Neil Gaiman inspires Rowan to keep on writing

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Neil Gaiman is always writing – screenplays, poems, novels, comics, short stories – whatever, on any given day, he’s in a mood to write.

Making two appearances at Rowan March 7, the multi-faceted, multiple award-winning author said, for him, there’s simply no other way.

Addressing a near-capacity crowd in Pfleeger Concert Hall for the spring 2014 President’s Lecture Series, Gaiman read several pieces starting with The Day the Saucers Came, a poem he wrote on hotel stationery after his Internet connection went down.

But the poem, which imagines a day in which the Earth is invaded, zombies rise from the ground and killer bees swarm the air, was more than just a good, apocalyptic read. It was an opportunity to explore notions of creativity, writer's block, and finding ideas about what to write.

“Sometimes it’s not just the story, but the way a story can be told,” he said.

As for writer's block, Gaiman doesn’t much believe in it, and said his ideas, disparate though they may be, “come from all over the place.”

And he said that creativity, that most elusive phenomenon that artists can’t do without, can flow from any number of founts: quiet contemplation, boredom, even daydreaming, which he highly recommends.

During both the evening lecture and a private master class he held earlier in the day with collaborator and Rowan alumnus Kyle Cassidy, a celebrated photographer, Gaiman said the most important advice he can offer aspiring writers is to simply keep writing.

“Journalism is the best possible way to learn as a writer,” said Gaiman, who in his 20s was a reporter in his native England.

In addition to teaching writers how to work on deadline, sometimes in a maelstrom, journalism forces them to produce copy that’s clear, accurate and concise, he said.

“You learn to write with all kinds of things going on around you,” he said.

Gaiman’s best known works include the popular Sandman series of comic books and the novels Stardust, American Gods, Coraline, and The Graveyard Book.

His many accolades include 4 Hugos, 2 Nebulas, 1 World Fantasy Award, 4 Bram Stoker Awards, 6 Locus Awards, 2 British SF Awards, 1 British Fantasy Award, 3 Geffens, 1 International Horror Guild Award and 2 Mythopoeic Awards.

The master class, held for a small group of Writing Arts students earlier in the day, featured a lively give-and-take with Cassidy (with whom he’s produced several projects) and a question-and-answer session with students.

Noting his work in journalism, comic books, novels, and the two episodes he wrote of the popular British sci-fi show Dr. Who, Gaiman said he couldn’t imagine not having an eclectic body of work.

“I like lots of things and can’t understand why you’re only supposed to do one thing,” he said.

Dean Lorin Basden Arnold of the College of Communication & Creative Arts worked to bring the author to campus for more than a year. Introducing him prior to the lecture, she said all the work was worth it.

“I might have gotten just a little obsessed in bringing him to Rowan,” she said.

Gaiman’s appearance on campus was sponsored by Rowan’s Office of the President, the College of Communication & Creative Arts and the Norton Fund for Excellence in the Study of Literature, with additional support from Rowan University at Camden, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the Department of Writing Arts, and the Department of Radio, Television & Film.

To learn more about the lecture and master class, in the words of those closest to it,  please read blog posts by Arnold, Cassidy and Gaiman.

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