One of the biggest signs of the success of young adult novels is the rapid growth of festivals centered around YA. YALL Fest is the perfect example. Founded by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures) with Blue Bicycle Books and other local businesses in Charleston in 2011, the festival began as a tiny event with less than 30 authors.
Now the event will have 50 YA authors descending on the city.
It all started with Jonathan Sanchez, the owner of Blue Bicycle Books. Charleston’s yearly Capital Bookfest severely lacked representation in the YA category. When he mentioned this to Garcia and Stohl, it didn’t take long for them to decide what to do – and YALLFest was born.
Sanchez, Garcia, and Stohl weren’t the only ones who understood the need for this festival.
“I think even now, despite the fact that it sells so well, YA is still kind of seen as not ‘real’ books, and especially not for people who aren’t teenagers. Like me. Despite that most YA readers are adults, I think a lot of people hide it away. YALLFest celebrates the books without narrowing its readers to a certain expectation,” said Magnet 4 Books blogger Alli, who has attended YALLFest every year since 2011 with no plans to stop.
Natalie Standiford, author of The Boy on the Bridge and two-time YALL Fest participant, agreed with Alli.
“It’s important to celebrate YA because the books generate so much passion and love it can’t be contained–it needs to be shared. Celebrating YA is a way of celebrating humanity,” said Standiford.
This year’s YALLFest was organized by Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods). The line up of 46 authors includes New York Times bestsellers Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl), David Levithan (Two Boys Kissing), Carrie Ryan (The Forest of Hands and Teeth), Ellen Hopkins (Crank), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me). Other authors, like Christina Lauren, are not officially part of the lineup but will be attending and interacting with readers.
And the keynote speakers? Veronica Roth, author of the recently concluded Divergent trilogy, and Rae Carson, author of Fire and Thorns series. The tickets to the keynote sold out quickly, leaving dozens of people crossing their fingers that a friend had an extra ticket.
The only other paid event is the Author Smackdown, which Standiford said she’s ready for – though perhaps not for the same reason everyone else is excited.
“This year, for the first time, the all-YA-author band Tiger Beat is opening the Author Smackdown on Saturday night! Everyone knows that Libba Bray is a brilliant writer, but she’s also a show-stopping singer, backed by the incredible Dan Ehrenhaft on guitar, Barnabas Miller on drums and swoon-worthy vocals, and me on bass. There will be surprises,” said Standiford excitedly.
While tickets are gone for the key note and the Author Smackdown, entrance to the festival is free and unlimited for any who can get to Blue Bicycle Books and the surrounding area.
YALLFest will be this Saturday, November 9th. For more information, visit the YALLFest website.