Our Love for “Natural Storyteller” Neil Gaiman

On July 6, bestselling author and mastermind of American Gods Neil Gaiman takes to the Dell Hall stage in what he hopes will “amaze, befuddle and generally delight. It will be fun and odd,” he says, welcome words to his devoted fans who would expect nothing less. In anticipation of his upcoming Austin evening, Long Center Education & Outreach Manager and undoubtedly HUGE Neil Gaiman fan Becky Liendo takes over our blog to discuss Neil’s upcoming engagement, his incredible career, and his unparalleled influence on the literary world.

In high school (1999) – I was a weird kid, I was in band and liked to wear black and my hair in all kinds of styles every day. I attended a magnet school and met other like-minded and inspiring peers—it was a haven. A good friend of mine, an extremely talented cellist, held a conversation with me one day after an AP English class and we started talking about storytelling. I laughed when I mentioned that I still had a copy of a book my mother gave me when I was young about The Legend of the Bluebonnet by Tomie dePaola—the retelling of a Comanche Indian legend recounting a little girl’s sacrifice that brought the Bluebonnet to Texas. Then my friend, Joe* opened his satchel (yes, he wore a satchel in high school and was just unbelievably cool) and handed me a slender, black hardcover book. “You should read this, you will love it.” He said before leaving for his next class.

In my hands was The Sandman Vol. 1: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman—my very first introduction to graphic novels and Neil Gaiman. Since then, I’ve read everything he’s ever published, I still read graphic novels and I’ve become attuned to the natural storyteller in me.

Natural storyteller, you must be thinking? Well, like our ancestors before us and before them, myths and storytelling have been used to try to give meaning to the unexplainable or warn kids about talking to strangers. It is a part of human culture. What Neil Gaiman does is take something innocuous and unlock your imagination by bringing you along into his worlds by opening doors with, “What if…?”

What if there was a London…below?

What if the old gods and the new gods were among us now, at war?

What if you had an Other Mother, Other Father, Other World?

I recently asked a friend, “When did you first read Neil Gaiman’s work? What’s kept you reading?” Her reply, “I’ve been reading Neil Gaiman for 20 years and …You know how they say you can tell a good driver because you don’t notice anything about their driving? He’s (Neil) like that. You just get to enjoy the ride.”

For me, It’s not so much that he’s a phenomenal storyteller, it’s that he somehow makes you step outside his story with completely relatable moments/geography/thoughts…and has you thinking, “Oh yeah, I see it now.” Or, “What could possibly be going on under that suspicious and lonely looking rock in front of that abandoned church-door painted blue?”

We’re all storytellers in our own way—we do it to cope with sadness, to tell that funny story about that friend of yours, to relive a childhood memory in your own mind or just daydreaming about being somewhere else. Neil Gaiman is, as Stephen King states “… simply put, a treasure-house of story and we’re lucky to have him.” A recent study done by Raconteur Media surveyed their readers on The World’s Greatest Storytellers and Neil Gaiman is listed in their top 6 among William Shakespeare and Charles Dickens.

On July 6th, at the Long Center in Austin, TX, Neil Gaiman will tell stories, create a little bit of mystery and inspire. If you haven’t read Neil Gaiman’s work, at the very least, come hear him speak, come hear him tell you a story and I hope you take away the inspiration to form your own story and to ask, “What if…?”

Neil Gaiman returns to the Long Center July 6th for a little storytelling, conversation and yes, Question & Answer! Our friends from BookPeople will also be in the lobby with pre-signed books for purchase. Tickets are still available, but who knows for how long?

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