“The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.” ― Ursula K. Le Guin
I think that’s why the vibe at YALC (the UK’s Young Adult Literature Convention) is so amazing. Hundreds of stories are brought to life in the same place at the same time, and it’s magical. Fictional characters get to cross over into the real world instead of existing around the edges of it.
It’s been almost a week since I went to YALC 2023 with my youngest daughter, and today’s blog post contains some of the highlights from our day. Starting with the books. Perhaps it goes without saying that YALC is a literal treasure trove of beautiful books, but I’m saying it anyway. Spoilt for choice doesn’t begin to cover it.
And all of the publishers did such an incredible job, with games, competitions, raffles, exclusive samples from upcoming releases, bookmarks, tote bags, pin badges, stickers… It was a lot of fun. (We took the Penguin quiz to find out what kind of readers we are, and some of the questions were really difficult! I was The Advocate, with a headline of: “You are defined by the things you love.” My daughter was The Connector: “You’re a social butterfly who values community.”)
Here’s a snapshot from the stack of books we came home with, including the taglines and opening paragraphs. Left to right:
A mind-blowing murder mystery on a ship full of magical passengers. If Agatha Christie wrote fantasy, this would be it!
My father always says: ‘You can’t run from your responsibilities,’ but he lacks imagination. Besides, I’m not running. I’m sidestepping. Crossing the road so me and my responsibilities don’t make eye contact and aren’t forced into awkward small talk both of us know isn’t going anywhere.
Mariel Spark knows not to trust a demon, especially one that wants her soul, but what's a witch to do when he won't leave her side - and she kind of doesn't want him to?
“Oh, no.” Mariel Spark stared at the startled chicken that had materialized on her kitchen counter. “That wasn’t what I meant to do.” At the kitchen table, Calladia Cunnington nearly choked on her tea. “Well, that’s surprising. At least they both have wings.” Mariel gave her friend a look. She’d recited a summoning spell for an air sprite, not poultry. “Literally the only thing they have in common.”
3️⃣ The murder mystery, Holly Jackson style Four Found Dead, by Natalie D. Richards
The last show has ended, but the nightmare is just beginning.
I’ll never lock these doors again. Maybe that’s why I linger at the thick glass, watching the stragglers make their way through the parking lot. They file to their vehicles in pairs and threesomes. Headlights bloom to life; cars reverse and dart. It’s an abstract automotive ballet snaking toward the exits. I’ve watched this routine unfold every Saturday night for three years, but this time is different. Maybe the last time is always different.
No blog post about YALC would be complete without mentioning the brilliant authors who came along to talk about their stories, meet their readers, and sign a lot of books. One of the panels we attended this year was called The Thrill of it All (chaired by Kathleen Glasgow with Holly Jackson, Kalynn Bayron, and Frederico Ivanier). It was fascinating to hear the differences and similarities between their individual writing styles and how they originally gravitated toward the thriller genre.
The panelists were also asked what advice they would give to aspiring writers. Holly mentioned screenplays and how understanding three-act structure and emotional highs and lows could be helpful when writing a novel. Kalynn talked about the importance of finishing your first draft, and Frederico said to write what you were passionate about. Kathleen’s advice was to call yourself a writer, no matter how much or how little you’ve written.
And last but not least… If you’ve ever come across my blog before, you might know that I absolutely love the Lockwood & Co.series, by Jonathan Stroud. I’ve been recommending it since Halloween 2019 😄. And now my copy of The Screaming Staircase has been signed! I also discovered that the skull in the jar—an important character who’s in the series right until the end—was originally supposed to be no more than a prop in Lucy’s interview.
All of the authors we met were memorable in the best of ways, and they’re a big part of what makes YALC so special. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the chance to have a conversation with the actual person who created the characters and worlds in your favourite books is kind of awesome. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a little scary too, but worth it!
I guess the only thing left to say is that we’re looking forward to next year already. Thank you very much for visiting my blog today 💕.