My wife and I had the pleasure to attend WITS last Saturday night at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul. I have to say it was steeped in Geekiness from the get-go, complete with Tweets up on the big screen, an accordion player who knew “Smoke on the Water,” Neil Gaiman’s dogs and lots of other fun stuff. I believe one of the tweets described it as a “hipster sweat lodge” which seemed kind of appropriate. It was one of the more unusual shows I’ve gone to in a while, but I loved every minute of it.
In no particular order, here are some of the things I learned and bits and quotes I liked, all filtered and paraphrased through me, a slightly intoxicated writer/audience member. My apologies in advance for any inaccuracies—and for my inability to recall necessarily who said what when. Q (Claudia) from our very own Scribblerati was there too, as well as her musically gifted husband up on stage. Q please do pipe up about anything I missed or got wrong.
The host told an amusing story about John Clarkson, his invisible friend.
“Have an inner life that goes outside the lines.”
“Allow other worlds in.”
Neil Gaiman talked about how his novel “American Gods” (to be made into a TV miniseries soon) is about the “immigrant experience”
“Funny books take people places and have them see things with new eyes.”
As a child Neil Gaiman worried about Daleks. Who can blame him?
Neil says he has at least 7 unfinished story ideas in his head now. It sounds like he may work on his books for many years. This makes me feel a little better about my book in progress (also taking years and years)
Some people think you are a particular character in your book—but the truth is the author is ALL the characters in their book(s). You must connect with all characters as you write and give them some little part of your soul for them to come alive and be believable.
Neil read from “American Gods” (The “I believe” speech)
“There are no second acts in American lives.” F. Scott Fitzgerald (Wil Wheaton doesn’t believe this)
To succeed in writing you need other people/writers, hand holding and luck
According to Wil Wheaton the actors on the Big Bang Theory are not really nerds
Josh Ritter sang. I was unfamiliar with him, but really liked his stuff; he performed “Galahad” and “The Curse” and “The Temptation of Adam.” I was impressed by the way his songs all embodied stories.
Which monsters are these celebrities?
Marilyn Monroe = Cave Troll
Thomas Edison = Elf
Benjamin Franklin = Were Turkey
Emily Dickinson = Cthulhu
Josh Ritter = Elf Slayer
The form dictates the story
“Writing a novel is freeing. They don’t have to rhyme” Josh Ritter (song writer)
“Novels have to answer questions—songs don’t” Neil Gaiman
My personal bummer of the night: I failed to bring any device to Tweet with; also I did not win any Neil Gaiman honey during the Intermission
A good story (novel) resonates with other things you know and have read—but takes you someplace different
Neil Gaiman sang his song about Joan of Arc (I’m not sure of title)
Bigfoot has a facebook page. Friend him. He’s probably lonely.
“Believe in giant man-beasts. It’s OK.”
“Witchcraft is involved in Rod Stewart’s career.” Neil Gaiman
“Raising women is difficult.” Adam Savage (MythBusters)
“Liquid Oxygen is some of the scariest stuff on Earth.”
On the MythBusters TV show when nothing happens with one of their experiments, “it’s the scariest thing possible.”
Adam Savage is a bleeder. He also did the most awesome imitation of Gollum I’ve heard. Tremendously funny! Here it is: SavageGollum
Neil read his poem, “The Day the Saucers Came.” Awesome.
The show ended with a group sing along of “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer.” I now get to say (like anyone in the audience) that I’ve sang with Neil Gaiman (as well as the other awesome people there that night).
My wife got to pet one of Neil Gaiman’s dogs. I did not. They didn’t even growl at me.
So what’s my point in all this? Thank God for writers, entertainers, comedians, thinkers, artists, people who think outside the box. This evening was a silly, fun romp and I’m glad we were able to attend. I heard somewhere that “Wits” was sponsored in part by the Minnesota “Legacy Act.” As a taxpayer in Minnesota I think it was money well spent. I find it hard to put a price tag on creativity and joy--and both were in high quantity at this event.
I was also inspired to dig out my copy of "American Gods" and get to reading.