I promised myself I was going to blog about YALC immediately after I came back — that’s the Young Adult Literature Convention, for those who aren’t aware, which takes place in conjunction with London Film and Comic Con. However, I picked up some kind of stomach bug while I was there, and I was also so completely exhausted that I’ve spent the last couple of days doing as little as possible and hoping I feel better soon (that’s what the “mostly” in the post title is about), so blogging wasn’t on the cards. Not to mention my hands gave out on me a few days ago and I’m not entirely sure why. Thanks, hands.
Anyway, this was my first year going to YALC, so I spent the week or two beforehand perusing every blog post I could find on the subject, as well as the #YALCtips hashtag on Twitter. I know it’s part of my anxiety to try and prepare for literally every eventuality, and I found myself writing lists and ridiculously detailed plans that I rarely ended up using on the day, but it was my way of convincing myself I was in control. I’m never in control.
I’d bought tickets for Friday and Sunday. Although this meant I was missing some cool authors who were only going to be there on Saturday, like Derek Landy, I knew my introversion and physical health problems would mean three days of a convention would destroy me, and so I took Saturday to sleep instead. I’m pleased I made that decision. I think I would definitely have struggled if I hadn’t.
After way too early a start (not least because my alarm clock went off just after 5am instead of shortly before 6am as it was supposed to), I arrived at the Olympia at quarter past eight and joined the queue outside. YALC wasn’t due to open until nine, but I wasn’t the only one who had got there early, so I had a nice chat to some of the other people waiting, and ended up making a few friends that I would then hang out with during the day. I was armed with my granny trolley full of unexpectedly colour-coordinated books, and while I’d had a tricky time navigating the stairs at the tube station, I was glad I wasn’t trying to carry them all in a bag.
I only went to two panels on Friday. The first was about magic systems in YA, with Sally Green, Taran Matharu, Melinda Salisbury and V E Schwab. As you can probably see from the pile above, of those I’ve read V E Schwab and Sally Green, and immediately after the panel I joined the queue to get my ex-library copy of Half Bad signed by Sally Green. There was a moment of embarrassment when the title page was missing because it had been removed when the book was withdrawn from the library. Way to make me look like a cheapskate, I’m sure. The second panel I went to was about fantasy London, with V E Schwab, Samantha Shannon, and Ben Aaronovitch — as you can tell, I was keen to go to that panel! It was great to hear their different approaches to writing and to creating worlds, and afterwards I managed to get books signed by all of them, strategically joining the shortest queue first so that by the time I joined V E Schwab’s ENDLESS one, I didn’t have to worry about missing the other two.
I also managed to track down Alwyn Hamilton at the start of that panel, because her official signing was on Saturday but she was lurking the other days, and get my copy of Rebel of the Sands signed. It was nice of her to do that despite it not being an official signing — thanks!
As well as the panels, I went to the Agent 1-2-1. Basically, this was a chance to talk to an agent for five minutes, perhaps even pitching to them, which was … a little bit scary, I’m not gonna lie. I was paired with Gemma Cooper of the Bent Lit Agency, and we mainly discussed how I could pitch my books when they don’t fit into categories or genres very well. The answer? Figure out which categories they fit into. I sort of knew this would be the case, but it doesn’t mean I have any idea how to resolve the fact that my Moth Trilogy has a YA first book and an Adult second book (whoops).
During the day I was handed, at random, an ARC of a book called The Call. I knew nothing about it, but when I went home and read it I found it was about the sidhe and various Otherworldly things, which as you’ll know is very much something that interests me. It was a delight, honestly. It actually made me interested in my dissertation again, and for a book I was given at random it hit a lot of my very esoteric spots.
Anyway, I spent Saturday sleeping and watching Star Trek Beyond, and then on Sunday I was back again — this time after a slightly later start, because the early queuing had turned out to be unneccessary. I had, um, a LOT of books with me. Again: grateful for the trolley, less grateful for stairs. I started to feel super unwell on the train and nearly threw up in Victoria Station, which I attributed at the time to anxiety, but when I compared it to the nausea I’d felt the night before and how I felt later in the day, I’m pretty sure that was the stomach bug I picked up somewhere. After all, I’d been keeping my anxiety mostly under control. I didn’t even take any beta blockers on Friday, which was frankly miraculous, and I’m proud of myself for that.
I went to a talk called Publishing 102 which was about careers in publishing, and while interesting, I don’t think I particularly learned much that I didn’t already know. Except perhaps a bit more about what some of the publicist jobs entail. I also went to a panel featuring Philip Reeve, Frances Hardinge and Tanya Landman — basically a school librarian’s dream. Tanya Landman and Philip Reeve both had books nominated for the Carnegie award the year I did the shadowing scheme, but as you can see from the picture above, I’ve been a fan of Philip Reeve above and beyond that, for a long time now. I’ve also been keen on Frances Hardinge since I read Fly By Night in about 2006. This talk was fun; it was interesting to hear how differently they approached research, and I have to admit Philip Reeve’s “go with what you already know and what you don’t know, make it up” technique sounds a lot like mine.
Afterwards, I managed to get all my books signed, though I held up Philip Reeve’s queue for a while because he doodled in several of my books. My eleven-year-old self was fangirling so hard. To be honest, so was my twenty-year-old self. I’d brought a spare copy of Mortal Engines and Predator’s Gold with me to give away, and managed to find a keen new owner for them earlier in the day, so it was funny to see her in the queue to get them signed. Oh, and I managed to get selfies with both Philip Reeve and Frances Hardinge.
Then it was time for Maggie Stiefvater’s panel, except it wasn’t really a panel: it was Maggie Stiefvater telling stories and absurd anecdotes. She’s a great speaker; I’ve seen her before, in 2011, and I knew we were in for a good time, but it was still delightful to be there. Some of the stories I knew already because I follow her on various social media platforms, but the delivery was what made them, to be honest. I sneaked out when the Q&A began and went to join her signing queue, but they’d decided to do it on a ticketed basis, and so once I’d receieved my number, I went back to hear the end of the talk. I knew it was going to be an immense queue, but fortunately this method meant we could at least go and do other things / sit down while waiting.
There was a limit on how many books we could get signed or personalised, but I’d managed to guess correctly that it would be four, so that worked well with how many I’d brought with me. And Maggie remembered me! I’m unsure if she called me by name because she actually remembered that, or because she saw the name badge I was wearing (which I’d thought was out of sight): thinking about it, the latter is more likely, but I have to say I freaked out when she was like, “Hi Miriam,” as I walked up. Even if she didn’t recall my name from 2013 or whatever, once I mentioned something from a previous event she was like, “That was you?” and remembered it and that made me so happy.
Anyway, after she’d been utterly delightful while signing my books, we took the most glorious selfie ever. We attempted a normal picture taken by the assistant at the signing but it blurred, so I asked if I could take a selfie, and she said, “Ooh, I’ve got a great selfie face!” and pulled this one. I, of course, did one to match. The result was my favourite picture with an author, ever:
I was pretty hyper from everything that had happened, and I went wandering around the publishers’ stalls because a lot of them had great deals on books since they were trying to get rid of stock before the event ended — Maggie’s was the last panel. I picked up three books for £10 at one stall, and then they gave me a whole cup of sweets because they were trying to get rid of those too, and I was basically in sugar heaven. Earlier in the day I’d bought a book for £5 after hunting down the publisher of The Call and telling them how much I liked it (they then talked me into buying another of their books and I couldn’t resist), so I’d well and truly broken my promise not to buy too many books. I did resist temptation a few times, though, which I think showed great restraint.
And finally, once I was slightly less hyper, it was time to try and get my trolley full of books home again. Stairs and all. It was rough, I’m not going to lie. I’d started the day with seventeen books, and while I’d given away two, I’d gained four and numerous samples and other bits and pieces.
Still, it was as good as weight lifting. If you ever doubt the strength of a librarian, remember how many books they carry around.
All in all, while an exhausting and sometimes anxiety-inducing weekend, I was delighted to be able to get all my books signed. I’d feared that I’d miss out on a few authors or that there would be limits, but instead, everybody was lovely and accommodating and I got everything signed. I acquired some great books in the process, made a few friends (and gave them my business card — I was so pleased to finally have a use for those), and probably screwed up my shoulders permanently trying to navigate West Kensington tube station with a granny trolley because that place is seriously not accessible.
I’m sure I’ve missed out a great deal here, but this post is already nearly twice as long as usual and I’m longwinded as it is, so I’ll leave it here and if you’ve got any questions, you know where those go! (The comments. Just in case you don’t know. Questions go in the comments. Glad we cleared that up.)
Did you go to YALC this year, or have you gone before? Any fun stories about authors from signings, either there or elsewhere? Tell me your experiences!