Bookish adventures

YALC 2017: The Year of the Cumberbatch

Blimey, what a weekend. From carnage at proof drops to signing queues that lasted for hours, YALC 2017 was certainly crazy. There was also the small matter of a certain actor reducing us all to swooning giggling messes multiple times a day.

Friday 28 July

Having joined the queue outside Olympia at 8:30am, I made it inside and up to the second floor a little after 9am and promptly started to raid the stalls for freebies. I didn’t want to go overboard however so I only picked up items that I actually had some interest in. That being said one hour later I had already filled up my YALC tote bag with bookish swag, including six proofs and a somewhat large collection of samplers (I was particularly chuffed to snag the first of only 30 samplers of The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo).

By 11am I was ready to make myself comfy at the stage area and attended four panels – Heroines, Who Lives Who Dies Who Tells Your Story, SFF Now and Writing What You Know. I’ve got to admit that I can’t really remember much about what was discussed in these but they were definitely interesting.

In the afternoon I took to loitering around the authors area and got a couple of books signed – Paper Butterflies by Lisa Heathfield and The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr.

By 4:15pm I had done everything that I wanted and so explored the stalls down at LFCC, before calling it a day and spending the evening reading some of the samplers I had acquired.

Saturday 29 July

After a pretty poor night’s sleep (I always struggle the first night when staying somewhere else) I got to Olympia at 8:30am again, this time a little further back in the queue.

So then, Benedict Cumberbatch. Due to the stupidly long wait for a lift up to the second floor it meant that I missed out on his first visit, but given the number of times that he passed through the YALC floor over the course of the weekend it turned out not to be the end of the world. It was hilarious how that you could tell from the change in noise levels when he was on his way – first it would go a little quiet, then you’d hear everyone break out into giggles. The YALC hashtag on Twitter also went a little crazy when he had wandered by. A little bit more on all this later…

Back to the convention itself. I’d been looking out for when proof copies of Zenith were being dropped and handily was fairly close-by when it happened at 9:45am. Sadly however I wasn’t the only one and so I was too far back to get myself a copy. I knew that I would probably be too busy in the afternoon for the next drop (which turned out to be correct) and it ended up being even more ridiculous on Sunday with people waiting by the stall all day to get a copy. But heyho, I wasn’t too disappointed compared to some other misses from the weekend.

My first panel of the day was Who Runs the World which was really enjoyable. After heading down to LFCC for a photo shoot with Bernard Cribbins I legged it back upstairs to get to Claire Hennessey’s signing before her timeslot ended, and thankfully managed to get Nothing Tastes As Good signed (having read her most recent release Like Other Girls via NetGalley recently I would have liked to get a paperback signed too but I didn’t want to pay full price for it – #cheapskate). I then attended the first half-hour of the Genre-bending panel before again going down to LFCC for Benedict Cumberbatch’s talk.

It had just gone 2pm when I got back up to YALC and picked up a VQ ticket for Victoria Schwab’s signing. She started at 1pm and was meant to finish at 3pm, however she’d only got to 200 by that point and I was number 262. With my photo shoot with Mr Cumberbatch due to start at 4:30pm I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t make it, but thankfully I was able to get my copies of A Conjuring of Light, This Savage Song and Our Dark Duet all signed just in time.

After getting to spend all of three seconds with BC whilst having my photo taken, I called it quits at 5:30pm and went back to my hotel. It soon became apparent however that this was the wrong choice as Benedict decided to pass through YALC whilst Non Pratt was getting her hair shaved off – in the unlikely event that you haven’t already seen it this Twitter Moment post sums it up pretty well. This certainly cemented this year’s convention as the year of the Cumberbatch.

Sunday 30 July

I was at Olympia at the usual time and for some reason they let us in a little bit early which was nice. Now I have to admit that I was seriously lagging by this point and so I ended up just sitting around for the first hour doing nothing rather than going to the New Voices panel as I had been planning to. I did go to the Fandom panel though as I knew it would be fun, however I left after twenty minutes to try and get a proof of Invictus by Ryan Graudin when they dropped at 10:30am. I’d been told that they had 100 copies to give away and whilst the queue was already long when I got there I was about number 70 in line so thought I’d be fine. However it transpired that they were only giving out 60 copies that morning. So yeah, I missed out by about 8 people which was made even more frustrating when I knew I’d miss the 3pm drop due to Patrick Ness’ panel.

Again I ended up skipping out on some of the panels as I was too exhausted (why my brain thought that lounging against a wall was more preferable to sitting in the stage area I don’t know but there you go). I did however attend Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan’s panel which was fun and made me even more sad about having to wait for their book We Come Apart to be released in paperback. After that I got A Quiet Kind of Thunder signed by Sara Barnard and randomly decided to pick up a proof of Wizards and Robots by when they dropped.

Eventually it was 3pm and time for Patrick Ness’ panel, something that I had been looking forward to all weekend. He didn’t disappoint with the passion that he has for YA fiction and teenagers in general. There was also his brilliant “Write what you like madam, just don’t fuck it up” advice. I made a swift exit after the panel and picked up a VQ ticket for his signing (number 120-something which wasn’t too bad) before getting Margot & Me signed by Juno Dawson. Shortly after my final spot of BC walking past my number got called up and so I got The Rest of Us Just Live Here signed by Patrick.

Immediately after this a handful of girls ran past me and a quick check of the YALC hashtag showed that Penguin had five copies of Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo available so I also legged it over to their stall. Let it be known that I’m far from athletic so I don’t think I’ve ever ran so fast in my life. And this is where the biggest disappoint of the weekend came as I was number six. So close and yet so far 😦

With that it was 5:30pm and consequently the end of the weekend. A bit of a heartbreaking note to finish on but then it was always going to be sad to leave it all behind. On the plus side Showmasters announced that YALC/LFCC 2018 is taking place on the same weekend so at least I know that I should be able to attend for a third year.

You can expect a post containing my thoughts on all the samplers that I picked up sometime in the next week, as well as a list of all the proofs I snagged in my July book haul post. For now though I’ll round this off with a slideshow of the panels I attended and all the goodies I acquired.

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(The man just never stops…)


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