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.


YALC 2016 round up part three

Sarah likes books

It’s the third and final instalment of my YALC recap! HURRAY.

Post-Potter, we were both tired out, so we didn’t get to YALC until later in the morning. Probably my favourite part was seeing everyone in appropriate Hogwarts regalia! Confusingly, I, a Ravenclaw, was dressed in Gryffindor colours to be Neville (I had a toad in my pocket) accompanying my girlfriend, a Hufflepuff, dressed as Luna Lovegood. The wizarding world is complicated, man.

some adorable Luna Lovegood at #YALC – who's that girl?!

A post shared by sarah (@slouisebarnard) on

We got lots of lovely compliments for our wands, which were both handmade by the genius pictured above. COMMISSION HER, SO SHE CAN AFFORD TO BUY ME BOOKS.

Our first event of the day was Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison’s Co-writing workshop. Despite some, er, encouragement from Lucy to “make new friends” and co-write with a stranger, we totally wrote our pieces together. SORRY. As with all the workshops of the weekend, it was very cool to see familiar faces (whether from Twitter or author photos) mingling with enthusiastic readers and fans. And everybody had great things to bring to the table. Except for me, cos I cheated.

After the workshop, we headed to the Morally complicated YA panel, with Melvin Burgess, Emerald Fennell, Louise O’Neill and Manuela Salvi. This was interesting on a lot of levels; I always have time for whatever Louise O’Neill has to say, as I think she’s an important voice of advocacy for young women. I’ve not read Manuela Salvi’s novel Girl Detached yet, though I’ve heard strong reviews, but I have read some of her blog posts in the run up to YALC and can’t wait to read a whole book by such a thoughtful, fearless writer. Melvin Burgess has been writing controversial books for teens for literal decades – since before I was even a teen myself – and Emerald Fennell wrote Monsters, a hilarious work of subversive genius. My favourite moment of the panel was somebody asking about censorship of bad language in YA. Manuela responded with an explanation of how fiction doesn’t necessarily replicate reality, and prose is allowed to be more elegant than our real lives without it being censorship. Emerald: “I LOVE SWEARING!” She spoke about fighting for the f-bombs in Monsters, and I reckon, for what it’s worth, they were 100% worth it. There are some laugh out loud jokes in there, where swear words form the punchline.

Aaand following the fun of that panel, IT WAS STIEFVATER TIME!

For a little background, I started reading Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle last year, while I was in Cardiff. While reading about the youths looking for Glendower, I was walking past pubs named after the chap. It was good. I fell immediately in love with the series: it’s creepy, addictive, moving, complex, funny, clever, inspired by things I adore (like The Dark is Rising sequence) (I feel like you could call it The Secret Dark History is Rising Cycle) and full of characters who just feel like my friends now.

In the months preceding the release of The Raven King, the fourth and final (…maybe) book, my friends and I began a book club solely to reread the series. IT WAS GREAT. I can officially confirm, these books reward a reread. The series is now one of my favourites of all time. OF ALL TIME. I care a lot about these magical nerds!!! And so there I was, with half of my book club, ready to meet the author who created the characters we’d been talking about for months.

I’m not even going to recap Maggie’s talk. It was as funny and energetic as you’d expect, and she talked about ugly babies and setting John Green on fire.

Hers was the only ticketed signing I attended during YALC. We all got numbers, and were called up to join the queue in groups of about 20. It was very efficiently run and meant we didn’t have to hang out waiting forever. Instead we wandered around until our numbers were called. We met Emerald Fennell who was lovely and ships Harry/Luna jsyk.



And that was about it for YALC 2016! We dragged ourselves and our cases back to Euston station, and I settled down to read Harry Potter and the Cursed Child


After Lauren James, who has SEEN THE PLAY and KNOWS WHAT TRANSPIRES BETWEEN THOSE PAGES had checked it out first, of course.

Back home, I realised just how modest my bookhaul was:


See? How restrained was that?! (Not counting the twelve or so books I took with me.)

In conclusion: YALC 2016 was brilliant bookish fun, and it’s getting bigger and better every year. ROLL ON 2017 FOR MORE OF THE SAME, SAY I.

YALC 2016 round up part two

Sarah likes books


Can we get back to YALC recaps? Please!

I slept through my alarm Saturday morning, which was actually a brilliant move because a had a full night’s sleep. I was feeling SO ALIVE. (The downside was missing almost all of the #SquadGoals panel, which I had been looking forward to.) When I got to the Olympia, toting my suitcase, I was delighted to see the ever lovely Anna McKerrow at the info point! It was so great to finally meet her and have a quick chat. And I got her to sign my copies of the Greenworld books, FINALLY.


Missing most of the #SquadGoals panel meant I got into the queue for Holly Bourne early. I knew it’d be massive because she is an absolute rock star of UKYA. I bought two copies of What’s a Girl Gotta Do? and gave her a “weird hug” so it was a pretty good fan experience all told. I also added my #IAmAFeminist mantra to the wall of feminism at Usborne’s stall. After consulting with my girlfriend, who told me “I was coercively assigned my gender at birth and refuse to let it define me for the rest of my life” was a bit wordy, I went with “Gender is NONSENSE”.

Other gorgeous and wonderful authors met on Saturday: Sara Barnard! Feast your eyes on the momentous occasion of the #BarnardSelfie:


I also met Keren David and got her to sign an already-signed copy of Cuckoo, because I am an embarrassment, and got my books signed by David Levithan and Nina LaCour.

At 2pm was the eagerly-anticipated Oseman/James workshop on ‘Authors on Social Media‘. (You can read a blog post adapted from the seminar here.) Alice and Lauren are smart, talented young women with a lot of feelings about the internet and it was interesting to hear about the sometimes fraught relationships between fan and creator that can come about as a result of social media. However, it was very difficult to hear what people were saying – sitting at the back (because I was late, because I went to Sainsburys to get my favourite sandwich) I could not hear a single word that anyone other than Alice or Lauren said. Having the workshop space open, right next to the stairs and separated from a long signing queue by nothing other than a screen meant audibility was terrible, especially on the Saturday as it was the busiest day. That’s my only grumble about what was a very slickly organised event!

David Levithan and Nina LaCour were charming and entertaining in the You Know Me Well panel, chaired by Juno Dawson who was on hilarious good form. (The live tarot reading, including Kim K and Beyoncé cards, was especially enjoyable.) You Know Me Well is such a fantastic book. The centring of queer narratives – the book is dual-narrated by a gay guy and a lesbian girl – is quietly but potently revolutionary. I’m just so grateful this book exists, and this panel was a reminder that there is a place at the table for me as a queer reader and writer. I was totally tearing up at Nina’s story of wedding dress shopping at Pride! I’m tearing up a bit typing this now! Aghh!! I’m also inspired to try cowriting now that both team LaCour/Levithan and Ellen/Ivison have advocated just writing in turns and trying to throw each other curveballs.


Then it was Poetry Slam time, which was so so so good! There was a great mix of published poets and yet-to-be-published, and everyone was amazing and radiant and talented. Also Sarah Crossan read from the end of One, because I guess she hates happiness??? I honestly didn’t expect to enjoy the slam as much as I did, but the time flew by and it was great.

Tweets of the day:


My girlfriend and I went to Wagamama!!!

And then after that we went to the Waterstones Piccadilly launch of the Cursed Child scriptbook! The atmosphere was amazing, and the shop itself looked absolutely magical. Although a lot of us YALCers were knackered by this point, everyone queued stoically for their piece of the magic. And if you weren’t queuing, there were cakes to decorate, Quidditch to play, wine to drink, props to ogle… I went to the last two or three midnight launches of the Harry Potter series, and I really can’t believe I’ve had the opportunity to relive that experience as an adult. How can you not feel grateful for that? The shop was full of adult fans who grew up with Harry, but also kids (with baffling amounts of energy) experiencing the wizarding world for the first time. Harry Potter is everything. I’m seeing Cursed Child in October 2017 and I am already quite excited.

Clutching our paper bags full of Harry Potter, we made our way across the river to crash in our hotel room… ready for Sunday and Stiefvater!

YALC 2016 round up part one

Sarah likes books

The eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that the above is not even a picture from YALC. (It’s LFCC.) That’s because, as usual at events, I took criminally few photographs at the time. Let me paint a picture with my words.

This year I went for the whole weekend and I am STILL WEARING MY WRISTBAND AS I TYPE. I went for the Saturday of YALC 2015 and had a smashing time, but was disappointed to miss some of my favourite authors on the Friday and Sunday. Serious FOMO kicked in. There was only one possible solution. And so, this is the story of 72ish hours of UKYA excitement…


I went to Coventry’s Noodle Bar and Southend’s Mangetout on Thursday, so I’m not sure how my body was even functioning well enough to get me to Olympia before noon. #humblebrag Somehow I made it in time to catch the end of The YA Book Prize panel. I’m a huge fan of the prize, having “shadowed” it on this blog both times round, and so this was a panel where I could be assured of having read all the books being discussed! Afterwards I wandered the publishers’ stands, and spotted this tremendous stack of postcards for some obscure sequel no one’s really bothered about.


Publishing 102 was a great introduction to career paths within publishing. Having been to many talks like these already, I worried it would be a repeat of what I already knew about the industry. I actually learnt a lot. This event was the first time I’d ever heard someone refute the idea that if you just “get your foot in the door” you’ll be able to work your way from, say, production to editorial in no time. Also, Nina Douglas really got me fired up about publicity!!! I’m still not entirely sure where exactly my future lies within the industry, but I feel increasingly confident that I’m gonna be a publisher one day.

I then left the Olympia and walked down the road to the first chain coffee shop I saw, ordered a sandwich and an americano, and sat on my own for a while. I read a ton of #YALCtips posts in the run up to last weekend, mainly because I was excited rather than because I wanted tips. Plenty of people advocated these planned breaks and I found them invaluable. I don’t consider myself an anxious person, but turns out if you put me in a hot room full of strangers and people I only know off of the internet, I want to get out of that room after a while.


Back to YALC and the Fantasy London panel! I had planned to stan Katherine Webber, chair extraordinaire, at all of her panels but sadly I missed her earlier one that day. This one was great, though. VE Schwab seems to be the coolest person ever?? I love that she hung out at YALC all weekend and kept signing stuff for people and generally being friendly. Maybe I should’ve said hi. Anyway, the authors all drew from real life London to build their disparate fantastical Londons in different ways, which goes to show how inspiring the city is. At one point during the weekend, I’m pretty sure I said to my girlfriend “LONDON IS SO INCREDIBLE” with tears in my eyes. (Followed by “YOU CAN’T LIVE THERE THOUGH.”) My favourite snippets from the panel were VE Schwab recounting walking through a London graveyard as a morbid child and realising all of the graves were older than her country, and Samantha Shannon talking “dystopia on a global scale”.

Then we had Michael Grant in conversation about Front Lines. Well, mainly in general conversation to be honest. I enjoyed all of the “in conversation” events because they gave the authors the opportunity to relax a little and have a more in depth discussion. Michael Grant is always entertaining and I had a lot of fun listening to his tales of cigar smoking and autocannibalism. I also got him to sign my treasured Animorphs books and freaked out a little bit because I HAVE BEEN A FAN FOR FIFTEEN YEARS. FIFTEEN YEARS OF IT… IN AZKABAN ANIMORPHS. (Apparently Katherine was in town too??!!?!?!?!)

Despite all the cool things I saw/did/bought, I left YALC on Friday slightly down. I don’t ever expect myself to be shy or nervous, but UKYA world is so tiny and seemingly tight-knit, I felt a little lonely that day. The community prides itself on being inclusive and friendly, and is absolutely right to do so, but I think that actually makes it harder when you feel on the outside of it. I am writing this mainly because I know I’m not the only person who struggled with this at times over the weekend.IMG_20160801_232251976

However, the people I did get to talk to on Friday were uniformly lovely, including Non Pratt, who made my day by actually knowing who I was! And signing my copy of Unboxed which I read half of on the train back to Essex.

My impromptu picnic date with Christopher Moore @yablooker of the #YAtakeover was also pretty fun – we talked writing, reading, and crème pâtissière. If you’re reading this Christopher, my top books of the year so far (now I’ve got Goodreads open) are Dietland by Sarai Walker, Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff, and You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan. Favourite new-to-me-but-not-the-world-at-large books are Anne of Green Gables and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.

Okay, tune in next time for the Saturday recap. Thanks for reading if you got this far!!


I went to YALC, and it was amazing

The dust is beginning to settle on a pretty damn good weekend. The second ever Young Adult Literature Convention was as far as I can tell a roaring success, and I hope YALC16 is already in planning stages! (After everyone involved with this one has had a good, long nap.)

I only went on Saturday, which I was absolutely kicking myself about. I missed out on some of my favourite authors and some amazing panels. Although it must have been exhausting, I’d’ve loved to have made the whole weekend.

A quick recap of my day at YALC:

Got on a train at 6:48 (!) with my pals Tiffany (@UK_Booklover) and Lauren (@Lauren_E_James) and was SOMEHOW awake enough to make bad puns and talk books for the entire journey.

Rocked up at the Olympia and joined the YALC queue, got in surprisingly quickly! I wasn’t there last year, but it looks like the change of venue/not selling tickets on the door has worked out really well, so good job everyone.

Once in, found myself in a BOOKISH WONDERLAND. Immediately bought House of Windows and The Big Lie. (I got both signed later, and Alexia Casale and Julie Mayhew were both ridiculously lovely! I’m so looking forward to reading these beauties!)


Attended the Being A Girl panel, which was excellent. In recent years I’ve become more and more confident about calling myself a feminist, and I hope that like LGBT YA, feminist YA is here to stay and isn’t just a “trend”. Things got a little controversial – check out panellist Hayley Long’s blog here  – but I’m glad to see discussion around this topic, especially such a lively discussion which drew so much interest.

Wrote some things in workshops! First of all, Julie Mayhew’s short story workshop which was hugely enjoyable and featured me writing a story about my friend Clare being stuck in kitchen at a party with a load of Tory MPs. At the end of the day I also went to Anna McKerrow’s Writing with the tarot workshop, where I particularly enjoyed hearing some of the resulting stories. The workshops provided a good opportunity to chill out and generate ideas, which isn’t perhaps the usual con experience, but really went with the vibe and ethos of YALC.

Best of all, I met so many lovely lovely people. I tried to name them all on twitter, but obviously missed some out because JUST SO MANY! There was a lot of recognising people from their profile pics, and a lot of hugs and catching up. The atmosphere was relaxed and friendly, and everyone was EXCITED ABOUT BOOKS. Many people were even reading books. If I were a teenager, it’s the kind of place I’d feel welcome and safe to hang out in. UKYA, you came about ten years too late for me, but I am still ever so grateful for the people and books you have brought into my life!

My main regret is not taking more pictures. (There is still no photographic proof that Sara Barnard and Sarah Barnard are not the same person!) I was too busy whispering “There’s Non Pratt” to my bewildered girlfriend. I also could definitely have bought more books. I left with a modest haul of swag, though:


I got home around midnight, very sleepy but very happy. It was a very good day. Same time next year, yeah?