I’m still recovering from Yallwest. I didn’t even go on Sunday, and I’m still exhausted. It may have something to do with the killer workout I did on Friday (bad idea), but I’m so sore from standing in lines in the sun.
That being said…it was AWESOME! It was so cool to meet a bunch of my favorite authors and mingle among booklovers like me. Here’s a bit of a recap.
On Friday, I went to the ticketed Fierce Friday preview night at the Santa Monica library. The majority of the time, I was sitting in line to meet Leigh Bardugo, author of the Shadow and Bone series and Six of Crows. Once the signing started, we wound through the library stacks to the place where we got to meet Leigh and get our books signed.
She was really nice and hilarious. I’m excited to read Six of Crows.
That night, I also met Marie Rutkoski, author of the Winner’s Curse trilogy. I’m looking forward to reading the final installment, The Winner’s Kiss. Marie gave me some great advice about improving my writing via all outlets.
I arrived at Santa Monica High School around 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, and there were already hundreds of people in line to get into the festival. We waited a while for the gates to open and then I joined the mob of people desperate for swag.
There was some pretty cool stuff–a lot of tote bags, buttons, stickers–but my favorite swag was actual books! Some of them were ARCs, so I feel pretty privileged to get to read the books before they are released. The swag books I got were: And I Darken, Everland, What Light, and Black Widow: Red Vengeance.
After collecting swag, I got in line to attend a panel about heroes and villains in books. While I was waiting, I spotted Neal Shusterman, author of the Unwind series and Challenger Deep. I bolstered my courage and approached him, asking if he would sign my copy of Unwind. He was super nice and graciously agreed. He also proudly showed me a bound copy of his book, Scythe, which doesn’t come out until November. That day was the first time he had seen a bound copy of it. (I may have been tempted to snatch it from him and run, but he was so nice, I couldn’t.)
In my star-studded state, I gave him my name to include in the book, though I bought the book for my husband, James, to read. I’ve read the whole series and I think he’ll really like it. When I gave him the book, he saw Neal Shusterman’s note: “Stay whole.” He was super confused. I can’t wait for him to read the book and understand the message!
The authors on the panel included: Ransom Riggs, Gwenda Bond, Victoria Aveyard, Sabaa Tahir, Leigh Bardugo, Neal Shusterman, and Kiersten White.
I have read books by most of these authors, so it was super interesting to get their take on hero and villain characters in their books, and the blurred lines between the protagonist and antagonist. And they’re all really funny and nice. One of my favorite take-aways from the festival was how well the authors get along. I thought maybe they would see each other as competition, but from what I have observed on Twitter and in person, they’re all really good friends and super supportive of each other. It’s nice to know that should I one day become an author, I would be in a great community.
After the panel, I spent the majority of time waiting in line for signatures. I was able to meet Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, and they signed a copy of Illuminae for me. I haven’t read it, but I really enjoyed These Broken Stars which was co-authored by Amie Kaufman. And in looking at all of the amazing graphics included in Illuminae, I am sure it will be like no other book I’ve read.
I also met Ally Condie, author of the Matched series and Atlantia. I felt super lame because I lent my copy of Matched to a friend, so I didn’t have one of her books for her to sign. She was really nice, though, and offered great advice on finding an agent.
I didn’t grab pictures with the other authors I met, but I met Kiersten White and got my ARC signed by her. She was really sweet and funny, too. When I told her that I wrote a YA novel, she complimented me on writing “the true genre.” I also met Shannon Hale and her husband, Dean. They were nice enough to sign copies of Princess Academy and The Princess in Black that I’m excited to enjoy with my daughter, Eden.
Although I didn’t get to meet all the authors I wanted to meet, although I couldn’t attend all the panels that interested me, although I didn’t pitch my novel to an agent, I would say my experience at Yallwest was a major success. It was enlightening to meet the authors of books that have changed me. In some ways, seeing them in person makes them seem more human, more normal. In other ways, they almost seem more like celebrities and above us all. I loved interacting with them and sharing a bond of our love for books. I wonder if I’ll ever experience that type of bond from the author’s perspective.
Another thing that I enjoyed about the festival was meeting other readers. I used to think that I was a hardcore YA book fan. I definitely am, but there are so many other fanatic readers that have read so many more books than I have. They know them all. They love them all. They had great recommendations and tips for navigating the festival. I am in awe of their love and support of a genre I love and support. More than 20,000 people came to the festival on Saturday. It warms my heart to know that people love reading as much as I do. Now, if someone could only figure out a way to add more time to each day so that I can read all of the above books….