For me at least, YA is a genre to be reckoned with. I remember reading my first YA book (it was The Fault In Our Stars, for anyone who’s wondering!) and being completely blown away by how diverse the books in YA really are. But one thing that consistently blows me away with YA, and the children’s books community in general really, is the community that surrounds it.
Anyone familiar with YA will know about YALC, an annual Young Adult Literature Convention started by Malorie Blackman in 2014. This year, it was back, as part of the London Film And Comic Con at Olympia in London. YALC, which I’ve heard was rather crowded in its first year, was on it’s own floor this year, which was once again filled with booklovers.
I attended on the Saturday and Sunday of YALC this year, and I thought I’d give five points that both sum up my experience this year, and give you some pointers for if you decide to go to YALC in 2017!
First of all, it’s perfectly OK if you find it overwhelming, and by that I mean you certainly aren’t alone in that feeling. If you have a YALC ticket (something which I recommend getting if you’re either going mainly for YALC or only for YALC), you get a YALC entrance which has slightly shorter queues, but then you go up a lift and you’re confronted with the floor. Trust me, it’s very normal to find it overwhelming. But, whilst I can’t speak for next year, there is a YALC help desk as you come out of the lifts, who will be able to give you a schedule and help you, plus there is often an area for people to simply take a break towards one end of the convention floor.
Once you’re in, allow yourself some time to look around. This year, there was an hour from the floor opening to the first panel starting, that gap being between 9am-10am, on each day. Especially on my first day, I found it really helpful to just walk around for a bit, see what’s around and get a feel for the convention centre. Generally, the location of stalls doesn’t really change during the weekend, and make sure you know where the YALC help desk is every year. They have schedules as well – I definitely recommend picking one up! Even if you have planned, pick a schedule up to have as they also have details of author signings as well as panels, workshops and events in the agents arena.
A great opportunity to meet people
Third, and this can be daunting for some people and I totally appreciate that so you may not feel incredibly comfortable doing this, but do speak to people if you feel you can! This was my second year at YALC (I only went on the Saturday last year), but this was the first year where I actually met and spoke to people. You may find that an author or blogger you really like is wandering around the convention centre, and you bump into them. I can’t say whether the time you see them is a convenient time and I can’t give you any surefire assurances that you will definitely get to meet a certain person (that’s just the nature of the event I’m afraid!) but if an author can’t speak to you outside any official appearances they’re part of, check your schedule! See if that author has a signing, and go along to it!
Fourth, take a bag of some description. YALC is notorious for giving away stuff, be that book-related goodies like badges, postcards, posters, bookmarks, stickers or even books! You will probably see something at YALC that interests you and something you’ll want to take away with you so do take something to carry stuff around in!
One of a kind
And finally, enjoy it! YALC is really one of a kind, and it only ever happens once a year. There are very few other events like YALC in the UK at least, and it really is an experience every single year. The author schedules change every year, but who knows? Perhaps your favourite author will be on the list of authors for 2017…
I thoroughly enjoyed the two days of YALC that I attended this year, and I couldn’t recommend the event in general enough. Thank you so much to everyone who put in so much work to organise YALC this year!
— YALC (@yalc_uk) July 31, 2016
If you are thinking about going next year, keep an eye on the YALC twitter feed (@yalc_uk) for details and dates for 2017!