Let's Yallwest

I'm still buzzing from the latte I had this morning, as well as the writing high. This week officially saw me going full steam ahead on Food of Magicians. Which means I woke up early, ate, and staggered to the local coffee shop to write before going to work. 

This past weekend marked the end of what we might call the Los Angeles Book Binge. Two weeks ago was the L.A. Times Festival of Books, and this weekend was Yallwest, which focuses on YA. This year I went to both days of the festival, and I learned a few things, which I will attempt to share below. 

Okay, when I say "both days of the festival," I lied a little bit. If you include Friday night's Fierce Reads event, then it's three days. The Fierce Reads event was held in the Santa Monica library, and since I work on the west side of Los Angeles, I just came over to the library after work. The highlight for most of the people waiting in line was to get their books signed by authors like Leigh Bardugo and Rainbow Rowell. Because I was silly and arrived twenty minutes before the events started, I was sent to the back of the Leigh Bardugo line which curled out of the courtyard and onto the sidewalk. 

In that awkward, quietly waiting and chatting about books sort of way, I bonded with the people in line. We also liked the same book, which helped. But because no line can be normal if I wait in it, I was approached by a guy walking down the sidewalk. He stopped to tie his shoes right next to me--they did not need to be tied--and then he stood up and told me point blank that I did not look like I had any black friends. 

This was, I take it, a really terrible pick-up line. 

And you know what, it's not the first time I've heard it. Literally. Is there a website out there telling young men that this is a good way to open a conversation with a girl? Hey there, you look like a total racist. Do you want to be my girlfriend and fix that?

And because this was not the first time a guy has cornered me to play this line--last time was on a bus--I looked him straight in the eye and told him no. No, actually, not true. And because I think these guys must be getting advice from a website that tells them not to take a hint, he launched into a sermon about how we were paying attention to our phones and we were all the same, and when one of the Fierce Reads staff intervened, he focused on the staff guy, and then he was escorted away by security. 

I must have an invisible tattoo on my forehead. 

That wackiness aside, it was a great time, and I got to meet Leigh Bardugo. In person. She had dyed her hair silver, and I tried to play it cool, but I don't think I could. I crushed. And she signed my book. I think I was the third Emily of the night--at least according to the post-it lady--but I was probably the strangest Emily. 

So, basically, I gave Bardugo wine from Moldova because I saw it in my Little Armenian grocery store, and I thought the label screamed Grisha trilogy. (In case you're curious, it was a Kagor dessert wine. Have you ever heard of Kagor? Me neither. But great label art!) So, I bought it. And I kept it until the day came when I would warn her about the quality and hand it off. Which I did that Friday night. That made the line worth it. 


On Saturday, I went to many panels.

If you get bored reading about panels, now is the time to leave this post. I went to so many panels that I can't give an in depth review of each. So, overview time!  


So, the morning started off with a keynote by Rainbow Rowell and Holly Black. We arrived only twenty minutes before the keynote, I think, with enough time to pick up our tickets and attach ourselves to the end of a super long line. I saw Samantha Chaffin and may have given her a love punch. She was responsible and had actually arrived in advance. 

The keynote was delayed, then delayed again, and finally started. Rowell was sweet. She talked about her upbringing, living in poverty, and then deciding to become a journalist and how her childhood and early adulthood influenced her books like Attachments and Eleanor and Park

We slipped out early, because we were worried about making the day's second keynote on Sana Amanat, a key player at Marvel and the editor of Ms. Marvel. Amanat discussed diversity in comics and how Marvel is working hard to have more titles with women and minorities, as well as the growing pains from the older fanbase. 

Fast forward to noon, and I'm racing off to attend a panel on Creative Jobs. 

That's some pro panorama skills right there. Left to right: Ellen Oh (We Need Diverse Books), Annie Lohr (Riot Games), Richard Abate (3 Arts), Erin Stein (Macmillian), Patrick Dolan (Interactive Advertising Bureau), Kristin Nelson (Nelson), Seth Fishman (Gernert), Sarah Burnes (Gernert), and Sana Amanat. 

This was actually my favorite panel of the festival because I like learning how people end up where they do. And with everyone talking about their backgrounds twisting and turning before they ended up in games, publishing, or comics, it made me feel a lot better about my own winding, weed-ridden path. I even worked up the courage to approach two of the agents on the panel and introduce myself. I was nervous. They were nice, and I'm glad I didn't blurt out anything that'd get me on a blacklist. 

I reconvened with my friends for the Women of Marvel panel. 

Which also means that I accidentally saw three panels in a row with Sana Amanat. Samantha Chaffin actually took notes, and you'd definitely be better off reading her coverage. I just sat there and thought, 'Oh, this is fun!' 

Yallwest is also dark and full of signings. 

Since I had met Leigh Bardugo and gotten my book signed on Friday, my only other priority for the weekend was to have my copies of The Wrath and the Dawn and The Rose and the Dagger signed by Renee Ahdieh. You may remember her as the author who broke my heart during 2014 Pitch Wars. But she is also the hot, up-and-coming author of these Middle Eastern fantasy novels! 

I waited in line, and totally fumbled introducing myself. She remembered me from Pitch Wars, which was awesome. It just took a few failed introductions... Lesson learned, if someone only knows you from the Internet, go by your Internet name. And then when I told her that I had revised The Princess and Fox Demon and had queried, but was moving onto another project, we were interrupted by a Yallwest handler who told her to hurry up with the signing line. And then I awkwardly walked away from the table. 

Oh well. I tried. I really did! 

Haha, she probably never wants to see me again. 

Which brings us to Sunday! 

I crashed with my friend Shirley and we came back to Yallwest on Sunday. Now, one thing to note about Sunday is that it is much quieter than Saturday. Some of the East Coast authors have to go, and the panels have more of a local crowd. But one great thing about Sunday is getting free stuff. 

Of course, we went to many panels, but I feel like I spent much of the day exploring the booths. Unlike on Saturday, there are not monstrously long lines if you want to win an ARC (advanced reader copy). I answered a Twitter trivia question and actually won a t-shirt because I was the first person to reach the booth. I won three ARCs, including a special edition of The Young Elites

I also received an absurd number of free tote bags, including an adorable one with an elephant reading that celebrated Children's Book Week. (It's this week, in case you ever wondered.) 

We saw a number of great panels on comics and animation

And a panel on the creative life and writing advice...

And because the lines were manageable on Sunday, I got to enjoy a hotdog and boba from the food trucks. 

It was quite a weekend, and no doubt I've forgotten a lot, but like any good thing, it'll slowly come back to me.