Friday, 24 July 2015

If you have room for another bit of YALC love - Liz Kessler

Being an author is, amongst other things, an absolute privilege. Sometimes we forget this. The times we forget it are generally:
  • When we’re feeling completely stuck on a plot point that we can’t resolve.
  • When we’ve just received a huge email from our editor with all her notes on our manuscript and don’t know where to start.
  • When we have a deadline in three days and still have a third of the book to write.
  • When we keep seeing people’s posts on twitter about how many amazing five-star reviews they’ve had and we still haven't forgotten that one-star review from six years ago. 
Generally, though, we tick along quite nicely, being aware of how lucky we are to have a job that is about sitting looking out of the window staring into space and making up stories. Or at least I do.

But then there are the times that make us stop, look around and seriously ask how on earth we got to be so lucky that THIS is what we do for a JOB!

Last weekend’s YALC (Young Adult Literary Convention) was one of those times.

A typical moment of authors and bloggers getting together and behaving very sensibly 
The weekend was an opportunity for writers, readers, bloggers and anyone else with an interest in YA books to make contact with each other. Authors spoke on panels ranging from talks about feminism and LGBT issues to mental health and Minecraft. There were writing workshops, editing workshops, 1-1 sessions with agents. There was a Harry Potter party, a Hunger Games quiz, a bloggers’ breakfast. In short, it was an absolute feast of YA wonderfulness.

Here's me in a Double Laureate Sandwich with outgoing Malorie Blackman, and brand new Chris Riddell
I attended YALC last year as a paying customer. This year I was over the moon to be on one of the panels, and I felt genuinely honoured to be given the opportunity to talk to the audience of readers, teachers, librarians and – well, yes, a fair few Wonder Women and Spidermen, and possibly a Thor or two. Not to mention more hair colours than you get in a Caran D'ache pencil box.

The gorgeous and fabulous Yael Tischler, bookseller extraordinaire
I was on the LGBT panel, and was SO proud to be there and be openly talking about LGBT issues in YA books. Together with James Dawson, Lisa Williamson and Den Patrick, and beautifully hosted by Julia Bell, I like to think we rocked the place with LGBTQ fabulousness for an hour or so.

James and me in our Stonewall t. shirts
After our panel, I had possibly (who am I kidding? Definitely!) one the best experiences of book signing I’ve ever had. Not because it was the longest queue I’ve ever had. It wasn’t. Not because I got paid to sign books. I didn’t. Even if the actors in the other part of the convention downstairs did. (Publishers take note: we’re missing a trick here!) (Joking, by the way. I would never want to charge for signing books, and I’m sure no other authors would either.)

It was the best queue ever because of the utter warmth that spilled from it. Each person in the queue had a story. Most of them ended up with a hug as well. One girl told me that she’d found my book just as she’d started having feelings for another girl and it had helped her deal with what was happening. A mum told me that she was buying my book for her daughter who has anxiety issues and we talked about how tough this is. Two boys were still buzzing after their first Pride. A few older teenage girls told me how they had loved my Emily Windsnap books when they were younger and were excited that I was writing for their age group now. One of these had tears as well as a hug!

The magnificent Nina Douglas, who, amongst the MANY wonderful things she did all weekend, organised Most Emotional Signing Queue Ever with her usual brand of brilliance
And then there were the two girls who had met in the queue and by the time they got to me, had asked each other out! This was a definite first for me. And an absolute privilege. (Don’t forget, ladies. I want a front row seat if there’s a wedding!)

The moment I realised Read Me Like A Book had brought together its first couple. Photo courtesy of Jo Cotterill
I can honestly say that I have never been at a festival where I have felt such an outpouring of love – for books, for authors, for the whole YA community. Even authors who were there as punters had readers coming up to them asking them to sign their books.

My partner in crime for much of the weekend, Keris Stainton, who got mobbed by someone wanting her to sign a book approximately once every five minutes!
And finally, there was silliness. Lots and lots of it. Here is my contribution to that aspect of the weekend, courtesy of the lovely Michelle from Fluttering Butterflies blog, and featuring a cameo performance from the somewhat bonkers but also lovely Jo Cotterill.

Whether I get invited to be on a panel again or not, I shall be putting YALC in the diary for as many years as it runs – and I would urge anyone who loves YA to do the same. A massive, massive thank you to Booktrust and all the organisers, and I hope that you all gave yourselves at least a day off and a large martini this week! 

See you next year!

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Susan Price said...

An asking-out in your author queue! - That is awesome.

Jax Blunt (@liveotherwise) said...

Aw, how lovely is that! I adore the pictures of the new couple.

Joan Lennon said...

And I loved your interview!!!!!