My packing, before the panic set in.
The weekend of the 29th July 2016 saw the biggest Young Adult literary gathering of the year in the UK – YALC! The time for sensible packing and dressing normally was over – I had three days of books and geekery ahead of me (let’s not forget YALC is held during the same weekend as London Film and Comic Con), and it began bright and early on the Friday…
Uh, don’t I look So Done? I’d just forgotten my change from the food bar, so I was regretting my life choices. But! It was onwards to Kings Cross. I’ve mentioned before how much I love journeying to London for book stuff, and this was like an extra special treat to go for so many days.
#IAmAFeminist Campaign HQ at the Usbourne stand
YALC was again held at Olympia, having a whole floor to itself – and it seriously needed it. There were stalls from almost every publisher of YA fiction, from indie presses to ‘The Big Five’, goodies and freebies, and even an ice cream vendor as part of a book marketing push. Stripes Publishing outdid themselves entirely by turning their area into a Santa’s Grotto to celebrate their upcoming anthology I’ll Be Home For Christmas.
Fantasy London Panel
The highlight of the Friday for me was the Fantasy London panel. My literary hero Samantha Shannon was part of it, and she spoke so inspiringly on writing, research (and whether or not it’s necessary), and her career as well as announcing a new novella for the Bone Season series – The Pale Dreamer! I was so excited I was almost sick. I could barely tweet.
Then afterwards there was the signing, and oh my gosh the queues. Victoria Schwab and Samantha Shannon both had amazing queues, and it just goes to show how many people not only read fantasy, but also love it enough to line up and thank the author for making such an impact on their lives. The Bone Season has been a series I have fallen so in love with, so quickly – I didn’t know if I’d ever love anything as hard as the Harry Poter-verse, but TBS has completely captivated me, and I can’t wait for The Song Rising next year.
Day Two was my chance to be a giant nerd. I’d loved the new Ghostbusters since the first trailer (cry away, man-babies), and knew I’d have to cosplay Dr Jillian Holtzmann, just because I could replicate her hair! So, that’s what went on – goggles at the ready. I was incredibly nervous about doing it because a lot of cosplayers at LFCC and YALC take their art very seriously, make their own costumes from scratch, and get details 110% spot-on. But! I needn’t have worried. My character was recognised two minutes after stepping onto the floor, and I had so many people asking if they could take my picture, or pose with their Ghostbusters-themed products (like the biscuit, above!).
Deadpool cosplay by John J Houlton
We spent a lot of time on the ‘floor’ of LFCC, buying merchandise (I got a Pokemon hat, FINALLY) and taking photos with other cosplayers (my friend went as Kamala Khan, and her cosume was super popular).
Kiran Millwood-Hargrave, me, Melinda Salisbury and Catherine Doyle
Saturday was also a great day for seeing writers and authors I know from twitter, along with my agency-sisters Melinda and Cat (who I met for the first time whilst dressed like that – I’m so sorry).
Melinda Salisbury and Kiran Millwood-Hargrave
I can’t get over how lucky I am to share an agent with Melinda, and to know these gorgeous individuals in general. They’re so awesome it should really be illegal.
Onwards to Day Three, and it was Happy Birthday to J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter, and the script-book of Cursed Child. I didn’t go to a midnight launch (though, if you can see in the picture above, I have the badges to prove I’ve seen both parts of the play), and I don’t know if I’ll buy the script – for me, the real experience was seeing the play performed, and I don’t think I need to read the script to get that magic.
We only needed a Gryffindor to be complete.
But, as it was a huge day of celebration, it was not only the final day of YALC, but the Harry Potter party, too! So we dressed accordingly, in house colours.
But, before that, it was Dream Fulfilment Day. Having met Samantha Shannon on the Friday, I was still mildly emotionally fragile, but that Sunday I was going to meet Frances Hardinge, Holly Bourne, and Louise O’Neill.
Me and Frances Hardinge
There was a moment where I thought I was going to cry on Frances, but I managed to hold myself together. I told her how special The Lie Tree is to me, and how beautiful I found the writing, and how inspiring she is as a writer, so at least I didn’t just blurt out noises like I did when I met Margaret Atwood – I must have done pretty well.
Sana Aslam and Louise O’Neill
Meeting Louise O’Neill was just as special – few writers have gotten me so angry and so passionate about feminism. It was a real pleasure to meet her and get my books signed by such a stunning human.
And then I actually did cry, because JFC.
Aaaaand finally it was time for the Mugglenet Harry Potter party! I was proud to be part of the joint-winning Ravenclaw team, although my quiz team weren’t anything to shout about (cough).
I adored YALC, and LFCC, because they are two of the few events where I don’t feel as though I need to put on a front. There, I can be a geek girl, I can be a book nerd, and everyone is cool with it. I know people enough to say Hi, and they know me well enough that if I’m lying on the floor exhausted, it’s fine to photograph it for evidence. I had a few episodes of anxiety (including one nasty panic on the tube on the way home), but overall with the help of friends and medication I was fine. This really was the best weekend I’ve had in a long time.
My dream is to one day attend YALC as an author, and hopefully it’s not too wild a dream to never ever come true.