Hi friends! I hope you’ve all been reading great books and enjoying the fall season, I know that Christmas lights and sleigh-bell songs can’t come soon enough for me. This past weekend I got a much-needed break from school during a short trip to Charleston for my third year in a row at the one-and-only YALLFest!
For once, I actually got some (decent) photos and have the opportunity to write about it, so I figured I’d share some of the highlights from my trip along with a few tips and tricks for those that are considering going next year or to another big book event!
In case you don’t know, YALLFest is two-day event in Charleston, South Carolina that’s all about YA literature! You can go to signings and meet authors, attend panels or speeches, and, yes, snag highly-coveted advanced copies of some of the biggest upcoming winter releases.
The first year that I went, I had no idea that publishers even had booths with giveaways, so I did a ton of signings and I think one panel. It wasn’t until my dad called and told me that he got something called an “A-R-C” of a book that I realized how big YALLFest really is! The next year, I had a friend with me and we went on full ARC-retrieval mode. I attended a few panels as well, but I think I left with something around 25-30 books? It was wild.
This year, I decided I wanted to relax a bit and take the day slower, with more panels (since, to be honest, I read less than half of the books that I got from YALLFest the previous year). And for the most part, it worked out excellently!
My YALLFest weekend kicked off with a very special event with The Novl! Me and about 15 other bloggers were invited to their first ever S’mores and Pours Meet-and-Greet, where I got to mingle with other book enthusiasts, meet the crazy friendly and talented publicists behind The Novl, and munch on some very tasty treats. Plus, we got to meet Monica Hesse, author of The War Outside, and hear her speak! It was so amazing and made me (a tiny blogger) feel super special and recognized for the time and energy I put into book-pushing. Definitely one of the top highlights of the whole trip!
Friday is only a half-day (you usually just attend a few signings or one event), so that pretty much brought me to Saturday, when I woke up at 6:30 am and panicked because I knew I was going to be late to the 9:00 ARC drop at Wednesday Books!! Sounds ridiculous, but my number one piece of advice for succeeding at YALLFest (or any book event) is to get up early. Like, can’t-barely-open-your-eyes-or-see-straight early. But I promise that the painful wake-up will be worth it when you’re the first person in line for a highly anticipated signing or ARC drop. Because if you’re the first in line for your first event, that means you’ll probably be the first to arrive at the next event, and so forth.
But I woke up about a half-hour later than expected, and it made a pretty big difference to my placement in line for the first ARC drop I attempted. They only had 50 books to give out, so I didn’t end up getting one. Luckily, it turned out to be a book I’m not too interested in, so I easily moved on to my next priority.
After about an hour of surveying the different booths and gathering some different books and swag, I decided to “hover” around the HMH Teen booth in anticipation of their Courting Darkness ARC drop. If you’ve ever been to a book event – especially Book Con – you’ll know that the publishers sometimes keep people from forming lines prior to a big ARC drop. I could go on for hours about how pointless and stupid that is (it usually just creates a mob), but luckily after about 20 minutes of hovering, HMH let a few of us start the line. So I completely lucked out and got one of my most anticipated 2019 reads, and also had an amazing conversation with the author herself!
For the whole morning, I enlisted the help of my very dutiful and supportive parents in snagging some ARCs. My dad managed to get a copy of Sherwood (a gender-bent Robin Hood retelling that I can’t wait for!!), and my mom got copies of Serious Moonlight and Sky Without Stars (both Simon Teen releases that I didn’t think I’d manage to get but luckily my mom seemed to have the magic touch)! If you have a good friend or family member that is willing to just be a line placeholder (sounds bad but it’s the truth lol), this will make a HUGE difference in the number of books you can grab or events you can attend. Virtually everything requires standing in line an hour or two hours prior to the event, so just having someone that can hold your place while you do something else is invaluable.
Next, I attended a panel I was super excited for with Veronica Roth, Victoria Aveyard, Danielle Paige, Destiny Soria, and Adrienne Young. Not gonna lie, I had this panel at the top of my list pretty much just for Adrienne, she was a huge part of my motivation for attending a third year of YALLFest! The panel was hilarious and a great break from standing on my feet for hours. Tip #3: I highly recommend working some panels into your day. Yes, it will probably mean passing on some ARCs, but I promise that when you look back on the event in a year, having attended those panels where you get to hear your favorite authors speak means a whole lot more than having added one more book to your TBR.
After the panel, I hopped over to the Best Friend Train Museum (YALLFest has a few different primary locations for events all within the same square block, I’ve always loved how you get to see the city while doing bookish things) to meet Adrienne Young and get my books signed. I read Sky in the Deep earlier this year, and it meant the absolute world to me. Brittany (@abibliophilesbkm on Instagram) and I have a huge shared loved for Adrienne and her writing, so meeting her was my #1 priority of the day. And you guys – YOU GUYS. It was probably the best moment I’ve ever shared with an author. We talked about the gorgeous stamp she uses to sign her books, the special manuscript version I have of the book, and eventually I mentioned who I am on Instagram AND SHE RECOGNIZED WHO I WAS!!!! Seriously, the fact that one of my biggest inspirations even vaguely KNOWS WHO I AM and KNOWS THAT I EXIST is completely insane and shored up any doubts I’ve ever had about blogging. I left the signing line shaking and smiling, a complete mess but happier than I’ve practically ever been in life.
Following that wild experience, I worked my way back to the Charleston Museum (the location with all the publishing booths) and scoped out the situation for a Fierce Reads drop of Gilded Wolves and We Hunt the Flame ARCs. And oof you guys, it was rough. Fierce Reads was notorious at Book Con for causing chaos (because *ehem* they don’t allow respectful, civil lines *eye roll*), and the situation was pretty much the same at YALLFest, if not worse. I watched what happened for the 3:00 drop (they shifted the already very nicely made line just *slightly* to the right and caused mass chaos; why, I have literally no idea), and I immediately decided that the highly-coveted 4:00 ARC drop was not gonna be worth it. I walked to the side and just waited for an upcoming panel, only to watch a literal mob crush around one worker at the booth that held a pack of sticky note “tickets” to hand out for the drop. Another piece of advice: no book is worth your personal safety or mental stress. Some people act absolutely ridiculous in the moment, and there’s definitely a lot of pushing and even shoving involved to get a book that you can literally buy (in a much nicer, completed format) in 3 months when it comes out. It’s just not worth it.
I ended the day with a series of three panels: one was a Jeopardy-style game show with a few authors that had to answer YA-related questions; one was about royalty in YA fantasy (featuring Renee Ahdieh, Danielle Paige, Emiko Jean, Robin LaFevers, and Laura Sebastian); and then the hilarious Smackdown finale. The day was long and physically exhausting, but I walked away having had the best year yet!
Overall, if you ever get the chance to go to YALLFest, I highly encourage you to take the leap! I’ve been to Book Con and some other big author events, and I can firmly say that YALLFest is by far the best. It’s fairly relaxed (without as many people but still a great line-up of authors), really well-organized (gotta love those volunteers), and a culturally-aesthetic location (with amaaaazing food)!!!
Have you ever been to a YA convention or festival? What are some of your tips and tricks? If you haven’t ever been to an event, which one would you like to attend the most? Just a heads up – my YALLFest trip helped inspire my next discussion post about ARCs and the current “ARC fervor” in the book community, so keep an eye out for that 😉