Sunday 17 July 2022

YALC's back - Tracy Darnton

YALC's back! 

Last weekend saw the return of the Young Adult Literary Convention after an absence of three years. Set up in 2014 by then Children's Laureate,  Malorie Blackman to celebrate teen and young adult books, and tap into the fandom overlap with London Film and Comic Con attendees, it has an atmosphere all of its own.


For those who've never shared a lift with Chewbacca, Wonder Woman and a Dr Who enthusiast, or wondered if they should buy an inflatable Jabba the Hutt outfit or a replica sword, or contemplated joining in with Cosplay, prepare to be surprised. 

YA authors can struggle to get on the bill at children's lit festivals unless they're already incredibly successful so it's great to have a packed festival where the big American and British names in YA appear alongside debuts and mid-list authors on panels,

as well as deliver workshops and have signings with ticketed queues. 

Obviously a welcome marketing opportunity but also a time to socialise and meet up with all your Twitter author friends, and interact with the bloggers and readers who support your books. 

UKYA thriller writers assemble

In the space of five minutes in my signing queue there were readers from Brazil, the Netherlands and Spain.  Publishers have stalls with their latest books, activities and competitions:

and Waterstones sell the books of all the speakers.  

Many of the attendees are writers so there's also a popular Agent Arena running 1-2-1s, sessions on working with editors or how to get into publishing.  Workshops I attended this year included an Escape Room experience with Bryony Pearce; how to write a thriller with Sophie McKenzie; a mindful creative session with Sita Brahmachari and illustrator Natalie Sirett based on their book When Shadows Fall; and my own Release your inner teen with free curly wurlies where I was very grateful to the man with the white beard that I was not the oldest in the room. 

In addition to YALC royalty of Juno Dawson and Holly Bourne, this year had highlights of an in-depth interview of Jacqueline Wilson by Non Pratt, and the mega fandom around Heartstopper and Alice Oseman. It was fabulous to see a UKYA book attracting so much attention. I spoke to fans who queued from 5 am to get their place in her signing queue. 

So, what didn't work so well at this YALC compared to the others I've been part of? 

The usual part of the Olympia conference centre for YALC has been knocked down for redevelopment so we were on the balcony area around the LFCC hall. It was crowded and noisy! For anyone who struggles with constant background noise like me, it was a challenge to hear all participants, especially in workshops. I missed the usual quiet zone of beanbags and people reading their books. YALC used to have its own much quieter entrance - with no queue in the heat so that was much trickier for attendees this time. 

And I missed the merch or previous years, but then I'm a tote bag fanatic. (And yes, inevitably I did come back with Covid). 

So there you have it - the world of YALC. If you're reading YA, writing YA or just want a dose of popular culture, put it in your diary for next year. 

Tracy Darnton is the author of YA thrillers Ready or Not, The Rules and The Truth About Lies. She is having a well-earned lie down. 

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