After a magical time in Charleston at last year's YALLFest, there was no way I wasn't going to give sister festival YALLWest, in Santa Monica, a shot. I wasn't the only one, either--some of the Oakland FYA ladies, along with 20,000 other attendees, had the same idea. I don't know about anyone else, but it was the first time I'd set foot in a high school in years, only this time it was a strange parallel universe filled with some of our most beloved YA authors.
Rainbow Rowell and Holly Black Keynote
Saturday morning kicked off with a line around the block to get in, and another gigantic line to see Holly Black and Rainbow Rowell in conversation. Rainbow Rowell said that she didn't think the ending of Eleanor & Park was ambiguous, and the audience gasped--then she explained.
Rainbow also said she has told one person what the three words were--and her reaction was so disappointed that Rainbow never will again. - Jennie
Mental Health and Writing Panel
This was my absolute favorite panel of the weekend: Veronica Roth, Adam Silvera, Melissa de la Cruz, and John Corey Whaley talked about what it's like to be a writer with mental health issues. (I'll delve into this deeper for Inkcouragement, along with input from Libba Bray and Jessica Spotswood, soon!) Veronica Roth charmed me (and my mother!) with her description of having generalized anxiety disorder, Adam Silvera told us what it's like to have OCD and depression, Melissa de la Cruz actually had a stroke, and John Corey Whaley told us...that he and Adam Silvera used to date. (He also told us more about anxiety and depression, but even Veronica Roth had a record scratch moment at the dating revelation--"I didn't know that!")
It was a great panel, covering everything from what first clued them in that something was wrong, to whether they feared it would negatively affect their creativity. Mental health is such an important topic, so to see such talented people reach out and make themselves vulnerable was really wonderful. - Jennie
Multiple POV Panel
How do you get into the heads of different characters, anyway? That's what Heather Demetrios, Evelyn Skye, Marie Rutkoski, Simone Elkeles, and Susane Colsanti described on this He Said, She Said panel. We heard about all their best techniques (Heather Demetrios spreads colored index cards on the floor to represent each chapter from a different character) and what they do when they can't get into another character's head (maybe that POV isn't really necessary!). - Jennie
Platonic Friendship Panel
John Corey Whaley moderated this fun panel about the importance of platonic friendship in YA. Kody Keplinger, Rainbow Rowell, Marie Rutkoski, Jenny Han, Richelle Mead, and Kami Garcia chimed in, describing their process and experience with friendship. (Did you know Marie Rutkoski considers Arin and the God of Death to have a friendship?) Why are boys trained to avoid physical contact and say "I love you?" How is finding a new friend like falling in love? Jenny Han says she remembers being absolutely obsessed with new friends, as if they were new boyfriends (but better). - Jennie
Kiersten White moderated this panel with MT Anderson, Erin Bowman, Greg Neri, Sherri L. Smith, Jessica Spotswood, and Brodi Ashton--from teasers about the things that they researched which might get them on the FBI watchlist, to the craziest things they've ever done to put themselves in their books, this panel was a delight from start to finish. Also, Kiersten White promised that medieval monks put dirty jokes in their illuminated manuscripts, and you'll find one in her newest novel! - Jennie
YA Smackdown and Tiger Beat
FYA Oakland was out in full force. There were at least four of us there together (along with one member's husband/book sherpa), and we managed to recruit two more members at the festival! Most of us went to different panels, and some of us stood outside for signed books and swag (there was SO much swag, y'all), but we all agreed that this weekend in Santa Monica was one WELL SPENT.
I mean, where else would I get to see one of my very favorite authors ROCK OUT with her band while paying tribute to Prince? - Amanda R.
Tahereh Mafi and Marie Lu Sunday Keynote
This year's chairs were Marie Lu and Tahereh Mafi, both of whom reside in L.A. and seem to be the best of chums. Their keynote was so sweet, and their love and respect for each other was so obvious. - Amanda R.
Last but CERTAINLY not least, FYA Oakland took a side trip to the newly opened Ripped Bodice in Culver City. It's a romance only bookstore run by two sisters, Bea and Leah Koch and these ladies are WONDERFUL.
They told us that one of the L.A. chapters is going to meet at their store soon! The Ripped Bodice has all of their books divided by subgenre (historical fantasy, paranormal, dragon, Highlander, cowboys, bikes and tats, LGBTQ, YA, etc) and it was so much fun to learn about this corner of the book-verse that I know virtually nothing about. I think my personal haul speaks for itself:
Look at that adorable book bundle! How could I resist?
As soon as I saw their mission statement I knew that we were in good hands:
- Amanda R.
When it's all said and done, YALLWest can be an overwhelming experience. Here are my tips for getting everything you can out of the experience:
- The traffic will suck a lot of your time away. Choose your hotel wisely, or add at least an hour more than you think you'll need each day.
- Wear comfortable clothing and shoes--and layer! The temperature both in and outside of the buildings varied drastically. Some panels were so warm I wanted to nap, some were chilly--and the same with walking around outside.
- Park in the Civic Center lot, across the street from the high school. $5 all day parking is incredibly affordable. There are also other public parking garages northwest, in the shopping areas, on 4th Street.
- Study the map, because the signs weren't always visible. The high school is almost as big as my undergrad college, and panels will often be in different (not-so-well-labeled) buildings. Plan accordingly!
- If one panel starts late, you may have to duck out early for the next one.
- Bring water and snacks. The lines for the food trucks looked pretty long, and when you're bouncing from panel to panel, you don't want to wait. (My mom and I packed a great lunch in the trunk of our car, but had to wave on people searching for parking.)
- Prioritize. Like all conventions, you're going to have to make sacrifices. If you go to the panels, you may miss the signings, and some panels fill up. Figure out which panels and/or signings are the most important to you, and then have a backup plan.
And that's it for this year! Did you attend? Tell us what you thought in the comments!