This weekend marked my first ever time at YALC. For those who don’t know, YALC is the ‘Young Adult Literature Convention’, a London-based convention that forms part of London Film and Comic Con and which celebrates all things bookish, featuring panel discussions and signings by YA authors, writing workshops, stalls from publishers, ARC giveaways, and plenty of books to buy.
Although I’ve been to a few conventions before (including MCM Comic Con and EGX), this was my first convention that was specifically related to books, and the atmosphere felt completely different from the other conventions I’ve been to. The convention floor is relatively small (especially compared to the huge LFCC floor downstairs), and the atmosphere is a lot quieter and (mostly) calmer than I’m used to. It was also an instantly friendly atmosphere.
Aside from the occasional crazy rush to get an advanced reading copy of a book from a publisher, the atmosphere was refreshingly calm. It was also nice how the authors were happily wandering the convention floor and chatting with fans, so it didn’t feel like there was a big divide between the authors and the readers. I have so much to say about my time at YALC, but I’ll try not to get carried away while I talk about my highlights from the three-day weekend.
A lot of people chose to arrive early on the Friday in the hope of getting their hands on some free advanced reading copies (ARCs) of not-yet-released books from the publishers. I decided to take a more leisurely approach and went out for breakfast before arriving half an hour after the start of the convention. I still managed to get my hands on a couple of ARCs. I spent most of Friday getting my bearings and catching up with friends/book bloggers I met throughout the day.
My highlight of the day was probably the Heroines panel, and just enjoying the general atmosphere and company of YALC.
Heroines with Melinda Salisbury, Alwyn Hamilton, Amy Alward, Laure Eve, Sophia Bennett, and chaired by Anna James. This panel was all about what it means to be a heroine, creating well-rounded and inspiring female characters, and general girl-power. It was funny, and smart, and empowering. It also convinced me that I should read Alwyn Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands, as I loved what Alwyn said about having a main character who is often underestimated.
SFF Now with Samantha Shannon, Taran Matharu, Laura Lam, Elizabeth May, David Owen, and chaired by Laure Eve. Even though I haven’t read any of the books written by the authors on this panel, as a lover of sci-fi and fantasy, I really enjoyed the topics it covered.
Writing What You Know with Alex Wheatle, Lisa Williamson, Rachael Lucas, Lisa Heathfield, Hannah Witton, and chaired by Katherine Webber. This was another interesting panel featuring different opinions and a range of topics.
Swapped: At the Hot Key Books book swap, I swapped my copy of The Art of Being Normal by Lisa Williamson for a copy of Saga volume 5 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (a graphic novel I’ve been eager to get my hands on for some time).
Bought: Philosopher’s Stone candle from Geeky Clean (which smells like cherries and lime).
ARCs: The Taste of Blue Light by Lydia Ruffles and The Fandom by Anna Day.
The only signing I went to on Friday was Karen M. McManus‘, the author of One of Us Is Lying. I also had a brief chat with YouTuber and writer Hannah Witton, who whilst I didn’t have a copy of her book on me to sign, was lovely and talkative.
Saturday was my favourite day of the convention. I started my day by attending Wil Wheaton’s talk, and was one of the few audience members lucky enough to ask Wil a question, which instantly made my day. I also got to meet Victoria Schwab, who is one of my favourite authors – alongside the incredible Robin Hobb – and went to a talk by Benedict Cumberbatch, who would cross my path again later on in the day when he interrupted Non Pratt’s head-shave.
For those of you who weren’t at YALC, I can’t describe how perfect this moment was. Picture a room filled with bookworms intently watching Non Pratt’s head being shaved for charity. Now, picture Benedict Cumberbatch passing through that very room, and everybody falling silent as they pinched themselves to work out if this was real, and Benedict Cumberbatch pulling a surprised, then confused face at the strange moment he’d walked in on, before walking to the green room and everyone else erupting into either screams or laughter.
As if the excitement of a close encounter with Benedict wasn’t enough, I then had a great evening going for dinner with some fellow bookworms (including Maddie and Bee, Carys and Lily) (most of which we spent talking about Harry Potter).
Wil Wheaton at LFCC. This was a major highlight of the convention. I am a huge admirer of Wil Wheaton, mostly for his unashamed geekiness, his work on Geek and Sundry shows including Tabletop and Titansgrave, and for his blog and his openness about mental health. I managed to get a seat relatively near the front for his talk, and he was charming, funny, and entertaining. Most excitingly, when the audience were prompted for questions, my hand shot straight into the air and I was first to ask Wil a question. I thanked him for helping myself (and plenty of others) to realise that being a geek is an amazing and awesome thing rather than something to be embarrassed about, and asked him about the people and moments that led him to this same realisation.
Genre-Bending with V. E. Schwab, Ben Aaronovitch, Zen Cho, Martin Stewart, Dan Vyleta, and chaired by Samantha Shannon. This was a really interesting panel about genre-writing, and blurring the lines between categories.
Benedict Cumberbatch at LFCC. This was a completely packed event, mostly led by the enthusiastic audience’s questions. Benedict was charming, humble and incredibly appreciative of his fans, which was really lovely to see.
The Books That Made Me with Laini Taylor, Joanne Harris, V E Schwab, and chaired by Katherine Woodfine. How V. E. Schwab had the energy for this after spending three hours signing books and interacting with fans, I do not know. But this panel was interesting and fun, and it was great to hear authors geeking out about their favourite books.
Swapped: Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton (which I later got signed)
Bought: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.
ARCs: Otherworld by Jason Segel and Kristen Miller and Blackbird by N.D. Gomes.
Victoria Schwab – even after a couple of hours of signing, Victoria was cheery, friendly, and appreciative of her fans.
Ben Aaronovitch – I’d only just started Rivers of London, and Ben was happy to hear I was enjoying the story (and particularly the humour) so far.
Alwyn Hamilton – Having struck gold and picked up a copy of Rebel of the Sands at the book swap earlier that day, I took it to get signed by Alwyn, and told her how much I was looking foward to reading it.
Sunday was slightly quieter than the previous day at YALC, and meant I could take things slowly since I’d already been to most of the signings I’d wanted to get to. I met up with Beth from The Books are Everywhere and her friend Elise, and it was great to catch up briefly whilst queuing to meet Sara Barnard. My highlight of the day was probably the Life Advice panel or Patrick Ness’ talk.
New Voices 2 with Anna Day, Catherine Barter, Penny Joelson, Simon James Green, Orlagh Collins, Karen Gregory, Cecilia Vinesse, Sarah Carroll, Harriet Springbett, Tamsin Winter, and chaired by Katherine Webber. This was a huge panel featuring plenty of new names. It was particularly interesting to hear that each writer had taken a different path to being published.
Publishing 101. This was a small talk all about finding an agent and getting a book published. While this isn’t something of immediate relevance to me (maybe some day – I hope), it was still interesting and informative.
Life Advice with Hannah Witton, Sara Barnard, Holly Bourne, and chaired by Chelsey Pippin. This was a great panel, which included a lot of really useful information. It was also very funny, and the panelists seemed to have fun giving out their life advice.
Patrick Ness, in conversation with Juno Dawson. This was such a fun panel. I’ve been to an event with Patrick Ness before, so I already knew a little bit of what to expect from him. Once again, Patrick was very smart and insightful, whilst also very funny and sometimes very silly.
Swapped: The Martian by Andy Weir, and A Court of Thorns and Roses and A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas, both of which I gifted to my friend, Roshni, since I already have copies of both.
ARCs: The Exact Opposite of Okay by Laura Steven (Thanks to Roshni, who picked it up while I was in a panel, knowing that I’d been desperate to get my hands on this book all weekend).
Bought: The Way of Kings Part One and Part Two by Brandon Sanderson, Revenger by Alastair Reynolds, The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, and The Gunslinger by Stephen King.
Anna Day – having picked up a copy of The Fandom on day one, I decided to get this signed.
Sara Barnard – I absolutely loved A Quiet Kind of Thunder, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to tell Sara how much her book meant to me.
Moira Fowley-Doyle – This was my last signing of the week, and Moira was very friendly and chatty, and happy to talk to me about her book.
Overall, this was such an amazing weekend. It was great to spend time with other bookworms, and the convention had such a friendly and welcoming atmosphere. See you next year, YALC.