I heard Neil Gaiman today read a part of the first chapter of The Graveyard Book, the new children's book he's working on. If the rest is as good--creepy, funny, absolutely engrossing--as the bit I heard today, it will be well worth waiting for. He's a terrific reader--did great voices for the characters, and rolled easily with the very bizarre and random lighting effects he was getting as he spoke. (Was someone leaning on a rheostat?)
He also gave part of a talk--a terrific part of a talk--on why and how fantasy matters, and what he says to people who ask him when he's going to stop writing fantasy and write a real book. (He's much more polite about that than I think I would be.) Among other things (and no, this is not the answer to the previous question), he said he has written three different riffs on Beowulf over the years, in part because he's so fascinated by Grendel's mother--both the fact that there's a monster with a mother, and the fact that there's such an important character who doesn't get her own name. Both, it seems to me, great reasons to keep writing about someone.
It's been a fascinating conference so far and there's more to come, but I had to say a word or two about Gaiman before it's all over--so far, definitely the high point, and well worth the trip.
(Oh, yeah--my talk went fine, too. Though I must say that 8 am Saturday morning is not the absolute best time to deliver a talk...)