So. As you may know if you follow me on Instagram or twitter (both @beccasbookrealm ), I attended my very first YallWest book festival up in Santa Monica the other weekend, April 29th-30th! I met some of my all time favorite authors-including Alexandra Bracken and Claudia Gray-and It was quite an experience. So I thought I’d share it with y’all, and break it down a bit:
The Preparation & Planning
I was beyond desperate to make it to YallWest this year. I only found out about the book festival just last year (sad, I know) but was unable to go, which was tragic because my entire Instagram feed was full of people showing off their new ARCS (ARC=Advanced Reader Copy, aka an uncorrected paperback copy of a book that has not yet been released!) and book swag and signed books. So, I was determined to find a way to make it this time. Spoiler alert: I did!
I asked my slightly-less-nerdy-than-me friend Amanda to come with me, and she was all too happy to tag along, despite only knowing a few of the authors. (You’re a trooper, Amanda! Thanks for letting me drag you around for a whole day!) And as it turned out, she has an aunt who lives up in L.A, about 40 minutes or so from Santa Monica, so we were able to stay with her Friday and Saturday night. I am forever grateful to the book nerd Gods and Goddesses, and to Amanda’s gracious aunt.
I packed a lot of books to bring. A. LOT. And I knew I couldn’t carry them all on my back without breaking it. SO. I asked my dad to help me create a makeshift book cart using a book basket of mine and a little rolling cart from which I had unattached a cooler. And it actually worked pretty well! While standing in line, though, I talked to someone who had a much more professional looking rolling cart-they were everywhere, so many people had them!-and he told me that they sell them at target for 20-30 bucks. Oh well. Next year, I’ll be more prepared!
Not to say that I was necessarily under-prepared this year…I don’t think I forgot a single thing from sunscreen to portable chargers to food to chap stick.
I poured over the schedule dozens of times, all the ARC drop lists I could find, and tried to get a feel for the layout of the highschool by looking over the map. Not that any of this really helped much. It was still chaotic and stressful and the event itself wasn’t very well organized-the majority of the people volunteering couldn’t even point us in the direction of any of the booths or events. So it was kind of a mess. But was it still 100% worth it? You betcha.
YallWest Preview Night (Friday April 29th, 4-8 p.m)
By the time Amanda was dropped off at my house, it was already about a half hour later than we’d decided to leave, thanks to horrendous Socal traffic. So naturally, I was already super stressed knowing we were probably going to be at least a half hour late.
Thanks to traffic, my lack of experience in driving around L.A, and our difficulty in finding a parking spot, we were more like an hour late. But you know what? It all worked out!
By the time we arrived, we hadn’t really missed anything; the lines had formed for the wristbands needed to meet the authors, and they had some giveaways going on at a small stage off to the side, but that was it. The volunteers on stage were calling out for people wearing merch inspired by certain books or movies-for instance, “ruby red slippers” from The Wizard of Oz, aka red shoes. Then they’d pick a person from the crowd or the wristband line and they’d go up and spin the wheel of author names for a chance to meet one of them. For those who landed on an author they had no desire to meet, they offered free books or YallWest clothing.
We had barely been in line 10 minutes when they called out for someone wearing “something Star Wars related.” Well, I was sure I had to be wearing something from Star Wars, so I looked down at my outfit and, sure enough, I was wearing my hand made Millenium Falcon necklace that I’d received in one of my past Owlcrate subscription boxes! So I jumped in the air and frantically waved my hand around until I grabbed their attention and got called up to the stage to spin the wheel.
After landing on an author I had no desire to meet, I had my pick of either a YallWest T-shirt or a hard cover copy of King’s Cage, book three in the Red Queen series! Having recently started Red Queen, I opted for King’s Cage, and I now have the first three books in the series! Score!
By the time we made it to the front of the line, they had run out of wristbands for the two authors Amanda and I both wanted desperately to meet-Alexandra Bracken and James Dashner. We were devastated, of course, but we got wristbands to meet some other authors I was looking forward to meeting, and in the mean time, I bought those authors’ books!
Kate Hart, Caleb Roehrig and S. J-Jones were all super sweet, and I’m glad I got to meet them! I just recently finished After the Fall and it was an impossible-to-put-down gem of a book that left me a sobbing, blubbering, miserable mess. But um, don’t let that deter you! It’s definitely one of the most impactful books I’ve read this year and one of my new favorites. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (another new favorite I read this year) then I think you’ll love this one.
Then we got in line to meet Maurene Goo and get ARCS of her upcoming May 30th release “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” !
After meeting the above authors, we decided to chance it and get in line to see Alexandra Bracken despite not having wristbands. We had to let a few people with wristbands cut in front of us, but by some miracle-or simply because Alex is an angel who stayed an hour over time so she could meet everyone-we still got to meet her, as well as James Dashner! So all in all, the day wound up being a huge success despite our arriving late.
Can you just see the awe and admiration in my face? Thank god I didn’t completely embarrass myself. Alex is a total sweetheart, she’s gorgeous, she’s amazingly talented and I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to meet her!
YallWest ( Saturday April 30th, 9 a.m to 7 p.m)
We arrived at the parking lot across the street from the high school at around 8:30, a half hour before the event was supposed to open, and already a huge line had formed along the sidewalk and around the block. (next year, I’m gonna get there at like 6 a.m. I swear to god).
We got in line and stood in the heat for more like an hour instead of a half hour, because they let us in at 9:30 rather than 9. So already, I was a little miffed since I’d had this whole schedule planned out. Then I found out that they’d apparently let people at the 11 a.m. entrance in before us? And because of this, I missed out on one of my top priority ARCS of the day-Adam Silveras ‘They Both Die at the End’. Not cool. Seriously, I hope they’re better organized next year. 90% of the volunteers couldn’t even manage to point us in the right direction or answer simple questions and it made the whole thing a lot more stressful than it should have been.
But alas, I have no room to complain any further, as I received plenty of free books and made many of my favorite authors! Much of the day consisted of standing in long lines, but they were all worth it! I got numerous bookmarks and pins and other swag and even a few posters! Here’s a brief recap of the books I got and authors I met:
Free books and Arcs I received:
At the very first tent we went to-where I missed out on grabbing a copy of They Both Die at the End-I received an ARC of Sarah Mylnowski’s July release ‘I See London, I See France.’ Although it wasn’t my first pick, I found myself pleasantly surprised by the books synopsis. I haven’t read a book by Sarah since I was in middle school, but this one sounds promising! The main characters 19 years old, which immediately sparked my interest, since most YA books have characters within the 14-18 age range, so it was nice to find one with a character closer to my age. Plus, a book involving adventures and romance and traveling across Europe? Always right up my alley.
At the I Read YA booth, we received ARCS of ‘Dark Breaks the Dawn’ by Sarah B Larson, as well as finished copy’s of Elizabeth Eulberg’s ‘Just Another Girl’ and Wendy Spinale’s ‘Everland.’ I’d already brought my own copy of Everland to get signed, so I passed on that one, but I did wind up buying the sequel, ‘Umberland’, at the book sale booth. At the time, the book hadn’t even been officially released, so I was pretty ecstatic!
At the HMH Teen booth, Amanda and I each received multiple ARCS. I got one of my most anticipated-How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake-thanks to one of the wonderful women working the booth who made sure I got a copy! I will forever be grateful to her. ‘Your One and Only’ is an early 2018 sci-fi release, making it the latest release date ARC I received that day. And the Premise sounds very promising!
The most pleasant surprise though, was the ARC I received of a December release featuring an autistic love interest. I’m already half way through ‘The Love Letters of Abelard and Lily’ by Laura Creedle, and I’m thoroughly enjoying it! You don’t find a lot of disability representation in books, and you find even less with autistic representation. So I am beyond grateful to have received and advanced copy of this book.
I got three more ARCS from favorite authors-one of which was signed! I got to very briefly meet Kasie when she signed my book, but there was a long line of people behind us so they had to keep it moving along. We got cookies along with our partial ARCS of ‘There’s Someone Inside Your House’, and we got to spin a wheel that determined whether we “lived” or “died.” Amanda and I both “died” via books and book related objects falling on top of us. BUT we still managed to “survive” anyways since the only cookies left were the ones that had “I survived” written in frosting. Hah!
We received our last ARC of the day, ‘The Waking Land’ by Callie Bates, in between our 5 p.m panel and the 6 p.m finale. Every single one of these books intrigue me, and I can’t wait to them all!
Amanda and I at the 5 p.m panel “The Persisters”, where Alex Bracken, Victoria Aveyard and Danielle Paige talked about feminism, female role models, bad-ass female characters and sexism in media!
I don’t have any pictures of the 6 p.m finale, but let me tell you that it’s definitely not something you want to miss out on! Several of the authors were called on stage to participate in different games such as “never have I ever” or “taboo” and a few of them read some not-so-great short stories of theirs they’d written back before they had any true writing talent and experience. It was hilarious! Amanda and I were cracking up the entire time.
Authors I met/Books I got signed:
Wendy Spinale (Everland & Umberland)
Zoraida Cordova (Labyrinth Lost)
Lauren Oliver (Before I Fall)
Claudia Gray (Defy the Stars & Star Wars: Lost Stars)
Tamara Ireland Stone (Every Last Word & Time Between Us)
Adam Silvera (More Happy Than Not) and Adi Alsaid (Lets Get Lost)
Tricia Levenseller (Daughter of the Pirate King)
And that’s a wrap! I had a fabulous time and hope to make YallWest a yearly tradition!