After deciding in August that I wanted to attend YallFest for the first time, my mom and I started planning a girls’ trip to Charleston, SC for the second weekend in November! I packed my books that I wanted to get signed and begrudgingly took some money out of savings, knowing very well that all of it would get spent on books and bookish merch (yes, this came true). I figured I’d better write a blog post about my trip 1) so I can look back on it and remember and 2) so you all who weren’t able to go can see what to do and what not to do. I hope you all enjoy! :)
The books I took to get signed were:
-THE CRUEL PRINCE and THE WICKED KING by Holly Black
-ISLE OF BLOOD AND STONE and SONG OF THE ABYSS by Makiia Lucier
-WHEN THE STARS LEAD TO YOU (ARC) by Ronni Davis
-THE GILDED WOLVES by Roshani Chockshi
The sad part was that I ended up forgetting CARAVAL and WICKED SAINTS, and didn’t realized I left them at home until I was halfway to Charleston.
We left very early last Friday morning and arrived in Charleston thirty minutes before my first activity, which was one of the things I was most looking forward to!
I got an invitation to come to the NOVL Ice Cream Meet-Up, featuring bloggers/readers/bookstagrammers from all over, PLUS three debut authors! Ronni Davis, Derek Milman, and Nandini Bajpai. We got a fancy name tag and got to pick out some ice cream. NOVL also gave us a tote bag with some fun swag!
It was so nice to finally meet Ronni Davis, because we had talked on Instagram for a while, and she is literally one of the best people. She’s super friendly, bubbly, and gives the best hugs! I was honored to get to talk to her and get some photos as well.
I finally got to meet the absolutely wonderful publicists on the NOVL team, Natalie and Valerie! It was amazing to finally get to meet them in person. I also met some new bookish friends and we bonded over our favorite books and bookstagram!
THEN, ONE OF THE BIGGEST SUPRISES EVER HAPPENED. LIKE, HOLY HECK.
We’re listening to the debut authors talk, when all of a sudden, THE QUEEN OF FAERIE HERSELF, HOLLY BLACK walks in!!! At this point, I’m freaking out and possibly screaming internally. The publicists had organized this great surprise for us where Holly would stop by to READ. TO. US. FROM. QUEEN. OF. NOTHING. She literally read to us from her own book, then we had a private Q&A with her! (Also, she may or may not have accidentally spoiled QoN for us...ummmm...I’m still not sure what happened there and I have many feels).
Next, we got finished copies of the debut authors’ books, and Holly’s THE DARKEST PART OF THE FOREST, then they did a personal signing for us and we got to get pictures with them!! Then, we got a great group photo of everyone there, which you may or may not have seen on NOVL’s socials. All in all, I was so honored to be invited to NOVL’s Meet-And-Greet, and that was one of the best parts of my whole trip!
Next, we quickly drove over to the John L. Dart library, where we had tickets for Fierce Reads’ Fierce Friday! There, I got to meet Roshani Chockshi (squeeee) and get THE GILDED WOLVES signed, I won a copy of a new ARC called DIAMOND CITY, and we made buttons and got some snacks. I also said “hi” to Jodi Lynn Zrock, who I had met on Twitter a while back. It was very nice to meet her as well.
After Fierce Friday, my mom and I chilled for the rest of the day to rest up for Saturday!
The day started at 6:30, where we got up and dressed, packing our backpacks and grabbing our tote bags (which, we would inevitably get many more of). I had written out a schedule before-hand, but once we got there, we realized that would fly out the window. I had my phone set to get Twitter notifications from all the publishers that would be at YallFest, so a lot of what we did involved dashing from one place to the next to see if we could grab an ARC or two.
First, after stopping by Blue Bicycle Books to buy BLOOD HEIR for later, we went and lined up in the 33 degree weather for Holly Black’s keynote. Her keynote didn’t start until 10am, but we got there around 8:45 to ensure we got wristbands for her signing. This part of the day was my least favorite, because as I’m writing this article, I have a cold...I believe that’s from standing out in the wind for an hour and a half. Also, there was a lot of confusion regarding the wristbands, which you had to have to attend Holly’s signing. I saw where they would be given out to the first 200 people, hence us arriving so early. Others in line saw where they would be given out to anyone who had a ticket to the event. It ended up that some people just stood in line for the wristbands, then ran over to get in the front of the line for Holly’s signing, without even listening to her keynote or paying for tickets. That really frustrated me, because I missed about 10 ARC drops in the time that I was standing in line, because I had seen where only the first 200 people in line would get tickets.
After the keynote was over, my mom went to stand in Holly’s signing line for me while I ran across the street to the NOVL booth just in time for an ARC drop. By this time in the day, I hadn’t gotten any books because of that wristband fiasco. So, I was very happy when I got to the end of the line for the ARC drop and was able to get one! Next, I ran four blocks back to the signing line for Holly and was told that we would have to wait ANOTHER two hours before we even got in the tent to get our books signed. So, that was a little frustrating, simply because if the people who had actually paid for their wristbands had gotten them, there wouldn’t be all the extra people in line for her signing. Now I know for next YallFest, though! It was my first one, so I think that everything was a big learning experience, even if some things weren’t the most fun to experience at the time.
What ended up happening was that my mom would take turns standing in line while I ran and tried to get ARCs (alas, to no avail) and then I stood while she ran back to our hotel and checked out since it was almost 12pm by this point. While she was in line for me, I took BLOOD HEIR over to be signed by Amelie Wen Zhao, and I FINALLY got to meet her! She is the nicest person, and even remembered me from bookstagram. Her hugs were so nice.
It ended up being around 1:15pm when we finally got in to get the books signed, and it was nice because I got to get another photo with Holly! By this point, Mom and I have realized that we may not have planned well, because we literally missed the majority of the ARC drops and many of the giveaway items were already gone. We’ll know better for the next time, and may attend the Smackdown instead of a keynote right during the middle of the day. After the signing, Mom and I split up again and she went to the Underlined booth to wait for an ARC, while I booked it over to the HMH Teen booth to get in line for the GREYTHORNE ARC drop. I had been waiting for this one all day, but they had already capped the line at 22 people. So that was a bummer, because I missed the GODDESS IN THE MACHINE ARC drop while I was in line for Penguin’s backpack giveaway right before that. Like I said, there are a lot of things I needed to learn about YallFest for my first time there, so this first one was definitely a learning experience. Next time, I plan to prioritize ARC drops over panels.
After that, I lined up at 2pm for Fierce Read’s trivia and giveaway at the Charleston Musueam Courtyard, and got some cool swag from that! I didn’t win any trivia, but it was still fun. I stayed there at 3pm for the HMH Teen author meetup, and that’s where I got to meet Makiia Lucier and Megan Shepherd. Both authors were super nice, and they remembered me as well!! I got to talk to Megan and her husband about books, and I thanked her for choosing me as one of the winners of her short story competition. And Makiia was kind enough to sign my books and get a picture! Also, I realized i hadn’t actually eaten breakfast or lunch (and wasn’t really that hungry, surprisingly), so Mom and I found a food truck that had delicious gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches, because I didn’t want to keel over from lack of food.
At this point, Mom came back from the 3pm NOVL ARC drop, so that was fun! I checked my phone around 3:30 and saw where NOVL had tweeted that the first person to get to their booth and tell them the names of the three staff members who weren’t there (Bill, Morgan, and Savannah) would get an exclusive NOVL blanket! Y’all, I literally think I ran about 5 blocks in three minutes. I was heading in the opposite direction back to the hotel and turned around and ran back, and ended up winning the blanket!
Next, we kind of chilled and were walking around all the booths, when one of them (I honestly can’t remember) pulled out a box and started handing out ARCs to the few people that were left! That was a cool experience. Then, Penguin gave me a bottle of sparkling grape juice because they had some left! That was super funny. Next, we hung around the Fierce Reads booth until about 4:30 because they were doing a giveaway you had to be present to win - alas, I didn’t win, but it was still fun! I ended up buying an Epic Reads tee that says “I HAVE NO SHELF CONTROL” and a hat from NOVL that says “BOOKED ALL WEEK.” We made it back to the hotel around 5pm, got our car, and were back at our house by 10pm that night.
All in all, my first YallFest was absolutely a great experience! I haven’t had that much fun in a long time, and being surrounded by books and bookish people who totally get your geeky references was the best. I learned what to do and what not to do for next year’s YallFest, and I ended up with about 10 ARCs, six finished copies, and a whole lot of swag! I met some great authors, publicists, and made new friends in the lines, and that was a great part of the whole experience. YES, I will defiately go back next year (and focus more on ARC drops). One of the best parts was that my mom - who doesn’t read YA - actually found a few a books she wanted to read and really got into the whole thing!
Stay tuned over the next week...I got a couple duplicate ARCs that I’d love to give away to people who weren’t able to attend YallFest! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed the article! If you would like to see pictures of everything, tune in to my Instagram over the next few days...I post them there since it’s more secure. Thanks again! :)