Last weekend was THE event in the UKYA calendar, the Young Adult Literature Convention. Many of you were there, and are probably also writing up your posts about it! It was, as always, a weekend of bookish fun, in which I got to see lots and lots of friends, chat to some of my favourite authors and buy a ridiculous number of books. However, this year, I also found it to be full of frustration, to the extent that I’m seriously considering not going next year – and I’ve been to all five of them so far, so this is a big thing for me.
But let’s start with the fun. Friday was a mostly excellent day. I love wandering around the publisher stands and picking up freebies (although what was with the lack of totes this year guys?!) and just chatting to the teams. I may also have bought books – I wanted the early copies of Giant Days by Non Pratt and Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes by Holly Bourne, and my pre-order of Record of a Spaceborn Few hadn’t arrived before I left, so I needed to buy that too – but it was generally a relaxed, sauntering sort of day. Yes, Non Pratt’s queue was HUGE, and I foolishly stayed in it, thus missing Katherine Woodfine, even though I knew I was also going to have to queue on Saturday for Non, but that was my own bad decision, and those two and Ed McDonald were the only people I planned to see, so all was fine.
Friday was also the day of the Floored quiz. Last year’s quiz was a highlight of the weekend for me, so I had great expectations this year, and they were all met. My Kinda Book had kindly provided a free bar and food, and six of the seven Floored authors were team captains (Mel Salisbury had a prior appointment with Aidan Turner, so who can blame her for skipping out on us?). I was on Non’s team, with Sarah, Alice, Bella and Lucinda AND WE ONLY WENT AND WON! It’s over a week later, and I’m still in shock!
So that was Friday. Friday was great. Saturday was less so, and I have since come to the conclusion that Saturday at YALC is just too busy for me. It was also, in my opinion, terribly organised. Like, who decided to have seven separate queues for the Floored authors? So many people were disappointed not to get everyone’s signature because one queue closed while they were in another, myself included. Fortunately, I only needed Lisa Williamson’s signature to complete my copy at that point, and the ever lovely Non sorted that out for me, but I was really disappointed not to have a chance to chat to Lisa. I’d already queued for literal hours for Frances Hardinge and Laura Wood, so I was exhausted by now – only there were no seats except in the panel area, because despite promises to do better on the accessibility front, the only seats in the chill out zone were beanbags. I don’t have accessibility issues, but I can’t get down to a beanbag, or the floor, very easily and I felt bad going into a panel just so I could sit down for a bit. It didn’t stop me doing it, but if I’d needed it during some of the panels, I’d have been stuck, because they were full. All the queueing really put a damper on my day, and it was a real shame. I wouldn’t have minded so much if they didn’t already have a system in place to deal with it, but they do, they just weren’t using it properly. Anybody attending on Saturday could have told you which queues were going to be huge, so why didn’t they start virtual ticketing straightaway for those authors like they did for the Fletchers?
Anyway, it wasn’t all bad. I got to see one of my very favourite authors for the first time in a couple of years and was incredibly chuffed that he not only remembered me, but he got up to give me a huge hug. I also noticed a group of people sat on the floor near the signing area, and something told me that they knew that that was where Becky Chambers was signing, so I went over, made some new friends and got to be almost at the front of the queue for Becky. I also got to see plenty of old friends who helped me decompress after the stressful morning, and my copy of Second Best Friend is signed to Donna the Quiz Queen, which is always going to remind me of the fantastic time I had at the quiz.
Sunday was a much better day, because it was quieter, and I only had two books with me to get signed. I didn’t get into any of the workshops I wanted, because I arrived late and they were full already, but I didn’t mind too much. I just wandered, actually attended some panels and entered some competitions, before buying lots of books. Oh, and I finally saw Jason Momoa, who was this year’s Benedict Cumberbatch!
I did enjoy myself. I know it doesn’t sound like it from the above, and Saturday has inevitably coloured my whole experience, but I did. YALC as a member of the UKYA community is a whole different beast to YALC without knowing everyone, and I love that aspect of it. I love being able to start up a conversation about books with anyone in sight, I love meeting people who I’ve only known online up to now and I love making new friends. This year I also got to introduce myself to publicists as someone they might know, which was amazing. But Showmasters/YALC desperately need to sort out their organisation and accessibility for the event. I know some people were in tears at the way they were treated by staff, and that’s not what YALC should be like.
So how would I fix it? More seating for starters, and more scattered around if possible. Virtual ticketing from the start for the authors that everyone knows will be busy. Staff/volunteers who understand what an extra help wristband means and what they should do. And speak to the publishers about how they run their giveaways. It’s true that they didn’t do any ‘first here gets this’, but a lot of them still involved standing in line for a long period of time if you wanted a proof. I know just running raffles over and over again isn’t as fun or exciting, but it’s honestly the fairest way. Or do what Hot Key did, which was a mix of twitter competitions and making silly poses. They need to be as inclusive as possible, and it just wasn’t this year. Again. Kudos to Atom, Chicken House, Hodderscape and Penguin, who did make their giveaways into raffles or competitions that didn’t involve standing around for ages, and half a kudos to Harper Collins who did some, but not all, of their proof giveaways like that.
Anyway, I’m sure you all want to see my haul, so voila!
Getting all that back to Liverpool was FUN, as some of you might have seen on twitter!
That feels like it was the longest blog post ever, and it certainly took me a long time to write. I hope I haven’t been overly critical, but I did find parts of YALC incredibly frustrating this year. I still love it though!
Did you go to YALC this year? Did you find it frustrating? Let me know in the comments!