With YALC 2020 steadily approaching (if it goes ahead) I thought I would make a little post about my experience and offer some advice to any first-timers planning on going this year.
As mentioned in my previous blog post, I stumbled across the bookish community when a_girl_with_a_bookshelf_ followed me on my personal Instagram. Since then my life has changed for the better and I’ve become completely immersed in this new world of books.
This time last year I saw a lot of YALC pictures and blog posts and thought it looked amazing! I knew it was something I wanted to attend and from then on I kept an eye out for news/tickets. Being from Manchester I had to weigh up the cost of attending all three days and, being passionate about travel and saving for a mortgage, it just wasn’t in my budget. So, I had the horrendous task of choosing just one day. I waited (and waited) for the guest lists to help me decide. The attendees were released and it was filled with some AMAZING authors. For me, V E Schwab attending the Saturday was the final push I needed to make my decision. I booked my Saturday YALC ticket and my train tickets and started counting down the days.
The night before was one of the most stressful nights I’ve ever had. I packed a suitcase full of books and snacks and must have checked I had everything on my list about 10 times. To add to my stress, I’d been keeping track of the YALC19 hashtag and saw a lot of tweets about the queues getting in. I asked a few people if getting there for 8:20am would be early enough and they said it would be hit and miss. With all the ARCs and virtual queues being first come first serve I was worried I’d travel all the way to London and not actually get to meet the authors (especially V E Schwab).
My train was the earliest one so it was completely out of my control, I just had to take the day as it came and stop worrying so much. I left my house at 4am and, after a very tiring journey, I arrived at London Olympia for 8:25am. Luckily I had beat the massive queues and managed to get myself in the lobby to wait till 9am.
The lobby was packed and stuffy. It felt a bit like a cattle market and there was no queuing system. I couldn’t help but feel this was unfair for people with accessibility issues. There were people sat on chairs out of the queue and they were not given priority. Really, these people should have been allowed to go in first as some had been there longer than me but went in quite a while after. This meant that they risked missing out on all the first come first serve things. So for me, accessibility is an issue and is something that needs to be looked at. There was someone on the Saturday with their leg in a cast. I heard them say they were one of the first there and ended up being the last in. If you’re the person with the cast on the chair on the Saturday let me know and I’ll buy you a book! 🙂
Once the doors were open there was a huge push to get in the lifts. I was lucky enough to get in the second one up so I wasn’t too worried. As the lift approached the 3rd floor I heard a girl turn to her friend and say “get ready to run”. RUN?! As a newbie I wasn’t expecting this and I can’t even run to the end of my street! The doors opened and it was just chaos – but exciting chaos at least. People had to make their minds up there and then what they were going for. I was desperate for Infinity Son, as I love all things Adam Silvera, but the queue was already huge and I knew there were only 100 copies so I made my way to Hodderscape instead to try my luck at getting The Beautiful and Girls of Storm and Shadow.
The Hodderscape stand was absolute chaos. People were physically forcing their way to the front and people were getting hurt and squashed. A few people shouted back at the crowd asking them to stop with the pushing and it seemed to calm a little. The bookish community always seems so caring and kind so it was a shock to see people behaving so inconsiderately. I eventually got to the front and bought a load of books I wanted and got to pick some free ARCs too. I then got into a conversation with a lovely bookish girl who had missed out on The Beautiful so I traded mine for her Infinity Son – I was SO happy!
Once I’d been to Hodderscape I made my way to the queue for VQ tickets and just prayed that I wasn’t too late for V E Schwab tickets. After a very long queue I got there and got ticket number 238 (!!!) but I was just glad I made it. I picked one up for Melinda Salisbury and Sarah Mariah Griffiths too – I was very excited to meet both of these talented women.
I had a quick flutter around all the beautiful stalls and was just in awe at all the wonderful things for sale. I had quite a bit of space in my suitcase so I would definitely be filling it up later on! Before I knew it, it was 11am (felt like 4pm I’d been up that long) and I was joining the queue for Sarah Maria Griffiths. It seemed to go down quite quickly and I was soon at the front. Sarah was so, so lovely! I’d never met her before and ‘Other Words for Smoke’ was the first book of hers that I’d read. Sarah had such an amazing, mystical, otherworldly vibe about her and she just fascinated me. I genuinely could have stood talking to her for hours. I was asked to pick a tarot card from her deck and I got THE EMPRESS (!!!) I already knew this was a powerful card but Sarah made me feel even better about it. I was told great things were heading my way and, in a time where I was feeling a little lost in life, it was a real pick me up. I think it’s safe to say I left that signing with a new favourite author on my list.
Next, I was straight into Melinda Salisbury’s queue. This queue was also going down very quick. However, half way down the queue, I suddenly felt very warm, sweaty and dizzy. It was here that I realised I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink at all since the night before and, in that awful heat, this was a bad position to be in. My face suddenly went all tingly and my vision went completely. Being there alone, I was quite frightened, I’d only ever fainted once in my life before but I knew that was what was happening and that I needed to sit down quickly. I told the girls behind me in the queue that I needed to sit down a minute and they were so lovely! They asked if I was okay and if there was anything they could do to help. I knew I needed to just drink a load of water and get some sugar in me so I grabbed a couple of biscuits from my bag and waited for my vision to come back. The girls let me back in the queue as I was almost at the front and I suddenly felt the faint coming back. I had to rush through my chat/signing with Melinda Salisbury just to make sure I didn’t drop. I hated doing this but Melinda was SO understanding. If you’re the two ladies who were so kind to me in the queue, let me know and I’ll buy you both a book!
I got myself sat down and had a sandwich and some lemonade and instantly felt better. I was still dripping in sweat but I could see and walk again haha! Once I felt better, I joined the queue for V. E. Schwab and waited my turn with utter excitement. I had met V. E. Schwab earlier on that year at a signing in Liverpool and was completely overwhelmed. I completely forgot to ask for a picture with her and just made really awkward comments about my holiday to Edinburgh. I was determined to get it right this time. However, drenched in sweat, awkward me took over again and I very nearly cried telling her about my love for her work. I told her how, for me, nothing ever compared to Tolkien until I discovered her books. I then thanked her and asked her for a photo. As the queues were huge she had to decline but promised that if I found her later on, she would have one with me. V. E. Schwab is one of the most genuine, kind and humble people I have ever met. They always tell you not to meet your heroes but V. E. Schwab is a beaming light of positivity and knowledge so I was not disappointed. I did manage to find her later on and she kept her promise and let me have a picture with her. I look absolutely dreadful in the picture but I am so grateful that she stopped for it.
I spent an hour or so looking around some stalls and filling my suitcase right up with books upon books. Getting my hands on a beautiful (early) copy of We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal was definitely one of the highlights as there were limited copies. I entered loadsssss of giveaways and attended some amazing chats and panels. It was great chatting to some people about the book and publishing industry and I felt really inspired. I had a great chat with the ladies on the UCLAN Publishing stall and was, and still am, considering their MA in publishing. I desperately want to be a part of the industry and until I spout out a fantastic novel (haha) this is my best path.
All stalled out, I ventured downstairs where London Film and Comic Con was taking place. I had a couple of photo sessions booked and wanted to make sure I got there on time. Before going to YALC I read a lot of blogs and comments where people had said they hadn’t gone down stairs the whole time they’d been. I was so glad I went and had a look around! There were celebrities left, right and centre and – I know Jason Mamoa was in and out of YALC – but this was on another level. I spotted so many famous actors and directors just walking around and there were loads just sat at tables waiting to do signings and chats. The costumes people were wearing were incredible and there was such a good vibe.
I was booked in for a photo session with Jason Isaacs (eeeeeeeek!) first so I went and joined the queue there for my time slot. I’ve loved Jason Isaacs for years and have seen so many of his films so I was so excited/nervous to meet him. The queue was filled with Slytherins and, as a hufflepuff/Gryffindor, I felt slightly out of place. It went down really quick and before I knew it I was in the same room as him. He’d put on his own music and was dancing around making everyone laugh. He had a mini chat with everyone who had a picture with him and it was great to meet him. For a man who is always playing a villain, he is one of the loveliest celebrities I’ve met.
Next it was time for a picture with Ian Somerhalder (!!!) so I made my way to the booth. I was worried I was going to be late as I arrived half an hour after the shooting session had started but when I arrived they were still on batch 1 and I was batch 17. I had a walk around the stalls at Comic Con for 30 minutes to pass the time but when I came back they were still calling for batch 1 so I went back upstairs to YALC to see all the giveaway announcements and to have another browse of the stalls. To my amazement, I’d won a copy of Throne of Swans by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr and was very excited to go and collect it. It was so beautiful! You can read my review for this in a couple of days. Just know I absolutely loved it!!
After another mill around upstairs I went back to see if it was time for my photo and they were still only on batch 7. I sat down on the floor with everyone else and had a read, went back to YALC for a bit and looked at some more Comic Con stalls. There was also a Doctor Who talk going on at the stage behind me so I listened in on that too. EVENTUALLY my batch was called. When Ian was in sight he was clearly exhausted, bless him. He’d already gone over his time slot by 2 hours and he still had another 8 batches and a photo signing to do afterwards. It didn’t stop him being an absolute gem with the people he was meeting though. He interacted with everyone and had a laugh with them. A young girl started crying with nerves and he spent time calming her down and being lovely. LFCC need to work on their batching and timings as it was a real wait for everyone and the conditions are just too warm to be standing around for so long.
I had about an hour before I needed to go catch my train home so I went upstairs and collected my bags and suitcase that I had left in the cloakroom. I sat on the floor and relaxed for a bit before my 5 hour journey home. A massive downer to my day was seeing a group of girls just being awful. A lady was offering 5 free e-books out to anyone who passed her stall and she asked the group if they were interested. They just stared at her, ignored her and then laughed ridiculously at each other. The woman looked hurt and it was NOT okay. I bought a physical copy of the book and LOVED it. The book community can be such a beautiful, welcoming place but sometimes it can be cruel and cliquey. If you plan on going to YALC this year please, for everyone’s sake, leave your crappy behaviour at the door.
Overall, YALC was a fantastic experience and I CANNOT wait to get back. Remember, it’s hot, it’s busy and you’re going to need a suitcase! I’m so glad I picked up the courage to go. If it goes ahead this year I will certainly be returning.
Thanks for reading!