Friends, if you haven’t heard me screaming about YALLFest, you must be wearing earplugs. It’s only the coolest literary festival of all time. No less than sixty young adult authors (and a few of their industry counterparts) gather in Charleston, South Carolina to sign books, meet fans, and discuss pertinent topics on any of the twenty two panels. (Am I sounding like an advertisement yet?) There’s books to buy and people to meet, information to glean and food to eat. And free stuff, too! But don’t just take my word for it; let the photos speak for themselves.
The first panel that my party attended was about world building, moderated by Libba Bray. The entire presentation was stellar, but my favorite moments included Rae Carson citing Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a source for good pacing, Gail Carriger’s moments of archaeological nerdiness, and Elizabeth Wien’s… well, Elizabeth Wien in general, but specifically when she asked Bray to play the French national anthem that evening, to honor those affected by the tragedy. And, on a lighter note, the Hamlet hand-game that she came up with as a teenager.
From there, we scuttled a few blocks away for the “That Time I Sucked” panel, in which authors talk about their greatest failures. They started with a variation on Mean Tweets, in which each person read a particularly entertaining negative review they received. Kiera Cass referred to Amazon as “The Garden of Pain,” while Curtis Jobling (in his lovely British accent) read a colorful review in which “the reader suggests I preform some acts upon myself that are physically impossible… then there’s a string of emojis showing me how.”
Nuggets of hope were imbedded in a discussion of whether or not writers should pay attention to naysayers on the internet. Brandon Mull said that his mantra goes a little something like this: “If people hate my books, they don’t hate me; they just hate my imagination and everything that I think is cool in the world… Everyone has different judgement. There’s people that hate everything.” Cass added that, “If everyone loves your books, you’re not reaching enough people.” And Jobling says, “If you can accept the good stuff, don’t read the bad.”
I love fairytales. Love them. So it should come as no surprise that we attended a panel of fairytale rebooters. Naturally, each author was given a headpiece befitting his or her station as royalty. I garnered a list of new titles to explore, as well as a few academic concepts (for example, princesses and witches are basically the same character; think about it).
Like a good little adult, the last panel I attended was a Q&A with three agents and two editors. I didn’t glean much brand-new information, but it was still an edifying–and entertaining–experience.
Our weekend ended with what I’ve dubbed The Brandon Show–the closing keynote with fantasy authors Brandon Sanderson of the Misborn series (and many others), and Brandon Mull of the Fablehaven series. It felt like watching two friends chat about the fantasy genre and what it meant to them. Mull says, “I like to think that I build rollercoasters for a living. I build fun rides for readers.” Sanderson (who first found himself enjoying a book when a fantasy novel helped him to understand his mother) added that fantasy is like crunches for your imagination, and that “You can do anything that anybody would want to do in a fantasy novel–plus you can have dragons.” But both men realize that everyone is allowed their own personal taste: as Sanderson puts it, “Books are like shoes.” Reading the wrong book is like wearing the wrong shoes–it’s worse than simply going barefoot.