This past Saturday I had the chance to drive to Charleston, South Carolina for YallFest. YallFest is a huge YA Literature Festival. This year there were over 50 authors in attendance. The day is filled with panels, discussions, and signings.
But since everything is scheduled at the same time you have to prioritize between signings or panels. I was lucky to get everything done that I wanted to get done.
We got to the Music Hall at 6:30 to wait in line. The first 500 ticketed fans were let in to meet Veronica Roth and get one book signed by her. We were lucky enough to be in the first twenty.
Then we were let into the Music Hall at nine to wait for the Keynote Speech. The authors speaking during the Keynote were Veronica Roth (Divergent) and Rae Carson (The Girl of Fire and Thorns).
They discussed the power dynamics between girl and boy characters in YA literature. It was a really interesting discussion. They talked about the power balance between Tris and Four as well as Hector and Elisa.
Then we got moved upstairs to the Veronica signing. Then I met VERONICA FREAKING ROTH AND IT WAS AMAZING.
She signed my copy of Allegiant and said it was awesome to meet me. Needless to say, I was Fangirling. As one of my favorite authors (and one of the ones that most inspires me to write) it was so fantastic to meet her.
Then we were late for any 11 o'clock panel. So we got in line to get Marie Lu's signature. The line was humongous though! It wrapped around a block and a half of the street and went around two corners. We then realized that she wasn't going to be able to get to all of us. So we headed to the Taherah Mafi (Shatter Me) and Ransom Riggs (Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children) Coffee Talk. (The Coffee Talks were basically two authors discussing their books and giving anecdotes.)
This was one of my favorites that I went to all day. They told funny stories about their books or their lives. They were the absolutely adorable couple that I was expecting as well.
Then we went to a Fantasy and Sci-Fi panel with Victoria Schwab moderating (The Archived), Leigh Bardugo (Shadow and Bone), and Marie Lu (Prodigy). They discussed what it is like to write fantasy and sci-fi (with a focus on world-building).
Then my kind mother decided she was done with panels and agreed to go wait in line for me. She stood in the Rainbow Rowell line (which was HUGE) while I went to a Coffee Talk with Stephanie Perkins (Anna and the French Kiss) and Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl). They talked about why they write "nice" characters and why they avoid writing bad boys (because Levi and Etienne wouldn't be nearly as awesome if they were "bad boys"). They also talked about how writing can be therapeutic and can allow writers to work through events in their lives in a healthy way. This was my favorite panel I attended all day. They were funny and serious in equal measures. They gave good advice and were really honest and open.
Then I went to a panel about the craft and business of writing YA and Middle Grade. They discussed the bias against books for a younger audience and how unfair that judgment really is. It was really cool hearing them giving advice for aspiring authors who do want to write solely YA. I loved when they said that finding the voice for YA or Middle Grade can be just as difficult if not more difficult than finding the voice for literary fiction for adults. They also discussed how people find themselves thinking that teenage readers are less discerning, but that they actually can call crap like it's their job. They know when something is inauthentic or forced.
After that panel I had the chance to jump into the line where my mom was waiting with my books to meet Rainbow Rowell (Eleanor & Park). Then she signed my copies of Eleanor and Park as well as Fangirl. When I told her that Fangirl was one of my favorite books I have read so far this year she gave me a Fangirl button. (AND SHE TOLD ME SHE LIKED MY DRESS AND THAT WAS COOL. I don't think I'll ever get rid of it now. Ever.)
Then Marie Lu was kind enough to offer a second signing for all those who didn't make it to the front of her first line. We were about fourth in line because we got there early. We got in to meet her really quickly and she signed my copies of Legend, Prodigy, and Champion.
Then we ate a small snack in between our last signing and the Smackdown. We saw Tiger Beat perform, which is a band made up of authors. It includes Libba Bray (The Diviners ) as lead singer and she ROCKS HARDCORE! After that there were improvisational games for all the authors to participate in and it was pretty dang hilarious.
Overall it was a fantastic day. I just loved being around so many different bookish people from around the country. I loved connecting with strangers over the books that we'd all read and loved. It was awesome seeing the authors being their own kind of geeky selves. (I mean, how many people can say they've seen Veronica Roth jamming out to a song? Her dancing is adorable, by the way).
I'm really hoping I'll be able to go next year, too.