"Writer's

cannibalize everything they are."

Neil

Gaiman has it right. We cannibalize our dreams, our memories and our emotions,

he says, and eventually, our words become stories. For Gaiman,

critically-acclaimed author of American Gods, MirrorMask and The Sandman, to name a few, the

pieces of himself he digs deep into become books — works of fiction,

children's stories, comics, poetry and plays for radio and screen. "We're

expected to choose sides between books we enjoy and books that are good for

you," he says. "But I'm all for books I love."

In

recounting the stories he fell in love with as a child, Gaiman introduced

himself to a few hundred of his Indianapolis-based fans — mostly Gen-X

and Gen-Y — all huddled together last Friday, April 16, in the North

Central High School auditorium. For those who stumbled upon the intimate event,

Gaiman delivered the Indianapolis-Marion County Public Library Foundation's

33rd Annual Marian McFadden Memorial Lecture, joining the ranks of the city's

long history of lecturers, who have included Kurt Vonnegut, Tom Wolfe, John

Updike, Amy Tan, Judy Blume and others.

With

an overwhelming respect for the written word, Gaiman explained how books have

been part of his life since his youth, spent in Southern England. "I was a

feral child," he said, "raised by patient librarians." Gaiman relayed his time

frequenting libraries, making his way through the children's section up to

young adult and then to adult literature, where he learned how much stories are

transmissible. "You can catch them or be infected by them," he said. "They make

you feel part of the continuous flow of life."

Having

raised his 15-year-old daughter, Maddy, on oodles of "Gaimanized" children's

stories, his lecture featured versions of his take on classic tales, such as

"Goldilocks and the Three Bears," which he read aloud for his fans. "My tummy's

always full, and there's always a girl in my bed!" Though tongue-in-cheek when

comparing himself to Baby Bear, Gaiman eloquently summarized the story: "We

make our own mistakes," he said. "Like Goldilocks, we sleep unwisely. It's our

right."

Gaiman's

fantasy stories, such as Coraline, originally illustrated

by Dave McKean, stem from a fascination with houses and with dreams. In 2009,

the same year Gaiman won the Newbery medal in children's literature for The

Graveyard Book,

Coraline

hit high definition 3-D movie theatre screens. Just for good measure, he wore

the same custom-made Kambriel jacket that he wore to the Oscars in support of Coraline to Indy's McFadden

lecture. A Friends of the Library Foundation representative told the audience

they chose him as guest speaker, because he's considered among the top ten

living post-modern American writers, encouraging young readers to become

future library supporters.

And

although 2009 proved successful for him, it was also a harrowing one for his

family. "My father died expectedly," Gaiman said. He didn't shed tears until

reading a work of fiction, he said, in which the character's wife passed on. "I

sobbed like an adult, finally letting go everything I was holding onto from my

dad's death."

Writing

for a quarter of a century, Gaiman admitted he's never created a story to get

people through the hard times. "I write because I wanted to find out what will

happen next to the people I make up," he said. "Fiction is an escape from the

intolerable, like experiencing life in a way that lets us survive it."

According

to Gaiman, the most important power of writing is the moment when it saves your

life. "We save our lives in such unlikely ways," he said. "We owe it to

ourselves to tell stories."

Future

projects Gaiman said he's working on include a follow-up or two to American

Gods,

as well as a short story, "Dead Room," based on unsettling electronic voice

phenomenon his friend heard in a recording studio in Edinburgh of a little

ghost girl pleading, "Please go away." In addition, Gaiman vows to write a

secretly anti-authoritarian children's book, Choosday, about a cute panda

with allergies. Lastly, he's finishing a set of instructions about how to

survive a fairytale — also known as life — because, according to

Gaiman, "it's all about having choices."

Touch the wooden gate

in the wall you never saw before.

Do not forget your

manners.

If an eagle gives you

a feather, keep it safe. 
Remember your name. 
Trust

ghosts.

Trust dreams.

Trust your heart,

and

above all else, trust your stories.

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