Wednesday, 16 July 2014

YALC Diary: Saturday Day One

It’s Saturday which means it’s officially day one of YALC! Rach and I travelled to London last night and I have to say that the weekend didn’t start well for me.

After a hot and sweaty tube ride that involved carrying bags of heavy books up and down flights of stairs I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep so I’d feel rested and ready for a busy weekend. Unfortunately I had no such luck.

Our hotel is great in itself however I was given an unfortunate room located on the ground floor of a busy street. There’s no air con so if I don’t want to boil myself alive I have to sleep with the window open which not only lets in all of the street noise but all of the smoke from the guest smoking pit outside too. That along with my neighbours and their kids checking in next door to me at 4am left this asthmatic insomniac with only a few hours’ sleep. Needless to say this morning I was tired, flustered and running low on patience.

The first thing I saw before Earls Court itself was swarms and swarms of people queueing to get inside. I was immediately overwhelmed. We were standing in line and being moved around for what felt like forever under the beating sun and to make matters worse we had a group blatantly push in right in front of us. Luckily Rach and I had this nice guy and his young son behind us who wasn’t having any of it and told them so but unfortunately that led to them getting the hump and shouting at us which really put me on edge with my PTSD.

Me (left) and Rach (right) waiting to get in

When we finally got in thousands of people were literally packed in like sardines in a tin, there was no air con, sweat was dripping from people and I basically felt like I’d made a huge mistake in estimating how well I could handle this.

YALC itself was a roaring success there’s no doubt about it but I have to be honest and say that I don’t think that LFCC was the right place to host it and I know that pretty much everybody I spoke to felt the same way. The majority of readers are quiet, introverted people and I know that for a lot of us Comic Con was too much.

Not only was LFCC ridiculously overcrowded but the Book Zone was placed in a small corner of the venue right next to Stan Lee’s event which were obviously massively popular. I attended one panel and one workshop and after that gave up on them because I couldn’t hear a thing that was said over the noise of the crowd which was really disappointing as I’m sure what the authors had to say was very interesting.

Another issue I had was that there was no clear queue’s for signings and nobody was monitoring them which lead to more than one queue waiting for one author and a lot of pushing in which was very annoying after waiting for a good hour for some guests.

To be honest it was absolute chaos which is completely understandable being the first ever YALC. I don’t think anybody was prepared for the popularity of the event but now that they know that there’s a big audience for it I hope that these issues can be resolved next year and I think the biggest change needs to be a YALC only venue.

The Book Zone had this lovely little chill out area with a book wall and beanbag chairs. It was the perfect place to escape to catch a breather and talk to other book lovers. I’m being completely honest in saying that I don’t think I would have stuck around all day if I didn’t have such good people around me. I was so touched by everybody who came up to me asking how I was finding it and I loved that so many of you shared your own experiences with anxiety, panic attacks and OCD with me. It was so cathartic to share stories and get through this crazy day together.

My biggest convention lesson learned is to talk to the people around you. After all you obviously share the same interests which are a great ice breaker! It was so lovely to not only finally meet blogger friends but to also meet new bookish people. Rach and I were queueing to meet Rainbow Rowell for a good hour and got chatting to some lovely girls in front of us which made the time pass really quickly. Funnily enough after that we kept bumping into each other in different queues completely by chance and so we dubbed ourselves “queue buddies.” What was even more surreal was when I gave Charlotte my Twitter handle only to find out that we already follow each other! Small world!

Queue Buddies!

A really random moment for me was when I accidentally bumped into somebody and turned around to apologise only to see that that person was Lena Headey who plays Cersei in Game of Thrones. Turns out that the Book Zone being right next to the Green Room definitely had its perks!

I met so many wonderful authors and bloggers today both at YALC and The Fringe afterwards. I’d love to give a shout out to every single person I met but there are just too many of you and I’m bound to forget somebody which I’d feel terrible about. I will say that everybody I met was absolutely lovely and if I met you please know that I had such a great time talking to you!

UKYA book bloggers at The Fringe

Today’s author highlights for me were C.J. Skuse, Holly Bourne and Natasha Ngan who all made plenty of time to chat to their fans. I also really enjoyed meeting Patrick Ness and Rainbow Rowell although due to their MAHOOSIVE queues it was only a quick “hi” and “bye” which is completely understandable. I was just so happy to meet them at all!

Rainbow Rowell signing books

The lovely Holly Bourne signing my books

Overall Saturday was a rollercoaster of emotions with plenty of highs and lows. It was chaotic and stressful but also wonderful and exciting. The lovely people around me really made today what it was and that has made me love the UKYA community even more, if such a thing is possible.

Check out Day Two of my YALC Diary here
For more of my Saturday adventures check out Rach's write up here
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