Saturday, 24 November 2012

Report: YA Lit Symposium & YALLFest

I’ve been back in Australia for a week now and if I don’t write this post I don’t think it will ever exist. A month ago I left Melbourne for a mini-whirlwind of a US YA adventure. Four cities, one conference and one festival…oh and eleven flights (two of which were 14 hours long).

**Warning: there will be MANY photos, specifically of food as this is the one thing people referenced the most before and after I went on my trip.  You asked for it, you are getting it.

In the interest of keeping things simple I am going to break things into categories. This flies in the face of something I said at the YA Lit Symposium and someone kindly tweeted:

Seriously, is this what it is like authors? Having people quote you…I have no recollection of saying something that concise. But I’ll claim it.

Oh yeah, breaking it down into easily digestible pieces.


(For those of you who kept correcting me…you were wrong. It is St Louuu-iS. Stop using Judy Garland as your truth gauge).

Favourite person. 

No doubt.

Miss Capillya aka That Cover Girl.
The hour we met - I'd been in route for 29 hours, she looked amazing.
Courtesy: That Cover Girl
In fact, in the days since I’ve been back I’ve been back I’ve been asked repeatedly what my favourite aspect of the whole trip was. It was her. No question. We’ve known each other online for over four years and she lived up to (and surpassed every expectation). If you met Capillya, you are a better off person because of it. Proof of how awesome she was - she found both my clumsiness and predilection to sigh as endearing qualities. Yeah. She’s amazing. She also blogged about our time together with her awesome photography skills. The lady has game…just being around her and getting some tips made me a better photographer. 

The Presentation 

I was first up at the YALSA YA Lit Symposium with my co-presenter Cathy Andronik. And I believe we went rather well. The YALSA crowd were unbelievably welcome, responding with unbridled enthusiasm at the Australian YA authors who were unpublished in the UA that I chose to highlight. Don’t believe me…here’s some tweet action.

Who did I mention?

  • Kirsty Eagar (Raw Blue, Night Beach)
  • Gabrielle Williams (Beatle Meets Destiny, The Reluctant Hallelujah)
  • Leanne Hall (This is Shyness, Queen of the Night)
  • Vikki Wakefield (All I Ever Wanted, Friday Brown - which will be published in the US by Simon and Schuster in the US fall) 
  • Fiona Wood (Six Impossible Things, Wildlife in 2013)
I also mentioned:
  • Tom Taylor and James Brouwer 
  • Kelly Gardiner 
  • Myke Bartlett 

And then in other presentations I couldn’t keep my mouth shut and proceeded to champion:

  • Lili Wilkinson, 
  • Gilliam Rubenstein, and 
  • a range of non-Australian authors. 
You can see my powerpoint and the handouts from the other presentations at this link kindly provided by YALSA.

I would not have been able to present at the YA Lit Symposium without the support of my work, the State Library of Victoria and the grant support by Copyright Agency Limited. Three weeks away was the longest time I’ve ever been away from CYL so I would love to mention my lovely colleagues Jordi, Nicole and my manager Anna for making it feel like a holiday.

Also a big shout out to all the lovely people I met at the Symposium who were enormously welcoming, kind and freaking fabulous - Angie from Fat Girl Reading, Sarah from Green Bean Teen Queen, Kelly from Stacked, Sarah from YA Librarian Tales, Liz from School Library Journal: Tea Cozy, Jessica, Jenna and the tens of people that stopped me to rave about the presentation and the authors they’d speedily purchased or ordered. It was a great opportunity to pitch Australian YA to an international audience and the response was breathtaking.

Now how about author moments… 

There was Torrey Maldonaldo (Secret Saturdays) aka he of the cheesy grin. Also, a lovely guy who approached the Book Bltz event in a way that many a librarian loved.

Antony John (Five Flavors of Dumb, Thou Shall Not Road Trip) who managed to be extremely tall, extremely British and extremely endearing all at the same time. His wife is also incredible.

I also had lunch with Greg Neri (I came home and promptly ordered Yummy and Ghetto Cowboy) along with Antony and Capillya. Lovely guy and I am genuinely excited to get into his work. Seeing these guys in action on the Guys Talkin’ Guys panel really opened my eyes to Urban YA which I haven’t been that familiar with outside of Paul Griffin. This will be remedied immediately.

David Levithan - I wasn't sure he'd remember me.  I got a hug.  David Levithan gives the best kind of hugs.  He could possibly be the nicest human being on the face of the earth.

Top three meals 

Soul Food at Sweetie Pie’s. 

For those Aussies unfamiliar - fried chicken, cornbread, beans, yams, corn and peach cobbler. I think my stomach nearly ruptured but I was in a blissful state.

Scramble at Rooster. 

Imagine breakfast potatoes covered in egg scramble, Spanish onion, goat’s cheese and tomato jam. It’s heaven. 


It was good but having watched five seasons of FNL I know I could do way better. This was a half serve of brisket, sausage, ribs and something else with coleslaw, onion fries and cornbread.

I’ll be posting on the Symposium in greater detail after I present on it this week so stay tuned for more professional talk.


This was a fun stop.

I had three full days to do as much as humanly possible that resulted in a hurried pace that nearly killed many opportunities and me left behind. And yet, I achieved quite a bit and finished the list of “US food musts”.


Not a pretty side of US history but one day I went outside NO city limits of a tour of a Creole plantation (Laura) and an American plantation (Oak Alley).

The first was dominated by a tour guide with a penchant for a high tuck and an overly emotional delivery that took her from devoted into crazy…but she was memorable.

The second saw my group being guided through the property by a lady wearing a huge hooped dress and a weird affected accent. When she occasionally dropped character she seemed much more fun.
Oak Alley was used in Interview with a Vampire…and not Forrest Gump as many have guessed.

Swamp Tour 

While I loved walking around the French Quarter, I yearned for a country adventure so what better than seeing swamp life from a boat. The captain was a man called Bishop (first name) who liked to yell ‘hee haw’ when we took off fast. He was the cliché but man did he know his stuff.

I also visited the National WW2 Museum, Civil War Museum and Mardi Gras World to see the work on the floats for 2013.

The foods I was instructed I ‘must’ eat: 

Beignets - French doughnuts (they are super heavy)

Po’boy - French bread with slow roasted beef and dressing. Delicious and necessary to have five napkins on standby) 

Gumbo - this is the oyster and shrimp variety, which was really good.


In which I am beginning to feel all the flights and time zone changes but who cares…it’s YALLFest!

I really didn’t get to see much of Charleston though the food was universally good…the Charleston Eggs breakfast (with crab cakes) was lovely.

I also had a lovely dinner out with new friends where I ate everything Southern and liked it all.

But onto YALLFest. It was really odd being at a festival and not having to do anything but attend. My job in Melbourne involved organizing events similar to this (both bigger and smaller). It was nice to sit back and take it all in.

I went to the following sessions: 

Keynote: Literary Friendships with Cassandra Clare and Holly Black - who bounced spectacularly well off one another as one might expect of besties. I’ve seen Clare in action at Reading Matters so Black was the unknown quality. She’s kinda brilliant.
David Levithan, David Macinnis Gill, Eliot Schrefer, Brendan Reichs and Kwame Alexander
Boyband - a panel centering on male authors writing from a female perspective, moderated by 2012 Printz winner John Corey Whaley. They all bounced off one another really well and it was great to hear from a range of authors I am unfamiliar with.

Publish or Perish (industry panel) - which was awesome to see Sarah Burnes and David Levithan in action. Both are awesome at their jobs and very warm, lovely people.
Kami Garcia, Ellen Hopkins, Kiera Cass, Simone Elkeles, Stephanie Perkins, Cate Tiernan & Gayle Forman.

Good Girlz and Bad Boyz - romance basically and the panel had some of my big faves; Stephanie Perkins and Gayle Forman. It was awesome to hear the saucy Simone Elkeles at work and Ellen Hopkins on the nature of the bad boy and what makes it work as opposed to being a cut out. I am not familiar with Kiera Cass or Cate Tiernan’s work but they were all great speakers with Beautiful Creature’s author Kami Garcia doing a fantastic (best of the day) job at moderating.
Writing the Real - a contemporary panel with another of my faves, Siobhan Vivian. Just when I thought I couldn’t love that lady enough I find out she’s got a Jersey accent. I was in heaven. The panel was disappointing at the moderator was unprepared which made it difficult for the authors to be punchy. (I moderate a lot. It’s hard. But never enter that situation without doing the work - it’s unfair to the authors). I was super impressed by Williams and Griffith.

YA Smackdown - I still have no understanding of what this event was outside of author genre teams competing in theatre sports. I do believe that Team Contemporary and Team Mystery performed best and yet puzzlingly scored least. Sarah Rees Brennan’s mcing was a trifle cloying. I could see many fans enjoying it but tonally it often strayed into areas it should not. Again, mcing is hard but like moderation I feel it should be about everyone else, not you.

Favourite author moments 

She’s awesome in person. She’s awesome on panels. She’s awesome when her signing lines circle the block. Not only is Gayle a great writer, she’s a really wonderful human being. Really wonderful seeing her again.

Stephanie Perkins 
She’s of the red hair, sweet demeanor and awesome boys called Etienne. I had no relationship with her prior to attending the event. She saw my name on the signing sticky for her book and made the Persnickety Snark connection (this happened A LOT…considering I often forget the blog existed this was mind blowing). I got a hug on the signing line. Treasured. She’s also a lovely lady. Not every one was able to get signed in her allotted time so she stood outside the tent for another hour and signed off her own bat. How’s that for class? (Also, Jared is lovely.)

Siobhan Vivian 
I will confess to unashamedly tweet @-ing Vivian a lot hoping I'd hammer my way into her consciousness. I think what she’s achieved with ‘Not That Kind of Girl’ and ‘The List’ is incredibly ballsy (and yes, I told her this to her face) and I think she’s one of best writers writing nuanced female connections and relationships in YA at this point in time. She’s also needs to be available in Australia (publishers! I won’t stop saying this). The good thing is that having met her in person, she is now following me on twitter and I can resume being normal. Somewhat normal. Vivian has a Jersey accent, which was my favourite accent of the entire trip. She’s also super lovely, encouraged me to visit the Getty in LA (THANK YOU) and is now a “friend”.

Fave food

Chocolate pecan pie - Margie Stahl (Beautiful Creatures), co-organiser of YALLFest, is a pie advocate hence the pie sales. I’d never had US pie before and I do believe I nearly fell off my chair when I first tasted this. It’s life alteringly good.

Gourmet grilled cheese. 
Look at it. Seriously.

Cake pop
It turns out that some people still do remember this blog from when I used to review and (you know) blog regularly.  One of the lovely people I met because of this (and in spite of not having 3G) was Trinity and her amazing baking sensation that was to die for.


I wasn’t that excited about LA to be honest. I booked a deluxe Warner Brothers tour and then had no idea what else to do. The lack of transport was an issue, as was the truly hipsterish dwelling I had chosen to book. Add tiredness into the mix and I didn’t really do a huge amount in the four days I was in town.

The WB tour was a six hour whirling dervish of awesome. I saw foley artists at work as they subbed in footsteps for Rachel Taylor in the now cancelled Park Avenue 666. I saw the backlots, stepped onto the sound stages of Two and a Half Men and The Mentalist, held an Oscar and ate lunch next to the head of WB (then pwned the tour guide by knowing more).

 I also got to spend some time with my friend Alexa Young, author of the middle grade Frenemies series. She kindly took me to the place I really wanted to see - Griffith Observatory -, which is gorgeous, as you would image and the Getty - which is wow.  We also had some spectacular Mexican (plus margaritas) in Silverlake.  I then got to hang out with her and her lovely family. How lucky am I?

The next day I did Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, toured Hollywood and Beverly Hills on a bus (unfortunately not a star spotting tour) and went to a movie for respite. This turned out to be awesome as I saw Pitch Perfect. LOVED. I will be seeing this again next week when it is released here.

My last day was the Paramount tour. I booked it after enjoying the WB tour so much and while it is more expensive, the tour group is small (4) and you get a longer experience. This time I got to walk on the sound stages for Happy Endings. I was beside myself. Pterodactyl sounds kept escaping my mouth. We ate lunch on the Dr Phil set. While eating lunch I stated I was disappointed I hadn’t seen any celebrities but that I had expected that would be the case.

 One hour later….I had seen Glee cast members Jenna Ushkowitz (Tina), Vanessa Lengies (Sugar) and Darren Criss (Blaine). Then Casey Wilson (Penny, Happy Endings) walked by. By now I am beside myself and yet not taking photos or saying anything because that would be impolite (Seriously this is what was going through my head). Then Jim Rash starts walking by with an ice tea - and I yell out “Jim Rash, you are awesome. Totally awesome.” Which is beyond embarrassing but then again he’s Dean Pelton (Community) and he won an Oscar for screenwriting (The Descendants) this year so it’s true. Lastly we had Dave from Happy Endings walk by and the tour guide says that I must be gifted because they never see anyone (and I’d been the one identifying them all to the group). I think it’s just a symptom of me remembering details that have no bearing on real life but I’ll take the credit. 

And then I got on a plane for the long flight home.

And I cannot believe some of you read all this. Bravo/a.

This was what was waiting for me upon my return...

Oh wait.

The big disappointment for me was not being able to see Sarah Dessen (I'll sneak fellow Chapel Hill author Melissa Walker in there too).  Dessen is primarily responsible for my re-entry into YA world via the adaptation film starring Mandy Moore (I can't quit her).  It's because of Dessen, her books and then my subsequent blogging that I am in the position I am now.  It KILLED me that I was a state away from her and could not meet.  I would really like the opportunity to say thank you in person and perhaps hug her extremely hard.  Perhaps another conference (keep me in mind Americans)....

In a completely narcissist move I am going to post a tweet that shows she feels the same (somewhat) way.

And on that note, and three hours of typing, thinking and photo insertion I am going to retire.

Thank you!

Unless otherwise stated all photos are taken by myself.


Danielle said...

I'm not sure how to comment on this POST OF AWESOMENESS!!! ... so, *ahem*, allow me a prolonged SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEAL of glee :)

Anonymous said...

Uh, wow, sorry you didn't enjoy the judging: glad you had a good time otherwise!

Adele said...

I didn't take the judging all the seriously as it is a fun event - I was just mindful of audience as some of them were pre-teen. Side effect from doing so much of this programming back in Australia.

Anonymous said...

Sure: I didn't swear (even when melted cream was poured all over me, which I admit almost tempted me to do so ;)) or say anything I wouldn't write. I never do In Public.

Which is not to say--I AM TERRIFIC, as ever your mileage may vary on what you enjoy/find cloying. I was just reading through going 'yeah, Charleston is awes... Oh. Well, best say I'm sorry for being the fly in the ointment.' I agree everyone else was very cool.

Adele said...

I had a great time across the board - I wish I had been able to see you on a panel.

And I will continue to enjoy reading your work :)

Anonymous said...

Now if only I'd been able to hang out with you the ENTIRE time you were in the US...

Jess the Reader said...

Oh Adele, this trip sounds so great, I'm so glad you had such a good time after all your planning! Great report, I'll need to look up some of these authors, I only know about a half a dozen of them! I have a couple of the Cassandra Clare books on my Christmas list :-)