For those who enjoy young adult (and even middle school) literature, YALLWest is the place for you. The Southern California book festival spans over the course of two days, taking place at Santa Monica high school. The overarching theme of YALLWest this year was “Y’all means ALL” to highlight their stand for LGBT equality. This is the second time the festival has taken place, and the popularity only continues to escalate. The family friendly festival was not short on fun and plenty of activities for everyone to enjoy.
Throughout the day, there was tons of activities to choose from – it was like a “choose your own adventure” book. There were a number of keynote speakers that each catered toward a particular interest. I attended the morning keynote with Rainbow Rowell (author of “Eleanor and Park”), that kicked off the weekend. She was such a delight; bubbly, funny and had a way with storytelling when she took the stage. Rainbow Rowell talked about her love for fiction and how she started writing. She also expressed her love for journalism and how her experience as a journalist translated into her fiction writing.
But besides the keynotes, which happened in either the cafeteria or the theater, I visited the various booths and chatted it up with my favorite book companies, which were mainly centralized around the school’s quad area. Some of the attendees included Disney Publishing, Epic Reads, Owl Crate, Penguin Teen and more. Each booth was hosting various giveaways during the day and had fun activities like bookish bingo! They were giving out different prizes like totes, summer towels and of course – books!
But running around, visiting your favorite booths and your favorite authors can be quite the workout. (I personally think it should be an Olympic sport!) So if you were in need of some munchies, don’t worry because there were food trucks galore! But with over 10,000 attendees at the festival, I highly suggest getting your food as soon as possible when you attend.
There were over 100 authors attending, so I’m sure some of your favorites were there. Not only did the authors kick some butt on stage during the various keynotes and discussions, but they also spent tons of time meeting some of their biggest fans. Matt De La Pena, Jennifer Armentrout, David Levithan, Jennifer Niven, Jenny Han and more attended (to name drop a few of the authors). Also, because of the lovely arrangement by our YALLWest contact, Megan, I had the pleasure of getting to interview Melissa de la Cruz, author of “The Isle of the Lost“. (More on that to come in a separate post!)
Overall, the greatest thing to see was all the young adults get excited about reading. There were tons of middle school and high school students at YALLWest who were running around, asking each other what books they got. It was reassuring to know that the future of books is alive and well. But YALLWest was much more than that.
YALLWest was a great festival that brought people from all ends of the book world together. It was a festival where you saw fans’ faces light up as they met their favorite author. The festival reminded you of the importance of community and togetherness. The organizers of the event, Margaret Stohl and Melissa de la Cruz, as well as the rest of the YALLWest board did a great job putting together one of the most eventful and bookish festivals in Southern California. I hope to go again really soon! But until then, happy reading!