One Book, One Chicago

After teaching my daughter’s class about DaVinci and making Picasso Portraits with my son’s kindergarten class, I took the train downtown and met up with Ellen Prather of 8 Eyes Photography to walk over to the Harold Washington Library. It was a glorious, sunny afternoon in Chicago, and I was looking forward to the conversation between Audrey Niffenegger and Neil Gaiman, whose book Neverwhere was chosen as this year’s One Book, One Chicago.

Audrey Niffenegger and Neil Gaiman (Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)

They did not disappoint. After collecting our tickets and posters, Ellen and I found our seats in the second row and waited: watching the crowd and eavesdropping on bits of conversation about Neil and Amanda, Neverwhere, twitter, The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Dr. Who.

Following an eloquent introduction by Mary Dempsey and a word from the sponsor (Allstate), Audrey and Neil began with a comfortable conversation about London and “Magic City Books,” as well as the inspiration and evolution of Neverwhere. Neil and Audrey discussed creativity, generosity, readings, and fairy tales (among other things) and then opened up to questions from the audience.

Audrey Niffenegger and Neil Gaiman (Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)

My favorite of the answers to questions from the audience were those that led Neil and Audrey to talk about their process. As a writer, this is the part of interviews that most interests me. I love hearing about how other people find inspiration and deal with challenges. They talked about “writer’s block” and the ways they circumvent it, and each described a few of the books they are currently reading.

One young boy in my row asked about the inspiration for Coraline, which launched Neil into a conversation of how his daughter Holly (now in her twenties and a milliner in London), would jump up on his lap after school and dictate stories rich and dark and populated by all manner of monsters, ghosts, and other mothers. Unable to find ghost stories for five-year-olds, he decided that he would write some.

The story made me laugh because it reminded me so much of my youngest, my blueberry girl, who is full of scary stories and wild rides of her imagination. It was one of many times that Neil would describe something about his writing process, and I found myself nodding enthusiastically, thinking to myself: I thought only I did that. I thought only I thought that. Always nice to hear those echoes from someone I admire.

Time flew by. It was over in an hour, and Audrey and Neil graciously took their leave.

Neil Gaiman (Photo by 8 Eyes Photography)

 

Published by Valya

Valya Dudycz Lupescu has been making magic with food and words for more than 20 years, incorporating folklore from her Ukrainian heritage with practices that honor the Earth. She’s a writer, content developer, instructor, and mother of three teenagers. Valya is the author of THE SILENCE OF TREES and the founding editor of CONCLAVE: A Journal of Character. Along with Stephen H. Segal, she is the co-author of FORKING GOOD: An Unofficial Cookbook for Fans of The Good Place and GEEK PARENTING: What Joffrey, Jor-El, Maleficent, and the McFlys Teach Us about Raising a Family (Quirk Books), and co-founder of the Wyrd Words storytelling laboratory. Valya earned her MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and her poetry and prose have been published in anthologies and magazines that include, The Year's Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, Kenyon Review, Culture, Gargoyle Magazine, Gone Lawn, Strange Horizons, Mythic Delirium. You can find her on Twitter @valya.

5 thoughts on “One Book, One Chicago”

  1. Nathalie ( @spacedlaw ) says:

    A wonderful day all over! I love that last picture of Neil.

  2. Becky says:

    Sounds like a great talk. I can’t wait to see him tonight at University of Chicago!

  3. Marjorie says:

    It sounds like a great evening; thank you for sharing!
    (and I, too, love that final picture)

  4. Marlene van Der Merwe says:

    Valya I write from Namibia a country in Africa. I just finished The silence of trees, and want to tell you what an amazing experience it was for me. Thank you for sharing with us the traditions and history of the Ukraine and reminding us that everything is inter connected! What a lovely story. I wish you all the happiness and luck in the world. Marlene

  5. Valya says:

    Marlene, thank you so much for taking the time to write and for your kind words! I’m delighted to know that The Silence of Trees has reached Namibia! Indeed everything is interconnected, and we all have rich stories to share!
    All the best to you!
    ~Valya

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