On Nov. 14, I went to YALLFest, a well-known young adult (YA) book festival in Charleston, S.C.
More than 60 of the world’s biggest YA authors and more than 29 New York Times Best Sellers were there. This was my rst time at YALLFest, and it was the best day of my life. Aaron Hartzler, an author whom I met at the Pee Dee Fiction and Poetry Festival this year, invited me to come down while he was there and spend the day with him.
We spent the rst half of the day walking around Charleston going to the two different panels he was in, and then we went to his book signing at a cute little place called the Best Friend Train Museum. Panels included David Levithan, Gale Forman, Susane Colasanti, Carolynn Mackler, Nicola Yoon and Zac Brewer. When we nished the panel, we had lunch in a little restaurant in downtown Charleston with a few of Aaron’s YA author friends.
One of my favorite memories was the Tiger Beat concert. Tiger Beat is a band comprised of YA authors. Daniel Handler, who is better known as Lemony Snicker, and I were in the balcony singing “Love Shack” at the top of our lungs, dancing and laughing hysterically.
That evening we went to the YA Smackdown, which is a big game show where all of the authors come together and play silly games and interact with the audience. The energy was electric, and laughter filled the room.
After the Smackdown, I went with Aaron and some other authors outside as we waited to be picked up by the party bus to head to the after party. Unsure if there would be enough room for all of us on the bus, Gayle Forman called her sister-in-law, who lives in Charleston to come pick up me, Aaron, her and her daughter. Aaron and I joked that I would be able to tell everyone I rode in the backseat with Gayle Forman.
The party was fun, and I was surrounded by many wonderful people, including Veronica Roth, who let me take a sel e with her. At the party, I made a new friend in 17-year-old Maya Van Wagenen, who is New York Times’ Best Seller. It was so surreal to meet a successful, published author just a few years younger than I. At the party, Aaron was on my left, and to my right was R.L. Stine, who is best known for writing the “Goose Bumps” series, and across from me sat Daniel Handler who wrote “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” as well as Gwenda Bond and Carolynn Mackler. They all were kind to me and made me feel like they had known me for years. We talked about writing and about the different books they were currently working on. They talked about their busy book touring schedules, and they all had incredible stories to share with me. Some were hilarious and some were more serious, but each story left me encouraged and inspired.
Being at the YALLFest was one of the best days of my life. I made many new friends and left inspired to become a better writer. It was amazing to me how these people were just so willing to give me as much advice as they could. Now I have an opportunity to apply for an internship in publishing for young readers this summer. This wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t met Aaron Hartzler.