My first experience of YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) was two years ago when it was based at Earl’s Court and shared a floor with Comic Con. It’s safe to say that I loved it, although since I had bad social anxiety, it was a little too crowded and crammed together for me.
However, this year, it was so much better because it had its own floor, meaning it could spread out and also have a lot more to it. The area for the panels was so big this year, that the previous system of ticketing panels was deemed unnecessary. There were a lot more stands and stalls, along with an area for workshops and another for learning how to get published from agents. Another big plus was that because it was separated from Comic Con, it was mainly bookish people which was nice because they’re all polite and so kind towards other bookish people which was a big improvement of the squashed-together queues from the previous time I went.
I was there for the full weekend, and my weekend was fully packed because there was so much I wanted to do! Friday started with the 11am panel, Magical Systems in YA and it was so good! It was funny, interesting and I enjoyed it of course. Next, we rushed off to the ‘humor in YA’ panel, which was obviously hilarious and made me fall in love with all the authors involved even more. Our final panel of the day was My Teen Diary, hosted by the hilarious Juno Dawson and the equally hilarious Lisa Williamson. Naturally, this too was funny and was worth staying until the end for. During the Saturday, we also went to signings for Nat Luurtsema and Harriet Reuter-Hapgood. The highlight of Friday, for me, was meeting Holly Smale as she’s fantastic and my favourite author. I was so nervous waiting in the line though, because I’d cosplayed Harriet Manners (from her Geek Girl series) and was worried it wouldn’t be clear that’s who I was. However, there was no need to be worried as she’s very sweet and seemed genuinely excited about my costume and even asked someone to take a photo of us for herself!
I returned on Saturday challenging Saturday to rival Friday’s level of excitement for me. We started off with the Resistance and Protest in YA panel, which was so good and also very popular. Next we moved on to the Friendship in YA panel, in which, I realised I love Holly Bourne and her honesty. The last panel we went to that day was the Music in YA panel, which was easily my favourite that day because it was so funny and Non Pratt was the Queen of sarcasm and humour! Throughout Saturday, we also went to signings of Natasha Farrant, Chris Russell, Non Pratt, Keris Stainton, Sophia Bennett, Alice Oseman, and Anna McKerrow. On top of that, we went to the Writing With the Tarot workshop with Anna McKerrow, which was fun and relaxed which is good because I was worried it would be competitive and difficult to do since I don’t know how to read tarot cards. The highlight of Saturday was Keris Stainton remembering us from an event we went to, years ago.
Sunday was tiring because we had to take all our bags to YALC so that we could get the bus home straight after, so the cloakroom was very useful! We first went to listen to the New Voices panel, which was funny and also interesting because they had some good advice to offer about drafting, being published and procrastinating. Next was the Morally Complicatedd YA panel, followed by the Harry Potter Party later in the day. This consisted of a cosplay competition (the prize was presented by Natalia Tena, which was clearly a lovely surprise for the winner!) There was also a competition for the houses to compete in, with games such as a quiz and passing a balloon through the lines without using hands. I left after the cosplay competition because my anxiety made it impossible to be surrounded by strangers, but the cheers and laughter could be heard from anywhere in YALC. During Sunday, we also went to signings of Claire Hennessy, Catherine Doyle, Juno Dawson, Holly Bourne (since her line was so long the other day), Louise O’Neill and Maggie Stiefvater, whose queue was so long that it was ticketed and ran through the entirety of the Harry Potter Party. There was also a photo booth with props relating to Harry Potter which was fun and quite empty when we went, because everyone was either waiting for Maggie Stiefvater or joining in with the Harry Potter Party.
Overall, I loved YALC 2016; it was fun, interesting, exciting and so far, the highlight of my Summer! I met some of my favourite authors, was inspired to start this blog after seeing how supportive and nice bookish people are and I also picked up a multitude of books at YALC and after YALC from a list I created whilst there. Would I recommend it to other people? Of course! It’s a lovely place to be, whether you go for one day or the full weekend, it’s worth it.