The last few days I’ve been
stalking reading Neil Gaiman’s blog and following him on Twitter. After I went to a writing conference last month, everyone was telling me I had to read his YA book, The Graveyard Book, because it was the first thing they thought of when I told them about the story I was writing. You all with me? ‘Cause now I’m thinking, “Great you love my idea, but you’re telling me it’s already been written. Thanks a heap you old battleax!” So I did what any self-respecting writer would do. I found me the nearest bookstore and bought the damn Graveyard Book! Thankfully, the only thing similar about our stories is that they are both set in a graveyard. *wipes sweat from brow*
So now that Neil isn’t the man responsible for crushing my literary dreams, I’ve rather enjoyed his writing. You really ought to check out his blog. He’s full of well-written, merited writing that packs a witty and intelligent punch. And honestly, he’s a fresh spin on this industry. He posts photos of himself and his family attending events, talks about radio broadcasts he’s speaking at, posts video clips of interviews and advice, and actually donates quite a lot to social abuse charities, like RAINN (which was founded by my favorite musician Tori Amos) and to literary/library organizations. His latest is a book called Blueberry Girl. I’m buying it for my niece as a gift! Watch and listen to this clip, proceeds from the book go to RAINN.
One of the recent posts Neil wrote really interested me. He wrote about being used as a political football. Recently, Neil was asked to speak to at the Stillwater Library in Stillwater, MN. He was paid $40,000 to do this speaking engagement. If you’re jaw dropped just now, yes, that’s a lot of money. I’ll let Neil explain:
As anyone who’s read the FAQ (which was written in 2002, thus the Clinton reference) or has been reading this blog for a while knows, if you want to hire me to come and talk somewhere, and people do, I’m expensive. Not just a bit pricy. Really expensive.
The main reason I got a speaking agency, ten years ago, was because too many requests for me to come and speak were coming in. And the speaking requests were, and are, a distraction from what I ought to be doing, which is writing. So rather than say no, we’ve always priced me high. Not Tony Blair high, or Sarah Palin high (last time I read about them, they’re about $400,000 and $150,000 respectively). But I’m at the top end of what it costs to bring an author who should be home writing and does not really want a second career as a public speaker to your event.
So if you want to pay me to come in and talk, it’s expensive.
Here’s the catch though, the money that was used to pay Neil was from the Minnesota Legacy Fund, not the library he was speaking at. And many people thought that money should’ve been used to furnish more books or pay librarians. But the contract for the fund specifically states that it can’t be used for those things:
“The money comes from a grant for programs like this. It can’t be used to buy books or pay salaries. The money was only allocated in October, 2009 and had to be spent by June, 2010 or it would be taken back. This was a big-ticket, inaugural event to generate interest in the program.”
The money is meant to fund programs that foster environmental, art, history and cultural programs. It did that when 500 people came to see Neil Gaiman speak at the Stillwater Library. And, as a side not, but one I think is important, Neil split that money he was paid to 2 charity organizations, one being a library. 😀 But, the poor guy wasn’t off the hook yet. Apparently, the Minnesota Star Tribune wrote an article about the opposing viewpoints towards the Legacy Fund and how some people wanted that tax money to put towards a new stadium instead. Others wanted the money to fund school and library programs. This newspaper never contacted Neil for any comment.
What do you think? Is it unfair for this author to be used as a political football? (Or in Jess Witkins’ sports terms political shuttlecock?) Is he the unfortunate name attached to an issue that already divided the public? Is it ok because he donated the money to charity? You can read the whole post with links to the contract and the Minnesota’s newspaper article in Neil’s post, A Political Football in a Teacup.
Cast your vote below on the subject, and don’t forget to subscribe on your way out!