I went to my first every YALC this year!! YALC, the Young Adult Literature Convention is part of London Film and ComicCon, has been running each year since 2014. So really it is a wonder I haven’t been already! Tbh I didn’t really know what to expect – I mean, I’d been fielding tips and suggestions from others who’d been before, had obsessively planned my schedule as soon as the programme had been released, and read blog posts on past event, but I still wasn’t sure what the whole thing would look like…
Turns out nothing could have prepped me for this three-day bonanza! This is just a snapshot of my YALC haul! I managed to catch up with awesome bookish people, buy yet-to-be-released books, meet my favourite authors, and somehow get some great ARCs and samplers, to name just a few things! There was so much going on during YALC that to avoid boring you with all of the (albeit wonderful!) detail, I’ve decided to sum up my first YALC by listing my Top Ten from the weekend 🙂
- Catching up with bookish friends This was easily my favourite part of YALC. On the Friday, my little sister was my awesome wingwoman – she had an eye for the freebies, competitions and the most anticipated books on everyone’s lists. The weekend was spent with friends I’ve met through bookish events, namely Mary (@OhPandaEyes), Sally (@TheDarkDictator) and Xina (Xinahailey), YALC veterans who took me under their wing. Most of the holy grail ARCs that I managed to get my hands on were down to them knowing how and what to do – yay for bookish friends! 🙂
- Benedict Cumberbatch Let it be known that I saw Mr Cumberbatch five times on the Sunday alone, with my reactions varying from a high-pitched squeal from the first time to a “oh it’s Benedict again” by the last time – when I was even chill enough to take a decent photo!! We should’ve known it would be an interesting YALC when Ben made his debut whilst walking in on the now infamous Non Pratt head shave (for charity I hasten to add!!) He probably thought we were some weird cult. But then the fact he kept coming back suggests that he thought we were cool or just less crazy compared to the ComicCon floor (sadly, more likely).
- Panel events The panel events at YALC were fabulous! I got to hear Taran Matharu, Samantha Shannon and others talk about what the science fiction & fantasy genre means to them. The Laini Taylor double whammy on the Saturday were definite highlights. The first was chaired by Kate Webber who is the most awesome and unapologetic fangirl ever! The second panel where Laini was joined by V.E. Schwab and Joanne Harris was easily my favourite though – I found it super interesting how huge authors like Taylor and Schwab credited Harry Potter and JK Rowling with their love of reading and writing.
- ARCs, ARCs, ARCs OK so as a newbie YALC-er, I didn’t realise how big a deal the ARC thing is… and it didn’t take me long to figure it out. Because at times it was like a Hunger Games bloodbath when ARCs dropped. I’m happy with the books I managed to get my hands on – I think Zenith was my holy grail of the YALC ARC haul but I was careful to make sure I only went for ARCs that I was interested in and would read. I heard that the ARC rushes had become a bit of an issue in recent years with things getting a little too heated and competitive, and I could see why this was the case… Getting Zenith was an experience I’m not in any hurry to repeat!!
- Author signings Being based in London definitely has its perks – one is that authors almost definitely pass through whilst promoting their books or at the “worst” case, you can often find signed copies. However, there is something about being at YALC, meeting your favourite authors having just been at their event, or even just on the floor whilst looking around because they are also big YA fans!! It’s sometimes easy to forget they’re just as human as the rest of us and have their own author idols to fangirl over. I managed to get books signed by Taran Matharu, Tanya Byrne, Ryan Graudin, Alison Goodman, Karen McManus and so many more!
- Freebies You can’t really talk about YALC without mentioning the obscene amount of freebies on offer!! I adore book-related merchandise so this was something of a dream come true. I loved the different badges, posters, bookmarks, totes, postcards and sweets that were given away. The totes were perhaps the most useful thing (shout out to Scholastic for a much wanted short-handled tote, a godsend for petite people like me!) and BKMRK were MVPs being one of few to give them out. They really came in handy when you realised you had bought more books than you had anticipated…
- Meeting new bookish friends Alongside catching up with old bookish friends, one of my favourite things about bookish events like this are the opportunity to meet new people! I’m pretty shy, but at YALC you know that everyone there highly likely already has one thing in common with you – YA books! And this genuinely makes all the difference. Some of the best tips I got over the course of the weekend on how to “do” YALC were from striking up conversations with people in queues with me. It was also great to be introduced to bookish friends of friends and sharing first YALC experiences with other newbies.
- Cheap books!!! I mean this goes without saying because none of us will say no to cheap books. I’d heard that offers put on by the publishers were pretty hard to resist, especially for books that weren’t even released yet – The Loneliest Girl in the Universe and Alex & Eliza were easily my favourite purchases! I’d also been told that the Sunday was the day when prices hit rock bottom… but I had not anticipated just how literal this was! OH MY GOD. NEW books were £1 by the end of YALC and I managed to snag some great bargains. If I hadn’t accumulated enough books already by the Sunday morning, the afternoon made damn well sure of it!
- Sweet stuff One of the most common suggestions I saw whilst voraciously perusing YALC top tips was to take your own food because convention food is overpriced and underwhelming at the same time. The publishers’ stands did take care of your sweet tooth though! The amount of free chocolate and sweets on offer ensured you had a continuous sugar rush. My favourite had to be Penguin’s lemonade stand which was promoting Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index.
- Aching shoulders and exhaustion (!) Ok fine so this wasn’t a top ten as such because seriously So. Much. Pain. but it’s part and parcel of the experience! Plus it indicated I’d gotten a good haul of stuff each day which made me pretty happy. Being in London meant I didn’t have to drag around a huge suitcase of books, but honestly I can see why this would actually make sense! I’m also glad I did the full three days because I got to experience the ARC frenzy on the Friday, the events bonanza on the Saturday and the rock-bottom prices on the Friday but it did leave me exhausted so maybe something to think about for next time!
And there absolutely will be a next time! I already cannot wait for YALC 2018. I’m looking forward to going with a bit of experience under my belt so I can relax and enjoy myself a little more.
Have you been to YALC or a similar book convention? Any tips that you’ve collected that you would be lost without? Let me know in the comments below. 🙂