This year was my fourth time visiting the Young Adult Literature Convention (or, YALC), the bookish section of London Film & Comicon (or, LFCC). However, this year was very different from my previous three visits – the biggest difference was that I didn’t go on my own this year, but I also spent a lot of my time in LFCC this year, as the YALC line-up didn’t excite me as much as usual.
This was initially going to be one big post, but I ranted too much, so I’ve separated it in two – today I’m going to talk about YALC & tomorrow I’m going to talk about LFCC (my Sum-Up Sunday post for July will be next week instead).
I wasn’t going to bother writing a post about my experience of YALC & LFCC this year, for a small selection of reasons, but after reading Jenn’s post on the accessibility at YALC, which can be found here, the anti-ableism monster inside me got all riled up so here we are. This post is going to be mainly positive, because I did enjoy myself, but I can’t not write about the lack of accessibility.
It seems natural for me to start with YALC, as YALC is generally the reason that I go up to London on the last weekend of July every year. The past three times I’ve gone to YALC I’ve bounced off the walls with excitement for weeks leading up to the event, but this year that didn’t seem to be the case… this is probably partially due to how bad my depression has been these last few months, but I also wasn’t as excited by the author line-up this year; it’s very likely that this may be because my reading tastes aren’t following the YA charts at the moment, but despite this I still wanted to go as it’s pretty much the only big event I go to every year.
YALC, as always, was an incredible environment to be in; being surrounded by like-minded people, who enjoy & appreciate books as much as I do is always an honour & generally makes me feel safe & accepted. But, this year I got to share this experience with my boyfriend; Sam isn’t a reader (I know, what am I doing with him, right? [Joke Card]) so he was definitely out of his depth on the YALC floor, but being able to show him something that means so much to me was a really nice feeling. It was also nice to be there with someone, as I usually go on my own, although I will admit it did feel a little strange having someone following me around saying “another one?!” every time I bought a new book *eye roll*.
This year was much like my first year at YALC, in that I only took a couple of books to be signed*, the books were All The Bad Apples by Moira Fowley-Doyle (which I was sent to review) & City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab – I also took The Women Who Lived by Christel Dee & Simon Guerrier but that was for LFCC purposes. I thankfully got both of these books signed, however I “queued” for them in very different ways.
*I found out about YALC in 2016 when one of my favourite authors of the time had a stop at YALC for her UK tour, although she no longer stands as one of my favs, I’ll always be grateful that her tour introduced me to the YALC world.
Those of you who follow my blog and/or Twitter will know that I’m disabled, & at YALC you’re able to apply for wrist bands that allow you to have extra assistance at the event, which includes being able to “queue jump”. In Jenn’s post that I mentioned earlier, she spoke about the awkwardness of queue jumping, & how some people see us as lucky because we are allowed to do so – like Jenn, I don’t feel like it’s a privilege in any way, because the anxiety & embarrassment the whole thing involves is horrible.
Victoria Schwab is obviously a huge author, & so her queue was super long & I knew that the only way I would get City of Ghosts signed was if I asked to skip the queue; thankfully the staff member I spoke to was lovely, & the person I jumped ahead of was incredibly kind to me & genuinely didn’t seem to mind (if by some weird fate, you’re reading this, then thank you so much for your kindness). With Moira’s line, I got there toward the end of her signing & so I decided to join the queue of about 15 people because I wanted to believe that I’d be okay if I did so – my boyfriend was confused about why I was voluntarily causing myself pain, but I didn’t want to queue jump if I could help it. Meeting Moira was worth the pain, & she was really lovely… unlike with Victoria, I actually hung around to chat to Moira, because I felt like I had earned that honour by actually queuing – even I know that’s dumb, but it’s just how it feels. I had also bought Spellbook of the Lost & Found by Moira at the Waterstones shop set up in YALC, so I actually got two books signed by her. (I also squealed when I saw Malorie Blackman & really wish there was a episode-to-book version of the Rosa Parks episode of Doctor Who that I could’ve got signed)
I bought a whole load of books at YALC & also picked up a load of free stuff – including a reading challenge poster which I am loving!! I actually bought more this year than I did last year, & last year I was there for two days – no wonder my boyfriend was shocked at how many books I accumulated – & I’m really happy with all of my purchases. As I spent most of my time in LFCC this year I can’t actually comment on a lot of the accessibility topics that I normally would, but something I can comment on is the lack of seating.
In 2017 myself & a group of other bloggers contacted the YALC team & made a massive fuss over the fact that there was nowhere to sit… their argument was that there was plenty of free floor space but for me, & for Jenn (as well as many others) that’s just not good enough. So, YALC listened & last year things were so much better – there was a quiet zone with individual booths for people with sensory impairments to get away from all the noise, & there was a lot more seating… however, the inflatable stuff was a terrible idea, & we were sure to raise that issue. Additionally, in 2017 there were a lot of publishers who were running competitions that involved running to stalls to win ARCs – I shouldn’t have to explain why that’s ableist – so that was something that we also made a big fuss about & last year they had fairer ways of winning books & everything was wonderful.
Despite all of this, this year YALC went back in time & it was 2017 all over again – there was basically zero seating & people were running for ARCs or having to do other physical things in order to win prizes. Y’all don’t get brownie points for being accessible for one year & then reverting back to being a hell hole for the disabled – it doesn’t work like that. YALC seriously need to up their game next year & could really do with hiring a disabled member of staff to overlook the whole event to ensure it’s made as accessible as possible (I’m more than happy to take on that job Showmasters, just sayin’.). Aside from snide jokes, it really is unacceptable that YALC didn’t take accessibility into consideration this year, & it breaks my heart because I love the event so much. Things desperately need to change, because people like myself don’t deserve to be in pain just for doing something they enjoy – life is hard enough for us as it is.
This post has ended on a negative note, but I did enjoy YALC this year, even if I wasn’t overjoyed by the line-up; I can’t believe that next year will be my 5th year, & I’m hoping that with all the fuss the disabled community are making, next year will be the most accessible of all the times I’ve been. Tomorrow I’m going to be talking about LFCC, & I’ll definitely be touching upon the accessibility issues then as well, but I did have a good weekend, & if you went, I hope you did too.