Y’all, when I first heard about YALLFest coming to Charleston, I was downright giddy about the chance to hear so many illustrious YA authors speak in one place. Even better, I wouldn’t have to spend a single cent – not only were the events free, but since it was happening in my backyard, I didn’t have to pony up for travel expenses. And now that it’s over, I’m still amazed that I got such a whopping dose of inspiration for FREE - always a bonus element of awesomeness for a penny pincher like me.
On Saturday morning, with butterflies doing excited swoops in my stomach, I puttered down the road to Charleston. Now even though I technically knew this was a young adult book festival, during the months of anticipation, the event had morphed into a writers’ conference in my head, so I was a little confused when I walked into the room and half the audience was middle school students. Since the first panel featured the middle grade authors Pseudonymous Bosch, Kaleb Nation, Lisa Brown and Adele Griffin, the room was filled with fans so excited to see them, they were practically dancing in their chairs. After doing the ‘duh’ forehead smack, I readjusted my expectations, and the day became less about learning about the craft of writing and more about being inspired by these amazing authors. Just watching the kids lean forward in their seats, delightedly drinking in every word from their author idols, made me even more determined to be on a similar panel one day.
The day was packed with interesting panels with fun titles like: Fangs Among Friends; Demons, Witches, and Casters, Oh My!; and Reality Bites. And the authors were so entertaining – not only were they funny, but they offered great tidbits of advice. My only regret is that I didn’t have time to read more of their books before the festival. I’ve been so bad about reading in the last few years, and my resolve to read-n-feed has sadly sputtered (I smell a New Year’s resolution!). But looking on the bright side, I finally figured out what to put on my Christmas list, since it is now overflowing with titles from the YALLFest authors like Carrie Ryan, David Levithan, Sarah Rees Brennan, Heather Brewer, and Beth Revis, and too many others to name (click here for the full list of YALLFest authors and be sure to add them to your reading list). I’m practically drooling in anticipation of reading all of them, especially Katie Crouch's The Magnolia League, since it features hoodoo magic like my current short film High Heels and Hoodoo.
As inspiring as listening to the authors was, my favorite part was sharing the day with old and new writing friends. It was so cool having my writer friends from different parts of my life coming together in one place to talk about writing and YA books. Kathleen Fox, Lisa Downey, and Jillian Gregory Utley were there from my local writing group. I was able to get reacquainted with Kami Kinard and Rebecca Petruck, two talented and fun writers I met at a SCBWI writing conference. I also had the chance to catch up with Rebecca Enzor, Mina Mahal, and Sarah Turpin Leyland, local writer friends from NaNoWriMo. I also ran into Leah Rhyne, a friend from my old job at Blackbuad, who I only found out was a fellow writer after I quit to write. I also got to meet new writer friends like Debra Rook. It was great to have a chance to connect with other writers when it’s usually such a solitary activity. I have faith that these talented ladies will end up on similar panels some day, and I just hope I’m lucky enough to be sitting up there with them!
Were you able to attend the YALLFest? If so, what was the best part for you? If not, have you been to a writing event lately that inspired you? And could I possible fit any more links in a single blog post?