YA Shot was held on Saturday 14th April in Uxbridge, London and featured a plethora of wonderful authors sharing their experience and knowledge around the theme of human rights. The event is organised by Alexia Casale and her dedicated team of volunteers, led by the amazing Luna from Luna’s Little Library.
If you just want the quick summary, I met some amazing authors and bloggers and had an incredible day!
This is a mammoth post so thank you in advance for reading!
I completely geeked out about Bright Ruin with Vic James (see my review of Gilded Cage here) which really made my day (week, month and year…)
This is the first time I have attended YA Shot, or any event like this and I was both excited and nervous to go. I knew that I would probably recognise people from Twitter so made a pledge to myself that I would actually go and say hello this time, instead of just lurking.
My day started early as it took me more than 2 hours to get into London, but it was a fantastic experience which I hope to repeat next year.
There was a packed programme of events:
I managed to attend most of what I had planned but it was a long day so I ended up spending most of Sunday sleeping to recover!
11am Power, Privilege & Inequality Panel
This was the panel I was most excited to attend because I am a massive fan of the Gilded Cage series by Vic James – it is a vision of what the U.K. could have been like if Voldemort had won in Harry Potter, where those with magic are powerful and privileged while those without magic have to give up ten years of their lives to slave.
The panel was introduced by talking about the Human Rights Act which protects everyone, regardless of age, gender, etc. Many dystopian books imagine what it would be like when these human rights are taken away or not protected.
Vic James talked about how a TV series about the super rich and how their money gives them power to do anything gave her some of the initial inspiration for her story. Samantha Shannon then spoke about how characters need to want power for a purpose, otherwise they risk becoming caricatures. In some cases characters could both want the same thing but become villains in each other’s story.
The most interesting part of the discussion for me was when it moved on to talking about how difficult it can be to see structural inequality when we have experienced it for so long and it has become normalised. Vic James then talked about the Slave Days in her book, saying that people comment that it would never be allowed. Yet, we consider it normal for people to be tied down by debt such as student loans and mortgages.
1pm Stories for Change
Had to attend this one because both Melinda Salisbury and Alwyn Hamilton are so interesting to listen to and they make a great team! They talked about a wide range of topics including pain of writing a duology when us human beings are so used to trilogies, stories with a beginning, middle and end. They also touched on some of their writing habits and both admitted to always having a ‘secret’ writing project on the side for fun, especially when under pressure to write the book they’re supposed to be writing. As always when listening to these two, I wasn’t entirely sure what would come up in the course of conversation but we were treated to Melinda’s impression of a swallow, Alwyn giving us a few hints about her new book (ssh!), how they would prefer to be poisoned (tea rather than cinnamon buns), finding their namesakes in fiction (apparantly a nurse on a spaceship called Melinda Salisbury…), the difficulties of naming their fictional characters and the reaction of family members to their books e.g. Alwyn’s aunt taking it personally that the aunt in rebel of the Sands is so awful.
Overall, a fascinating and fun conversation to join in with!
2pm Travel, Adventures & Writing Workshop
This was a great insight into Jess Butterworth‘s inspiration and writing process. I have read and adored both of her books so was very excited to join this workshop…although also very nervous as they were only a few of us there! She started by talking about her upbringing and showed us her travel journal, filled with photographs and notes which she used to bring Running on the Roof of the World to life. I found out that the original title was Meet me at the Vulture Tree but the publisher thought it sounded like something for an older audience.
Her second book, When the Mountains Roared, started from two photos – her grandmother with a joey and her dad with a leopard cub. She talked about going back to visit her dad where he still lives in India and how it brought back a lot of memories which made their way into the book e.g. the scorpions!
We then did a writing exercise where we imagined a scene and thought about everything in that scene that we could hear, smell etc. I have done something similar with my class before but it was interesting to be in the place of a student instead! Jess said that she started her first book with a similar exercise, but the only bit that has survived is the line ‘Two words can get you thrown into prison in Tibet’
Her third book will be set in the swamps of Louisiana where the setting is part of the conflict in the book.
Jess was absolutely lovely and engaging! My class were really excited when I showed them the signed copy of the book – we are reading it as a class reader at the moment and I get serious groans when we reach the end of a chapter and have to put it down for a while. Jess’s agent also kindly gave me some bookmarks which I have been using as reading rewards in my class and they are extremely popular!
3pm Writing Across Cultures Workshop
I was particularly interested in this workshop despite not having read any of Jason Rohan‘s books yet (I have since borrowed one from the library so will remedy this soon!) All of the workshop participants also had varied backgrounds with published writers (Jacky Silvester), aspiring writers, teachers and students all joining in. Jason talked about how his family background and five years living in Japan inspired his books, particularly about how the structure of language can dictate patterns of behaviour.
One of his tips for writing about culture without info-dumping was to talk about the universalities of human experience such as language, religion, cuisine and music. Through these you can reveal a lot about your characters including their social status, etc. He also talked about the intersectionality of different identities and how identity is not just one location. As an author, you can embed culture in your story by talking about universal touchstones such as births, deaths and weddings. You can also include cultural information without being heavy-handed by including small details about routines for eating, sleeping, etc.
Another fascinating workshop!
4pm Embedding Human Rights in your fiction Workshop
This workshop was with the lovely Jo Cotterill, author of A Storm of Strawberries and A Library of Lemons, among others. Unfortunately, I think many people were wiped out by this stage of the day so I was the only one there… I had a lovely chat with Jo instead!
5pm Family, Faith and Identity Panel
The was the final panel of the day and, despite being exhausted, I enjoyed it a lot. As a result of this panel I have now picked up copies of books by Sita Brahmachari, Antonia Honeywell and Simon James Green as all the authors spoke so eloquently and passionately! Sita said that she though YA authors differed from adult authors only in that they have never lost their sense of righteous indignation at the injustices of the world. The host, Katherine Webber, talked about how powerful it can be for someone to see themselves in a book. This is something that I feel strongly about too, so I am always championing greater diversity in books. The authors talked about how YA can deal with some pretty bleak issues, yet manages to retain a sense of hope.
Finally, Alexia Casale took the stage to thank everyone for an amazing day. I will definitely be back next year and I would recommend it to everyone with even a passing interest in books!
YA Blogger Awards 2018
By this stage I was really flagging, but still had the Blogger Awards to come – a way to recognize some of the brilliant bloggers out there. It was great to finally meet a lot of these people in person after chatting over Twitter.
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Wish I could have stayed for longer and joined the after-after party, but had to catch the last train home.
What an absolutely amazing day – if you haven’t attended before, I would definitely make it a priority next year!
What did you think?
Did any of the panels or workshops sound like your kind of thing?
Are you planning to attend YA Shot in the future?
Thanks for reading right to the end of this long post!