Experiences from YA Shot 2018

For the last week Hillingdon libraries has had Amy Child joining us across the service to experience all aspects of book writing and how libraries work. Part of this experience included her attendance at YA Shot day on Saturday 14th April 2018 which she has written about to share with Hillingdon residents:

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‘I was delighted to be invited to attend YA shot 2018 as part of my work experience with the library: an event held between the civic centre and library in Uxbridge. Before going to the civic centre, I went to Waterstones to pick up a copy of a few books by some local YA authors who I would be meeting in person later on. Waterstones had an amazing display of Young Adult books laid out for the event, all promoting the hard work and talent of the many authors who would be holding panels, conversations and workshops throughout the day.

What I first noticed when I entered the civic centre was the vast range of people who were coming to YA shot. There were people of all ages lined up to attend, and it was amazing to be around so many different people who shared my love for books.The first event I attended was the Power, Privilege and Inequality panel starring five incredible YA authors such as Helena Coggan, Mark Huckerby, Vic James, Nick Ostler and Samantha Shannon. As a young adult who has always dreamed of becoming a published author, it was both informative and inspiring to hear authors discussing the ideas and meanings behind their work. As well as the public, the authors themselves had a range of ages, genders and backgrounds- which really went to show how writing is accessible to anyone.

After the panel was finished, I headed over to the 5th floor of the library to attend the Characterisation and Empathy workshop held by Lisa Heathfield. She explained that empathy was ‘suffering with,’ and that for a reader to empathise with a character was perhaps even more vital than being able to relate to them. It was important that the author knew their character inside out, even the little things such as what they would have in their fridge or on their bedroom floor. Although such knowledge may never be used in the writing itself, this depth of understanding about a character would make them more real and believable for a reader.

Inspiration could be drawn from real life simply by looking up from your phone on the train and observing people around you. Lisa went on to explain why she preferred to handwrite her stories rather than type, which was definitely something I will take away and try for myself. We also discussed the difficult process of finding an agent, writing an intriguing cover letter and having your work rejected by publishers.

The last event I attended was the ‘In Conversation’ with Alwyn Hamilton and Melinda Salisbury. This event was particularly popular, and I was very excited for it since Alwyn and Melinda were both authors of books which had been waiting in my endless GoodReads ‘want to read’ list for a while. Their conversation was hilarious and I really enjoyed hearing all about the inspiration behind their worlds and characters. I was glad that I had bought a copy of both of their books before the event began, so was able to get my copy of ‘Rebel of the Sands’ and ‘State of Sorrow’ signed after the conversation finished.

Whilst the signing was taking place, I was able to briefly speak to both of the authors and ask them what the best advice they had ever been given was in regards to writing was. Both of them said surprisingly similar things: finish what you started. Alwyn stressed how important it was to finish a first draft no matter how much you disliked it, since nothing was perfect at first and you could edit it as much as you wanted once the words were on the page. Melinda described the writing process as making a clay pot: it would look ugly and rough at first, but once you had the clay down, you could change it and shape it to make a finished product you were happy with. But most of all, every author I heard from that day put forward the same message: write because you love it.

In summary, I had a fantastic day at YA shot. It really inspired me and confirmed what I had always known- that writing was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Books are universal; it made a real impression to see this idea brought to life as so many different people were united by their love for stories. There was a real sense of community at every event, where anyone was welcome to join in or ask questions. The authors I had the pleasure of seeing and meeting were all lovely people who had so much to share, and I would definitely recommend this event to my family and friends. Anyone with a passion for writing, reading or even just stroking the covers of books (yes, I know we all do it) would have loved this day and I really hope to see even more people attending in the future.’

Written by Amy Child (Student work experience)

Copies of the books by the above authors who attended YA Shot 2018 (and many others there on the day) can be found and borrowed from your local Hillingdon library, please pop by to reserve a copy or ask a member of staff in branch.

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