Saturday, 19 July 2014
YALC and the Beauty of Bloggers - Lucy Coats
Last Saturday I found myself in the company of Wookies, Jedi, sundry Game of Thrones characters, Spidermen, ogres (male and female) and a raft of other bedecked and be-axed cosplayers. I also had the pleasure of meeting some of the many wonderful YA bloggers I chat to and follow online. Yes, this was the mad and crazy glory that was the UK's first ever Young Adult Literature Convention (mixed with lashings of ComicCon). The Daily Telegraph deemed it a hit - and barring a few gripes about the nightmare queues, the heat, the lack of seating, the audio-fails and the heaving walls of bodies blocking the way to the book lecture stage (all dying to have their photo taken with Marvelmeister Stan Lee), I loved every minute. The whole thing was dreamed up by Booktrust and our very own Children's Laureate, Malorie Blackman, and I think we should all stand up and cheer her to the steel rafters that only just kept the roof on Earls Court (the noise was ear-tingling). Much has been written about the brilliant panels and workshops elsewhere, but I want to focus on something else. Yes, those book bloggers.
With much of the newspaper industry (the Guardian being an honourable exception) giving less and less review coverage to children's and YA books, the book bloggers are our enthusiastic champions, and we need to recognise the HUGE amounts of unpaid time and energy they put into reading and then writing about our neck of the literary woods. They tweet, they discuss, they get the word out there, and I think we owe them all a great debt of gratitude - including our very own Awfully Big Review team, of course!
The post-conference 'For the Fringe' party (organised by the indomitable Sophia Bennett) was a marvellous mix of authors and bloggers - @YaYeahYeah, @Serendipity_Viv, @JessHeartsBooks, @Splendibird, @RachReviewsAll, @carlybennett, @lynseynewton...er, in fact far too many to name-check them all here - and the level of knowledgeable bookish chat was off the scale. To meet so many enthusiastic readers was a shot in the arm for all the authors who were there, I think - and I was kept busy scribbling down new blogsites and book recommendations as well as chatting till I thought my tongue would drop off.
Another thing I discovered at YALC was The Siobhan Dowd Trust in action. Actually, I discovered it before I even got there, while I was still on the tube. Overhearing a group of teenagers enthusing excitedly about their favourite authors (quite a lot of screaming) was another shot in the arm - and I later discovered from their librarian that they were from a Manchester school, and that their trip had been funded by the SDT. They weren't the only ones either. I found more while listening to one of the panels. They were the ones at the front, grabbing the microphone to ask intelligent and insightful questions of the panel members. This is the wonderful thing about the SDT - they give bookish kids opportunities they might not otherwise have had.
Altogether, YALC was a real eye-opener. The power of books and reading to inspire was demonstrated on a grand scale there - and while some may have felt that ComicCon was not quite the right place to have it, personally, I thought it gave the whole thing added 'buzz'. I really do hope it happens again in 2015 - I'm already planning an Egyptian costume. Be very afraid!