Last year I attended YALC – the Young Adult Literature Convention – in London for the first time and I absolutely loved it. It was amazing to meet the authors of some of my favourite books, including Marie Rutkoski, Melinda Salisbury, Moira Young and Cassandra Clare. I loved watching panels and hearing about different authors’ experiences and writing advice . These panels left me feeling very inspired and eager to write more of my own writing projects. I also attended a talk by agents about the road to publishing a novel and this was both really interesting and really useful; I made lots of notes!
In short, I had the best time at YALC and I am bursting with excitement for this year’s convention. I will be there for the Friday and Saturday – I have a weekend ticket and would have loved to go for the whole weekend but I have another engagement on the Sunday. I wanted to write this post about what I learned from my first YALC experience particularly for people who are going for the first time this year as it contains some pieces of advice that I wish I had known before going last year, as well as some things that I will be doing the same this year.
Here are my top five bits of advice; I hope you find them useful!
- MAKE A TWITTER ACCOUNT AND KEEP UPDATED, ESPECIALLY WITH THE MAIN YALC ACCOUNT!
When I went to YALC last year I didn’t have a twitter account and I think that it would have been really useful to have one during the convention. It makes it really easy to stay updated with all things YALC if you follow the main YALC account and there is lots of information on there about finding the building, what entrance to use and what’s happening. This is really useful especially if you’re travelling to the convention on your own and you’re a bit nervous, as I was.
There’ll also be lots of bloggers tweeting about what the authors are saying in panels, which is really interesting, too, and best of all sometimes there are competitions for people at YALC which are posted on twitter – for example, some publisher stands present at YALC post on twitter a key word that you can come to the stand and say in order to win goodies! I found there were lots of these competitions on the final day of YALC – the Sunday.
- BRING CASH WITH YOU! (LOTS OF IT!!!)
Most of the publishing stands only take cash not cards, so it is really important that you bring some notes or some change with you if you want to buy anything – I can pretty much guarantee you’ll be tempted to buy more books (no matter how many you have brought with you!) as soon as you enter YALC, which is on the top floor of the building, because as soon as you walk in you are greeted by a multitude of fabulous stands from different publishing companies (as well as Waterstones) which are full of fantastic reads! Last year, within maybe a quarter of an hour of walking into YALC, I had two more bags full of books.
Last year I purchased the majority of the books I wished to have signed in advance of YALC (or I already had them) and I brought them with me. However, it is always useful to also bring some money with you in case you decide to buy more books to get signed. I found that sitting in on panels and hearing the authors talk about their books made me really want to buy and read the said books. In particular, I really wished to purchase and have signed ‘The Potion Diaries’ by Amy Alward after hearing about the author’s inspirations for this novel. I bought it straight after the panel and I’m so glad that I did – I read it after YALC and I loved it!
In addition to bringing cash, I’d advise that you bring lots of water and snack food, as it can be hot both inside the venue and outside when you are waiting in the queue to get in (suncream might be useful too – although when you are queuing it might be quite early in the morning, I have very fair skin and get worried that if I am standing in the same place for a while I will burn). Because it is a long day you can also get very hungry.
- THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT WHAT KIND OF BAG IT IS BEST FOR YOU TO BRING
Last year I went to YALC with a large rucksack. This was useful in that it could fit a lot of books and clothes in (I went straight to YALC from Paddington Station so I had all my things for staying over in London with me at the event on the first day, and all my books for all three days) and I still had my hands free. However, what I hadn’t anticipated was that, because I was wearing tops without sleeves, the straps of the rucksack rubbed my shoulders and this was irritating and quite painful. I got backache quite quickly, too. Additionally, my hands weren’t free because I immediately bought more books and had to carry them in other bags!
What YALC do which is really helpful is that, if you have a weekend ticket, they give you a YALC cloth bag, which is not only really pretty and nice to have as a memento of the event, but it is easy to carry and can actually fit a surprising amount of books and other items in it. I think actually this year I will bring a main bag which can go over my shoulders (and isn’t a rucksack or suitcase) and will bring inside it several cloth bags. Luckily I’m travelling on the Thursday so will only have on the Friday the books for that day with me, rather than all my books for the whole weekend as I did last year.
If you find during YALC that your bag is painful, take a seat, have a rest for a bit and put it down beside you. This is one of the great things about panels – not only are they fascinating because you hear from all the awesome authors, but they are also a chance to sit down and relax for about 40 minutes. There’s also a really great space next to a wall of books where you can sit down on deck chairs, and there is plenty of room on the floor next to the signing areas as well. You can also take your bag off and keep it near to you when you are in the signing queues, and you can also sit down while waiting in them if you wish to.
It might be a good idea to think about what kind of bag you will take – suitcase, backpack, handbag etc- before you travel to YALC and to fill it with books just so you can get a feel of how easy it will be to manoeuvre and whether it will be uncomfortable to have with you for the whole day.
- ADVICE FOR THE SIGNING QUEUES
One thing I didn’t pick up on or consider until quite far into last year’s YALC is that, if you want to be at the front of an author’s signing queue, you can just not go to their panel and queue up about 40 minutes before in front of the table with their name on. This helps to speed you up as you avoid the rush of everyone leaving the panel and joining the signing queues. It’s therefore really useful if you want to see numerous authors in a particular signing slot as it guarantees you will have more time to get round them all, but it is a shame to miss an author’s panel, particularly if they are one of your favourite authors. It depends what your priority is and what your timings are. Last year I did a bit of both, sometimes going to the panel and then queuing for longer, sometimes not going to the panel and being further ahead in the queue. I tended to do the latter when it was the last event I wanted to go to for that day.
It’s a good idea to keep a keen eye out for any signing queues that are being ticketed. This very rarely happens but if a particular author is very popular and the queue is likely to be very busy, you go to their signing table, pick up a numbered ticket and come back later. This happened last year for Cassandra Clare, but I didn’t realise straight away that the queue was being ticketed and so I was just waiting near to the table. I therefore nearly missed getting a ticket, which would have been really sad as she was one of the authors I was most excited about meeting! There may not be any audible announcements about an author’s queue being ticketed (although things might be different this year) so keep an eye on the signing table, on the twitter page (@yalc_uk), and also ask others if you are unsure.
Additionally, if you are in a signing queue on your own and wish to have a photo taken with the author, don’t be afraid to ask the person behind you in the queue! Everyone is very friendly and will likely be very willing to take a picture for you. There will also probably be people who work for the event at hand to ask. Make sure there’s room for lots of photos on your phone, that your phone is charged and that you back up your pictures where you can in case your phone gets lost. You can get for iphones cases which act as portable chargers, and they are perfect for events like this.
Finally, YALC is such a wonderful event and it only comes around once a year, so make sure you make the most of it! Have a good look at the timetables before you go and make sure you not only look at the panels and signings, but also at the agent and workshop area events. I only went to one talk last year, Publishing 101, and I wish I’d gone to more. You sign up for these on the day. Last year there were also things happening around the floor – you could get your hair done like Lorali and have Shadowhunter runes painted on you. There’s so much going on at YALC and so much to enjoy, so do as much as you can!
Additionally, don’t be afraid of making conversation with the person next to you in a signing queue or panel. Everyone in the book community is so friendly, inclusive and welcoming, and remember – you are among like-minded individuals who share your love of YA fiction, so you probably have a lot in common and lots to talk about! It doesn’t matter if you attend YALC on your own because there are so many wonderful and welcoming people that you are unlikely to feel lonely.
Also, if you need any help about YALC in general, there is an information point near to the entrance and the people there are happy to help, or, if you would like some more information before the event, you can ask questions to the YALC twitter account. Additionally, if you need help with choosing books from the fantastic array on all the different stands around the room, the booksellers and publishers will be very willing to advise you.
Before you know it, YALC will be over for another year, so chat to as many people as you can and join in with as much as you can! It’s a fantastic event for book lovers, and every day I attended YALC last year I both went and came back buzzing with excitement. I’m feeling that excitement now and cannot wait for YALC 2016 to begin!