Those of you who saw my recent post on YALC planning or follow me on Twitter will know that I spent my weekend at YALC (or bookish heaven, if you will). There were honestly so many highlights and I just had the most fantastic weekend. I’m still living a bit of a post-YALC buzz but also on a HUGE come down going back to reality (well half reality as I’m not in work!).
After travelling by train to London on Thursday, I met my lovely bookish friends Steph and Cora to adventure to our digs for the weekend. 57 stairs and a lot of bags later, we were settled in and super excited for our bookish weekend – little did we know just how INCREDIBLE it would all be!
We arrived to YALC nice and early on the Friday to get in the queue and grab our wristbands, luckily we weren’t far back and by 9am we were making our way into the building with all the other excited bookworms. Friday was a day of exciting panels, meeting fave authors and many other highlights!
The first panel of the day was a Heroines panel featuring Alwyn Hamilton, Laure Eve, Amy Alward, Melinda Salisbury and Sophia Bennett, chaired by the glamorous Anna James. I loved this panel so much, anything to do with a bit of feminism or girl power and I’m in. I especially loved the way the authors talked about heroines not being perfect people and how anyone can be a heroine. I love this idea and it gave me much to think about.
The second panel we attended was a little later on and called Writing What You Know. The panel featured a fab selection of authors including Rachael Lucas, Lisa Williamson, Alex Wheatle, Hannah Witton and Lisa Heathfield, chaired by the absolutely wonderful Katie Webber. This panel was very eye opening for me and I got very emotional over something Lisa Heathfield was discussing as it struck such a close chord to me. I later got the chance to have a chat with her about it and it felt so cathartic to talk to someone who understands the situation as it is a rare one to be in. This was my favourite of the two panels I saw.
As well as the panels I was lucky enough to meet and chat with the following authors whilst they signed either my books or my journal: Melinda Salisbury, Sara Barnard, Alwyn Hamilton, Katherine Webber, Lisa Williamson, Lisa Heathfield, Rachael Lucas and Juno Dawson. Meeting Rachael Lucas was so lovely after having been a huge supporter of her book The State of Grace through Twitter and we had a long talk about the book and journalling – we also decided we would make the perfect person if you put us together! It was also such a lovely highlight to see Katie again and get her to sign my journal for the second time (all my copies of Wing are signed – lucky me!). Katie is such a lovely person and I admire her greatly so it was lovely to see her again – she was even wearing the dragon socks I bought her a few months ago.
After so many months of talking to the lovely Harriet Springbett via Twitter, Steph and I finally got to meet her on Friday and I loved being able to give her such a huge hug. I first met Harriet throught the #SundayYA chat that was hosted about her debut novel Tree Magic and since then we have spoken a lot on Twitter and through my blog. It was an absolute delight to meet her, she is such a lovely person and we had a lot of fun chatting away to her this weekend and supporting her in her own panel!
A strange highlight of the day for me was having the lovely folk from My Kinda Book as well as several authors having a bit of a fangirl over my bullet journal. It never occurred to me that this would happen and so when I dutifully allowed them to have a look through it I was so overwhelmed with all the lovely comments back. It was also weird to be recognised as ‘Kelly from Twitter‘ or ‘Kelly’s Rambles‘ all weekend – weird but so lovely. I also met lots of really lovely bloggers and Twitter friends as well as getting to meet some publicists in person that I’ve only ever spoken to via email/Twitter!
Friday evening saw the launch of the new BKMRK team and it was a really great chance to talk to others about all things books and we were also treated to complimentary wine and nibbles. It was such a lovely way to relax after Day 1 of YALC. Shortly after this we had the now infamous #QuizYA hosted by the lovely author Non Pratt who was raising money to shave her hair for charity. Steph and I very quickly attached ourselves to Sara Barnard’s team (queue fangirling over Sara) and ended up being on the winning team! #TEAMBARNARD became a very real way of life this weekend and it was such a great way to end the night. Lots of laughs were had and here is a picture of Steph, Sara and I at the end of the night celebrating our victory!
Saturday was full of panels – we went to four in total as well as a bookshop and more signings with lovely authors.
The first panel of the day was an early one (9:15am) but we were desperate to go and hear from all of the lovely debut authors. New Voices 1 panel contained authors Vic James, Carlie Sorosiak, Hayley Barker, Ed McDonald, Karen M McManus, Josh Martin, Gemma Fowler and Alice Broadway, chaired by the ever enthusastic Katherine Webber (also a debut novelist with Wing Jones). The two New Voices panels over the weekend were probably two of my favourites because it was lovely to hear about the authors’ journeys to getting published as well as getting lots more recommendations.
Panel number two was a little later in the day, in fact we ended up doing 3 hours of panels in a row after a more relaxed middle part of the day. The Myths, Magic and Fairy-Tale panel was hosted by journalist Imogen Russell Williams and had authors Julia Gray, Deirdre Sullivan, Laura Dockrill, Zoe Marriott, Joanne Harris and Peadar O’Guilin. I do love a book with magic or fairy tale in it and definitely came away from this panel with a lot of recommendations. I especially want to read Deirdre Sullivan’s upcoming title which looks and sounds gorgeous!
Next up was an ‘In Conversation’ event with Katherine Webber and Laini Taylor. My favourite thing about this panel is that Katie is a huge Laini Taylor fan and happened to be in Karou cosplay for the chat itself. I really loved that this was an ‘in conversation’ as it gave Laini plenty of time to answer the questions in detail as well as sneakily throwing a few back Katie’s way. I loved Strange the Dreamer but definitely need to get onto the DOSAB trilogy now! Laini was just lovely!
The final panel of the day on Saturday was chaired by the fab Katherine Woodfine who somehow managed to keep her cool whilst chairing Joanne Harris, Laini Taylor and V. E. Schwab in the Books That Made Me panel. This panel was also a favourite of mine as it was lovely to hear authors talking a lot about their own relationships to reading and books as well as hearing about their own fangirl moments (thinking Schwab with Neil Gaiman here!).
Steph and I were also very lucky to go to Melinda Salisbury’s morning workshop Bags to Books. There were only 10 spaces available and so we were thrilled to be able to go – especially Steph who is Mel’s super fan! I’ve loved meeting Mel this weekend and chatting to her on a few occasions. Not only is she super lovely but she’s just absolutely hilarious and I don’t think we stopped giggling throughout the workshop. Due to unforeseen circumstances we didn’t get our bags finished but Mel sorted it out for us and as a result I have one of only a few The Sin Eater’s Daughter clutch bags to exist and I’m so excited to give it a go myself!
As far as signings went, we got to meet and speak to a lot more authors again – this was always the highlight of my weekend. There is something very special about speaking to authors that you admire (upcoming blog post about this too!). I was lucky to meet the lovely Carlie Sorosiak, Alice Broadway, Will Hill, Peadar O’Guilin, Tanya Byrne and Kiran Millwood Hargrace. All of them were absolutely wonderful!
Saturday evening was by far the highlight of the weekend for most YALC goers. After the final panel wrapped up, the wonderful Non Pratt took to the stage to complete her charity head shave. In a bid to raise a final bit of extra money, Non opened to the audience for people to donate in exchange for cutting some of her hair. Above you’ve got some snaps of lovely UKYA authors absolutely taking delight in helping Non out: Melinda Salisbury (who went back for plenty more), Alwyn Hamilton, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, David Owen and the lovely Carlie Sorosiak who tidied up Non’s hair in the aftermath. The true highlight of this event (aside from the money Non has raised) was the moment when a very shocked Benedict Cumberbatch walked through the door clearly not expecting to find 100+ people watching someone have their head shaved. Queue a moment of silence, a lot of screaming and some confusion from Non who couldn’t see why the audience were screaming and he was gone again. Surely a moment that will go down in YALC history!
And so the final day of YALC arrived and the tiredness was getting REAL. But up and at ’em we were and straight in for panel one of the day!
The first panel was a take two on Saturday’s New Voices panel and featured more lovely debut authors: Karen Gregory (who was losing her voice!), Orlagh Collins, Tamsin Winters, Harriet Springbett, Anna Day, Penny Joelsen, Cecilia Vinesse, Catherine Barter, Sarah Carroll and Simon James Green (not pictured – woops!). Again this was hosted by the still enthusiastic (despite tiredness) Katie Webber who was repping for #TeamGryffindor – YAY! It was lovely to hear from these authors about their journey to publication and also to learn that not all of them have an agent but had found different routes into publishing. I learnt a lot from this panel and loved all of the authors’ enthusiasm.
Possibly my other favourite panel of the weekend was the Life Advice panel hosted by Chelsey Pippin with authors Hannah Witton, Holly Bourne and Sara Barnard. Having read books by each of these lovely ladies I knew we would be in for a treat but this panel was so funny whilst also talking about some really difficult topics such as bullying. Also, look at Sara wearing her #TeamBarnard crown! Later in the day we also saw Juno Dawson in conversation with Patrick Ness which was the closing panel for YALC but I didn’t manage to snag a photo as I was so tired by that point.
Once again I met more lovely authors and particularly loved chatting again with Sara Barnard and meeting Karen Gregory and talking about Countless – it was another surreal moment when she recognised Steph and I from our Twitter conversations with her. I was also lucky enough to meet Maggie Harcourt, Holly Bourne, Non Pratt and treated the lovely Harriet Springbett to some chocolate treats whilst she signed by copy of Tree Magic.
After having more lovely conversations with bloggers, publicists and authors throughout the day we ended YALC with a #TeamBarnard picture at the YALC letters – thanks to Non for taking our picture and Sara for being our Queen! As you can tell from our victory V’s we are still quite happy with ourselves! Steph and I were also super excited that Sara gave a shoutout to #SundayYA during her panel and were delighted to tell Rachel all about it.
I loved absolutely everything about YALC this weekend and would like to thank all the organisers who did such a fantastic job at making this bookish heaven a reality for us all. A big thank you to Katie Webber for being as lovely and supportive to me as she always is and to all the other lovely authors who took time to speak with me and sign my journal/books this weekend. And a last enormous shout out to the inspirational Non Pratt who brought us #QuizYA, #TeamBarnard and a head shaving moment that will never be forgotten – what a woman! It all still feels like a bit of a blur but a wonderful, colourful and exciting blur!
As you can imagine I did not come home empty handed but you’ll have to check back in a few days for my YALC book haul so you can see the goodies – there is plenty to be excited about!
Did you go to YALC? What was your highlight?
Do you think you would like to go to YALC next year? Who would you hope to meet?