Every November, I make my annual pilgrimage* to Charleston, S.C. for YALLFest, a YA reading festival organized by indie bookshop Blue Bicycle Books.
*not as an author. Just as a fangirl.
“YA reading festival” does not do this event justice, though. In actuality, it is a 2-day-long flurry of panels and signings and general book nerd mayhem revolving around the 80+ bestselling YA authors and thousands of fans that somehow manage to pack onto a few streets in Historic Charleston. It is NUTS, but it is the best kind of nuts.
The one downside to the event is that, between all the panels and signings, there’s no hope of being able to do even half of everything, even if you skip lunch. Or even if you just eat macaroons all day, like I did.
(BTW, if you go to Charleston and don’t go to Macaroon Boutique, you have wasted your trip.)
Usually I focus on panels, but this year a bunch of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE IN THE WORLD EVER authors were in the lineup, and like heck was I not going to get some books signed.
First in the day was Jason Reynolds, who has the distinction of being one of the few non-fantasy authors that I enjoy. When I Was the Greatest and The Boy in the Black Suit rank among my favorite books, and if you haven’t read them, you’re missing two quite affecting pieces of literature. Plus the author makes faces like this:
Next in the list of great faces is Cinda Williams Chima, who looks like she knows she just murdered a character I liked.
The Grey Wolf Throne was my weekend read, and if you’re into well-designed high fantasy with wizards and Kick-Butt Independent Princesses Who Don’t Need No Men (but like them anyway), her Seven Realms series is a treat. (Currently I’m trying to plow my way to the end because she just started a new series called Shattered Realms, so you know some wild stuff had to go down between these two, and I don’t want to be spoiled. 😛 )
Then came the Adrenaline Rush Authors.
See, in previous years, YALLFest was a pretty chill event for me. But then, in previous years, I didn’t have my own book. And in previous years, the authors who influenced my writing were generally not present.
This year, however, included Eoin Colfer and Maggie Stiefvater.
A much younger me read Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series around the same time that I was beginning to feel my way around writing. As a result, it had a pivotal effect. I often credit Terry Pratchett (Rest in Peace) with inspiring the comedic fantasy style of my present writing, but in truth it was Eoin Colfer who lit the initial spark. All the fantasy, comedy, action, and sass in The Wizard’s Way – even the novel’s fascination with language – all comes back to seeds that were planted by Artemis Fowl.
Maggie Stiefvater is a more recent influence. Though I was initially put off by Shiver (I’m not a fan of romance, werewolves, or romantic werewolves), both The Raven Cycle and The Scorpio Races struck me in a profound place. They’re all artfully written pieces of literature that, despite being ultimately paranormal, are also very human – and, beyond that, beautiful to read. Whenever I encountered a rough spot when writing or just needed a little bit of inspiration, I’d play the audiobook versions of any of these; the cadence of her writing would drift and weave into my brain, and somehow in the rhythm of her words, my words would find their way out.
It’s safe to say that The Wizard’s Way wouldn’t exist without the influence of either of these writers.
Which is why Last Weekend H.P. had the brilliant idea to show them some fruit of their inspiration.
Have you ever tried to 1) write a letter to one of your favorite authors on 2) the front page of a book that you wrote, knowing that they may very well read the book and hate it OR not read the book at all OR just think you’re weird OR OR OR…? D: D: D:
It turns out that you can absolutely get an adrenaline rush from signing a book.
You can also walk around in a state of half-panic-attack while waiting to deliver it.
But now two of my favorite authors have copies of The Wizard’s Way, so that is kind of exciting.
In the end, I was so nervous that I didn’t snap any Maggie Stiefvater photos, but I did get to take a photo with Eoin Colfer! 😀 😀 😀
Speaking of whom, his was the first panel that I was able to sit in on. While much of the time was devoted to his latest release, Iron Man: The Gauntlet (Also, how cool is it that Marvel’s seeking out YA authors to expand its universe? 😀 ), he spent a surprising length of the program talking about his failures as a writer.
The discussion stemmed from a question about what projects he most regrets taking or wishes he could revisit. I was fascinated (though not entirely surprised) to learn that his biggest regret was his contribution to the Doctor Who short story collection 11 Doctors, 11 Stories, primarily because he’d written it without any real knowledge of the show or the then-rabid enthusiasm of its fandom. It was also intriguing to learn that he hadn’t wanted to write …And Another Thing, the coldly-received closer to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series – because really, how can any writer hope to compare to Douglas Adams? – but accepted the offer when Adams’ widow asked him to – because, really, how can you turn down a compliment like that?
Now that I have such context, it actually makes me curious to give …And Another Thing a try.
The discussion was an unexpectedly inspiring one. It’s not common for authors of Colfer’s caliber to talk so candidly about failed pieces of published writing, except perhaps in panels specifically devoted to them, and so to hear him speak about it in such detail – to hear that even your bestselling inspirations have recent works they regret – was strangely uplifting.
I also made it to the wonderfully titled “SPAAAAACE” panel, wherein the authors Veronica Roth, Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Nnedi Okorafor, and S. J. Kincaid discussed – you guessed it – outer space in YA books.
I’d initially come to the panel for Nnedi Okorafor (my fangirlery for whom is well-documented), but once the group as a whole started weaving an impromptu epic about stale donuts in space, I was pretty sure I’d found some awesome new authors to add to my reading list.
Overall, though I spent more time in signing lines than panels, it was still a fun festival – I was able to meet many of my favorite authors, make new nerd friends while waiting in line, and buy more new books than I probably should have. 😀 And ultimately, for a reader, there are few things more fun than being caught in a press of thousands of other people who are just as nerdy as you. YALLfest has been one of my favorite festivals since its beginning, and it will continue to be so.