I thought I would share with you some snippets of wisdom from the YALC Panel events on Sunday 13th July. I’ve been a bit slow about getting to this, but I have an excuse. My mother in law is visiting so I have been busy entertaining her, taking her out and about. So apologies for my tardiness. The UK’s first ever YA Lit Con, curated by Malorie Blackman, exclusively at London Film and Comic Con, was held at Earl’s Court from 12-13 July 2014. First of all before I launch into telling you about the panel events I just want to say how much I enjoyed attending the YALC event. It was g-r-e-a-t!!!
My bookish daughter, and I went along together and had some lovely mother, daughter bonding time. This was great as she will be leaving the nest in September to go to University so these little moments are very precious to me. We were fortunate to be able to join in the activities on both the Saturday and the Sunday. Though we didn’t manage to go to the pre-view evening, which was a bit of a shame, as we missed out on getting an ARC of Landline. Quelle dommage! Anyway I have remedied this by buying one on-line for my daughter and I am sure she will be happy to lend her copy to me. She better or there will be high drama!
What was the event like?
Well we arrived a bit later than I would have liked but luckily I had a ticket that allowed us entry without joining the long queue. Sorry long queuers, I really felt for you. I am so glad I spent the extra money for the jump the queue tickets or else we would have been waiting a very, very, long time. The queues were ridiculously long. On arrival we were stamped, this kind of reminded me of my time as a University student. In those days a compulsory stamping was required to get into the Student Union for a night out. So that was a nice flashback in time. Unfortunately we took a while to get through the crowds to the very back of the far left hand corner of the event where the YALC was being held. It was a nice corner with soft beanie bags and bookish stands but boy did it take us some time to find it. Obviously they like to hide us bookish types away in a corner.
Consequently I missed the first workshop, Planning and writing a kiss-ass YA novel. So I was a tad disappointed. Though it turned out that all the workshops were organised on a put your name down and if you’re lucky you’ll be one of the thirty who gets to join in. I was not very lucky, in fact I only managed to attend one workshop all weekend. Still that one was super awesome. Meet the agent: speed pitching for authors, with Amanda Preston & Louise Lamont (LBA Books.) Believe me I need all the help I can get with a five-minute pitch. Speed is not my forte! Hey I do Tai Chi, 5 minutes, that’s how long I take to get out of bed in the morning!
All the panel events were so entertaining, that I soon forgot my initial disappointment at not being able to attend the first workshop. On the Saturday, we began by finding a seat at the Dystopia panel event chaired by James Smythe, “It’s the end of the world as we know it: the ongoing appeal of dystopia,” with Malorie Blackman, Sarah Crossan and Patrick Ness. Malorie Blackman got right into the spirit of the event by dressing up!
Also we enjoyed Regenerating the Doctor: reimagining famous characters, with Charlie Higson, Andrew Lane, Patrick Ness and Marcus Sedgwick, chaired by Steve Cole, and Bring me my dragons: writing fantasy today, with Frances Hardinge, Amy McCulloch, Jonathan Stroud and Ruth Warburton, chaired by Marc Aplin.
Oh and last but not least, Heroes of Horror! With Charlie Higson, Will Hill, Derek Landy and Darren Shan, chaired by Rosie Fletcher. These guys just love killing off characters, oh and they have no intention of ever-growing up!
It was a Saturday full of books, and fun so it couldn’t have been more perfect. Oh, and the cosplayers were amazing there were Doctor Whos, Sherlocks, Witches, Manga/Anime characters, Game of Thrones, ……………. and some scary guy on stilts, very frightening.
On the Sunday, the first panel was at 11.30: How to get published with Phil Earle and Sally Green, chaired by Ben Horsten of Penguin Books. Ben Horsten began the panel talk by introducing us to Sally Green, debut author of Half Bad,and Phil Earle, author of Being Billy, Saving Daisy, Heroic, and The Bubble Wrap Boy. Phil Earle took five years to get into writing. He changed his career and became a children’s bookseller. During his time as a bookseller he developed an interest in literature, and in particular, young adult fiction. In the panel event Phil Earle emphasised the importance of finding the right home for your writing. Trust your gut instinct. If you find the right home they will believe in you and do all they can to help you succeed. Sally Green agreed that it was important to have a good working relationship with publishers.
Are editors “Angels and devils?” Or are they a mix of both? Sally recommended learning how to edit your own book. Having feedback buddies, analysing other people’s work, and developing a willingness to change, learn, and improve. I totally agree, I am a member of a writing group here in Cambridge and have found this really helpful. Sally’s advice is to keep on going, even the most famous authors can take a long time to get there. She mentioned that Iain Banks wrote three books before the Wasp Factory was successful and he didn’t give up.
Phil Earle emphasised the buzz, and encouragement that editors can build. Phil jokingly said that when you approach an agent, or an editor make sure that you stay sober! No Stalking! “Don’t chase the market.”
Ben Horsten of Penguin Books is on the look out for writing that inspires his attention and has different kinds of polish. It has to have an amazing voice. A nugget, a ‘Je n’ai sais quoi.’ It is a tough market for debut writers, but don’t despair publishers are on the look out for the next generation of writers.
Phil Earle discussed debut writers. He said that debut writers have a unique quality, they are bright and shiny. Bloggers like debut writers. I have to agree with Phil Earle on this one. There is nothing like encouraging a new writer to find their voice and succeed in a difficult market. Again, writing communities are great, as are blog sites, and wattpad. But above all else be suggested be passionate!
Phil Earle has used editing agencies – Cornerstones – and found this useful. Sally was a bit wary of parting with money and suggested swapping manuscripts with other authors. Given her background – I believe she was an accountant before the creative bug hit her, this sounds likely advice from Sally! I’m also a bit loathe to part with money too, I’m sort of with you on this one Sally, but we’ll see I may have to succumb, and pay. At the moment I’m using trusted people to read and give feedback on my manuscript. Hopefully that will be enough.
Sally emphasised the importance of working on your manuscript, and not getting too side tracked by social media! Good advice! Wish I had thought of that!
Ben Horsten suggested checking out profiles of a few authors and how they connect with their fans on social media. This sounds like great advice……
Other snippets of writer advice from the panel: Develop a good profile on twitter. Find an agent, using the twitter hastag, #askanagent. Make sure your first three chapters are the best they can be and also that you have a two-line pitch that delivers, and your synopsis just cries out to be read.
My advice: When attending these events remember to bring food and a lot of water. A nice sandwich would be awesome. It was very hot and sweaty inside the venue. So wear minimal clothing, but don’t get arrested. In fact I felt quite sorry for some people who were dressed in elaborate costumes, how could they possibly survive? So come prepared. Let’s hope that YALC is an annual event, I want to go again! Oh and next time I want to dress up! I wore my glasses this time, next time who knows what I will look like!
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