Sydney Writers’ Festival 2018 :: All Day YA

And suddenly it was June!
I’m continuing tonight with my recaps of some of the bookish things I got up to in late April/early May (why is everything always all at once haha?!). My next event, on 5 May, was the Sydney Writers’ Festival All Day YA.

This was my second time at a SWF All Day YA event. My friend Madeleine and I went kind of on a whim last year – not really sure what to expect but thinking it would probably be pretty fun. We were absolutely blown away by how amazing the event was, and have really not stopped raving about it all year! (You can read a bit about it here). Having had so much fun last year expectations were pretty high this time around, and again we had a really great time.

The set-up for the day was pretty much the same as last year – 10 sessions (either conversations or panels) planned for the day across 5 time slots, so attending the entire day meant you could go to 5 sessions.

We saw the following 3 panels (featuring the writers listed) – click through to the program for more info on each:

From the Sidelines (about diversity and tokenism in YA)
Sarah Ayoub
Tamar Chnorhokian
Patrick Ness

Burn the Book: Real Girls in YA
Alicia Tuckerman
Tara Eglington
Jenna Guillaume
Rebecca Lim

Architects of New Worlds
Jay Kristoff
Claire G Coleman
Callie Black
Jessie Andrews

And we also went to Teen Con, hosted by Wil Kostakis, where publishers told us about some new and upcoming releases they are excited about, as well as there being a bunch of book giveaways, and free books for everyone on the door (I got Children of Blood and Bone, which I have had my eye on for AGES).

I don’t think I had a favourite session at this event – they were all so fantastic. The whole day is just so well done, so I thought I’d share five things about All Day YA that I think help make it such a brilliant (and perhaps pretty unique) event:

Going with friends
Ok, so this first point isn’t actually something that is in the control of the organisers, but I can’t not mention how much I love going to bookish things with my friends! I’m sure it makes these events infinitely more fun when I have a like-minded book nerd to share the excitement with. This year Madeleine and I we were joined by another friend, Claire – you can check out her wrap up of the day here, and her blog & reviews here.

Youth Curators
Now we are onto the bits that the lovely people at SWF are responsible for, and the one that I thought was most exciting – and probably groundbreaking – was the involvement of Youth Curators in programming and moderating/hosting the sessions. I can’t even describe how much it thrills me to see SWF involving actual young people in the planning of an event which is really for young people. I have seen some other festivals using ‘YA experts/advocates’ (or something) in their program planning, but tbh, while that’s better than nothing, I don’t think having (for example) a 30 year old woman speaking for the needs/preferences of a teen audience is really good enough. The approach taken by SWF in planning the All Day YA programming seemed to have really empowered young people to put together a program they wanted, supported by mentors. Also, each of the Youth Curators/moderators we saw in panels were so amazing, asking considered questions, and relating the discussions about books back to real life brilliantly.

Now that I’ve been banging on about how this is really an event aimed at ‘young people’ (does saying ‘young people’ make me really old? You know what I mean!), one of the great things about the event is that the prices of the sessions are appropriate for students. Each session cost $10 (compared to upwards of $20 for other events during the festival), and while $50 is still a considerable amount of money, I feel like it’s pretty good value for a whole day (plus, you could attend just one session if that was what you could afford.)

The venue
Again, I think the venue is something that really facilitates this event being easier to attend for teens especially. It is pretty easily accessible by public transport, or a parent could drop their teen off and know that they get to see a whole day’s worth of bookish goodness in one place (compared, for instance, to a one hour event where parents have to hang around, or several sessions on one day in different venues). I guess what I’m getting at (and what I’d like to see at other festivals, and more specifically here in Canberra) is that they way they sessions are spread across the day in one place for more affordable prices really makes this like a mini festival that is more accessible for the people who it should be targeted to – teens/students/young people.

The writers
Maybe it goes without saying, and maybe authors are always like this, or perhaps its to do with YA writers at an event full of YA peeps, but my experience with the writers at All Day YA have just been so brilliant both years. They are kind and supportive and patient and respectful (yes, these are all things we hope people would be, but it is still amazing to actually see them in person) and there seems to be no limit to the amount of time they are willing to share chatting to readers and giving advice to young writers. Patrick Ness literally stayed to sign books for over 2 hours straight (he began at the start or the lunch break, signed all through lunch and was still at it when we came out of the next session.) – and despite the enormous line of people waiting to meet him still chatted with every single person he met. We were actually booked into a fourth session, but opted to wait to have Jay Kristoff sign our books – he also signed and chatted for over an hour. And each and every author was so nice in the signing line. They really contribute to making the event an absolute delight, and (along with the fantastic attitudes of everyone attending) the vibe at these events both times has been wonderful and friendly.

So, that’s my rave review of the 2018 All Day YA. I honestly can’t wait to do it again! (And I have my fingers crossed for some great YA events at the Canberra Writer’s Festival!)
The program is still up on the SWF website, and I’d definitely encourage everyone to pop over and give these authors and their books some love!

xo Bron

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