First up, thanks must go to all the people I've stolen photos from for this, because I don't have a smartphone and although I did take my camera I was so busy running around that I remembered to take it out of my bag exactly once. You are good people, Emily, Imogen, Kerry and Shanna!
I got up at about 5:30am on Saturday and walked and did obedience training with my dog for nearly an hour in a quest to quieten him down so that I didn't feel quite so guilty about dropping him off with my mum. Because he's a maniac. Sorry mum. Then I did various elaborate (but ultimately futile because humidity and rain) things to my hair, slapped on some make-up and a dress and hopped on the train to London, filled with fizzing nerves and excitement. This was me on the train, before my hair gave up the fight.
Sadly, despite the weather forecast insisting that it would be a fine and sunny day in London, and therefore that a dress would be a practical choice, by the time I arrived at the Olympia venue in Kensington where YALC was taking place, it was POURING. I don't just mean a drizzle here, folks. It was so bad that the pavements were mostly puddle. It was therefore in a rather damp and dishevelled state that I presented myself to the helpful staff members who directed me to the entire floor of the venue which YALC had commandeered this year.
I stopped by the Walker Books booth (looking good, ladies!) to say hello and then, in true book geek stylee, headed to the bookshop, where I snagged an armful of books, including one from the lists of each of my fellow panelists, and took this:
This was just past 13:00 on the Saturday and, as I confirmed with the Waterstones staff running the shop, Barefoot on the Wind and Shadows on the Moon had already sold out. Which was YAY but also BOO because obviously I didn't want people to not be able to get the books I was going to be talking about on my panel! Oh, well. I decided to be positive about it. As I was stuffing my haul into my tiny roll-on bag, two more lovely Walker people (Hi Rosi! Hi Kirsten!) appeared and gently led me away, reminding me that I needed to collect my author pass and sign in before going off on jollies. Oops.
I did see and get to hug the lovely and talented One Italian Summer writer Keris Stainton on the way, though. Hi Keris!
Suddenly, a text on my phone! Cunning Kirsten had slipped off and had a chat with someone running the signing queues, and had managed to get them to let me jump the line and get that book signed for my sister! Joy! But also FREAK OUT because the author in question?
Yes, that is LAINI TAYLOR. Actual real-life Laini Taylor. And me next to actual real-life Laini Taylor trying not to be the one weirdest person she met at YALC... but failing oh so miserably. I nearly fainted at her feet.
But no matter, for the signed book was in my grasp! *Uncontrollable fangirl giggles*
And our dresses nearly match, how cool is that? Although hers had spaceships on and mine had golden flamingoes, which probably says something profound about our personalities...
Or maybe not.
Anyway, back to the green room, where the other authors from my panel were beginning to collect. I nattered away at the fascinating Deirdre Sullivan, Julia Gray, Joanne Harris and Peadar O Guilin and also managed to grab Laura Dockrill to ask for her opinions on mermaid retellings before the panel started. But eventually they herded us together, took some pictures:
And then the real fun began!
This was one of the best panels I've ever been on - it was delightful. Imogen Russell Wills had prepared really well, and her questions were SPOT ON. Even though there were quite a few of us talking we all managed to get time to express ourselves, and have some back-and-forth between us.
The best thing was that the audience was 100% there for this event - really involved and not afraid to ask questions. I was quite sad when it was over, and they firmly took us away and took us to the signing area. Where CELL7 author and lovely person Kerry Drewery was waiting for me with a hug and nice words about the panel to calm me down - hi Kerry!
To my surprise - and delight! - my queue turned out to be... huge? I was sure that with so many other, much more famous authors there everyone would be far too busy to come and wait for my autograph, but apparently not!
I signed for about an hour and a half before my queue ran out, and thanks to the lovely Shanna, there was a seat saved for me at the one panel I was going to have time to attend, and the one panel above all that I was desperate to attend - the Books That Made Me panel with V.E. Schwab, Laini Taylor and Joanne Harris, run by (a beautifully costumed) Katherine Woodfine. It was everything I'd hoped for, and I even got to ask a question during the Q&A. It was glorious and a perfect end to my YALC experience, especially since I got the chance to say hi to Victoria Schwab in the green room before she left.
We won't dwell on the fact that the rain was still pouring outside, that I narrowly missed the Tube to Earl's court and had to wait for nearly 30mins for the next one, that rush hour was on (making Tube travel an utter misery on a normal day, let alone a rainy one) or that it took me nearly two hours from there to get back to my hotel. None of that matters. All that matters is: I'll never forget my first proper YALC and I really hope to be invited back again next year.
And then I nearly fell asleep on the train, so I wrote 1000 words in my notebook in order to stay awake... but that's another story.
Did you get to YALC this year, Dear Readers (I know some of you did, 'cos I met you!)? What have you been up to? Throw your answers in the comments, darlings! xx