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Neil Gaiman Receives the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award

by Maggie Rotermund on 04/14/2023
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ST. LOUIS – “The job of a writer is to leave the world more interesting.”

With that, versatile writer Neil Gaiman, the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award honoree, summed up his life’s work. Gaiman accepted the award from the Saint Louis University Libraries at a sold-out event Thursday, April 13, at the Sheldon Concert Hall. 

Neil Gaiman talks during the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award ceremony. Photo by Sarah Conroy. Launch SlideshowNeil Gaiman talks during the 2023 St. Louis Literary Award ceremony. Photo by Sarah Conroy.

Gaiman said that at age 62 he is still waiting for the knock on the door, telling him it is time to go out and get a real job.

“I get to dream on paper, to invent and imagine and tell stories that I love,” he said. “It’s an incredible honor.”

Elsewhere Thursday Gaiman was named one of Time Magazine’s Most Influential People of 2023.  

Gaiman is a prolific author of prose, poetry, film, journalism, comics, song lyrics, and drama. He has been honored with both the Newbery and Carnegie Medals. 

While he is best known as a novelist, Gaiman is adept at writing in a variety of forms. His work includes “Coraline,” “Neverwhere,” “The Ocean at The End of The Lane,” “American Gods,” “The Graveyard Book,” “Stardust,” and “The Sandman.” 

Gaiman spoke Thursday of finding inspiration around him, from stealing ideas from his children, to seeing something in nature that sparked an idea. He promoted libraries as safe spaces where anyone can access the world of information. 

“There is something special about libraries - I was a feral child raised in my library,” he joked. “On school holidays I would read my way through the library.”

A craft talk was held April 14 on SLU’s campus. It was moderated by Martha Allen, assistant dean of user services at SLU’s Pius XII Memorial Library, and Martin Casas, owner of Apotheosis Comics and Lounge. At the talk Gaiman was asked about a comment he made in 2012 about the changing landscape of publishing. He had said at the time that the landscape was ever changing.

“The gatekeepers were leaving their gates and that provided chaos and opportunity,” Gaiman said. “We have a lot more chaos and new gatekeepers are rising and then crumbling... Do I know what comes next? No. But something will come next. Probably a whole lot of somethings.”

He told young authors to promote their work in any way they could and to educate themselves on the world they are working in, sharing his own experiences with copyright and creative license. 

The St. Louis Literary Award department in SLU Libraries also includes a Campus Read series, which is open to the public; the Undergraduate Writing Award; Literature & Medicine; Inspired By Arts Showcase for High School and College Students; and the Walter J. Ong S.J. Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Research.  

St. Louis Literary Award 

The St. Louis Literary Award is presented annually by the Saint Louis University Libraries and has become one of the top literary prizes in the country. The award honors a writer who deepens our insight into the human condition and expands the scope of our compassion. Some of the most important writers of the 20th and 21st centuries have come to Saint Louis University to accept the honor, including Margaret Atwood, Salmon Rushdie, Eudora Welty, John Updike, Saul Bellow, August Wilson, Stephen Sondheim, Zadie Smith and Tom Wolfe.

Saint Louis University

Founded in 1818, Saint Louis University is one of the nation’s oldest and most prestigious Catholic institutions. Rooted in Jesuit values and its pioneering history as the first university west of the Mississippi River, SLU offers more than 15,200 students a rigorous, transformative education of the whole person. At the core of the University’s diverse community of scholars is SLU’s service-focused mission, which challenges and prepares students to make the world a better, more just place.