Tuesday, 17 April 2018

YA Shot 2018 write-up

Alexia Casale, YA Shot Founder, Director and YA author

Yesterday was my second time attending YA Shot and I had another wonderful, inspiring day! YA Shot is a Young Adult and Middle Grade festival that raises funds for a programme pairing schools and libraries for free author events. 

The event is packed with panels, in conversation events, workshops and author signings. I tried to do a balance of everything and chatted to lots of amazing bloggers and authors. I wasn't able to attend the UKYABA (Young Adult Blogger Awards) in the evening but I'm so pleased for all of the nominees and winners!

These are the events I attended. Any errors are my own and everything is heavily paraphrased!

Using your life in fiction with Tariq Mehmood

This was a very moving and interesting workshop, in which Tariq Mehmood shared some of his experiences that have influenced his writing. His work deals with xenophobia and he first wrote because there was no book that reflected his life and experiences. To write about teenage girls, he talked to many of them to infuse his stories with realism. One thing that really stayed with me was that the stories that cause you pleasure and pain need to be told. Another tip was to look at people and their body language, and listen to their conversations. 

Characterisation and empathy with Lisa Heathfield

I found this a really useful workshop too! Lisa's approach is to write her first draft by hand. Each day, she reads the previous paragraph to get back into the voice but doesn't read a lot of what she's written. She tries to stay quite disconnected from the internet because it stops you from observing people. This is a great way to gain empathy for others. Lisa finds writing in the first person useful to develop strong empathy for a character. She also recommended reading widely, including outside your preferred genres. She's a big believer in physically getting into the role of characters to understand them better, even mimicking people's behaviour and speech. 

Stories for change with Alwyn Hamilton and Melinda Salisbury

This was a fun in conversation event, during which Alwyn and Mel talked about their previous and current projects. Mel is finding it challenging to write a duology because she's used to telling a story with three acts. Alwyn agrees that the Star Wars trilogy structure is what we're used to. State of Sorrow was inspired by Mel's trip to Bosnia and a real bridge that is very dangerous to cross. Alwyn and Mel agreed that it can be challenging to stay motivated when writing to deadline and side projects can help. Alwyn's favourite scenes to write are the action ones and Mel loves writing romance and kissing scenes, especially the tense build-up to kissing!

Friends, enemies and common ground with Cathryn Constable and Lucy Ivison

Cathryn and Lucy write very different books but they had a very interesting discussion about friendship, with lots of audience participation! Both authors felt there is a pressure to write constantly strong, empowered young women who know what they want but this is not always the case! When writing Freshers, Lucy and Tom talked to a lot of students and toxic masculinity came up a lot, particular in the context of sports teams. When you're young especially, friends are everything and can feel like the big love of your life. 

Privacy, entertainment and technology with Lauren James, Laura Steven, Nicci Cloke and Kerry Drewery

Social media is such a topical subject and I found this a fascinating panel, particularly when the authors discussed how it can be used for good and bad reasons. In The Loneliest Girl in the Universe (one of my absolute favourite YAs), Lauren explored how fandoms can be used as a way to explore yourself and feel safe. Getting to know someone online can be great but you don't know how that information will be used. Laura (author of the brilliant The Exact Opposite of Okay) talked about how social media can make a YA book feel more authentic but can also date when a book is set, so a balance can be difficult to strike. 

Research for writing outside your experience with Katharine and Elizabeth Corr

I love the Witch's Kiss books and it was great to hear about Katharine and Elizabeth Corr's research. There are lots of elements to research in their books, including the historical time period and associated language, plus a gay, male main character. They emphasised the importance of getting experiences right that are not your own. My favourite part of this workshop was when they talked about the 'research iceberg'. As a writer, you end up doing a lot of research that doesn't go into the book (and shouldn't), but you need to know everything you can about your world.  

 Me, Chelley Toy (@ChelleyToy) and Virginie (@ChouettBlog).
I love being part of the UKYA blogging community and this was a fantastic opportunity to catch up with friends and make new ones. Thank you to all of the amazing organisers, bloggers, readers and authors who made this event so special!

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