For four years now, the top names in Young Adult fiction have gathered in Charleston, South Carolina, for a raucous (by bookworld standards) celebration of reading and writing called YALLFest.
This year, YALLFest has come to Santa Monica, California, for the first annual YALLWest. YALLWest features more than sixty YA authors signing books, speechifying, panelizing and competing in trivia contests. The first day of the two-day mind-feeding frenzy was yesterday, hosted by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School System on their Santa Monica High School campus.
As Facility Permit Supervisor for SMMUSD, I was privileged to participate in the planning and execution of this event. When I arrived for final setup just before 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, a half dozen young women were already in line at the gate. By the scheduled opening time of 9:00 a.m., the line would extend down the walkway and around the corner and down the sidewalk further than I had time to explore.
We’re guessing that about 2500 young people showed up to meet their rock-god level favorite authors, to play trivia games and Scrabble, win books and other prizes, engage in a little cosplay and stand in queue for autographs from the likes of Stephanie Perkins, Marie Lu and a lot of other YA authors I’m totally unfamiliar with because, at my age, no one would ever mistake me for a Young Adult.
The main festival organizer is Margaret Stohl, an unflagging ball of energy who is also an accomplished YA author of, among other books, the Caster Chronicles series (Beautiful Creatures, Beautiful Darkness, Beautiful Chaos, Beautiful Redemption).
Stohl is one of those people who is so “up” you wonder if the same kind of blood flows through her veins as flows through us common folks, as if maybe hers were some lighter, more flammable compound.
She introduced me to Veronica Roth of Divergent/Insurgent/Allegiant fame, seen here with Cindy Pon (Silver Phoenix) as “the author of millions of comics and books.” Made us both laugh.
Now, I have to say something about Veronica Roth and her ilk: I hate them, hate them all. Here’s why: Because I am a petty and envious old man. Here she is, selling her first book while still in college, and it becomes a bestseller and a movie, so she’s like uber-successful and she’s really young (she probably doesn’t think of herself as “really young” but believe me, Veronica, you are), and she’s beautiful. I could forgive her all that if only… if only…
If only she was a bitch. If she was just a bitch, I could still look down my nose at all of that success and youth and beauty and say, “Yes, but she’s such a bitch!”
But no, she does not give me that satisfaction. Instead, she’s warm and sweet and funny and wonderful. Now really, how can you not hate someone like that? I mean, come on… leave a few scraps of wonderfulness on the plate for the rest of us, okay?
I also met Ransom Riggs, author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the follow-up Hollow City, soon to be a trilogy. He’s the one author at YALLWest whose work I’ve actually read. Here’s a nice picture of Riggs and his author wife Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me, Destroy Me, Unravel Me, Ignite Me, Unite Me) (those are all separate book titles, BTW, not all one big, long title, though that might be a pretty good book, too):
I don’t know how I stumbled on Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. It probably had something to do with it being a #1 bestseller or something. But it seemed right up my alley and it turned out to be beautifully written and imaginative and twisted and peculiar and I loved it. Imagine my surprise to later learn that it was considered “young adult.”
I’ve just begun reading the sequel and so far it’s even better than the first. So here I am at the ripe old age of [indecipherable] eagerly anticipating the next installment of my favorite Young Adult series.
God but life can be funny sometimes.
I was lucky enough to be able to buttonhole Riggs backstage after his keynote address to get his autymograph (no idea why I wrote “autograph” that way) and didn’t have to stand in line for it. I may be retired by the time Peculiar III comes out but I have a walker ready so that I can appear feeble and the bookfest people will take pity and give me cuts.
For me, YALLWest, Day One, was a 13-hour workday event made endurable by the great people I met and a terrific mac-and-cheese-and-rib-meat grilled cheese sandwich donated by the Grilled Cheese food truck guy to my GoClogMyArteries campaign.
Sometimes the day job is pretty sweet.
The YALLWest book festival continues today at the Santa Monica Public Library.