This past weekend I was ridiculously happy and fortunate to be able to attend California’s first ever YALLWEST, the West Coast companion event to the extremely popular YALLFest event every year in South Carolina. I found out about this festival a few months ago and IMMEDIATELY knew I was going, no matter what. I booked a hotel, asked Max if he’d like to come along (henceforth known on my blog as “The Bookish Boyfriend,” as he’s certainly earned the title after assisting me all weekend!) and my plan was set, come hell or high water.
After so many months of anticipation, the weekend finally arrived and the day before was spent packing a giant tub full of my books (to be signed, of course), loading up my car, and hitting the road well before sunrise. The 8+ hour drive wasn’t too bad (with a Chipotle stop for lunch, of course) and we checked into our hotel Friday afternoon not realizing that our room was a suite! It was the first sign that the weekend was going to be amazing. We went to dinner at one of my favorite SoCal based restaurant chains, Lemonade, and then headed to bed for what was going to be another early morning on Saturday, as I was determined to be one of the first ones in line.
Saturday morning we awoke at 5:30am and left our hotel by 6:30am to make the 45 minute drive to Santa Monica. We arrived right around 7:30am to get in line for the festival opening at 9am. We were 7th in line and I had my cart full of books ready to be signed, which my lovely boyfriend faithfully lugged around all day.
When the doors opened around 9:20 it was MADNESS, with everyone flooding in (so much for the line) and rushing the tables, trying to figure out where to check in depending on what tickets they had purchased. After getting our tickets, food truck vouchers, and tote bags, we headed up the hill to immediately get in line for Marissa Meyer’s signing, which was my NUMBER ONE priority of the day! (I took a picture with her but the lighting was awful, so I’ll spare you). Marissa Meyer was literally the sweetest person, she asked about my blog, encouraged me to take goodies from her booth, and complimented the Boyfriend on his helpfulness as he got my copy of Fairest signed. I only regret not sharing with her my love of Sailor Moon!
After Marissa Meyer (who was amazing and started her signing early!) we jumped in line to have books signed by Stephanie Perkins and Ransom Riggs. I didn’t think I could meet anyone that day as nice as Marissa until I met Stephanie! She is such a doll and we chatted about our mutual love of San Francisco, and what a wonderful city it is (and how I wished more YA novels were published there!) I also got to meet up with Jackie from She Reads A Lot briefly and it was such a nice feeling to meet someone who I’d gotten to know through the book blogging community! We sadly didn’t get a chance to take a picture together, but I hope to see more of her at future events!
After our top priority morning signings the Boyfriend and I headed over to check out the Epic Reads tent, which was staffed by the NICEST people (seriously, everyone at YALLWEST was so enthusiastic and welcoming!) They were running timed giveaways and random giveaways where you could spin a giant wheel-of-fortune type contraption and whichever book it landed on you got to take home! (Most of them were arcs, many of them highly anticipated!) The ladies at the booth were so sweet and made the time to chat with the guests and even made a point to greet me by name when I saw them later on throughout the festival. I was so impressed by Epic Reads and HarperCollins by not only their professionalism but their enthusiasm toward their readers and how sincere it came across that they value their audience. I won a few books through the randomized giveaway and was lucky enough to receive an arc of Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway and meet her as well! (And she remembered me from Twitter! The YA community is such a neat place.) I also floated away in happiness when one of the lovely Epic Reads representatives handed me an arc copy of The Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot. The series has meant so much to me on my YA journey that receiving the latest installment early meant so much to me.
We saw two great panel discussions (although I do wish we had seen more!) Strong Female Characters…Ugh! was SO good and it was great to see how authors have dealt with stigmas of their work being too “girly” and trying to get YA to transcend gender boundaries, as well as talk about why female protagonists have to be “warrior” figures in order to be strong. We also had tickets to the afternoon Teanote with Veronica Roth and Marie Lu, a nice break from the sun and it was fun hearing them discuss their work (and teasers about their works in progress!) Veronica Roth was so funny and personable, I loved hearing her talk every chance I could. I haven’t read anything by Marie Lu yet but I really want to after hearing them speak!
After lunch at the Border Grill Food Truck (it was really, really delicious, and their cilantro garlic fries are my new favorite thing!) we headed to our afternoon signings, including Susan Ee!
Around 5pm we decided to head out before the Cupcake Hour and Smackdown because we were so, so tired. We headed to dinner and then Downtown Disney for a little shopping (and I may or may not have added to my Disney Alex and Ani collection…) Then we stopped at one of my favorite SoCal dessert places, Bruxie, for custard milkshakes.
Sunday we arrived at the Santa Monica Library around 9:30am for the 11am festival opening and coffee hour. We were 5th in line, and the venue was beautiful and modern, although a lot smaller (a lot less people showed up on Day 2). During the Fierce Reads coffee hour (where guests can mingle with authors) I was able to pick up a few goodies and meet with Marissa Meyer again, and even got a picture with her!
I then proceeded to get in a 2.5 hour line for Veronica Roth, which was an emotional roller coaster as they weren’t sure she’d be signing again today after her 300+ line the day before, and the information kept changing. Luckily I was able to get 2 books signed by her, and while I waited the Boyfriend was able to get a signed arc of Extraordinary Means by Robin Schnieder (they bonded over their despair at missing the Game of Thrones season premiere that night). The next thing I know I see him across the way being interviewed by the Santa Monica news! They interviewed him about his experience at the festival and said it would be included in a 30 minute special they were doing…if anyone happens to see it, let me know, as we’re not local to the area and would love to find a way to watch it!
I also got books signed by Abigail Haas and Alyson Noel, waiting in much more reasonable lines as the day wore on and people started to head out. Abigail Haas was so much fun to talk to, and she wrote such great personalizations in my book! I also got to meet some other bloggers while standing in line on Sunday and had the opportunity to exchange business cards!
We headed out around 4pm on Sunday, tired and sun-weary from a lot of excitement and little sleep. We celebrated the end of our weekend with Sprinkles Ice Cream and headed out Monday morning.
Shout Out to The Bookish Boyfriend
I have to take a moment to give a HUGE thanks to Max for not only agreeing to go to YALLWEST with me, and not only being a good sport about it, but being completely and totally into it, from hauling around my books to chatting with other bloggers he went and telling them about my blog. He was so, so supportive and a great planner as well, having been to many cons and festivals while this was my first. I let him take over all of the planning and direction on Sunday and not only did we have a great time but an efficient time, meeting the authors we wanted, scoring the books we wanted, and still having a great time. Seriously, if you can find someone to go with you to YALLWEST or any other convention/book festival, take them up on the offer! It makes everything more fun, from the travel to the waiting in line, and it’s so helpful to have someone looking out for you and -let’s be honest- to help carry all those books!
Other Things Going On At YALLWEST
Even though I didn’t get to participate in everything going on since there was so much to do, here’s a quick look at some of the other happenings:
- AM Keynote every morning after coffee hour hosted by famous authors
- Panels every hour with author signings after
- Photo Booths and Makeover Booths
- Barnes & Nobles tent with a huge selection of YA titles for purchase
- Sprinkles Cupcake hour hosted by authors w/ arcs and book signings
- Trivia and Scrabble Games
- Official YALLWEST merchandise for purchase
In order to celebrate going to the first ever YALLWEST, I’m hosting a giveaway of an arc of Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway and a few other YALLWEST goodies. (US only, must be 18 or older, winner must respond by email within 48 hours or a new winner will be selected).
*It was mere coincidence, but I ended up with 2 copies of Emmy & Oliver. I received a signed copy after meeting Robin Benway herself, and then when the Boyfriend spun the Epic Reads Giveaway wheel the next day he ended up with a copy as well. Since we share books and don’t need two copies, I’m giving away our second arc to one lucky reader!
I hope you enjoyed reading my YALLWEST recap! Look out for my YALLWEST tips and tricks posts coming next week!