A Recap of the Excellent YA Shot 2016

ya shot RECAP.jpg

This post is ridiculously late, but NEVER MIND. The weekend before last I was lucky enough to attend YA Shot, an all-day literary festival celebrating young adult books and authors in Uxbridge! I admit that it took me a little while to get there, but I made good progress into The Archived by Victoria Schwab. (I mean, OBVIOUSLY I had to read a book on my way to an event in which I listened to people talk about books all day… What could be better? :P)

I had missed my first train so I arrived about 15 minuted late which was annoying, but thankfully I was allowed to pop into the co-writing panel. ūüôā I hadn’t read books by any of the authors but it was really interesting to hear about their writing and there were some very amusing questions right at the end! (Like which celebrity do people mistake you for, among others.)

There were SOOO many things that I wanted to go to at the noon slot but I decided to head off to a workshop by @helloiammariam on blogging, publishing and feminism. (And there were also some other really cool bloggery/bookish people there. I was such a smol person.) We chatted about stuff like reasons for blogging, and how that’s evolved, and the blogging community, and on creating a space for yourself online — like, it’s okay to share different levels of things. Also, there was TURKISH DELIGHT.image

Although I had missed Alice Oseman’s event which I was disappointed about, I still wanted to get my book signed! So I brought along a copy of Radio Silence and a postcard of Frances and Aled from Alice’s Redbubble shop. (I’d got Solitaire signed at YALC haha.)

I sort of hung around and ate lunch after this until the Melinda Salisbury and Julia Gray event in Waterstones! Now, I’d actually never heard of Julia Gray before but there was a lot of talk about darkness and the nature of evil. And her book has NORSE GODS. HOW AWESOME. Plus lots of darkness… It sounded absolutely awesome and I’ve now firmly added it to my TBR. And you can too! It’s called The Otherlife.

Melinda Salisbury was also wonderful and basically there was lots of talk about evil, religion and their roles in both authors’ books. Melinda talked about how freeing it was for her to write such an evil character, which got some laughs but is also something I deeply relate to. (I mean, like, this is in smol Eve forum era. But I just created utterly AWFUL characters who manipulated all the fierce red-haired green-eyed girls, ha. Good times.)

After this I hurried off the the Terms of Endearment panel about navigating feminism and romance. (With Holly Bourne, Harriet Reuter Hapgood, Holly Smale and Rachel McIntyre.) This was one of the highlights of my day — they talked about examples of problematic vs healthy relationships and how we can write healthy relationships. Wise advice is imagine the person is Wormtail and then see if their actions are creepy. Because sometimes physical attractiveness makes us excuse problematic behaviour.image

My next panel was called Little Women and it was about fantasy and gender with Samantha Shannon, Alwyn Hamilton and Zoe Marriott! I adore Zoe Marriott’s books but I never see many people talking about them, which is very sad. Anyways, this was ALSO a fabulous panel! Yes to more complex female relationships, especially friendships and to awesome retellings where the girls can drive the story themselves. Yet more books added to my TBR, mwahaha. ūüėČ

Finally I attended the Resurgence of YA Sci-Fi panel with SF Said and Kat Ellis, chaired by Lauren James. I read Lauren’s book The Nest Together just the other week and it was SO GOOD GUYS. Time travel and humour and reincarnation and cute romance! It was just so enjoyable. I was excited for this panel because my WIP is technically sci-fi (that I’m supposed to be writing for NaNoWiMo, oops) and I think it definitely did inspire me. Sci-fi doesn’t have to be a ‘classic’ sci-fi book; it can blend genres. And sometimes real technology is even crazier than fiction…

I got my last books signed and then I hopped back off home on the Tube! Overall I had SUCH an amazing day and I would really recommend it to any book lovers who are able to go.

VE Schwab at Waterstone’s // in which i am in awe


I was lucky enough to be able to attend an event on VE Schwab’s tour for This Savage Song last Friday! As you guys might know, I am a MASSIVE fan of her books. So this was much excitement. I decided to do a recap of the talk, because I’ve had a lot of fun doing them before and I thought you might want to hear what was said!

Although I arrived pretty early (by my standards) there were already a few rows of people there. I stationed myself in the second and passed the time by having some excellent fandom conversations. *nods* Everyone fell very silent when the event was about to start.

So, VE Schwab was in conversation with the lovely Anna James, who’s also done a few other events I’d been to. ¬†We began with a brief summary of This Savage Song. Then VE discussed the inspiration for This Savage Song — the idea for it came from a rash of violence in the US — which she hoped she would talk about retrospectively once on tour for the book, but is still very relevant. “I was looking at all the negative energy we were throwing into the universe and thinking ‘how is there no aftermath?'” After a week life goes back to normal. This Savage Song explores the idea of an actual tangible aftermath. (In the form of monsters.)

This Savage Song is really interesting in that it explores redemption and forgiveness. (slight spoiler) August can only eat the souls of people who have made monsters. In taking a life they’re also in some ways doing good. There’s no peace for smol and sad Hufflepuff August. What I love about VE Schwab’s books are that there are always ‘fuzzy’ moral grey zones, and that’s no exception in This Savage Song!

Kate Harker — bless this cutthroat daughter of Victor Vale and Lila Bard — was VE’s reaction to a lot of YA protagonists. “I refuse to believe that if you gave a teenage girl the power to change her own life or to change the world, she would choose the world.” ME TOO. Despite her respect for the Katnisses, Kate is out for Kate. VE said she’s just very interested in self-interest as a personality trait.

According to VE you’ve made a character right when someone else can tell you what that person will do and it’s accurate. See the internet producing an ADSOM coffee shop AU where Kell is the pissy barista and Lila is banned for stealing and Holland drinks black coffee/judges everyone using a laptop. I AM 100% HERE FOR THIS EVERYONE. Characters who act like Rhy and Alucard are very difficult to write because you have to make it clear to the reader that they’re pretending.

After a bit of debate over the plotter/pantser words — because yep, pantser means something pretty different in the UK! but I still use it — VE said she has about 10 main plot points so she has a compromise between an outline and freedom. The only thing she has to start with is the ending in order to rewind the character arcs. (Let me just cry as I think about the end of ACOL. I am not prepared for that to happen.)

Next we moved onto talking a little more about A Darker Shade of Magic and AGOS. Conversation of course turned to the cliffhanger in AGOS (which we are all still in pain about). VE had previously avoided cliffhangers because she thinks they get abused — people just cut off the end of the first arc instead of starting a new one and cutting it off. So she managed to avoid this for all her other books, but according to her this was the gentlest version of the cliffhanger possible! I slightly dreaded to think of what the first draft contain. Apparently 90% of the cast died. *cries*

VE said a lot of people assume she’s a fast writer, but she’s actually a very slow but consistent one. She can only work in one world at a time when she becomes an insomniac who is completely absorbed in her books. “I have to rely on Facebook to tell me what’s happening in my own life.”

Because she designs the world first instead of the characters, she’s never sure about how long a series will be. But This Savage Song was always going to be a duology — the first book creates the roles the characters play in the second of a monster and a monster-hunter. “This Savage Song was about Kate and August figuring out their own identities, and Our Dark Duet is about them figuring out the world around them.”

Does VE write consciously for YA or for Adult genres? She said she doesn’t really care as long as readers are finding the books they want to find — she just writes for a version of herself. This Savage Song was written for 17 year-old-her because that’s what she would have wanted to read at 17. “I’m a firm believer in writing for yourself as primary reader.”

Writing gentle heros like Kell and August and more cutthroat girls was a conscious decision. VE has nothing against feminine girls, but she thinks we have enough of them — she writes what she wants to read. Badass female characters like Rey are a pretty recent phenomenon. She recalls reading a review that called Lila a trope: “She’s, like, a genderfluid aspiring pirate — you don’t get to call it a trope until I see too many of them.”

Something that I and many others really enjoy about VE Schwab’s books is that the romance doesn’t take centre stage. VE says that she enjoys romance but thinks often so many other interesting dynamics get chucked aside for it. YES PREACH. This is really similar to what I think myself! I’d love to see more different relationships explored in books.

The final question before opening up the floor was whether VE starts with small details and builds outwards or begins with a broad idea and works inwards when she worldbuilds. She said¬†that are fantasy writers who give you a door where you can explore everything in the world, and there are fantasy authors who give you a window where you see what’s relevant at that moment. VE told us that she is a window writer — she wants us to guess what’s in the room, but leaves room to change things. Language is her detail in worlds. (YAY LANGUAGES. I was super glad this got mentioned, because the languages in ADSOM and AGOS honestly make me so happy.)

Then we moved onto a couple of audience questions: As for new books, as 4 more due to be released in the UK: ACOJ, the sequel to Vicious (!!) and a book about a French girl who sells her soul to the devil for the ability to live forever, as well as a super secret 4th book. We talked a little about the This Savage Song movie rights getting optioned and then I asked about how VE constructs the languages in her books. I KNOW. I was so proud of myself, because normally I’m a small embarrassed bean. But anyway: VE comes at languages from how they sound in her head, but her editor focuses on linguistic origins. Other questions included the danger of writing rituals, a book in the distant book based on the anime Pyscho-Pass and the awesomenes of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows.

After this we all queued up to get books signed and asdfjkl I am still flailing very much from this. Overall I had an absolutely FABULOUS time and I’m actually feeling very motivated to get writing again! (Not looking at that WIP which I haven’t touched in months and I think I need to entirely rehaul. *coughs*)

are you a fan of ve schwab too? been to any book events lately? let me know!

Feminism in YA // hollys bourne & smale, cj daugherty, and anna james


I had been very excited about this event ever since I bought tickets.¬†Feminism and YA are¬†two of my favourite things! So, obviously¬†I arrived super early, despite the fact that I had CCF earlier… Yes. Can you tell I was enthusiastic?I had a lovely chat with the lady¬† sitting next to me about book signings and ALL l the books I TOTALLY NEED TO READ. When the authors came in I attempted to guess who was who, because I am professional and mature. ūüėČ

When they were introduced, turns out I was actually pretty accurate! I’d seen Holly Smale at panels before, and I think I spotted books¬†journalist Anna James cosplaying Eleanor from E&P at YALC? But don’t ever¬†quote me on that.¬†I guessed Holly Bourne from my memories of her author photo, which left CJ!¬†(Just by the way, in this post HS = Holly Smale, HB = Holly Bourne, CJ = CJ Daugherty even though it totally should have been CD, and AJ = Anna James).

First of all we started with stating the belief with stating that the authors thought feminism was the belief men and women should be equal in social, political, and all things. (I am very tired of people telling me they’re not a feminist because it’s only women’s rights. FEMINISM IS GENDER EQUALITY, thanks.) The first question Anna asked was “What makes a book feminist to you?”

CJ: For me, it’s putting girls in positions of normality and equality. The girls do things wrong sometimes and do things right sometimes, and the guys do things wrong sometimes and things right sometimes.

HS: I think it’s the same thing for me; it’s putting both girls and also boys and showing there’s no female and male in terms of how people think and act. It’s also about showing¬† that strength¬†can be physical but it doesn’t have to be, that it comes from many different places. We’re all breaking that feminist egg in different ways to make one big omelette!

HB: I wanted the link in my trilogy to be feminism; it’s¬†kind of¬†ABC of feminism for teenagers. But¬†a book that doesn’t explicitly write FEMINISM isn’t less feminism. A feminist book is just pushing back at the¬†gender construct bullshit pushed on us from birth. (A few cheers. Because YES THANK YOU FOR SAYING THIS.)

I really agreed with all the authors said! I mean, I spent a lot of the evening agreeing. But I thought it was very important to mention that a book doesn’t have to explicitly mention feminism or have a typically ‘strong badass female character’ to be feminist. It’s just a book with well-rounded characters of all genders!

“You’ve all alluded to this strong female heroine thing. Are we past that? Does it have any worth now?”

CJ: I don’t think so. I know I’m writing aspirationally, about characters who are brave enough to take chances and hoping it will inspire me to do the same.

HS: It’s not about showing girls who are flawless and strong. Being able to shoot a squirrel is a great talent to have; we’d all like that very much. But it’s about showing everything that’s part of a person; creating real and not flattened out women is the step towards feminism.

CJ: You can’t be brave unless you’re afraid of something. If you aren’t brave, you’re reckless.¬†As adults we¬†address things that frighten us every day of our lives, and then you have to do the scary thing. We’re introducing teens to that idea.

HS:¬† I had to deal with a lot of crap like ‘Oh, I’m not reading a fluffy book about models.’ Putting a character who is scared of the world of make-up is bravery; it’s something we as women have to tackle on a daily basis — how much of ‘being a woman’ do we sign up to in order to be feminist?

HB: With Katniss Everdeen, she’s too busy saving the entire world to worry about boyfriends, and with Evie I wanted it to be a feminist novel — but she also just really wanted a boyfriend because she thought it would mean she was normal. The boys in books I read about as a teen were not the boys dumping me on the countdown to midnight on New Year’s Eve, which is a story I always bring up! You can be a feminist and want to have a boyfriend. For Evie bravery was leaving the house; I wanted to take back that bravery is saving the entire world from a guy in a robe.

HS: I’d have been much more interested in that series if Katniss had been a bit shit at shooting things.

HB: Or she got her period when she was stuck up a tree and she just dripped blood. She never had her period!

HS: Bringing in romance is difficult.¬†It’s about not changing yourself for someone you love; it’s about finding someone who loves you for being you. (11:39)

AJ: I studied an adult novel where the man was the one entirely changes. Why is this still so unusual?

HS: How I Met Your Mother wouldn’t have worked if Ted was a woman. Everyone would have gone ‘What is it, the 1950s?’ We’re watching this because it’s a man’s search for love.

“Do you think writing YA is a different experience to adult fiction? Sometime’s it’s perceived to have more of a responsibility to its readers; is that valid, and how do you deal with that?”

CJ: I wasn’t going in with an audience in mind. It was just like: words on a page, brilliant! It was only once my readers started feeding back about feminism and saying that my MC Ally was always getting rescued. I made the series about her going from that girl to the girl who rescues herself.

HS: I’ve always been a die-hard feminist. When I was four I hit a boy with a stick for saying I wasn’t allowed to be an airplane pilot! The Borrowers was one of my favourite books, because Arrietty was just this kickass genderless girl. It seemed natural that I would write a feminist book.

HB: You have¬† responsibility to not corrupt children with swear words that they couldn’t possibly know, or talk about sex like there isn’t porn on the internet. You need to pander to that so people buy your book. But you also have a responsibility to be honest to teenagers, and that’s the one I always side with. Pretending the world isn’t there is very damaging.

HS:¬†It’s¬†just about¬†being true to your character and the book you’re writing. It’s about showing people our version as authors of honesty. I feel like I’m responsible for showing girls what they’re capable of and who they can be inspired by.

Personally I really dislike when books are ‘dumbed down’ for teenagers. Yes. I know not everyone wants to read swearing — and it’s totally cool if you don’t; books¬†are allowed to¬†have warnings.¬†But everyone at my school, like, swears the entire time. I hate books that pretend the world is all wonderful unicorns; I’d much rather read an honest book and characters. (I just really hate taboos in children’s & YA, guys.)

“Feminism is cool right now. How do you feel about the way we talk about feminism at the moment?”

HS: I would rather have people being feminists than saying they’re feminists.

HB: Actions not words is what the suffragette cause is about! We need to use both.

HS: People say we shouldn’t call it feminism because it causes people to move away, but I’m like, we shouldn’t have to change the word feminist just because people are scared of it.

HB: Two women a week die in this country because of domestic violence and people are worried about branding? All over the world half the human population are so much more buggered and you’re worried about a word not emasculating you? I don’t have time for that when people are dying.

“What place do you think men have in the conversation? Emma gets a lot of criticism for dumbing down the message with her #HeForShe campaign.”

HB:¬†I’m very pro-men — I’m pro-human. I do think when you’re in a position of privilege it’s important to listen to the oppressed group rather than talk. My anger isn’t coming from nowhere; listen to my anger, and try to understand rather than getting your feelings hurt. It’s tricky when men want to talk. But if someone wants to talk to me about intersectional feminism I think I should listen.

CJ: We don’t win by making men invisible in the debate; they’re 50% of the population. I’m so happy when men say they’re a feminist.

HS: Having one gender talk at another is the problem we’ve had for thousands of years. It’s about not making women objects to look at and men people to listen to.

“What’s next? How do we move the conversation on?”

HB: This is really obscure, but if you’ve ever seen that episode of Buffy where she creates the spell that unleashes all the slayers — that’s what I’m trying to do with the Spinster Club books. I wanted to release all these feminists and inspire young people to change things in a positive way.

HS: It’s about saying feminism isn’t necessarily about scary hairy women shouting at you. It’s about keeping the conversation going. But it can’t just stay in books; you have to bring it into your real life.

Now it went onto questions! To avoid confusion when authors were being addressed, the two Hollys asked to be called S and B which apparently is a thing from Gossip Girl. I’M SO SORRY I DON’T KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT GOSSPI GIRL. But there we go. I haven’t transcribed everything for this section; I just summarised the answers instead. ūüôā

“I’m a reception teacher and I’m already seeing sexism in four and five year olds. Would any of you be interesting in making a feminist picture book?”

Holly Bourne recommended the feminist picture book My Big Shouting Day, as well as suggesting the recommended reading lists of the diverse picture books charity Inclusive Minds. “That really scares me, what you just said!” CJ Daugherty said that maybe picture books were lagging behind, although there was a movement to reduce engendering in toys and books. They also talked about the new more diverse Barbie dolls — in the 60s feminists swapped the voice of GI Joe with the voice of Barbie!

“Do you think you can write outside your gender? Do you think a male author can write a woman the same way a woman can?”

All¬†the authors agreed that it was definitely possible, if portrayed responsibly and sensibly; not just for an element of representation. “How do you not emphasise the difference and close the gap? It’s a fallacy to say that our experiences are the same.” CJ talked about her co-writer on The Secret Fire, Carina Rozenfeld, who usually writes from a male POV, and said she thought Carina was successful — “She didn’t patronise them; she treated them as equals.” Hollys Bourne and Smale added that male writers can write female characters badly, for example in the movie About Time! Who was — well. Very manic pixie dream girl.

“I’m 16, and when girls say they’re feminists boys say things like ‘When are you going to stop shaving?’ How do we let girls know these things aren’t all actually true?”

Holly explains that her third book addresses cognitive dissonance — having two conflicting beliefs at the same time — and that it’s difficult to be a feminist in every single action you do; “There’s no perfect feminist.” Anna added that asking “Why?” is a good way to respond; then people will either have a thing that you can tell them is wrong or will realise it’s nothing. It’s difficult to combine maybe wanting to be attractive but also wanting to be a strong woman. The world and media is a myriad of problems we as feminists have to sort through. “Feminism is in your head; it’s about being able to do what you want to do and not what society tells you you should do,” said CJ.

“How did you come up with the premise Manifesto on How to Be Interesting [by Holly Bourne]?”

“I had a massive fight with my boyfriend, because I discovered he was popular at school,” Holly said. After taking a train to London in a fit of rage, Bree’s whole story “downloaded” to her head. Which both Holly and everyone else agreed would all be lovely to happen again. “Just get angry and go to London!”

“How do we keep feminism going after it fades as a trend?”

Holly Smale said the trend right now is for very overtly feminist books, but even if the trend morphs into something different women’s voices will continue to be heard in fiction. CJ talked about the new young generation of feminists, which was lovely to hear because at least for me, young people are passionate about feminism.

“We’ve talked a lot about male and female, but not much about nonconforming genders or even disabled characters. What’s your view on that?”

CJ started straight off by saying that this should be the next wave, but that publishing moved very slowly. People also want to get it right — “although that isn’t an excuse for not publishing it at all”. Holly Smale said that you have to tell the story that you personally have to write the story you want to tell, and you have to make sure you and publishers are listening and encouraging all kinds of stories. CJ finished by saying she hoped that more diversity would also be seen in writers as well as books.

After this we all got our books signed! My copies of Geek Girl had all been a YALC, and much to my disappointment/dawning realisation, ALL MY HOLLY BOURNE BOOKS ARE ON KINDLE. But I got her new Spinster series one, How Hard Can Love Be? signed. And promptly read it. ūüėČ It’s fabulous, for the record. Overall I had such a great evening and I came home so excited by feminism and books and EVERYTHING. So this post ended up being way longer and more detailed than I intended it to be. ūüėõ

what did you think about the authors’ responses? talked about feminism with anyone recently? have you been to any great book events? ūüôā