You’re probably thinking ‘Why the YALC post now? It’s been OVER A WEEK’. Well, life has been pretty manic since YALC and I’ve spent so long flailing like Kermit at all my nearest and dearest (and other persons besides!) that I haven’t actually managed to get my YALC feelings down into one cohesive blog post. I want to do some longer blog posts about one or two of my favourite panels (watch this space!) but for now, here’s my take on my first ever YALC.
So: YALC. A whole weekend of books, talks, panels and signings. My printed outline was highlighted in so many places I knew that I’d need a Time Turner to do everything I wanted to so, with that in mind, I set out early for Olympia on the Saturday morning so I had plenty of time to scope things out. I’m not good in crowded spaces generally, and I was pleasantly surprised at how empty the hall was when I arrived inside at 8.45am…
I spent some time checking out the tables of free stuff, picking up my YALC tote bag – which I now take EVERYWHERE I love it so much – and then, realising all the free stuff was actually free, helped myself to as much as I could. A more sensible blogger than myself would have got duplicates and done a giveaway, but alas, I was so completely awed by how much cool stuff was on offer, I didn’t really know where to look!
Once I’d got my free goodies, I went round and ogled the book stalls and publisher stands. They were really well stocked and everyone was friendly and helpful, which was really great for me because at this point I was so excited and equally so completely thrown as to how much awesome was in one space that I stood there like a lemming who’d forgotten how to use words. So thankyou, lovely YALC stand people, for talking to me and snapping me out of my this-is-so-good-I’m-terrified mode!
Then I went and sat in the panel hall, a good hour (an hour! I was there so early!) before my first event. Luckily, I was reading Half The World, the second book in the Half A War trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. (Side Note: This book is completely amazing. If you haven’t read this series yet, go get yourself to a bookshop this instant!)
My first panel was YA: The Next Generation. I was super-stoked for this panel as I am in LOVE with Samantha Shannon’s The Bone Season series and had missed the chance to see her at Oxford a few months earlier. I knew about Taran Matharu as I’ve heard a lot about his debut The Novice on twitter. I’d also read really excellent articles about Helena Coggan and Lucy Saxon recently in various papers online, so the only one I hadn’t heard of before was Alice Oseman.
This panel was really interesting, from the perspective of both a reader and a writer. The discussion was primarily around what it was like to be a young author, what the expectations are of young authors, as well as how the media treats such young stars. Lucy Saxon was in the most AMAZING cosplay outfit – so amazing that she couldn’t actually sit down in it all day! I was particularly impressed by the discussion around diversity, with Taran Matharu pointing out that “Publishers need to be more diverse so they don’t read a book and go “oh I don’t *get* it so I can’t publish it”.”. Lucy Saxon pointed out that her first book was unintentionally “as mayonnaise as hell!” and all the authors talked about how they were now checking their own writing for unintentional ‘white-washing’. There was also a big shout-out to The Fire Sermon by Francesca Haig, which was already on my to-read list (and I got a free sampler too!).
Coggan and Saxon finished the panel with wise words of advice. Coggan reminded us all to “not rely on the JK Rowling model!” and Saxon urged all of us writers to simply “Write YOU“.
I stepped out of the Shadowhunters talk as I’ve not yet read any Cassandra Clare (and oh my GOD it was heavingly busy for that panel!) and got my book signed by Samantha Shannon, where more awkwardness abounded and I was very frustrated at myself looking back for being too nervous to ask for a picture with her. Then I took the time to wander around the hall again. With hindsight, I should have used the time to go to the Publishing 101 panel in the Agents’ Arena but instead I bought a few books, including Solitaire by the lovely Alice Oseman who signed my copy and took with me easily the cutest selfie of my entire YALC weekend. Then I waited for Shadowhunters to empty out and went straight back in again to nab the best seat I could for Being A Girl.
Now, Being A Girl was such an awesome panel that there is no way in a million years I can do it justice here, so I will blog again very soon with a separate post on this particular panel. But it was AMAZING. I already knew Malorie Blackman was the absolute queen of everything, after meeting her on an Arvon course a year or two ago, but OH MY GOODNESS I wanted to cheer everything she said! Similarly, Holly Smale was completely and utterly amazing; my favourite part was when she said that she hit the boy next door with a stick when she was four because he said she couldn’t fly planes because she was a girl. I love you, Holly Smale! It was also really interesting to listen to CJ Daugherty, as I did have some issues with how certain characters deal with certain issues in her Night School books. However, after hearing everything she had to say, I am definitely going to give the series another go, as what I came away with when I read the first two books and what CJ said were very different indeed.
I then went to the Writing YALC workshop, which was good fun but I think I had misunderstood the brief, so it wasn’t quite what I had pictured in my head. It was wonderfully creative though, and gave me a chance to chat to fellow YALC-ers as we worked, rather than trying desperately to hide in a corner where nobody would notice me!
After this I was torn between Carrie Hope Fletcher’s YALC Book Club (featuring Malorie Blackman, Holly Smale and Samantha Shannon. I don’t know what I was thinking, missing it!) and the Agent Author talk which was with agent Molly Ker Hawn and author Kat Ellis. Now I may have been disappointed to miss the Book Club panel – where are you, Time Turner?! – but it was more than made up for by the fabulous duo of Molly and Kat. There were big issues with volume: there were no microphones in the Agent’s Arena and no doors to close the space either, which meant that we were perpetually leaning forward to hear what was being said. Big thanks to Molly and Kat though who ploughed onwards with the panel as loudly as they could! Molly was fantastically informative both in discussion and answering audience questions. And to dovetail with that, it was really interesting hearing Kat’s side of things; she was great at answering audience questions thinking about the author side of the deal. The two clearly have a fantastic working relationship and it was encouraging to see just how on-side your agent can (and arguably should!) be.
After this, of course, everyone disappeared downstairs to hear Patrick Ness and Judy Blume in Conversation. However, having never read any Judy Blume and knowing that Patrick Ness wouldn’t be chatting about his new book on this particular occasion, I hung around for the Behind the Scenes Talk: UK vs US publishing. This panel was made up of some wonderful authors including CJ Daugherty who, if I hadn’t already loved her from the Being A Girl panel, I loved a bazillion times more after this session. In here words “Oh everything’s coming out, it’s like therapy! Don’t we all feel so much better now?!” [on occasional problems between countries].
The session was also chaired by Molly Ker Hawn who, as an agent who deals with both countries, had a particular insight into the discussion. All the authors had so many interesting things to say about their differing experiences with publishers, editors, covers, titles and marketing on either side of the Atlantic, with bonus contributions from Molly who naturally sees the author side of some trans-Atlantic disputes as well! One especially frequented problem was that of having two different editors who sometimes want to pull the book in different directions. CJ Daugherty said with her Night School series, she had two different editors who wanted to take the book in wildly different directions! Now she just has the one editor who does that story work, making everyone’s lives easier. I wanted to thank all the panellists from this talk; it was such a fun, lively and engaging discussion. It was the perfect way to end my first day at YALC!
My Highlight: Being A Girl panel.
My Surprise Event: Agent / Author Talk
The Event I Wish I’d Been To: Publishing 101
Sunday’s blog post coming very shortly! x