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YALLFEST Recap by Michelle Biwer

I had the pleasure of attending YALLFest a few weeks ago in Charleston, South Carolina. YALLFest is the largest Young Adult literature festival in the US, featuring over 70 Young Adult authors and numerous publishers.

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I had a blast at this conference for a few reasons:

  1. ALL YALLFest events are out in the city of Charleston, not cooped up in a convention center.
  2. YALLFest is open to the public, so in addition to networking with teen librarians I met a lot of teens and their parents and talked to them about their favorite authors. Even though I’m a teen librarian, I don’t usually get to spend much time just chatting to teens from all over different parts of the country about books so that was a valuable perk!
  3. YALLFest is mostly free! There were a couple keynote events that required a small fee but other than that, really truly free! This definitely added to the fun and diversity of the event-a bunch of folks just stumbled across author signings and talks with their kids while walking downtown and just joined in the action.

On Day 1 I attended “YALLCrawl,” a Friday afternoon book signing extravaganza as well as a special event featuring Marissa Meyer and other authors hosted by the “Fierce Reads” imprint.

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Day 2 was jam packed with educational panels and author meetups. First thing in the morning I waited in line to meet Maggie Stiefvater, and during an author breakfast event was given a chocolate doughnut by none other than fabulous YA author and editor David Levithan. I attended a variety of panels throughout the day–some focused on genre literature, how to love/criticize problematic work, and creating worlds. What I valued most about the conference lineup was that there were a lot of diverse authors invited, and they weren’t pigeonholed into a “diversity panel.” Instead, every panel lineup I saw was diverse and thoughtful about the importance of representation in YA literature. And of course because YALLFest is truly great and speaks to my soul, the day ended with the only YA author rock band in the world performing a Hamilton cover.

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Panelists: Veronica Roth, Leigh Bardugo, Sabaa Tahir, Renée Ahdieh, Stephanie Garber, and Victoria Aveyard

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YALLFest really was a great conference but like any large event there were a few issues that affected my experience. Some miscommunications about events were kindly resolved by staff. I just hope it gets expanded from 1 ½ to 2 full days! There was so much to see and very long lines not just for author signings, but even just to get to an ARC at a publisher’s booth. This was compounded by the vast and somewhat ingenious number of teens with parents sitting in lines for them so they could attend other things.

I very much hope to attend again in the future-and if you aren’t on the east coast check out YALLFest’s sister festival, YALLWest.

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