Tuesday, November 12, 2013

15 What I Learned at YALLFEST and How It Changed My Outlook

Me, Tracy Clark, and Kimberley Griffiths Little at Blue Bicycle Books
If any of you saw my post on Saturday, you know that I've been down at YALLFEST in Charleston, South Carolina. I wanted to go this year for several reasons. Number one, my super-secret project, which I will tell you about in a few days, involves a few other authors. We wanted to get together someplace and finalize our plans and get to know each other better. Number two, my upcoming series, THE HEIRS OF WATSON ISLAND, is set on three fictional plantations south of Charleston. And finally, number three, Charleston is fast becoming my favorite city in the U.S.
One of Charleston's many quirky shops 

I got on the plane in D.C., and ended up sitting next to Rae Carson, and directly in front of Cinda Williams Chima, which was lovely right off the bat.

Rae Carson signing -- she's so gracious!
 Then I met my friends at the airport, and we checked into the hotel--imagine four women in one room with one bathroom, and then imagine that we all got out the door in under an hour. We deserve some sort of a medal for that, I swear.

Carol Barreyre, Tracy Clark, Kimberley Griffiths Little
Friday was spent running around like crazy, picking up boxes of books from Blue Bicycle Books, one of the coolest bookstores anywhere, picking up information, shooting photos, finding places/themes/props from our books, polishing press releases, and preparing for the mayhem that was going to be YALLFEST.

Let me just say that mayhem doesn't begin to cover it. There were 5,000 teens at YALLFEST who came from all over the U.S. to see the nearly 50 amazing YA authors.

Which brings me to what I learned:

  • YA fans are hardcore. They will cheerfully do without sleep and without allowance for MONTHS to get their hands on a signed book and say a few words to a favorite author.
  • YA moms are saints. They will cheerfully drive for days and stand in line for hours to get signatures while their teens go hear their favorite authors speak.
  • YA authors rock. They will do almost anything for their fans, no matter how tired, how stressed, how overworked they are.
  • YA books create rabid followings. It is incredible what YA readers know about the books and the characters, and how much they identify with those characters.
I know none of this sounds like a surprise. But honestly, while I loved, loved, loved spending time with my friends, going to the panels, chatting with the authors, and looking around the city, the thing I absolutely loved best was just standing in line talking to the fans, finding out what books they loved, what authors they loved, what genres they loved. It's so humbling to see in-person how much a book can change a life. You can know that on an intellectual level, but until you hear it over and over and over, it doesn't quite sink in. Somehow, even though I knew how much certain books have changed my own life, I didn't extrapolate that knowledge as deeply as I needed to for today's readers.

YALLFEST was an incredible experience for me, both as a reader and as an author. Seeing a reader's face light up when you describe your own book is a mind-blowing thing. And listening to how a book changed them, that is beyond humbling and gratifying.

With the fabulous Libba Bray
I went to some fantastic panels, got close to 40 books signed for giveaways for my super-secret project, and had the opportunity to have lunch with the fabulous Libba Bray, drinks with the incredible Ellen Hopkins and the talented Megan Shepherd, not to mention quick chats with lovely Melissa de la Cruz, beautiful Veronica Rossi, gorgeous Tahereh Mafi, and a slew of other authors whose books I drool over. I heard Libba Bray and her band, Tiger Beat, do covers of Prince's Purple Rain and The Who's Revolution that were flat outstanding. 

But the fans, they took my breath away.

I am so, so lucky to get to write for YA readers.  

Who's been to YALLFEST or another teen festival elsewhere in the country? What did you take away from the experience? 

What author would you most want to spend time with, if you could?

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say!




  1. very cool sounding fest! I also met Libba Bray, she is fantastic. I'm lucky to live near Naperville's Andersons Books, they bring in every YA and kidlit author. I've felt most inspired by reader events and an annual YA event for educators where everyone is so excited about books. Thanks for sharing your experience!

    1. I wish I had such a great bookstore near me! There's one in Charlottesville that has pretty strong programs, but it's almost two hours away. Isn't Libba amazing? Not only incredibly talented, but so gracious and kind!

  2. What a great experience! As if the fest wasn't fabulous enough, it was held in Charleston which is one of my favorite cities, too! Love their Cupcake! store there. Looking forward to the secret reveal!

    1. I am falling more and more in love with Charleston. There ares so many fabulous restaurants, and so many incredible, eclectic shops! I love, love, love the whole preppy meets quirky vibe! I haven't gotten to Cupcakes yet, but I will before I head out. :) Thanks for the reminder!

  3. Wow, what a whirlwind trip! So glad you had a great time! And I don't know what your super secret project is, BUT I WANT TO KNOW NOW!!! :)

    1. It's coming soon, Ange! I can't wait to share… :)

  4. That sounds incredible!! Makes me want to attend sometime. :) SO fun. Who would I meet? I'd like to meet Maggie Stiefvater; she sounds like a kick from her FB page! Creative as her prose.

    1. I am such a huge fan of Maggie's. I feel like I learn something from every blog post she writes, not to mention her books are fabulous. :)

  5. Glad you had such a great time.

  6. YALLFest is getting bigger and better every year - I was amazed at the length of the lines for the Keynote and the Smackdown when in the past you could just walk right in. So thrilled to see this happening for Blue Bicycle Books and Charleston!

    And it makes my heart happy to see how amped teens get for authors. Authors! Not 'singers' or actors, but people who create amazing stories by putting words on paper. It's awesome.

  7. Now I know why this gets such rave reviews, Martina. Thanks for the inside scoop. I'll have to remember this next year! :)

  8. LOVED this post, Martina! and I loved being with you carting books around and standing in 2 hour long signing lines and eating great food and walking miles and talking non-stop!

  9. Holy Super Experience, Batman. This sounds like a MUST.


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