YALC 2017 round-up


YALC! It’s been over a week since the stalls were packed away, the last books were signed, and all the authors/publishers/bloggers/readers finally went home (maybe after a quick stop at the pub – the over-18s, anyway). As you probably know, I’m still in dissertation hell, and I’m blaming the lateness of this round-up post on that tragic state. That other summertime book bash starts on Saturday, so I thought I’d better cast a quick glance back over a wonderful weekend in July before I’m surrounded by excitable bookish folk all over again.

In no particular order, I present… a selection of my YALC 2017 highlights.


Probably the most iconic moment of YALC’s four years and certainly the most iconic moment to which I have ever borne witness… it’s gotta be Benedict Cumberbatch walking in on Non Pratt’s head shave. Already an intensely surreal moment, I’m not sure if Sherlock himself’s sudden appearance made it more or less weird. I really can’t explain the atmosphere if you weren’t in the room where it happened. It was truly incredible. And Non has raised almost £3000 for the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability! You can still donate if you feel so inclined.


In honour of The Dark Days Club (which is an utter delight, and you should read it) the excellent Alison Goodman, my esteemed QuizYA captain, ran a Regency dancing class which somehow I got roped into. (By somehow, I mean I was physically dragged by Lauren James.) You can never quite predict what’s going to happen at YALC, but I was not expecting to do-si-do Walker’s Emily McD! Despite my initial reluctance, I had a lot of fun. Though it got rather warm with all that skipping. …you guys, YALC is weird.


I was having so much fun wandering around that I nearly forgot about sitting down and listening to smart book people chatting smart book things. I did attend the Life Advice panel (fabulous agony aunting from all involved, and how could you ignore advice from the rightfully crowned Sara Barnard?), the Fandom panel (brilliant chairing from Lucy Saxon – I will never forget the November Rain story!), and the FLAWLESS “We Love Buffy” panel, where it was lovely to see authors I admire geeking out and being their fantastically fannish selves about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I also saw the Tricky Second Book panel, and I have to say that Cat Doyle might be my favourite panel chair of all the panel chairs? Don’t tell the others I said that, though. Lauren James was an excellent chair, also, and I loved the support on the Unconventional Romance panel for love triangles – a much maligned trope!


Of course, what makes YALC so lovely is the community, and I met more cool people than I can possibly hope to list. It was great to see the #SundayYA crew (and be recognised as SundayYA Sarah) and lots of other Twitter pals.

I met #ChangeBook star Aisha Bushby! We took about 12 pics trying to achieve perfection!

I was finally in a #jimsprofile picture, to my joy! I also bumped into lots of Edinburgh buddies (shout out to Kirstin for putting up with me aaall weekend, and to Justine of I Should Read That for much the same) as well as catching up with pals from south of the border. We initiated Clare into the YALC fun, and I thiiink she’ll come back next year! One of us, one of us! Last but IN NO WAY least, I finally met Moïra Fowley-Doyle, one of my writing heroes and also general subject of my admiration, and not only was I not completely weird and awkward about it, she actually knew who I was!


QuizYA was a highlight from… what I remember… Let’s just say the free wine was flowing, and everybody seemed to be drinking white but me. My tweets and messages to my friends document that I was having a COMPLETELY LOVELY TIME, and they’re all perfectly spelt, so… MOVING ON.


YALC marked the early release of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe. Actual conversation between me and Lauren James on the train to London on Friday: (may be paraphrased because, c’mon, I’ve slept since then)

LJ: *gestures at Twitter* look, it says it’s selling like hot cakes!
me: that’s good!!!
LJ: what if it sells out?
me: calm down

Friends, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe sold out in two hours. It sold out when we were in, like, Leighton Buzzard. (Probably? idk, I used to be Very Into the London Midland line.) All of YALC was abuzz over this little book about Captain Romy Silvers, alone in space, and I am SO PROUD of Lauren (and of Romy). Space is where it’s at. I had the best time getting galactic with Walker, and there are even pics to prove it! And I did finally get my finished copy of The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, happily. Signed and everything.


I wasn’t going to go to Publishing 102, despite wanting a career in publishing, because a) I went last year and b) I am just finishing up an entire MSc in publishing, what could they possibly cover in 45 minutes that I hadn’t heard before? But then I was free on Sunday, so I wandered over to the Agents Arena and heard some great advice – internships aren’t everything, be good at the boring stuff, you probably have to move to London (BOO) – but also THE GREATEST INTERVIEW HORROR STORY EVER courtesy of brilliant agent Louise Lamont. Her top tip for publishing hopefuls? Don’t kill a living creature during your interview. Publishing: not a career for the faint-hearted.

That was my YALC 2017! Being among friends and books for a whole weekend healed my dissertation-stricken soul. I already can’t wait for July 2018.


Cathy Cassidy launches Looking-Glass Girl

Alice in Wonderland turns 150 this year, and to celebrate, best-selling author Cathy Cassidy has penned her own tale Looking-Glass Girl: a modern-day twist on the classic children’s book.

I’m fresh from the launch party, which was held at Coventry’s Central Library. And what a great party it was!

Turns out I was too busy eating cake (more on that later…) and, er, working to take many photographs, but I’m sure the pictures will turn up on the usual social media channels soon. It was lovely to hear so many comments from members of the public about how great the library looked; everybody who worked on the displays really went above and beyond to make it magical.


There were giant dragonflies and paper cranes hanging from the ceiling, and the bright covers of Cathy’s books provided plenty of splashes of colour in the children’s library.

Before the launch proper, Cathy talked to an audience of excited fans, friends, and parents about Alice, growing up, and writing. She shared her favourite book (Watership Down – though her favourite of her own books is always the newest) and spoke about how important Coventry’s libraries were to her as a child. After taking questions, she then went to sign. She was absolutely determined that nobody would leave with their books unsigned! There were plenty of hugs going around, too.

(Shout out to the always lovely Waterstones staff, who turned up with many exciting boxes of books, and took lots of cash from me.)


AND THEN THERE WAS CAKE. Amazing, beautiful cake that actually tasted as good as it looked! As well as cake and drinks, there were mad tunes from Sounds Vintage, whose tailcoat made me regret not wearing mine. There was a real buzz – a lot of love (library love included) in that room tonight!

At the end of the night, Cathy took the opportunity to speak eloquently and passionately about libraries. It was powerful stuff – she has a lot of feelings about libraries, as well we all should. “Libraries are 90% of the reason I’m an author,” she told us, going on to say how much we all need libraries: writers, artists, musicians, as well as the less “creative” types, young, old, everyone. All this lifelong learning we have access to: it’s ours, and it’s free, and it needs protecting. It was an emotional evening, with a real sense of homecoming, and yes, library love!

All in all, an excellent night. It was a delight meeting Cathy Cassidy and hearing her speak in support of the library – even if it isn’t quite the one she grew up with, any more – and I’m looking forward to reading this beauty: