people. He was kind enough to sign the copy of Chu's Day I'd bought for Astrid [which doesn't get released here until March]. That totally made my night and I went home on cloud nine, sorely tempted to stay up all night writing—only to be brought back down to earth with the remembrance that it was my turn to do breakfast duties the following morning.)

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