YallStayHome Book Festival Recap

The YallWest virtual book festival took place this past weekend! Typically held each spring in Santa Monica, California, things looked a little different this year (#Covid-19), and the YallWest team decided to move the festivities and panels online. The event was dubbed “Yall Stay Home” (clever, right?!). 

I’m incredibly impressed with the way the YallWest team was able to turn things around at such short notice. When stay-at-home orders went into effect, the team pulled out all the stops to maintain the spirit of the event and provide a virtual platform for authors and readers to connect, with “giveaways, contests, signed book deliveries, and two full days of panels with more than 70 bestselling and award-winning authors.” 

This was especially exciting for me, as I would not have been able to attend had the event not been virtual (I live on the east coast!). Of course, I understand why the change in plans may have been disappointing for the people who were looking forward to gathering together in-person and meeting authors and fellow book-lovers face-to-face. But it’s really inspiring to me how so many industries – publishing & the reading community included – have stepped up to adapt. 

So, thank you YallWest! Well done. Each of the panels I attended were awesome. Today I’m sharing my notes and takeaways from the panels I joined. Hope it’s helpful to you! *I believe the panels were recorded, and will be made available at a later date if you missed one or would like to rewatch. 😉 

SATURDAY, April 25 

Creativity in the Time of Corona

Moderated by Nicola Yoon with Alexandra Bracken, Simone Elkeles, Sarah Enni, Sam Maggs, and David Yoon

The panelists discussed the conundrum of having “more time” but less motivation / productivity. The anxiety and fear we’re facing in this pandemic can be stifling for creativity.

BIG TAKEAWAY: Be kind to yourself during this time. Manage your mental and emotional health.

  • Alex Bracken said, “It’s enough to simply survive right now.” 
  • If you’re struggling to be creative, charge your creative batteries with other media or enjoyable hobbies. 
  • Engage with more positive stories or news.
  • Remember, everyone is turning to art right now! Our stories matter. Your work matters.

Modern Magic Worldbuilding

Moderated by Ransom Riggs with Melissa Albert, Adalyn Grace, Francesca Flores, Frances Hardinge, Margaret Rogerson, and Tracy Wolff

BIG TAKEAWAY: Flesh out your world but leave gaps to allow for the reader’s imagination.

  • Readers need the escape into fictional worlds!
  • There’s something really empowering about being able to create a world and define the rules.
  • How does your character relate to their world? 

SUNDAY, April 26

Suckage is a Part of Writing

Moderated by Jay Kristoff with Janella Angeles, Marisa Kanter, Amie Kaufman, Alex London, Tara Sim, and Maggie Tokuda-Hall

BIG TAKEAWAY: Finish the thing! You can always make it better, but you can’t revise or edit a blank page.

  • “Suckage” is a story we tell ourselves. 
  • “Suckage” may be the wrong term to describe our work. Imperfection is real; doubt is real. But your work doesn’t suck. 
  • Jay Kristoff said, “At some point in every book, I hate it.” 
  • Drafting = talking the story out loud; Revising = the story talks back
  • Sometimes your book is smarter than you are. (And you won’t know it ‘til you’re finished!)

Whodunit and Why Do We Care? 

Moderated by Karen McManus with Mintie Das, Stephanie Garber, Stuart Gibbs, Rory Power, and Lilliam Rivera

BIG TAKEAWAY: Readers are drawn in when they realize they’re not being told the whole truth.

  • Stephanie Garber said, “Almost all of my characters are lying.” 
  • Be sure the mystery or the secret is really relevant to your main character.
  • Stuck? Writer’s block? Create a list or a web of all the possibilities (all the paths your characters could take). A bit like “choose your own adventure.” 
  • Ask yourself (as the author), WHO would want to commit this crime and WHY? 

Worldbuilding Beyond Wikipedia

Moderated by Roshani Chokshi with Renee Ahdieh, Gwenda Bond, Jennifer Donnelly, Marie Lu, and Bethany C. Morrow 

BIG TAKEAWAY: Be careful not to romanticize a particular time period.

  • Marie Lu said, “My [storyworlds] are usually about something that kept me up at night during a particular time in my life.” 
  • To flesh out your world, start with a creepy question to inspire you: “What does this society do with their dead?” 
  • “You must never write history until you can hear the people speak.” 

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