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Beautiful Valya in the sunlight, above, taken by Kyle... and below with Mark, taken by 8 Eyes Photography. What a wonderful shot of them!
We were to leave the house by 11:30 to head to the venue, stopping off for a bite of lunch at the Happy Buddha first, so after breakfast, we all made our preparations. Valya had her long hair beautifully braided and looked like a Renaissance painting, dressed in kambriel, and Maura (tigerinvaseline) was all silvery starlight in her vintage gown, and the dress that Heartless Revival designer, Autumn Lin, created for the event was such fun to descend staircases in... and feathers!!!!
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A wonderful shot of Maura as captured by Madeline Matz.
Madeline Matz came by with an extra car and we all piled into our various vehicles and were off to have one of the most beautiful adventures of my life.
In Valya's words, "I became involved with the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame because I believe that Chicago has an important literary legacy deserving of attention. After two induction ceremonies where we celebrated historical writers, it was time to look at the contribution of writers living and working in Chicago."
Based on the local guest list alone, I am convinced that Chicago does indeed have one of the most vibrant and welcoming literary circles I could ever imagine... and the heatfelt tributes from fellow luminaries of modern literature to Mr. Wolfe, who was the kindest, most humble of subjects, were incredibly moving. I sat there, soaking in the words and anecdotes and alternately beaming and weeping, like so many others in the audience.
It's no wonder The Sanfilippo Estate is called Place de la Musique. It is filled, as far as I can tell, to capacity with victrolas and vintage organs, music boxes and carousels... and where there's not a musical instrument, there's a Tiffany style lamp or a steam engine filling the "void." It is a feast for the eyes and a curiosity seeker's paradise.
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View from the balcony.
We arrived early enough to take a self-guided tour of the house and grounds, walking back to the Carousel Pavilion to meet Neil Gaiman and Maria Dahvana Headley, who had traveled together on an impromptu authors' road trip. While Neil and Kyle discussed a secret collaboration, Maria and I caught up with each other. She has such infectious joi de vivre, it's hard not to glow in her presence... but who would fight it?
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We took the glamorous golf cart back to the main house for the start of the Fuller Award Ceremony, my feathers threatening to send me flying over the tree tops, meeting up with our friends, Michael Swanwick, who had also traveled from Philadelphia, and the hilarious and dapper Peter Straub from NY. There were so many new faces, it was nice to see friendly, familiar ones too.
Madeline and I took in the ceremony from the balcony and seemed to be experiencing the joyful and poignant moments as one person, looking at eachother in sympathy and amusement. Having read Gene Wolfe now and heard from Valya how sweet and kind he is, I didn't expect him to be as rib-achingly funny as he is.
Other people have already spoken about Neil Gaiman's presentation speech and his wonderful reading of "Solar Labyrinth" (Michael Swanwick talks about the story in this 2007 article) and the great peformance by the steampunk theatre troupe Terra Mysterium, and I was so often on sensory overload and awed by the presence of my literary idol, Audrey Niffenegger, that the whole event was a beautiful, colorful, eloquent whirl of music, costumes, words and people.
This was taken by Eight Eyes Photography, a glorious duo, Pat and Ellen Prather, with three of my favorite people, Maura, Maria and Valya.
As I prepared to leave the house for dinner at the pavilion, Kyle called me over to introduce me to Peter Sagal, who was, for me, the most delightful surprise of the evening. He's fascinated by the world, interested in everyone and everything which makes him a delightful conversationist, as was his wife, Beth, and when he found out we were from Philadelphia, he was able to talk about the Philadelphia theatre scene and our local playwrights with depth and understanding.
This was taken by Carl Hertz, a rare moment when Kyle was not behind the camera.
At dinner, we were seated with Valya and Mark, Peter Straub, Neil, and Luis Urea and his wife, Cindy. Peter Sagal was the master of ceremonies and introduced all the speakers, saying that since he didn't know who everyone was, he would simply make up facts about them, which he did skillfully and humorously. Kyle was the second speaker and I'm constantly amazed by how easy he is in public, devoid of nerves and seemingly improvisational. I'm in awe of that ability; maybe when I'm 90, I'll no longer care and so gain the public speaker's ease.
Dinner was followed by an invitation to ride the antique carousel, and it was so much fun to see the lions of the liteary world become children again, for the space of a song. I had a race with Michael Swanwick, and even though I was riding side-saddle, I won!
I love this shot of Jill Thompson, Neil Gaiman, Peter Sagal and Beth Sagal sharing the joy.
I had begun to think that the evening would go by without actually meeting Audrey Niffenegger, and I had concluded that it might be for the best... when Kyle, who had shared vodka with her in a coat closet earlier in the evening, offered to make an introduction. So I stood, trying not to tremble, while she made preparations to stand up from her table and Peter Sagal fluffed my feathers (yes, it was that kind of an evening) and I didn't embarrass myself too severely... I don't think. And now I can continue on with my life.
I hope I was saying something semi-bright to Carl and Audrey; she did wave goodbye to me when she left!
When the event was over and we had said our farewells to the pavilion, with future invitations extended to us all, and said goodbye to Neil, who is exceptionally kind, and Maria, we returned to Valya's, where a small after-party that included Gary K. Wolfe, Peter Straub and the wonderful Jennifer Stevenson, (who taught me how to become a roller derby girl by hip butting her in our finery!) was in full swing.
Here we are with Peter Straub, after I'd let my hair down and taken off the crimson corset....
From the distance of a week, it all seems like a dream... and that wasn't even the conclusion of our weekend in Chicago.
And I have to include this photo because I look like I'm the life of the party, which is what I love the most about still photographs. I could caption this: "Doing my Charlie Chaplin routine for Neil Gaiman, Valya Lupescu and Maria Dahvana Headley." And no one would be the wiser.