YALC Day 3

YALC is finished! And the last day of YALC 2015 was panel day: I attended four amazing panels!

So unlike the last posts, I won't give too much detail here, because it will be too text-y. If you want any inside scoop, I have lots of notes and can tell you whatever you want to know. But for now, here are the summaries of four amazing, and very different, panels.

1. Mental Health with Holly Bourne, Matt Whyman, Annabel Pitcher, and Brian Conaghan

This panel talked about the problems with writing a book that deals with mental health issues. Both Brian and Matt grew up in the 80s and talked about how there really weren't any books that dealt with anything mental health related - if there were, it usually was in horror books and involved psychos (often literally). That's why all the writers thought it was important to discuss those issues in their own books.

Ben has Tourette syndrom and wanted to write about his own Tourrete's through his character Dylan. Matt was exposed to lots of teens dealing with issues through his job as Agony Uncle and wanted to help them. (Disclaimer: Matt's first Agony Uncle letter was from a boy who feared he had lice in his pubic hair and sticked a piece of his hair to the letter!) 

Annabelle stressed the importance of having hope in the stories, though that doesn't mean the books need happy endings. Matt disagreed and said that life is not always hopeful, so neither should the books.

What all authors agreed upon is the fact that they don't write "mental health books". Holly said that everyone has mental health, just like physical health, and that no character or person should be defined by their depression, anxiety,... All authors were very aware of that and always tried to make their characters 3D instead of just a disorder, which also ties back into the hope for the reader.

2. Bring Sexy Back : This panel featured Louise O'Neill, Non Pratt, Lucy Iverson and Tom Ellen and was chaired by the wonderful James Dawson. 

This panel was completely different and perfect after the seriousness of talk one. I took a ton of notes, but honestly it was one of those things if you weren't there, a lot of it won't make sense (especially the fun facts), so stick with me.

The panel was asked if sex in YA literature is still a big deal and Non said it is, because sex is a big deal for teenagers. Lucy expanded by saying that everything is a big deal if you want to do it, but haven't done it yet - which is usually the case for teenagers and sex. Attached to that was the author's responsibility to combat the pornographic sexual images teenagers are exposed to and to show the more real side of sex. Lucy and Tom do this in an awkward funny way and draw on their own experiences, while Non writes for her 14 year old self who was horny and curious. 

And then there was Louise. If you know anything about Only Ever Yours, you'll know that there is no positive sex in it. Louise's new book Asking for it (which I CAN'T WAIT TO READ) deals with rape and rape culture. Louise was asked why her book-sex is always so unpleasant and she felt like teenage girls often see sex more as a performance than as something enjoyable and she wanted to represent that in her books.

And to counter that darkness (but so true), a little fun fact about every author:

- Lucy read a book as a teen in which there was a scene where a goldfish was pushed inside a woman's vagina.... And just like her, I can never look at goldfish the same way again.

- Tom would like to have sex with Fleur Delacour

- Louise hates the word moist

- Non wants to have sex with a character she wrote herself (more precisely, Stu from Remix)

- James was my cosplay winner of YALC - as you can see in the picture

3. Between fantasy and reality: This panel featured Sally Green, Melinda Salisbury, Amy Alward,  Frances Hardinge and Ben Aaronovitch and chaired by James Smythe

This panel talked a lot about writing fantasy and since I don't write fantasy (or barely read it, sorry!) I didn't take that many notes. But here's some stuff that might be useful for you, fantasy lovers!

The panel all emphasised that the main thing of fantasy books is character, though Amy warned budding authors that you shouldn't let the character overtake world building. Melinda avoids this by starting with world building in the most interesting way I've heard: she makes up a religion. Since religions play such a fundamental role in societies, a story usually evolves from the creation of a new religion. 

The best question I've heard today was asked at this panel: what were the authors most common editorial notes? 
Ben: When will you deliver?
Frances: Cut out phrase.
Amy: She didn't know what her most common editorial note was, which is probably because The Potion Diaries was immediately amazing!
Sally: This is great, but...
James (whose editor used to be Amy!): Stop editing!

I hope this encourages some of you fantasy writers that editorial notes happen to the best of us - even this amazing panel. 

4. The final panel was Troubled Teens with Jenny Valentine, Clare Furniss, Sarah Pinborough, Moïra Fowley-Doyle and Kevin Brooks 

This panel was immediately asked why teens are so drawn to dark subjects. The reason, according to Sarah, is that we live in a trigger warning society where kids aren't expected to deal with anything heads on. But because the world isn't safe, not even your own body, teens like to read about the more dangerous things. Everyone agreed, but Jenny said she doesn't think about what teens want to read - she writes what she wants to write. 

Kevin talked about his book, The Bunker Diaries, which he spend 10 years trying to publish. Publishers thought his ending was too dark and tried to make him change it, but Kevin refused and is now happy to finally have the book with his ending published. This let to the hope talk (just like the mental health panel!) and whether it should be included in the book. 

The panel believed there didn't have to be traditional hope in the way of happy ending. However, every story has some element of hope in it - whether it's at the beginning, middle or ending of the book. 

The authors then raved about J.D. Salinger (yaaay!) and the Stephen King books they read as teenagers. Then there was the question what they would describe their book as if they couldn't use the word 'dark'.
Clare: uplifting
Sarah: rectangular
Moira: dreamy
Jenny:  short/ heartfelt
Kevin: "Dark is good enough"

And that's my last, rambling YALC post! I want to thank everyone for reading these blog posts - I've had so much feedback and it makes me so so happy! I loved meeting everyone and had a fabulous time AND I'LL SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!