YALC; the good, the bad and the… erm, freaking out

So the very first Young Adult Literature Convention was a couple of weekends ago, as many of you will be aware. I thought I would share a few of my thoughts on how I thought the weekend went on my blog as a fair few others have an in light of this article on the Telegraph. 

Reading the many blogs and that above mentioned article you would think that the event was a great success, and to be honest I really hope it was and that the people at Showmasters, who organise LFCC, think so too so it can be done again. Saying that though I think there are some things that would need to be addressed for me to return if the event happens. I want to be completely honest in my write up of YALC as I think its pointless not being vocal about where things went wrong – how will they be fixed if the people organising the event don’t know where things went wrong?

Reading that above sentence probably makes you think I’m about to go into full blown rant mode. I’m not. There was a lot I loved about YALC and a lot I didn’t. With this in mind I’m going to just muddle them up and tell you about them all. 

DRAGON! 

First up because YALC was part of LFCC (London Film & Comic Con) there was a lot of people there. Figures thrown around by a few of the organiser people I talked to were something like 70,000. This was both a good and a bad thing. The venue was packed, and it was boiling hot and the air conditioning didn’t come on on Saturday until quite late on. These were all downsides, but there were plenty of upsides. The LFCC go-ers are obviously well into getting their geek on. There was cosplay, there were geeky t-shirts, and the excitement radiated through the place. The cosplayers were great to see and the stalls in the LFCC side of the venue were totally my kind of thing so I enjoyed venturing over to them, especially as I have never experienced one of the comic cons before (I have been meaning too but thought I’d feel a little too out of my depth before now!). Being part of LFCC also meant that there were a fair few people who I think came wandering over to YALC just because it was there and to see what it was about, hopefully taking with them an insight into the fact that YA isn’t just for kids or thinking about looking into some of the authors on the panels and doing signings, but who knows! 

As I briefly touched on above the atmosphere for the weekend was electric. There was a lot of excitement and I honesty felt more at home at YALC and LFCC than I have ever done before. Knowing that most people there were as big a geek as I am was awesome, even if their geekiness was over something other than books. In the YALC part of the venue it was brilliant knowing you could just start chatting to the people in front of you and they wouldn’t look you up and down like you were a weirdo as you would get trying to chat to people in the queues in your local Tesco. I felt like everyone there left their judgement at the door and that was awesome. 

I’m too sexy for this book…  

The schedule for YALC was pretty heavy. There were five author panels, five author/publisher workshops and a load of signings by those authors throughout the day. I think my main bug bear was that on Saturday I got there at 11.30 and the panel tickets I wanted to go to had all gone, the workshops were done in a lottery and I wasn’t interested in those and there wasn’t much else to do other than sit and wait for the signings I wanted to go to. There needed to be more on in the YALC zone other than a swag stand and a Waterstones stand I think… However I understand that this was the first year of doing the event so its hard to work out how to do it when it hasn’t been done before. 
On the Sunday we got there early and managed to get tickets for the two events I wanted to go to the most. The first, ‘I’m too sexy for this book’ with James Dawson, Cat Clarke, Non Pratt and Beth Reekles talking about sex in YA was fantastic. I managed to get a seat near the front, could see and hear everything and generally had a great laugh while there was talking of ‘hammering it out’, ‘trickle down effects’ and ‘alternative hole usage.’ The speakers for the mics could have done with being a bit further back though as the panel area was in the open, and where we were sat for the second panel was pretty much impossible to hear anything. There were also people coming over and just sitting down whilst they waited for friends, family etc, to go into the photo booths either side of the panel area to get their pictures with Lena Headey and Stan Lee… which was annoying. I think a mostly walled off space for the talks is needed somehow to stop this from happening especially as those people were coming and sitting down and talking among themselves whilst the people who wanted to hear the authors talking couldn’t hear a thing. Quite rude really! 

When it came to the signings, there was a fair bit of shuffling around needed. Basically on the Saturday the queue for Rainbow Rowell was ridiculous, especially considering there was ample space on a signing table that was more accessible yet she was seated somewhere awkward to get to! This was rectified on Sunday though and I think the organisers learnt their lesson fast with that one. Most of the authors were awesome and would have a quick chat whilst signing and this did make things go slower but gave a more personal experience. I will say that there probably should have been a limit on the number of books a person could take to be signed, even if its a ‘get three signed then return to the back of the queue if you have more’ rule because it wasn’t fair on other fans in the Darren Shan and Malorie Blackman queue who had to be turned away because the author had to leave for a panel and other commitments.

Me and Sarra Manning! 

My personal signing highlights had to be meeting authors I don’t talk to that much who actually knew my name from my twitter account like Sarah Crossan, Alexia Casale and, much to my surprise, Sarra Manning. This was awesome and especially awesome was Sarra because I have loved her work since I was 13 and I just freaked out inside when she was aware of me… I actually went quite quiet and shy because I was freaking out inside so much so she probably thinks I’m really weird but never mind! Then I finally got to meet some of the awesome authors I talk to a fair bit but only online like Cat Clarke and CJ Skuse, and see some others who I’ve met before but still love to pieces like Non Pratt and Tanya Byrne. 

It was great to meet some of the people from the publishers that I talk to a lot and I really do appreciate the hard work they did to make YALC special for everyone. I have to give a massive shout out to Nina from Indigo for sorting out the blogger brunch on Sunday morning and to Harriet from Random House who helped me out a lot with a major problem I had with the cloakroom at the venue! 

I honestly think Sunday was so much better organised that Saturday and I am so glad I went back. I was considering not doing so and I know other people who didn’t bother, but to be honest it was better, the air conditioning was on, there was more space in the really busy signings as they moved them to the more open signing spaces and I enjoyed it a lot more. I was saying on Saturday that I wouldn’t go back next year but if the problems with the panel area was solved then I probably would. I would also like to see more actual stands from the publishers but I understand that this might be a problem due to staffing and cost etc. 

All in all, YALC was an experience and it wasn’t always a great one, but at other times it was fantastic and one of the best things that I have done! Here’s to the next YALC and what I am hoping it will bring! Thanks again to Malorie Blackman, publishers, organisers, and authors for all their hard work!