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YALC At Home 2020

Sunday, August 30, 2020

The last weekend in July should have been YALC, which is usually held as part of London Comic Con. I've been a couple of times, but wasn't planning to go in 2020 as it's really quite inaccesible to me. I can't walk very far, I get easily overstimulated, and accommodation in London is often really expensive. That's why I've preferred to go to Northern YA Lit Fest as it's so much better for me in many ways. 

But then of course Covid-19 happened, and YALC and the comic con got cancelled. YALC decided to have YALC At Home over the same weekend. There was a really helpful spreadsheet and the time was really packed - there was stuff to be doing for three whole days! Some stuff needed prior registration, and there was stuff happening on Twitter, Instagram, Zoom, and more. I signed up for a few panels on Saturday and Sunday. I mentioned that it was YALC to my friend Lucinda, who is a children's librarian and with whom I often swap books and recommendations. She's been to YALC a bunch of times, but thought she had missed the online one when working the previous weekend. She was pleased to find out she hadn't, so signed up for some of the same panels as me. 

On Saturday morning I got up bright and early to watch The Horror Panel with Melinda Salisbury and Katherine Foxfield, and chaired by P M Freestone. It was really interesting; I don't read much horror but I liked hearing about how each author built tension. Melinda's new book Hold Back the Tide was just 83p on Kindle so I bought it. 

Next I watched a panel on Runaway YA, books starring a runaway in one way or another. Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt, Patrice Lawrence, Amelia Mandeville, and Chloe Heuch were on this panel, and it was really lovely to hear all of them. I was cross-stitching while I was watching, and messaging Lucinda on WhatsApp, which were both nice. Lucinda and I both felt like we were together watching the panels, so it was a good way to hang out. I believe Lucinda was doing chores around the house and then crocheting. 

Watching panels even from home turns out to be as exhausting as watching them in person, so I had a little break after that and had some lunch and watched some other things. I clocked back into YALC at 2pm for the Romance panel. Now, there was a clash with the Supernatural panel, which I also wanted to see, but I'd seen on Twitter that the Walker Books panels were being recorded and would be available to watch later, so I watched the other one live instead. I also passed this information on to Lucinda, who joined me in the Romance one. 

The authors in that one were Simon James Green, Leah Johnson, Chloe Seager, and Katy Birchall. It was a really funny panel and although I wouldn't say I am a romance fan I liked the stories in a lot of these books and I agreed with points made about queering the tropes that we have seen a million times. 

The Romance panel with (top left clockwise) Simon James Green, Chloe Seager, Katy Birchall, and Leah Johnson)

At 4pm Lucinda persuaded me to watch a panel on spin offs, which she wanted to see because Sarah Rees-Brennan was on the panel and Lucinda likes her. I knew next to nothing about the spin offs, but I enjoyed the panel and listening to the authors talk about how they work alongside canon to write their books. I asked a question in this panel, which was really easy to do in the Zoom meetings, which was excellent. 

After that, I logged off for the day and watched a film with my partner instead.

On Sunday there wasn't anything I fancied, so it was 4pm before I started. But I settled down with my cross stitch, messaging Lucinda again, for Feminist YA with Lucy Cuthew, Holly Bourne, Kate Weston, Nikita Gill, and Anna James. There were some interesting books mentioned here, which I will have to check out. I didn't stay in this panel for the Q&A, which is something I would absolutely do in person, too. YALC can be really hard and I'm not good at sitting still for a long time at the best of times. In most of the panels, it's very easy to sneak out if you need to. 

Between 5pm and 6pm I watched a couple of video clips that had been put up, including Lisa Williamson reading part of her new novel First Day of My Life. It sounds good, I think I'll pre order it (and then forget about it, like I always do). 

At 6pm the last panel was with American authors! Clearly due to the time difference this was difficult to do, but it was fantastic to hear Neal Shusterman, Angie Thomas, Maggie Tokuda Hall, Patrick Ness, and Katherine Webber. They were all talking about their new books, all of which I want to buy immediately. It was a really fun and funny end to the panels. 

Lastly, at 7.30 Non Pratt held a quiz on YouTube. Lucinda and I made a team, and we did pretty okay! It was really fun. 

So! I had a really good weekend and I'm really glad that YALC made this happen. It was accessible for me as a disabled and autistic person when in person conferences aren't always accessible for me anymore. The technology was easy to use and worked well. The mixture of panels and panellists was great and a person with more brain bandwidth than me could probably have watched stuff ALL weekend and not got bored. It was nice to watch things with my friend so we could discuss what we'd seen together. 

If YALC can go ahead next year, I would really love it if they could do some kind of hybrid event where they could livestream panels and people like me could watch from home at the same time. The technology exists, and participants could still pay for tickets, only less than the in person ones, obviously. I really hope it's something that the organisers think about. It's the kind of thing that a post-Covid world needs to get on board with. Here's hoping!

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