Holly Smale

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The Second Young Adult Literary Convention (YALC) 2015

Published September 5, 2015 by bibliobeth

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Apologies for getting this post up a bit late but here’s what happened when my sister Chrissi Reads and I visited YALC for the second year!

YALC is the brain-child of previous Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who was awarded an OBE for her services to children’s literature in 2008 and from the moment appointed has been incredibly passionate about getting young people to read.

The programme for 2015 involved exciting author talks, workshops, book signings, competitions and much, much more. If you’re a big YA fan, this is the one event you don’t want to miss out on. And for bloggers, it’s a brilliant way to meet your favourite authors (and perhaps even other bloggers finally face to face) scour the beautiful books on offer from their Waterstones partner and perhaps even meet one of your all-time favourite idols. Judy Blume and Patrick Ness, I’m talking about you!

This year, YALC was kind enough to add on an extra day and after making sure we definitely had three day tickets we toddled off to Olympia, London where it was being held this year alongside London Film and Comic Con. First of all, thank you so much YALC for the priority queue jumping! Alongside a bunch of Storm Troopers, Walking Dead fans covered in (fake) blood and many, MANY scantily clad women we entered the centre, making a bee-line for the YALC section, of course. We decided we weren’t going to attend any talks that day so enjoyed grabbing our free tote bag and noticing with delight that the Book Wall from last year had indeed returned!

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Oh yes. Happy times slouched on the bean bags or deck chairs recovering from all the YALC excitement and meeting up with blogger friends old and new. I think Saturday was probably our best day for talks, the first one we went to was YA: The next generation with Alice Oseman, Lucy Saxon, Helena Coggan and Taran Matharu, chaired by Samantha Shannon. It was a great opportunity to hear about the state of YA fiction right now and be introduced to some promising new talent. Before a spot of lunch we also attended the Being A Girl talk with Hayley Long, C J Daughtery, Holly Smale, Malorie Blackman and Laura Dockrill chaired by Anna James. The talk centred around strong female characters in YA (hooray!) and there’s nothing better than a bit of feminist girl power to get you in the mood for a bit more book hunting in the fabulous Waterstones book area.

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Carrie Hope Fletcher did a brilliant job of hosting the next talk: Carrie Hope Fletcher’s YALC book club with Malorie Blackman, Holly Smale and Samantha Shannon. The authors all talked about how they approach writing individually and some of their tips and advice for wanna-be authors was truly inspirational. Then came the talk I was looking forward to the most: Judy Blume and Patrick Ness in conversation!! Excuse me while I fan myself.

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Patrick was a fantastic interviewer and asked the questions everyone wanted to know. I was a huge Judy Blume fan when I was growing up and I came away feeling like I knew Judy Blume personally – she is such a sweetheart and really funny to boot. Patrick Ness is one of my most recent favourite authors and I was absolutely determined I was going to meet him and get my treasured copy of A Monster Calls signed.

Yes, it was time to join some signing queues. After a pitiful performance last year with NO books signed this year I swore was going to be different and spying a beautiful graphic novel of Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman I snapped it up and joined her queue. She was just as nice and down to earth as I had imagined her to be and although I was terribly starstruck I managed to string a couple of sentences together at least! I also managed to pin down the lovely Alexia Casale and she kindly signed my copy of House Of Windows, her second novel which I was very excited to read. After waiting for a little while, it was finally time to meet Queen Judy Blume to get my copy of her new novel, In the Unlikely Event signed. She was also really sweet and friendly even if I did make a bit of a fool of myself by dipping her a little curtsey as I approached the signing desk. (I didn’t mean to – it came out sub-consciously!)

Sunday dawned bright and sunny and we went to two talks, Mental health in YA with Matt Whyman, Brian Conaghan, Annabel Pitcher and Holly Bourne chaired by Imogen Russell Williams. This was a fantastic talk about a very important subject quite close to my heart and although we left the talk a bit overwhelmed, the authors did a great job of bringing mental health to the forefront. The second talk followed the very popular “sexy” panel at YALC 2014 – Bringing sexy back with Non Pratt, Louise O’Neill, Tom Ellen and Lucy Ivison chaired by the wonderful James Dawson. This talk was just as laugh-out-loud funny and brutally honest as last year’s talk as the panel discussed the role of sex in YA novels. Oh my goodness, and James Dawson’s costume? It had to be seen to be believed!

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Believe me, the photo does not do it justice.

The other highlight of the day was finally managing to meet Patrick Ness and get my book signed. I even had to miss his talk, Sir Terry and me just to make sure I was in the signing queue. He was lovely and I know he spoke to me and I answered but for the life of me I couldn’t tell you what he said, I was in my own excited little world.

So, that’s it! YALC over for another year. We had a brilliant time and it was just as successful if not more so than last year. Thank you to all the organisers and authors for making it an event to remember.

Here is my swag!

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See you in 2016, YALC. I can’t wait already!

 

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The First (but hopefully not the last) Young Adult Literary Convention (YALC) 2014

Published July 25, 2014 by bibliobeth

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YALC is the brain-child of current Children’s Laureate Malorie Blackman, who was awarded an OBE for her services to children’s literature in 2008 and from the moment appointed, has been incredibly passionate about getting young people to read. Alarming statistics show that only 3 out of 10 young people read daily out of school, and a fifth say they would be embarrassed if a friend saw them reading.

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Malorie Blackman (photo from http://www.theguardian.com)

Malorie says…

“We are incredibly lucky to have such a wealth of fantastic children’s authors and illustrators in this country who create incredible stories for young adults to enjoy.  It’s so important to encourage, sustain and where necessary instil a love of reading in our teenagers.  Reading opens doors and creates life opportunities. That’s why I want to do my utmost to promote YA books for all our young (and older!) readers.”

All hail Queen Malorie! YALC promised a fantastic line-up of events, including panel talks with authors, intimate workshops, a publishers stand with goodies galore and an opportunity to purchase a wide range of YA fiction from sponsor Waterstones. Having bought our Early Bird Tickets for both days (Saturday 12th and Sunday 13th July) my sister and fellow blogger Chrissi Reads were very excited to experience all the delights YALC had to offer. So, how did it go?

DAY 1 – Saturday 12th July

Our introduction to YALC

London Comic Con – the craziness!

Photo from nintendo-insider.com

I have never experienced the pure craziness that is the London Comic Con, and couldn’t believe the immense crowds both outside Earls Court and inside where moving around became a bit of a mammoth task. After finally locating the YALC section at the back of the huge hall, Chrissi Reads and I let out a huge sigh, gritted our teeth and began to move through the crowds. (What things we do for our love of books!). We also weren’t prepared for the amount of people in strange and wonderful costumes – we recognised Spider-Man, Batman, The Power Rangers, Darth Vader and some Stormtroopers and…er… Half-Naked Lady? It was quite an experience! What was funny though was how quickly we got used to seeing costumed superheroes wandering around, checking texts and posing for photos and it became entirely natural to see Iron Man for instance, desperately seeking the toilets.

After locating the YALC Book Zone, our first task was to get some tickets for the first panel talk – The End of The World As We Know It with James Smythe as chair and also featuring Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness and Malorie Blackman to talk about the dystopian genre, why they think it’s so “hot” right now, and what they see as the future of the genre. Malorie Blackman officially opened the proceedings in a fabulous costume and speaking in Klingon, and Patrick and Sarah provided some witty and interesting insights into the world of dystopia. Does it represent the fears teenagers have for their future? And is there also some hope and positivity in these worlds that young people can cling on to for comfort?

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James Smythe, Sarah Crossan, Patrick Ness and Malorie (Klingon) Blackman

Photo from http://www.theguardian.com

The talk was very entertaining and I was especially excited to see Patrick Ness (my new favourite author) who did not let me down and had me in fits of giggles. Next, it was time to see what else YALC had to offer. We visited publishers stands where I managed to bag some bookmarks, a cute YALC badge and even some advance copies of books I’m quite excited about. This included There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake and Solitaire by Alice Oseman. And where Waterstones are selling books, it’s compulsory to buy some! I picked up Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman and the illustrated edition of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. Then we visited a couple of stands where other YA authors were promoting their work and I picked up The Narrows by James Brogden and Dystopia by Anthony Ergo, both authors were absolutely lovely and took time to talk to us. At the Hot Keys Book stand, they had a fabulous idea going where you could bring in a book and swap it with another which is where I acquired a copy of Bog Child by Siobhan Dowd.

After all that book buying and walking around it was time to go home, shoulders feeling the extra strain but incredibly happy bloggers! Bring on Day 2.

DAY 2 – Sunday 13th July

Talks, talks, oh and a Book Wall!

The next morning, Chrissi Reads and I were up bright and early but we were still not prepared for the enormous queue that awaited us when we arrived at Earls Court. Looping right round the building it ended up in the underground parking space and then looped a bit more. We needn’t have worried however, as soon as the doors opened at 09:00, the queue moved very fast and it was a little easier to navigate our way to the Book Zone to make sure we had all the tickets for the talks we wanted to see. The first talk didn’t start for a while, so it was the perfect opportunity to curl up on a bean bag and read under a Wall of Books.

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The Book Wall at YALC

Photo from http://www.theguardian.com

Sooner than we knew it, it was time for the first talk which was set to be interesting with the title: I’m Too Sexy For This Book, featuring the newly-crowned Queen of Teen, James Dawson at the helm and also featuring Cat Clarke, Non Pratt and Beth Reekles. The talk was absolutely hilarious and dragged down into the gutter at times but always in a fun way, with innuendos galore and lots of “sexy fun time.” Where do you draw the line with sex in young adult novels? Shock announcement – yes, some teenagers do actually have sex! All panellists agreed that if the sex is portrayed in a positive and educational way, it cannot be a bad thing. Personally, I remember Judy Blume’s Forever feeling quite graphic to me as a teenager, but I think I also learned a few things that I may have got the wrong information about otherwise.

The next talk was Crossover: Not Just For Kids, the panel consisting of David Maybury as chair and authors Nick Lake, Anthony McGowan, Meg Rosoff and Matt Haig. They explored how novels such as The Hunger Games and The Fault In Our Stars are being read by adults as well as teenagers and the possible reasons for this. They certainly made me feel more comfortable about being an adult YA fan, and Nick Lake made the very good point that a lot of books we consider classics now would actually fit into the YA genre quite well, for example The Catcher In The Rye and Oliver Twist.

Our final talk was Sisters Doing It For Themselves with chair Sarra Manning and female authors Tanya Byrne, Julie Mayhew, Isobel Harrop and Holly Smale. This again was a great bunch of authors with fantastic insights into the role of our modern day heroine in YA fiction and heroines that inspired them personally in literature. We had a range of answers here from Tanya Byrne who took inspiration from people around her, Sarra Manning who had a soft spot for “mad girls” such as Sylvia Plath and one of my own personal favourites, Anne of Green Gables who was Holly Smale’s heroine.

YALC – THE END?

So it was time to drag our weary bodies back home, we had an absolutely fantastic weekend and it was worth every minute queueing and being bumped by crowds. Thank you to Malorie Blackman for putting on a great programme, all the authors who came and gave talks and thoroughly entertained us, and all the publishers and people behind the scenes that made the event possible.

YALC – this time next year? (please?!)

The Hay Festival 2013

Published June 2, 2013 by bibliobeth

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I was very excited to be able to attend The Hay Festival this year for a day with my sister Chrissi. It can be described as:

“gathering people together to think about the world as it is and imagine how it might be. It’s a big conversation about discovery and intellectual adventure. We share stories and ideas with international writers and thinkers, film-makers, historians and novelists, philosophers, environmentalists, poets and scientists; and at night we like to party with the greatest comedians and musicians. It’s a bunch of friends hanging out in a field with time to think, finding the inspiration to re-imagine the world.”

As a pair of book-fiends, we were both looking to a day spent in Hay-on-Wye in Wales, known as “a town of books,” where we would attend two talks at the Festival and explore the many bookshops the town had to offer. However, our journey didn’t start off too well…

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Yes, something crashed into our coach on the motorway – that thing you see hanging down is the exhaust! Luckily no-one was hurt, but it took a long time before we were on our way again.

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Hooray, we made it to Newport! Which was incredibly wet. The train to Hereford was next, through some beautiful countryside and what we hoped was a short trip to our B+B near Hay-on-Wye. Much later, and to our dismay a fifty pound taxi ride later (!!), we arrived at our home for the evening – in the back of beyond but perfectly situated for the festival.

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Oh, and the lovely owner took pity on our poor bedraggled souls, and fed us hot cheese and potato pie, and homemade biscuits. Excellent! Our room was just right, with some fantastic views over the Brecon Beacon countryside.

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After a good nights rest, we headed off to the festival, our first talk centred around three of the Waterstones Eleven debut authors – Gavin Extence who wrote The Universe Versus Alex Woods, Kevin Maher who wrote The Fields, and Taiye Selasi who wrote Ghana Must Go. (please see my reviews attached to the title). We were particularly interested to see these three authors as we are following the list closely over this year. All authors brought their own slice of personality to the interview and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to their explanations over the writing process. Kevin Maher has to win the award for the funniest line ever in an interview situation: “Ah hello, I’m a child-molester to be sure!” Don’t worry folks, he ISN”T, but was making a joke regarding the controversial topic in his novel.

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Onto the next talk which was entitled “Geekhood and Geek Girl.” This involved two authors, former actor Andy Robb who is famous for his Geekhood series, and former model Holly Smale who has recently published her first novel – Geek Girl. I’m not familiar with these authors, but Chrissi has read Geek Girl recently and highly recommends it. The interview was tailored towards a younger audience, trying to figure out where we (the audience) rate on the geek spectrum, the difference between “geek” and “nerd,” the rubbish status or not so rubbish status of the TV programme The Big Bang Theory and some great teen advice about loving the person you are and not caring what others think by Holly which went down a storm. I thought they both engaged with the audience on a great level, and it was lovely to watch the interaction and comedy moments between the two. Oh, and the tent had a sparkly ceiling. Nuff said.

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Our day was almost coming to an end, but before preparing ourselves for a long journey home, we had to go and investigate the dozens of bookshops promised in a town famous for its books. It did not disappoint. Just one picture to whet the appetite…

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And we got a great haul too!

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So despite bus exhaust issues, outlandish taxi fares and wet and blustery weather, we had a fantastic time at the Hay Festival and would highly recommend it to any other bibliophiles. Hopefully next year we will be able to stay a bit longer and attend more talks, and buy more books (obviously!) Although you can perhaps see from my bookshelves at home, I might already have a bit of a problem…

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Please feel free to comment or share your book festival stories. Please also see Chrissi’s post HERE for her take on the Hay Festival. Happy Reading everyone!