Thursday, 23 July 2015

YALC 2015 - Key takeaways from a brilliant bookish weekend!

This time last week I was on a 6am train headed to London, buzzing with excitement to go to my 2nd YALC. With a weekend ticket in my pocket, I was geared up for three days of panels, workshops, agent area drop-ins and lots of bookish fun. And it certainly didn't disappoint!

What a brilliant weekend! Thanks to all the smart changes made by Booktrust, this year was even more enjoyable and successful than the last *thank you air-con!* I could go on and on about how great each event was but instead, I thought I'd share just some key things that I look from each event I attended:


Cosplay for Beginners 

Lucy Saxon as Draco and friends with awesome cosplay. Ginny had a real life Quaffle! And Ariel made her own corset!
- Break your first costume down into elements e.g. 
A Hogwarts uniform includes, robes, jumper, shirt, tie, trouser/skirt (+ tights) and shoes. 
Make each element one at a time and don't get overwhelmed by the scale of the costume.

- Factor in drying time of anything you create - paint can take up to 24 hours to dry.

- Make sure you bring a repair kit with you when you cosplay 
(duct tape, sewing kit and the mother of all cosplay saviours - the safety pin!)

- Join the UK Cosplay Facebook Group - like the book community as a whole, 
the cosplay community is super nice and super helpful to all.

- If you chose to wear a corset, make sure you break it in. Just like you would with a tricky pair of heels, practice wearing it. In particular, sitting down without dying... 

- Cosplay is like playing the piano: your sewing and crafting skills will develop in time so don't get down on quality at the start. Just get doing!

Creating Characters with L.A.Weatherly 

- The 3 Act Structure is your friend.

- The trajectory of the story depends on two things: what the characters want 
aka the emotional story line and what they need to do aka the main story line.
 One should drive the other.

- For examples of great characterisation, read anything by Stephanie Perkins 
(Anna and the French Kiss, Isla and the Happily Ever After etc)

- As an added, exclusive extra, L.A. Weatherly's new series of books was announced at this event: 

A video posted by Rachel Kennedy (@yabberingbooklover) on

Harry Potter Party!

- Loads of fun! Even more so because my house won the House Cup! Hufflepuffs ROCK!
Could it be due to the fact that we are particularly good finders...?

A video posted by Rachel Kennedy (@yabberingbooklover) on


YA: The Next Generation

Look at all the bookish peeps! 

- NaNoWriMo is awesome - both Taran and Alice started with it.
It's great for motivating yourself to hit a word count consistently.

- Publishing young is a Catch-22: The younger you are, the more impressive your book deal is. But the younger you are, the less seriously you seem to be taken.

- The best part of being a young writer is that you are closer to your readers in age and taste, making it that much easier to interact with them.

- Taran Matharu is an all-round awesome guy!

Cassandra Clare: Shadowhunters

Sarah Rees Brennan chairing Cassandra Clare 

-Lady Midnight is coming in March!

- The first book in The Last Hours series is called Chain of Iron. 

- Shadowhunter TV Update! Cassandra has been on the set of the new TV show, 
and can tell us that the actors are really approaching the roles differently.

- Harry Shum Jr had lots of intelligent, well thought out questions about Magnus' character. 
And although Magnus may not do any b-boying in the series, Harry does use his dancer experience to slink like a majestic magical panther (Sarah Rees Brennan's words, not mine)

- Cassandra Clare would be a Fairchild (because she has red hair and freckles) or Blackthorn (because she's an only child and would like to know what it's like to have a mental family)

Being a Girl 

Holly Smale, Hayley Long, Laura Dockrill, C.J. Shukse, Malorie Blackman and Anna James being boss witches

- We're a long way from being done with the feminism/equal rights debate, 
there is still a lot to fight for.

- We still need to see more examples of girls rescuing themselves and each other, 
not just deus ex machina style men coming in and saving the day

- We need to see more realistic, responsible representations of women. We need role models!

- Feminism is particularly important in YA because teens are learning about their gender roles. Honesty is important.

- Holly Smale is a boss: "Feminism is part of my voice. We need to chip away at gender inequality by chipping away at it with each new voice. My way is through humour - the best way to break down tropes is to laugh at them and yourself." 

- Girls are super harsh to each other. 
Flawed male characters are not publicly flogged the same way seemingly 'slutty' female characters are.

- We need to celebrate the differences between genders and people in general, not using the differences between what is feminine or masculine or otherwise to attack each other.

Agent 1-2-1 with Gemma Cooper

Book Wall over near the agents area. There were loads of bean bags and deck chairs this year = lots of comfy places to snuggle & read! 

- These are a great addition to YALC, and the agents are super happy for you to come an ask them whatever you want. I was so close to not doing this one, but I got over being nervous/having nothing specific to say and it was brilliant.

I can highly recommend!

Carrie Hope Fletcher's Book Club 

Carrie Hope Fletcher chairing Holly Smale, Malorie Blackman and Samantha Shannon
- I didn't take any notes for this, I just sat back and enjoyed all the awesome on stage!
Also forgive my terrible camera skills, I was fangirling to hard to focus *literally*

Judy Blume in Conversation with Patrick Ness

Patrick Ness and the charming Judy Blume 

- "No book or author is ever as important to you as those you read as a child or teen" - Patrick Ness on reading Judy Blume. *Preach Pat, preach*
It was evident Judy meant a lot to the people there, some girls opposite me were crying with the realness of it all.

- Judy wrote Forever because when her daughter was growing up in the 70s, all that was available to her were books with the message that when a girl gives in to her sexual urges, she is punished. Her daughter asked her if there could ever be a book where 2 nice characters do it and don't die... So Judy wrote books just about that. Being constantly fed that girls have no sexual feelings and that boys have no feelings is incredibly unhealthy - Judy wanted to change this.

- "Let's not pretend teens are in need of mollycoddling. Swearing is like tap dancing, it just feels good." - Judy Blume on explicit language

- Forever is a feminist book!

- In The Unlikely Event is the first story idea that came to her all at once - she'd never wanted to write about the 50s (the time period in which Judy grew up which she found frightfully dull) until she heard someone else talking about it and the story just popped into existence.

- The reason the 50s seemed like a boring time, she sees in retrospect, was that adults weren't telling them anything. The plane crashed details In The Unlikely Event happened close to Judy's house, and she never was told about it, saw the crash site, knew who died. This time was otherwise known as a time of secrets.

- Judy's writing ethos is just to tell the truth.


Non Pratt & A.J. Grainger

The workshop area was sectioned off this year. Whereas last year it was loud and hard to hear, this space was great. 

- Non Pratt is awesome and my new favourite.

- Be discerning if and when you pick an agent/editor: it's comparable to getting married. 

Bringing Sexy Back

Tom Ellen, Lucy Ivison, Louise O'Neill, Non Pratt and Daenerys & Dragons aka. James Dawson 

- Books and movies are actually being sexually sanitised. Everyone is so afraid to offend.

- Louise O'Neill has a cracking sense of humour. In fact, so does everyone on this panel. 
Funniest part of YALC by a mile!

- Louise O'Neill thinks that for many teen girls, sex is a performance. 
They are worried about appearing sexy/performing well (something I definitely felt as a teen)

- Realistic, responsible and honest YA has to be the antidote to pornography
where else are they going to learn about the emotional as opposed to mechanical lessons of sex
if not in books?

- Non Pratt points out that sex in her new book Remix forms the periphery of the story.
Yes sex is important, but there is far more friendship in teens' lives than sexual relationships, surely?

Taking Your Blog to the Next Level

Lucy the Reader, Jim from YaYeahYeah and Viv from SeredipityReviews 

- Advice - don't tweet negative reviews to authors.

- If you want your blog to be a diary of your reading, more power to you. If you want it to be something that people go to repeatedly for recs etc. write reviews for them. If you didn't like a book, then write the review for that person out there who will - all taste is subjective and someone will like it. Of course be critical, but be constructive.

- What defines a good blog: enthusiasm and being able to stand out from the crowd.

- Do you. Don't get wrapped up in comparisons, it leads to a deep, dark place...

Vlogging for beginners 

Lucy from The Book Belle, Amy from ShoutAme and Sanne from Book&Quills

- Equipment you might like to invest in: a tripod and any camera with filming capabilities. That's it! No need for fancy cameras, light boxes or editing packages etc. Just get started, learn cut, paste and delete and remember to film horizontally.

-  Tip: If you do buy a new camera, it's really helpful to have a flip screen.

- Film in the morning, when natural light is at its best. The panel tended to take a weekend morning and film several videos (swapping tops & hair between vids).

- Reviews tend to be the least popular posts (this is across the board of b/vlogging really) and hauls, wrap ups and tags tend to get the most views.

- The ideal length of a video is between 3 - maximum 6 minutes.

- Advice: Reach out to the community. Everyone is really nice and helpful.

- Tip for not getting stuck in a slump: Keep a list of video ideas you might like to make and if you're ever stuck for something to post, pop it up and get cracking.

And some other snaps from the weekend:

Tarot reading for The Accident Season - the line was huge! Very popular 

A girl in the signing queue for James Dawson had the most amazing Neil Gaiman inspired shoes! 

See you again next year LFCC :D

I was fortunate enough to be invited down to YALC with work and spend some time volunteering on the shared publisher table. As a result, I got to pick at all the leftovers with reckless abandon - look at all the swag!

And here are all the beautiful books I lugged home with me, seriously cannot wait to dive into them!

I can't recommend a trip down to YALC highly enough for any booklover. Gosh I hope it becomes a yearly occurrence...

Bookish love, 




  1. I was there only for the Saturday but loved it so much. The gent and I will definitely be back for the whole weekend next year :)

  2. Hi Karen, Saturday was indeed a very good day. What was your favourite part?