On Twitter a couple of week ago, I saw that someone retweeted about how Y’All Fest would take place online this year due to the current state of the United States and coronavirus. Even though it is disappointing that the authors and attendees couldn’t gather in person, moving the event online opened up the panels to people who otherwise couldn’t go, including myself.
Whenever I see people go to book festivals or events with their favorite authors, I wish that I could be there too. However, my location doesn’t really have many book festivals or author visits in general. Especially with Y’All West, which is held in Santa Monica, this is an event that I probably wouldn’t be able to attend in-person.
After reading more about the event, I decided to register for the panels that most interested me online. For each panel, attendees were given a Zoom link, which I placed onto my Google calendar. While I was slightly worried about the Zoom calls, it ended up presented as a webinar with only the panelists abled to be viewed and their comments only to be seen in the chat feature. Each panel was about 40 minutes long. Here’s what I watched on the first day:
Opening Ceremony and Teanote AM Keynote
The event kicked off with an opening Keynote from the creators of Y’All West, Melissa de la Cruz (Descendents, Alex and Eliza) and Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, Royce Rolls). I’ve read books by both of these authors, but I didn’t know that they created this event that I had heard about through book blogging. This opening keynote, moderated by Raphael Simon focused on the authors shared love of Little Women, which inspired them to write their own take on the story, the upcoming Jo & Laurie.
Melissa and Margaret upped the fun by donning bonnets and adding quaint houses onto the backgrounds of the screen. It made me smile when they said they felt like sisters while writing Jo & Laurie, like getting frustrated when the other would write over a line that they really enjoyed. I also enjoyed how they talked about their book and how different adaptations from the original story can make you feel different ways about the characters and their choices.
Modern Magic Worldbuilding
The next panel that I watched was the Modern Magic Worldbuilding panel. This panel was moderated by Ransom Riggs and was made up of Melissa Albert (The Hazelwood), Francesca Flores (Diamond City), Adalyn Grace (All the Stars and Teeth), Frances Hardinge (Deeplight), Margaret Rogerson (An Enchantment of Ravens), and Tracy Wolff (Crave).
The Modern Magic Worldbuilding focused a lot on how fantasy authors take inspiration from the real world and the implications of the world current state on how people view fantasy. My favorite part of this panel was when the authors discussed how they created their own fantasy worlds. I especially liked one comment by Tracy Wolff. She mentioned how when she’s writing, she always thinks that maybe she should use someone else’s process because it doesn’t seem like her process is good enough. However, you are stuck with your process, so no matter how different it may be from someone else’s, your process is what will work for you.
PJ Cosplay: Middle Grade Truth or Dare
This panel was moderated by Brendan Reichs and featured Elise Allen (Gabby Duran and the Unsittables), Ally Condie (The Last Voyage of Poe Blythe), Shannon Hale (Real Friends), Carlos Hernandez (Sal and Gabi Break the Universe), and Holly Goldberg Sloan (Counting by 7s). While this event usually only features dares because of the format of this year’s event, all of the questions were truth questions which I really enjoyed.
This was definitely one of my favorite panels of the day. Brendan Reichs was a hilarious moderator and it was fun that all of the authors dressed in their pajamas (I loved Shannon Hale’s Rainbow Dash onesie!). One of the aspects of this panel that I really liked was they took a lot of audience questions, which I didn’t necessarily see in my first two panels of the day. There were also a lot of authors that I have read and enjoyed like Shannon Hale, Ally Condie, and Holly Goldberg Sloan, so it was fun learning more about them as people than just reading their books.
Facing the Enemy: Hope, War, & Revolution
The next panel that I visited was full of authors with books that focus on characters who start revolutions. This panel was moderated by Victoria Aveyard (Red Queen) and included Danielle Paige (Stealing Snow), Victoria Lee (The Electric Heir), Hafsah Faizal (We Hunt the Flame), Isabel Ibanez (Woven in Moonlight), and Jordan Ifueko (Raybearer).
For me, the most interesting aspect of this panel was the authors explaining what they pulled from real life to inspire their books, but also how their books unintentionally ended up mirroring what was going on in real life.
This American Experience
After the Facing the Enemy panel, I stopped by The American Experience panel. This panel was moderated by Lauren Myracle (This Boy), Jennifer de Leon (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From), Angie Thomas (On the Come Up), George M. Johnson (Not All Boys are Blue), Natasha Diaz (Color Me In), and Bill Konigsberg (The Bridge).
This panel was definitely the most controversial of the day, due to the panel’s moderator, Lauren Myracle. While I was extremely interested in hearing more about the experiences of the author’s on this panel and how their experiences inspired their books, it is a shame that the attention has been taken away from these authors due to the actions of the moderator. For example, during the panel, author Jennifer de Leon, author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, was literally asked where she was from. Y’All Fest has since apologized for this panel (although they didn’t name specifics in their apology) and rescheduled the panel with Nic Stone as the moderator for a later date and time.
PM Keynote with Brandon Sanderson
The next event that I visited was a PM Keynote with fantasy author Brandon Sanderson with an introduction by Melissa de la Cruz. Brandon Sanderson spoke about his experience with writing, from when he was in high school and up until his publication. Brandon Sanderson was completely honest about his writing journey and how his goals changed as he continued writing (13 books!) before he was eventually published. This keynote gave hope to aspiring writers, but also gave some hard truths about pursuing a creative career and having luck in the publishing industry. This keynote also included a guest appearance by his pet macaw, Magellan, who was absolutely adorable.
The final event of the night was the YALLSTAYHOME Smackdown hosted by Angie Thomas aka Dumbledope and Nic Stone aka Snape Dogg. Angie and Nic, as well as several authors from the panels throughout the day, competed in different activities like an interactive fill-in-the-blanks game where the audience could vote on the choices, Author Cribs (like the old MTV show), and pet roast (where they complimented other author’s pets).
I really liked this event because it really showed off the authors’ personalities and gave you a more personal look at their lives. It made me feel better to see other people have messy rooms and to see all of their cute pets. Angie Thomas and Nic Stone were great hosts together and even took the event an extra mile by dressing up and using British accents.
Stay tuned to hear about the panels I watched on Day Two!
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