Where do I begin?
Do I explain how All Day YA works? That there were two theatres running five events simultaneously throughout the day, a grand total of ten to choose between. That you had to prioritise one over the other because you could only attend five in total. Do I mention the topics they covered ranging from character creation, diversity, and badass female characters to the abundance of talent within the Australian YA writing community? Do I talk about the panels, signings and one-on-one interviews?
Maybe I should tell you about the fabulous authors who attended, like my beloved scifi nerd Amie Kaufman, or the incredibly witty Will Kostakis. The gorgeous bangs of Gabrielle Tozer, the bubbly Danielle Binks, and ever-humble Jaclyn Moriarty. And that only covers the #LoveOzYa panel. Or, perhaps, I could talk about the diversity in YA panel and how much I learned about the importance of not making “tokens” of diverse characters. How fiction, like life, should be in all colours but not just for the sake of creating a rainbow. You know you fell hard when you walk away with six new books from authors you already knew and those you discovered on the day…
Or should I talk about the other YA enthusiasts I met? Like the two girls who fangirled over The Illuminae Files with me. Or the charismatic girl who was taking surveys. I could mention the friends I made who’s journeys I look forward to following on social media. Maybe I could talk about how when you looked around the festival there wasn’t a face without a smile or someone happy to chat about books, authors and everything in-between with you.
I could mention the adorable food trucks, the photo booth and the ever helpful festival volunteers. How all these things came together to make the day an unforgettable experience.
I could tell you that one of the highlights of the day for me was meeting Jennifer Niven and thanking her for All The Bright Places, and the wonder that is Finch. That she listened as I told her how much her book meant to me and the reasons why. She even asked me for a hug when I was about to cry. I could tell you all about how that is a moment I’ll never forget and forever be grateful for.
I could tell you all these things and more. How special it was to be surrounded by people who are so passionate about YA or didn’t undervalue its importance. How brilliant each and every author who gave up their time to attend is. I could tell you so much about my experience but I think the most important thing I can tell you is to go to one of these events yourself if you have the chance. And if not, to continue to read YA. No matter how old you are, there’s a YA book for you. Whether it be drifting through space on a refugee ship, a world filled with magic you’d almost forgotten how to believe in, or the universal relatability of being a teen and having your heartbroken or losing a friend.
I guess the only question I have left is; when was the last time you read an Australian YA book? Our market is small and flooded with US titles, it’s easy to miss a home-grown gem. I’m currently ready The Sidekicks, by Will Kostakis, and I couldn’t recommend it highly enough (prepare your tissues!). Of the six books I brought home from All Day YA, all of them were written by Aussie writers and I can’t wait to fall in love with each and every one.