About an hour ago when they asked me to do this, they said "Would you introduce Neil? You know him better than the rest of us." Anyone who has spoken or listened to Neil knows that he's warm and funny and entertaining and all those nice things, so I tried to think what I have been privileged to observe that not everyone got to see. And the main thing that came to mind is how he himself is always observing interesting things about the people and places around him, and commenting on them later.
He will say things like "I really enjoyed talking to Alice about her art," or, walking back from Stockwell Hall, he stopped to pick some Rose Hips and open one up to show me how in between the seeds there is a fuzz that's a natural itching powder. I must have looked at him curiously, and he gave me this slightly fiendish smile, and he said, "You know this if you're an eight-year-old boy, and you might put it down the back of someone's shirt."
I think it is this fundamental personality trait, of stopping to observe things and share them, instead of just going from one place to another, that has lead to the wonderful writer we have here now.
That and perhaps the fact that that fiendish eight-year-old boy is only slightly below the surface, of this incredibly literate person it is my privilege to introduce to you: our Author Guest of Honor, Neil Gaiman.
...It was particularly nice delivering it knowing that, though I can't normally mimic voices, I had picked up Neil's accent over the weekend, and a bit of his pacing, so I could quote him and sound a bit like him. It's frustrating writing it down, though. Writing something you spoke in the first place, you realize there are many pauses in there and it's hard to know which ones to punctuate and how. I know this is a commonly recognized problem but I think this is the first time I've had something of length that I delivered orally and wrote down afterwards rather than the other way around.
A frustration in delivering it was that I had a nice threesome of adjectives - "warm, *something*, and funny" planned out for that early line about what everyone might notice, but at the time of delivery I couldn't remember the middle one and so ad-libbed the not-very-satisfying "entertaining" --which is not really that different from funny in context, and that lead straight on to "and all those nice things" because my head kept wanting to assert that there was something else that should have gone there; it wasn't finished.