Like all great ideas, the possibility of going to YALLFest in Charleston started over cocktails. In fact, it was during our FYA Spring Break in Las Vegas – one of our SFFYA friends, Gussy, lives in Charleston now (and leads the Charleston FYABC chapter), so what could be a better time to visit her, and meet my longtime internet friend Kristy, than during a big YA fan fest?
The biggest takeaway from the weekend: there’s just not enough time. The panels conflict with the signings, there are fantastic panels up against each other, and unless you have Hermione’s time turner, you just can’t fit in everything you want to see. (Given that I don’t attend Hogwarts, it needs to be two full days! Please, YA gods, make it so.) We got to meet up with the ladies of Asheville FYA (stars of "The YA Stuff" YA Summer Showdown video!), but couldn’t even get a photo in the craziness.
The second biggest takeaway, which we all discussed numerous times: if there had been something like this for book nerds in the 90s, we would have died of joy. Watching young women (some guys, too) have fangirl meltdowns over meeting authors, or cheer with glee at book trailers…it was THE BEST.
With all that said, here’s a brief rundown of who and what we saw, and stay tuned for an Inkcouragement: YALLFest Edition, because I have pages full of great writing advice.
R.L. Stine & Richelle Mead Opening Keynote
Like many of us, I grew up reading Fear Street (my brother read Goosebumps), so this opening keynote was not to be missed. If you had told my 8-year-old self “When you grow up, you’re going to a fan fest for authors and you’ll basically be sitting right above R.L. Stine’s head,” I wouldn’t have believed you. I could have jumped down and tackled him. WITH MY LOVE.
R.L. Stine initially didn't want to write Goosebumps - he was having too much fun killing teens on Fear Street. #yallfest2015— Forever Young Adult (@4everYA) November 14, 2015
Richelle Mead was an interesting foil for R.L. Stine, although he stole the show with his sense of humor. She spoke about her upcoming books, and made a great point about how many people regard the presence of romance in a book as “weakening” it, whereas she believes we’re all entitled to adventure and romance, without the judgment. It was a great sentiment to open a female-dominated festival.
Jealousy, Creativity, Fear, & Success Panel
Gayle Forman moderated this panel with Marie Lu, Daniel Handler, Scott Westerfeld, Libba Bray, and Margaret Stohl—all about what it’s like to have professional jealousy of other writers, and what it’s like to have other people jealous of you. For example, Margaret Stohl remarked that the year the Beautiful Creatures movie came out was the worst of her life—it looked like it was great from the outside, but she was miserable. Marie Lu was blown away by the first draft of Illuminae, which she claims came to her basically without even a single typo. And Daniel Handler is jealous of a falling wine bottle at a Los Angeles hotel, because it had a quick-moving employee to catch it, and it would be nice to know you always had someone to catch you.
Libba Bray equated professional jealousy with diarrhea. That’s basically all you need to know.
Moat by Moat: Historical World-Building Panel
This panel alone was totally worth the plane ticket from San Francisco to Charleston. As a history nerd myself, hearing about Rae Carson, Gail Carringer, Ryan Graudin, Elizabeth Wein, Carole Weatherford, and Libba Bray’s processes was fascinating. (I was also totally relieved to hear that these ladies cry over history, too. I AM NOT ALONE.)
The highlight was hearing that Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity) and her high school best friend made up a Hamlet clapping game, which she performed in part for us. Here’s a brief video—sorry for the portrait mode (I was scrambling to get my camera going).
Meg Cabot and Melissa De La Cruz In Conversation
First of all, Meg Cabot was very disappointed that no one wore a tiara to her panel. (True story: I actually had one in my suitcase, for an entirely different reason.) The conversation was fun (apparently Anne Hathaway is the nicest person ever, and Fat Louie was based on a real cat named Fat Henry), but what really struck me about this panel were the girls who lined up to ask Meg questions. These ladies, who ranged from approximately 8-28, were both so starstruck and articulate. Both Meg and Melissa De La Cruz treated them with attention and respect, thanking them for their questions, and clearly making their day. I love it when authors are kind to their fans!
Strong Female Characters, Ugh! Why Do We Still Have To Have This Conversation? Panel
It’s 2015, why are we still talking about “strong female characters?” Rae Carson, Gwenda Bond, Mindy McGinnis, Ryan Graudin, Elizabeth Wein, and Maya Van Wagenen all shared their opinions with this panel. Questions like “why doesn’t anyone ask about strong male characters?” “what’s the opposite of strong female characters, wet ones? Weak ones?” and “do people mean physical strength, emotional strength, or both?” were great fodder for a discussion that could have gone on for hours.
Sadly, there were no clapping games at this panel, which is now my gold standard.
Someone just yelled KISS ME HARDY! in the Strong Female Characters panel and you could tell exactly who read Code Name Verity. #yallfest2015— Forever Young Adult (@4everYA) November 14, 2015
YA Smackdown with Tiger Beat
What could be better than watching your favorite authors play YA-themed games, but more importantly, dramatically reenact youthful writings? The answer is NOTHING, except maybe a willing Adam Brody and all the champagne in the world.
I mean, there was a fish death metal song…
"Would you pass the bedspread over here," I rasped liquidly. -- Scott Westerfeld reads us his written-at-age-14 space crime novel.— Forever Young Adult (@4everYA) November 14, 2015
Brendan Reichs and Veronica Roth were the emcees, and trivia games were led by Aaron Hartzler (who is now on my list of Potential New Best Friends In A Very Non-Creepy And Non-Stalkery Way).
The night was closed out by Libba Bray, Natalie Standiford, Barney Miller, and Daniel Ehrenhaft playing as Tiger Beat, including a touching tribute to the recent Charleston shooting at Emmanuel AME, and unfortunately, the Paris attacks on Friday night.
Book Club, Sightseeing, & Everything Else!
L-R: Brandi (Johnson City FYA), me, Gussy, Kristy, and Kara!
On Sunday, I went to Charleston’s November book club meeting at The Royal American (a fun dive bar with 32oz bourbon punch for $8—it doesn’t take much to make me happy), and we were joined by Brandi from Johnson City, TN FYABC! It was a combination of book discussion and YALLFest debriefing, but as usual, going to another club’s meeting felt like finding your book nerd tribe in a slightly different location.
I also spent the trip sightseeing—from historical house tours to boat tours to a tour of Charleston’s scandalous history, I fell in love with the city. (Just…not the humidity.) If you’re rich and would like to buy a historical fall/spring home for a very appreciative FYA writer, CALL ME.
I also took it upon myself to eat my way through the city, as you do. Unfortunately, there is no food left in that portion of South Carolina, because I ate it all, and I’m not sorry. It was delicious.
Barbeque! Biscuits! Bacon in my cocktails! Shrimp & grits! Fried oysters! Fried pickles! Oh my god I miss it so much already
It was a fantastic trip. I’ve loved all three book conventions I’ve been to in 2015 for different reasons, but YALLFest is definitely for the fans—and that’s what makes it so special.
Did you go this year, or in years past? What was your favorite part?