So, this weekend, I happened across that most rare and elusive beasts when working in retail – A Weekend OFF! And because I’m a painfully disorganised human being, I decided last Monday that I would grab a train down to London for a chance to drop in at YALC, the UK’s very FIRST Young Adult Literature Convention, and a smaller subset of the London Film & Comic Con. I was super excited (as I often am when it comes to YA books), and in a hectic rush to get down there, so I grabbed the first train to London on Saturday morning (5:29am, a sickening time of day to be a functioning human being), burdened with a holdall filled with books, clothes and the bare minimum of essentials. In total, I took 16 books, with the intention of getting as many signed as physically possible.
Because I had decided to attend at such short notice, I was forced to buy tickets for the event on the door, which required standing in a queue of Wookies, Judge Dredds and Vulcans for two or so hours, under a punishingly cruel sun, with no water or food (I’d like to thank the random lady I shared the queue time with, she stopped me losing my sanity), before I managed to even step foot into the gargantuan Earl’s Court 2. Once I made my way in, I navigated the staggering crowds, past some stunningly elaborate (and just plain awful) cosplays, to the back where YALC was taking place. The very first thing I did was head over to the Waterstones stand to check in on the super shiny Teresa and Jenn, who had kindly offered to look after my bag of books (I couldn’t check in to my hotel, so I had ALL of my books with me for the weekend), a kindness that I don’t think I could ever repay – that bag was SERIOUSLY heavy, I think I dislocated both shoulders by Sunday night. With that dealt with, I wandered around for a little while, briefly bumping into Patrick Ness (literally bumping), and his lovely publicist Paul Black, who I’d previously met when I interviewed Mr. Ness in Waterstones York. Much to my shock, both remembered me, and even introduced me to Department 19 author Will Hill as “ShinraAlpha” from Twitter. That was pretty shiny.
After that brief brush with authordom, I took myself over to the first talk of the day, “It’s the end of the world as we know it: the ongoing appeal of dystopia”, with a panel of Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness and Sarah Crossan, chaired by James Smythe. As a massive fan of the dystopian genre, I was really excited to hear the authors take on why it’s so successful, and on how dark is too dark for teen fiction. Some brilliant discussion was generated, about how dystopia reflects the world teenagers feel they live in sometimes, and how the tension and drama of dystopia lends itself to gripping storytelling and paced writing that immediately catches attentions. It was while I was stood at this talk (all the seats had been nabbed) that I was ushered to one side slightly, and as I glanced across to my left to see what was happening in the queue for one of the photo events, I was stood level with the legendary STAN LEE, who was on his way to sign photos with fans all day. It was pretty startling, I didn’t process it until he was already whisked away to do his days work, but I’m never going to forget that. The panel was superb, with the passion of Malorie Blackman being a superb highlight, and all the authors taking their time to answer questions from the audience with intelligent, direct and satisfying answers. I stuck around for the following panel talk (managing, thankfully, to grab a seat) – “Going Graphic: From novels to graphic novels” with Ian Edginton, Marcus Sedgewick & Emma Vineceli, chaired by the wonderfully eclectic Sarah McIntyre, which was a fascinating insight into the struggles and freedoms that the change in medium allows a writer, something I’d not really considered before. Ian also revealed he was working on a graphic novel adaptation of Noughts & Crosses by Malorie Blackman, which I’m looking forward to!
After the first two panels, I swanned off for a bit, with the intention of getting some books signed. I joined the queue to meet Jonathan Stroud, who signed my copy of Lockwood & Co, and we had a great chat about horror and how much we loved anything creepy as kids. He was absolutely lovely, passionate and engaging, and we discussed the idea of doing some events in the North – so watch this space! After that, the queue for Malorie Blackman was far too intimidating, and the crowd for the next talk, “Superfans Unite” featuring Rainbow Rowell prevented me from seeing or hearing anything – the queue for her signing afterwards was a mindboggling snake of human beings that went on for what felt like hours, so I never did get a signed Fangirl for a prize at work… I got chance during this lull to meet the lovely people on the Hot Key desk once again (I’ve been annoying Hot Key ever since they started up), and managed to get my copy of Fearsome Dreamer signed by the fantastic Laure Eve, AND bought the sequel, The Illusionists. She was a total delight, despite clearly being so busy.
Once the Superfans panel dissolved, with no real interest in the next panel (“Regenerating the Doctor”), I made a beeline for the signing for Andy Robb, the author of Geekhood, and a long time lovely Twitter friend of mine, who I always seemed to miss at events in London. After he encouraged me to hop the signing desk, I was sat chatting away to him for about an hour, while he signed books. At one point, a lady took my picture, clearly assuming I was an author myself… So if I show up tagged as Andy at some point, I’ll take that. I also caught up with Laura of SisterSpooky blog, who gave me what was left of her Sprite, making her a complete legend. It was the best thing I’ve ever drank. After Andy, I popped to the next panel, “Bring Me My Dragons: Writing fantasy today” and enjoyed a great discussion chaired by Marc Aplin with authors Frances Hardinge, Amy McCulloch, Jonathan Stroud & Ruth Warburton, about the difficulties of creating a brand new universe from scratch, as well as the freedoms that come with it.
After the Fantasy panel, I shuffled forward for one of the panels of the weekend I was most excited for – “Heroes of Horror”, featuring Charlie Higson, Will Hill, Derek Landy & Darren Shan (chaired by Rosie Fletcher). I was treated to a very excitable, engaging and hilarious panel of authors, discussing with relish the gore and violence they weave, and how much fun they have doing it. All of them shared a love for the genre that stemmed from leaping from Children’s Books straight into Adult Horror books, which I can completely relate with myself. Derek Landy was a particular delight, giggling with glee about the characters he’d killed in increasingly violent ways, and at one point telling a fan “Everyone you know will die – Your parents, your friends. I’m just preparing you for the worst” in his singsong Irish accent, which was much funnier than it sounds written down…
Afterwards, I managed to catch Will Hill, who was more than happy to chat about Vampires as they should be, and sign my copy of Department 19 – The first proof I ever got in bookselling!
The day was exhausting, and after finally grabbing some food with some old Uni friends, I crashed into a hotel bed and was asleep before I even saw 10pm.