What is it?: In the words of the organisers themselves, “YA Shot is an author-run, author-led Young Adult and Middle Grade festival that raises the money and resources to run a year-long programme pairing libraries and schools for free author events to foster a love of reading, inspire a passion for writing, and encourage aspirations to careers in the Arts.”
When: 14th April 2018
I’ve had my eye on YA Shot for a while now. I have a vague recollection of discovering it through a Google-search while we were still living in Australia and feeling envious that the UK had such an awesome author event that I couldn’t (realistically) go to.
When I actually arrived in the UK, I missed the first year – mainly because the aftershocks of the move hit a lot harder initially than I’d anticipated, and due a new job with a hefty commute, the writing dried up for a while until I adjusted. I missed the second year, because I’d finally gotten my writing mojo back and my head was so firmly down, the first half of 2017 passed before I’d taken a breather to look up and see what was out there.
By late 2017, I was well back into the swing of things and YA Shot was in my sights. It didn’t disappoint.
Of all the writing festivals I’ve attended, YA Shot is probably my favourite. For 20 pounds (less for concession and all not-for-profit) I spent the day watching a host of sparkling author conversations, and attending a number of group workshops with the authors themselves. Bargain.
The group workshops were small – around ten in each – so it was a great opportunity to get to know the authors and have some down-to-earth chats about writing and the UK YA industry. It was interesting to meet some of the UK YA bloggers in person and hear their perspective on the difference between UK and US YA and why they loved both for different reasons. Of course, I had to pipe in with: “Have you read any Aussie YA?” and then proceeded to sing the praises of YA authors from the great southern land.
Side-note: If you haven’t checked out any Aussie YA, you definitely should! Some of my favourites are:
Current: Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley (bittersweet and beautiful, Cath’s talent with words is breathtaking)
Classic: Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta (you can’t go wrong with anything by Melina Marchetta, really)
Epic: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (told via media files, it takes some getting used to initially, but when you’re in, you’re in for a wild ride)
Power, privilege & inequality (panel) with Helena Coggan, Mark Huckerby, Vic James, Nick Ostler & Samantha Shannon with Phyllida Shrimpton (chair).
Highlight: listening to Vic James discuss her inspiration for the Dark Gifts series and her experiences working on the TV documentary series called ‘The Super Rich and Us’.
Characterisation & empathy with Lisa Heathfield
Highlight: discussing Lisa’s real-life experiences in the publishing world, meeting bloggers Amy McCaw and Michelle Toy, and chatting about YA we’d recently read.
Stories for change with Alwyn Hamilton & Melinda Salisbury (in conversation)
Highlight: Seeing the delightful Alwyn and Melinda in action. These two are laugh-a-minute and not afraid to wade waist-deep into the whimsical. Irreverent chats about writing kissing scenes and tricks for naming your characters. If they touched on the central topic, it was only a brush in the dark, but I didn’t care. Authorly-admiration heaven.
Friends, enemies & common ground with Cathryn Constable & Lucy Ivison (in conversation)
Highlight: At the risk of sounding a too fan-girly, I want to be Lucy Ivison’s best friend. I have the feeling anyone who spends time with her feels the same. The talk was a hugely interactive fun chat about girl-dynamics, having a UK-book edited for the US market – finding a US word for ‘banter’ and navigating the difference between US west-coast and east-coast slang.
Writing across cultures with Jason Rohan (workshop)
Highlight: Tight-knit chats exchanging cultural experiences. Jason was a fabulous, interactive host with a wealth of anecdotes to share.
Justice for all? with Christi Daugherty & AJ Grainger (in conversation)
Highlight: AJ Grainger speaking from the differing perspectives of editor and author.
Research for writing outside your experience with Katharine & Elizabeth Corr (workshop)
Highlight: This workshop went into the overflow seats and I could see why. The banter between sisters and besties Katharine and Elizabeth is infectious. My favourite parts were Elizabeth describing her attention to detail when it comes to researching ways to kill off characters (Elizabeth likes to kill them, Katharine likes to save them), and treading the fine line with old-language dialogue – how to be authentic without losing the reader.
Events I missed (had a clash) but wish I attended:
How relationships shape women’s lives with Holly Bourne, Emma Craigie, Leila Rasheed & Sufiya Ahmed
Regrets: I have a feeling this would have been an interesting discussion. I’ve also heard good things about Holly Bourne’s books and have added these to my TBR list.
Privacy, entertainment & technology with Lauren James, Laura Steven, Nicci Cloke & Kerry Drewery
Regrets: This is a cracker of a topic. I caught up on some of it via Twitter and wish the timetabling had been different so I could catch this one too. I recently read Laura Steven’s THE EXACT OPPOSITE OF OKAY, which deals with the issue of revenge porn, and loved it.
Awesome discoveries from the day:
A LOT of exciting UK YA authors I need to check out and follow on Twitter. Too many to mention here. The full line-up from YA Shot is still up on the YA Shot page here.
Twitter: the #UKYA, #UKYAchat, and #SundayYA hashtags
Blogs: YA under my skin and Tales of Yesterday