Attending my first bookish event: YALC 2015!

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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!

YALC 2015From left to right: Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season), Lucy Saxon (Take Back the Skies), Helena Coggan (The Catalyst), Taran Matharu (The Novice) and Alice Oseman (Solitaire).

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!

YALC 2015 Samantha Shannon

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.

YALC 2015 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!

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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.

YALC 2015From left to right: Malorie Blackman (Noughts & Crosses), Hayley Long (Being a Girl), Holly Smale (Geek Girl), Laura Dockrill (Lorali) and CJ Daugherty (Night School Series).

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…

YALC 2015  From left to right: Malorie Blackman (Noughts & Crosses), Holly Smale (Geek Girl), Samantha Shannon (The Bone Season) and Carrie Hope Fletcher (Youtuber and now author).

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.

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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?

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38 thoughts on “Attending my first bookish event: YALC 2015!

  1. YA book convention? Fellow Hufflepuffs…? You are such a shameless dork.

    But provided you had fun I guess that makes it okay.

    I don’t think I’d like to go to something like this, as I’d probably end up just staring madly at Stephen King as I blurt out inane anecdotes about where I was when I first started reading his books.

    The Comic Con section… was it full of chubby guys with beards showing off their favourite Thor t-shirts? I bet it was hell.

    Those points raised in the feminism talk have been discussed quite a bit in some feminist circles. It’s ultimately about equality, which you’d sort of assume that most people are interested in, so to have to specifically call yourself one is at odds with that. The word itself has negative connotations associated with it, which is perhaps indicative of the prejudices that still exist.

    You look proper gawj in the photos by the way, but once again you manage to look very different from how I remember you in the last set of pics you posted. In fact it wouldn’t surprise me if you were the person on the right in each of those photos, and that blonde girl on the left is just some hapless person you followed around all day.

    • Yes I am and proud of it. 😀 I definitely had fun, and when you’re having fun who cares what other people think?

      Haha, that is generally how it goes. Most people end up being pretty starstruck when they meet a favourite author, and I was chuffed with how well I did this time because I managed to make some actual conversation! I have a feeling Stephen King would be used to it. 🙂

      Pretty much! But it was awesome seeing how much effort some people put into their costumes, some were amazing, especially the Voldemort one, he was super creepy! I went passed the signing section and didn’t even know who any of the celebs were, guess it was too nerdy even for me to know any of them!

      The feminism talk was really interesting because some of the authors did have differing views and all of them were strong.

      Cheers Cargill, what can I say, I guess I’m a chameleon, and damn you for sussing out my master plan to take over the world!

  2. Glad you had fun! I went last year and it was amazing but parts of it were a nightmare due to it being part of Comic Con. Sounds like they really tried to improve that – there was no separate queue last year and we missed most of the first day because of it. I’d love to go back, I just couldn’t afford it this year 😦

    • Thank you! So glad to hear you made it to YALC last year. I did hear that the organisation last year wasn’t so good, so I think they took that on board and made it a lot better this time around. No separate queue?!?! That’s awful. The comic con line was soul crushing. I hope you manage to make it next year and can enjoy the better organisation. 🙂

  3. I was in Olympia in January for a computer thing… Here’s a good tip… There’s a back entrance! Get off the DLR at the stop after Olympia and go in that way. Beats a lot of queuing! I’m on a short time limit, promise I’ll read this fully later in the week!

  4. WHAT?! WHAT?! WHY DON’T WE GET THIS?! DO YOU KNOW WHAT I WOULD DO TO KEET PATRICK NESS? OR LAURA DOCKRILL? OR NON PRATT?!
    AHHHHHHHHH!!!!!
    I am so so jealous and so happy for you! Ahhh, this sounds like it was an amazing time!!!

    • I DON’T KNOW, BUT YOU SHOULD GET THIS AND IT SHOULD BE AVAILABLE ALL OVER THE WORLD. Patrick Ness was awesome, I wish I had more time to chat to him, and Non was amazing as well, I felt totally flustered, giddy and on cloud nine after meeting her. 😀 I hadn’t heard of Laura Dictrill before the event, but she seemed like great fun!

      Thank you. 😀

      • We should! Though, I suppose, most of our YA readers read books from overseas. But still. I mean…people love Australia! They should want to come here!!!
        I don’t even KNOW what I would do if I met one of my favourite authors…probably faint.
        Laura Dockrill wrote “Lorali” and I have only JUST reviewed it. You should totally read the book. It blew my mind!

      • We read a LOT of American books here, it’s ridiculously saturated, but recently a movement has begun encouraging people to read more YA that’s based in the UK or written by people in the UK. Maybe the Aussies could try and start something similar? 🙂

        I just read your review of Lorali and it has INTRIGUED ME. I’m not totally sure I’m sold on mermaids though… maybe it’s worth giving a go?

    • ME TOO, IT MADE MY DAY. I was sad when the schedule went up for YALC and I saw that the panels and signings for Non weren’t on the day I was going. So I was resigned to the fact I wouldn’t be meeting here and then THERE SHE WAS. I COULDN’T BELIEVE IT.

      Hehee, thank you. 🙂

  5. That sounds like so much fun! I’m pretty envious of all the freebies and signatures you managed to snag. xD And isn’t talking to your favourite authors just the BEST THING EVER? I’ve only ever been to one similar event and got to meet Brandon Sanderson; however, I learned that they have a literature festival in March and there will be over 50 famous authors with panels and one-on-one meetings and stuff, so I’m anxiously waiting to sign myself up!

    • It really was. 😀 I was so surprised by how many signings I managed to get to, I was expecting the queue’s to be horrendous and take much longer than they did so that was another huge bonus I wasn’t expecting. I bet meeting Sanderson was amazing! I know how much you love his books and I think there is something awe inspiring about meeting fantasy authors and realising all that whimsy, imagination and wonderlust came out of a real human head. 🙂

      That festival sounds amazing, go Zen, go!

  6. I am so jealous of you! Living in Australia, I feel like I’m missing out in so much. I need to do some research into finding some Australian bookish events.
    YALC sound so incredible and I’m literally squealing that you got to are Patrick Ness, in the flesh!!! I’m convinced to go to the UK just for this event. xoxo

    • Awh man, that sucks! I completely relate because until now I felt the exact same way, there has never really been a bookish event quite like this in the UK before, especially not for YA. I did a little squeal when I met Patrick Ness myself. 😀

      You definitely should pop on over for a holiday and fit in YALC while you’re here. 🙂

  7. Hey, nice work you, and your photographer.

    I forgot to suggest you could make some ‘Becky’s blog bookmarks’ to hand out to your fave authors, maybe autograph them too.
    Make you stand out doubly so!

    Maybe next one 😉

  8. OMG, this was the best post everrrrrrrr!!!!!! Dizzy haze of happiness – I know exactly what you mean by that, and my heart was pounding as I read about your exciting day. I think I just about passed out when I saw the photo of you with Samantha Shannon. You are soooo lucky!! And you got to meet Patrick Ness. Be still my heart. I swear that is like being in the presence of book royalty! Ok, I have to go and read the whole post over again LOL. I am so glad you had a fabulous time :).

  9. {Settles in for a long read}….

    That looked like so much fun. I love the way you were stalking Non Pratt all day. 🙂 Oh, Patrick Ness! I’d just say, “You touched me, man!” and have to move on before I started blubbering about A Monster Calls.

    You look quite a bit like Samantha Shannon in the pic of you and her; close enough to be related!

    I know as a writer I love it when someone said they liked my stories. I also blush like a shy tween. 🙂 Malorie Blackman looks like she was fun!

    • Haha yeah, it was quite funny and comical at the time, I couldn’t believe how I just kept missing her!! I was so lucky to bump into her right at the last event of the day, I was ecstatic. 🙂 Hahaa, highly approve of your Patrick Ness reaction, that pretty much mirrored mine as well.

      I know what you mean, I think that was one of the things that shocked me/made me speechless, that we were so close in age and how much she had achieved!

      I’m sure it must be a great feeling. 🙂 Malorie was such a personality!

  10. Oh this sounds BRILLIANT! I feel like I’d be too terrified to actually be face-to-face with authors though?! I wouldn’t speak, I’d just shove my books in their face, stare at the floor while they signed and then run away like a startled cat.

    I loved reading this post! 🙂

    • It was! Don’t worry, I felt exactly the same way, you do go through a little panic I can’t do this I’m not worthy stage, LOL. But the more times you do it, the easier it gets! And each new author I met at the event I became a bit more chatty with. The shoving the book in their face and going red and silent is something I have done several times!

      Thanks you. 😀

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