A couple of weekends ago I found myself waking up at 6am, and dragging my zombie like body to the train station in the name of books.
YALC is the UK’s first ever young adult literature convention. It was set up last year and attached to London Film and Comic Con as it was felt books should be seen alongside other popular media. I had never been to a convention before, but I have to say it is one of the most amazing experiences I have ever had. There was so much positivity and enthusiasm in one place and a real sense of community, and I kind of felt like I wanted to grab a sleeping bag, set up camp and stay there forever!
While the event went on for three days, I only went to the Saturday. I made my way up on the train full of nerves and excitement, barely able to sit still. I met my friend at central, and then took a further two trains to Olympia where the event was taking place. When we got there we were greeted with the longest line I had ever seen and an expression of horror plastered my face. Luckily, it turned out to be comic con only, and YALC had a separate, much more manageable line which we shuffled along to, feeling relieved!
We managed to get through the doors half way through the first panel YA: The Next Generation (hence the very blurry picture as we ended up really near the back!) which was all about authors who had been published really young, how they had found the experience, how they got into writing and their approach to social media. ‘Publishers like to keep us young for as long as possible’ they joked, describing how some of their ages had become static in order to make their books sound more impressive.
While I enjoyed this panel, I found it quite hard to hear a lot of it because of coming in late and ending up near the back, but also because 10 minutes in I realised Non Pratt was sitting in the chair in front of me and BEGAN TO HYPREVENTILATE. You guys know how much I loved her first two books Trouble and Remix! Unfortunately, she left before the panel ended so I didn’t get a chance to speak to her, but I was awed enough simply to be in her presence. 😀
After the talk finished I quickly made my way to queue for the signings, making Samantha Shannon my top priority because I loved her novel The Bone Season so much. Unsurprisingly, Shannon’s was the biggest line and I had to wait a good 40 minutes, but oh, it was so, so worth it!
Much to my frustration, I went completely blank, despite having so much I wanted to say! I couldn’t believe I was facing someone who had created such a complex and unique fictional world and that she looked so young! So instead I just smiled like a crazy person and tried to act vaguely normal. After seeing Shannon the other author queues had gotten a lot smaller, so I popped over to see Alice Oseman (who kindly signed my freebie YALC tote bag because I hadn’t been able to bring her book with me) and then I quickly ran over to the Waterstones stall to buy a copy of Noughts & Crosses to get signed by Malorie Blackman.
Malorie is by far the most lovely author I have met so far! She instantly made me feel comfortable, and had the most brilliant deep belly laugh that lit up her whole face (this made getting pictures of her on panels tricky because her face kept blurring because it was constantly animated!). She made the conversation so easy, thanking me for reading her books, asking about which were my favourite and how my day was going. I told her how her books meant so much to me when I was younger, that they were one of the first YA books I ever read, and how it was the first book I could remember reading without a happy ending and the impact that had on me.
After this, my friend and I decided to skip the Cassandra Clare panel and investigate the YALC stalls. My eyes lit up as I took in the endless pretty stacks of books in every direction. We slowly made our way around each publisher stand one by one, dodging Voldemort, a Fallen Angel, Disney Princesses and various Thor and Game of Thrones cosplays to sign up to competitions and chat to authors. I snapped up a copy of Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne at the Waterstones table and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B by Teresa Toten at theWalker Books stall, and briefly bumped into Lisa Williamson, author of The Art of Being Normal who was sporting a fetching blonde wig, along with James Dawson and the soon to be published Alwyn Hamilton. They were all so lovely and friendly!
I also went a bit crazy at the freebies stand (picture on the left) picking up samples of everything I was interested in from book samples, exclusive previews, badges, bookmarks, oyster card holders, blogger signups and more! BE STILL MY BOOKISH HEART.
Then we headed over to the Being a Girl feminism panel. The authors discussed how they never really set out to write feminist characters, but just based them on the women they saw around them, and that it was important that they were realistic, not just kick-ass! There were some really interesting ideas thrown around about whether people should have to label themselves feminists and if the word should be changed because of negative connotations and misunderstandings. They also talked about whether they had always been feminists, at which point Holly Smale proudly recalled her childhood outrage when a boy told her she couldn’t do something because she was female.
The feminism talk was shortly followed by the Carrie Hope Fletcher’s Book Club panel, which was my favourite part of the entire event because it not only featured authors I loved, but also had interesting discussions. Carrie was such an enthusiastic host, and her eyes lit up as she asked the authors about their writing processes, how much of themselves went into their characters, to what extent they planned their stories, and more! Again I was shocked when I noticed Non Pratt sitting a few rows along and felt my heart beating with excitement, but once again she left the panel early and I didn’t get to talk to her…
At this point my friend and I popped down to the comic con section to have a look around, but quickly went back to the YALC floor gasping for breath. Can I just say lack of oxygen and serious B.O.? I’m so relieved that YALC was well organised because comic con seemed like an absolute nightmare! There was supposed to be a talk with Patrick Ness and Judy Blume down there, but we admitted defeat and decided to just wait for the Patrick Ness signing, which had the biggest queue of the entire event. We waited for a good hour making friends with two fellow Hufflepuffs and were sharing book recommendations when I looked over and noticed Non Pratt AGAIN in the author signing queue opposite for Judy Blume. With a deep breath, I summoned all my courage and walked on over trying not to squeal, and asked if she would sign my tote bag. I told her how much I loved Trouble and Remix, and she said she was sorry but also not sorry for causing my sleep deprivation due to finishing her book at 5am in the morning! We had a good 5 minute chat before I returned to my queue (didn’t want to upset anyone) and I spent the rest of the day in a dizzy haze of happiness having met one of my favourite authors. 😀 MY LIFE IS NOW COMPLETE GUYS. BEST. MOMENT. EVER.
I then got my books signed by the genius Patrick Ness, who was a lovely cheeky chappy (with no outward signs that showed his ability to make hundreds weep like a baby at his story A Monster Calls)! I said hi on behalf of my Canadian book buddy, Cindy, and was then shuffled on because the queue was so long.
I can easily say that my first book convention was an utter success, and can it be July 2016 already because I NEED MORE YALC LIKE I NEED AIR. I would 100% recommend this event to book lovers, everyone was so friendly, the event was well organised and the panels were insightful, and I will definitely be trying to get to more of YALC next year. 😀
Did you go to YALC? Have you ever been to a book convention? Do you have a dream author you wish you could meet?