Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Yay YA! What a great day! - byLinda Strachan

   First Scottish YA festival to celebrate Young Adult fiction
took place last Friday as 200 Young Adult readers from 9 schools arrived at Cumbernauld Theatre.

All eleven authors who took part live and work in Scotland, writing a wide range of books, from gritty realism to fantasy, historical settings from Vikings to the First World War, adventure, humour, weirdness and wonder.  An amazing bouquet of words and writing  to delight any reader.

Kirkland Ciccone 

After the success of the YALC (Young Adult Literature Convention) in London last year YA author Kirkland Ciccone decided there should be something to celebrate the wealth of YA books, and their authors who are living and working in Scotland.

A larger than life character, with typical enthusiasm and humour he gathered together a 'novel' of authors (is that the collective term?) and asked if we would be keen to take part.

No one was sure what to expect, least of all Kirkland himself, I suspect, but by the time the sell-out crowd arrived on Friday morning it had already gathered great momentum.

Kirkland had approached sponsors and secured a commitment from both the Cumbernauld Theatre and North Lanarkshire Council's CultureNL, who supported the event with great enthusiasm and helped to make it such a success.

Kirkland had everyone laughing with his introduction. Waving his ray gun and wearing a tin foil top he started it off by saying ...
 “Welcome to the first annual Hunger Gam…oh wait!”   

Almost immediately the audience was split into two halves with some spending the morning in the auditorium listening to three great authors -  I would have loved to be there but I was busy elsewhere as you will discover below. I did hear that the audiences were hugely entertained with their presentations, mesmerising words, and a few interesting props...

Barry Hutchison, Cathy MacPhail and Theresa Breslin
 Catherine MacPhail showed the trailer for the film of her book Another Me, which is delighting  and scaring audiences as much as the book does its readers!

Theresa Breslin took them on a trip into the past showing off her gas mask and some shrapnel from WW1

Barry Hutchison apparently had them enthralled with stories about death and.... squirrels  - I really must get in to listen to him sometime soon!

Meanwhile in lots of different nooks and crannies, such as dressing rooms and tiny bars scattered around Cumbernauld Theatre, with amazing efficiency the Front of House staff led groups of between 5 and 15 young readers around each of the other six authors.  We had about 7 or 8 minutes with each group before they were moved on to the next author.

In the Cottage Bar
What a challenge that was, to find a way to engage with the audience and let them feel connected with us and our books in just 8 minutes.

I was in the Cottage Bar, a lovely space with cottage-style windows and as each group was ushered in I had decided I would tell them a quick, hopefully atmospheric, snapshot of each of my three YA crime novels - Spider, Dead Boy talking and Don't Judge Me.
After that I threw it open to them to ask me anything they liked.  Almost every group had at least one or two who had questions for me and I thoroughly enjoyed that it was very much more personal than a large school event.  The pressure of the limited time was also less of a problem than I had expected.

Alex Nye
Next door to me was the lovely Alex Nye with her books Chill and Shiver and announcing her forthcoming novel.  Hers was the only presentation I got
in to hear a part of, because one school had cancelled (there had originally been 10 schools) which meant we all had a few minutes to catch our breath. . Alex passed around her notebook with all her changes and scoring out. It was lovely (serious notebook envy!)

The other four authors involved in the ' 8 minute speed dating'  were Lari Don, an amazing storyteller and writer for younger readers who was talking about her first YA novel, Mind Blind;  Roy Gill, with his werewolves in Daemon Parallel, is taller than anyone has a right to be;  Matt Cartney, a real life adventurer, with his Danny Lansing adventures, and V Campbell and her Viking Gold!

Roy Gill and Lari Don in the 'selfie' area

At lunchtime there was a chance for the young readers to buy books and the lovely Scotia Books had an amazing bookstall.

The enthusiastic teachers, librarians and bloggers seemed to be enjoying the day, too.

I saw lots of young readers with four or five books, eagerly chasing down authors for a signature, or a photo! 

 After lunch it all started again with the audience changing places so that those who were in the auditorium in the morning came around to meet us for their 8 minute chat, while the others had a chance in the auditorium.

Author Keith Charters joined us at lunch time for the latter part of the afternoon and excellently chaired the final event which was a panel of authors taking questions. Alex Nye, Roy gill, Victoria Campbell and Lari Don fielded some challenging questions and generally agreed to disagree with most of their answers which is probably exactly how it should be, because no two writers are the same!

V Campbell, Matt Cartney and Keith Charters

Despite all the rushing about, chatting and book buying sometimes you want a quiet spot to get stuck into that book you've just bought......

Finally it was all almost over when Theresa Breslin presented Kirkland with the Chocolate Trainer Award, which he promised to enjoy!

Chocolate Trainer Award
Everyone agreed it had been an excellent day and hopefully Yay YA! will continue next year!

Our thanks to Kirkland Ciccone without whose delightfully over-the-top exuberance, patience and organisation, this would never have happened. Well done Kirkland!

Linda Strachan is the author of over 60 books for all ages from picture books to teenage novels and the writing handbook Writing For Children.
Linda's latest YA novel is Don't Judge Me . 
She is Patron of Reading to Liberton High School, Edinburgh.

Her best selling series Hamish McHaggis is illustrated by Sally J. Collins

website:  www.lindastrachan.com
blog:  Bookwords 


Sue Purkiss said...

Sounds marvellous!

Joan Lennon said...


Penny Dolan said...

Linda, this event sounds so stunning - well done to Kirkland for getting the whole idea rolling (so quickly!) and to all those involved with the day.

The event must have needed lots of work & thought from all the generous organisers (and the authors, of course) but so good to hear that this YA Day was such a success. Hooray for you & your audiences! (Enjoyed all the photos too.)

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catdownunder said...

Sounds like the sort of day I would have absolutely adored as a YA - and still would now!

Dianne Hofmeyr said...

like the 'speed dating' concept. It must have put huge pressure on all of you but I suppose gets an author to analyse the essence of their stories. Fabulous idea! Well done YA Scotland!

Linda Strachan said...

Thanks for the comments. It was a great day and we all enjoyed it.

I think you are right Dianne, in such a short time it is important to focus on the main points and it made me think clearly about what would engage them most in each book.

It was also a fantastic opportunity to have a much more interactive discussion.
One group was very small, only about five, although all the others were much larger, but I loved the variety and it also gave them a chance to chat and ask questions they might not have had the courage or time to ask in a large group or auditorium.

Alex Nye said...

Beautiful write-up Linda. Captures the spirit of the day