6th – 8th August 2021 was a big weekend for readers and writers of young adult literature. YALC (the UK’s Young Adult Literature Convention) launched in 2014 by Malorie Blackman. The conference was her major project as Waterstones Children’s Laureate (2013-2015), and is still going today.
The event brings publishers, authors, and readers of YA together for events and workshops. Although the pandemic meant that we couldn’t gather in person this year, #athomeYALC brought the YA community together online for a weekend of bookish fun.
Kicking off the event, Manchester Met’s own Alex Wheatle revealed the cover for his next novel, Kemosha of the Caribbean. Kemosha is a historical YA following a young Jamaican girl who secures her freedom from enslavement while sailing with the legendary Captain Morgan. Akilah Watts, the illustrator behind the cover, says in the reveal video: “It was just more authentic. It just seems true to what the Caribbean is in the time.”
Kemosha of the Caribbean is due for release in February 2022. Other cover reveals came from Aneesa Marufu’s The Balloon Thief, Diana Anyakwo’s My Life as a Chameleon, and The Burning Swift by Joseph Elliott amongst others.
Panels and workshops
Panel discussions between authors took place across the weekend, with industry titans and debut novelists alike chatting about the issues in young adult literature. Alice Oseman, Nicola Yoon, Tanya Byrne and Tasha Suri spoke with chair Simon James Green on all things love and romance in YA. The chat ranged from LGBTQIA+ representation to important literary discussion of the ‘only one bed’ trope.
Fans of fantasy and sci-fi were able to tune into A Wizard is Never Late; a panel with Cassandra Clare, Maureen Johnson and Ciannon Smart debating all things magic. And We’re Not in Kansas Anymore; featured C. L. Clark, Darren Shan, Garth Nix, and Hafsah Faizal exploring magical worlds.
Budding writers of YA were also able to attend workshops on everything from writing humour with Debbie Rigaud, to writing mighty girls with Intisar Khanan, to writing flawed characters with Luke Palmer, as well as plenty more. These sessions were a fantastic way to hear from top authors and how they craft their stories, and left many feeling incredibly inspired to get writing.
There was a real spirit of togetherness for the event. Though it was a shame not to gather with likeminded people, being able to hear from international panellists such as Angie Thomas, Veronica Roth, and Becky Albertalli was one of the bonuses of the show being held online.
Guests who attended the 2019 event missed seeing Jason Momoa walking around, but were grateful for being able to avoid the infamous toilet queues. The biggest advantage, though, is that all the panels and workshops from the event are still available to watch online.
To check out the videos and see what you’ve missed from #athomeYALC, search the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram, or go to YALC’s Youtube channel.