Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Twenty Reasons I Loved YALC 2014

Unlike most of the bloggers who attended YALC (the first ever UK Young Adult Lit Con) on Saturday, I have decided to be fashionably late with my write up (aka exhausted on Sunday night, catching up with a weekend of missed work on Monday night, & at the O2 watching Monty Python on Tuesday night). Of course, my tardiness will mean that most of you will have already read countless write-ups and reviews of the weekend's event so rather than have you wade through my usual waffle I have decided to be uncharacteristically succinct, and thus give you (in no particular order apart from the first four), the twenty reasons I loved YALC:

1.Malorie Blackman 

Fantastic writer of brilliant books, Children's Laureate and sure candidate for a Dame-hood in the future. Malorie was the curator and one of the driving forces behind YALC and her passion and energy were infectious on Saturday. And she even opened the events by speaking in Klingon. Legend!

2.Katherine Woodfine 

Sadly somehow I missed meeting Katherine (of Booktrust fame) at the weekend (on the few occasions I saw her she was incredibly busy), but I am reliably informed by all involved that without her the event would most likely have never taken place. Legend number 2!

3. The sixty or so authors who turned up to take part in panels, talk to attendees and sign books. These writers were invariably welcoming, happy to spend huge amounts of time signing, chatting with every single fan who had carted piles of books across London for signing. That's another 60 legends for the list!

4. The small troop of publicists who made up the organising committee. It was two years ago that they started talking about organising a YA Lit Con and I hope they are incredibly proud of the fruits of their labours. They certainly deserve to be. I'm not going to name names, for fear of missing someone out, but we know who you are and we are hugely grateful. Despite being dead on their feet by the end of Saturday, they were back again on Sunday, smiling, helping, chatting and being all round friendly people. More legends for the list!

5. The panel events. 

Informative, interesting, funny, fab. I went to all six on the Saturday, and even though it meant missing a lot of the book signings there was no way I was going to drag myself away from the main stage area.

6. Lucy Saxon in Captain America cosplay splendor.

I've not yet read Lucy's debut, Take Back the Skies, but I am going to make it a priority to get my hands on a copy. Lucy is a seasoned cosplayer and took part in the Superfans Unite! panel event in a totally awesome Captain America costume that she made herself. Head on over to to find out more.

7. Geeking out

It was so good to bump into so many of the other bloggers, some of whom I haven't seen for ages, and be able to talk about books, books and more books (and the occasional comic as well).

8. The Heroes of Horror panel

Four of my all time favourite YA authors in the same place at the same time, talking about their work. Derek Landy, Will Hill, Darren Shan and Charlie Higson I salute you. 

9. The whirlwind of energy that is Steve Cole

Steve chaired the Regenerating the Doctor panel event with considerable gusto and I am so looking forward to reading his Young Bond book later this year, and I am also rather excited that he will be visiting school in November.

10. Patrick Ness

This was the first time I have been to an event featuring Patrick Ness, and he was brilliant. One of my favourite moments of the whole weekend was Patrick, on the Regenerating the Doctor panel, stating that "the reason Malorie is on this panel is I declined to do the panel if it was just going to be five white guys... because I thought the world's different now". Hear, hear! Just one comment that added to the overall desire for more diversity in YA and children's literature, that was voiced by writers and readers alike throughout the weekend. Malorie Blackman to write an episode of Doctor Who? If it ever happens, remember the campaign to make it so started at YALC.

11. James Dawson and This Book Is Gay

On Sunday a handful of bloggers were invited to a special brunch held by the YALC organising committee. James (complete with his recent Queen of Teen crown) was one of the attending authors, and he spoke briefly and passionately about his new non-fiction title, This Book Is Gay. We were very fortunate to all receive early copies of this important book, and I've already had a commitment from school to buy multiple copies.

12. 300ish seats at the Main Stage, every single one of them full for pretty much every single event.

13. Rainbow Rowell

I have never read a book written by Rainbow Rowell, as her books are not the kind of thing I generally read (especially given the size of my TBR pile). However, she was bloody brilliant and very funny as part of the Superfans Unite! panel, and I may just have to read Fangirls or Eleanor & park this summer.

14. Non Pratt

If you haven't met Non Pratt, author of Trouble, then you have missed out. I met Non some time ago, when she was pretty much single-handedly getting Catnip Books up and running, and I love chatting with her. Even when she is berating me for never having watched Battlestar Galactica (the recent version, not the totally awesome 80s version, of which I have seen every episode, and also saw the first feature length version in the cinema. Yes, i am that old). Non also very graciously took the time to sign and draw sperm in my copy of Trouble. And seriously, you need to check out her short but wonderful blog piece about her thoughts on YALC.

15. Workshops

I didn't manage to attend any of the writing workshops that took place over the weekend, and I gather from other YALC visitors that I may have really missed out there. Possibly my only regret of the whole weekend.

16. Cosplayers everywhere. 

OK, so this wasn't strictly YALC related, but I think it was a genius idea of the organisers to approach Showmasters and have YALC be a part of the London Film and Comic Con. It had its drawbacks (hot, very crowded, very noisy), but I'm not sure it would have been anywhere near as well attended if it had been held as a standalone event. It was my first Comic Con and now I totally get cosplay. I loved admiring some of the amazing costumes that were being worn throughout the weekend, even in bonkers temperatures! Back in the day we used to call it fancy dress (and a few fond memories of costumes worn in my uni days were brought flooding back - I did a Thunderbird, Zorro (on several occasions), and Danger Mouse (complete with huge papier mache head) and even won prizes for my efforts. I may even show you the photos one day).

17. Frances Hardinge

It seems a little mean on Ruth Warburton, Amy McCulloch and Jonathan Stroud for me to single out Frances Hardinge from the writing Fantasy panel, but she was brilliant. Frances is such an intelligent and humorous person, and if you ever get the opportunity to listen to her at an event I urge you to take it. And she signed and drew a goose in my copy of Fly By Night too. Result!

18. Andy Robb

I still haven't met Andy Robb (even though I think he lives less than ten miles away from me) as I stayed seated for a panel event and missed his book signing. however, his chairing of the Superfans United event was, in my opinion, a highlight of the weekend. Well done, sir!

19. Book signings

I've already mentioned the host of authors that were at YALC, but I did not mention that they did all of their book signing for free. Unlike the host of z-list celebs from the world of film & TV who charged for the pleasure as part of LFCC. Seriously, I've often been called a geek but even I can't see the appeal of paying to queue to get the autograph of some random guy who wore a full body suit/mask to play an obscure creature character in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. And many of these authors sat there signing for hours, always happy to chat at length with each and every fan who came their way, even if the queue was snaking around the whole Book Zone.

20. Which leads me on to the YA fans

The hoards of people, young and old, who came to YALC to listen to and meet their literary heroes. They filled the seats, listened attentively, asked brilliant questions and bought huge piles of books. They then waited patiently in line whilst their chosen author took time to chat at length with every fan in front of them, with rarely a single moan about how slow the queue in front of them might be moving. YALC-attending YA fans, I salute you! Without you, it would have been doubtful that this event would happen again. Your being there, and your enthusiasm and passion for the authors and their books, may mean we see a repeat in the future. Thank you.


That's my twenty. I can't comment too well on Sunday's events as I was pretty much wiped out by midday, and I really wanted to get my Batgirl, Tomb Raider and Red Sonja comics signed by Gail Simone, one of my favourite writers of comics at this moment in time. So before heading home I made a quick visit to the Comic Zone at LFCC, where I also had the good fortune to meet and chat with an artist called John Royle (he currently draws Danger Girl - one of my massive guilty pleasures when it comes to comics). However, I have heard amazing things about the I'm too Sexy For This Book panel event at YALC, so that goes down as another regret from the weekend.

Before I sign off I want to reiterate my huge thanks to Malorie Blackman and everyone else who worked hard to make YALC such a huge success. It is an event that we have needed in the UK for a hell of a long time, and I hope it is the first of many more.


  1. It was an amazing event, and you've covered many of my highlights, too! Malorie Blackman is an absolute legend.

    I am *so* excited for the new Young Bond book. I've already pre-ordered it and have a reminder in my phone.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  2. Brilliant post Darren, I've been loving reading about all the different experiences - I really must get on and write my round up!