MORE bookish event reporting? Why yes, I did take enough notes at DeptCon to justify two blog posts. You can check out the first one here!
Laini Taylor in Conversation (moderated by David O’Callaghan)
Opening day two was a very cool guest. Taylor’s resonance and good humour stood out as she spoke about books, struggling with perfectionism (“even when I hate writing I love it”), and feeling like a fish out of water in 1980s California (“the music was the only good about the ‘80s”). Asked about recent articles disparaging YA, she gave a fantastic, forthright answer about how the media always mocks things teenage girls love and how you can tell when someone hasn’t read the YA they’re condemning. Discussion on ignoring outrage articles, focusing on your art and “maybe the media should look at what people are getting out of YA that we’re not getting out of other literature” as well as revelations about her new book (Strange the Dreamer releases next year and it sounds AMAZING. It’s about a city which has lost its name and a newcomer who is intrigued by fairytales, pitched as a love letter to the fantasy genre) made Laini’s appearance one of the most “YAAAS QUEEN” moments of the weekend.
Estelle Maskame, EilÍs Barrett and Lucy Sutcliffe (moderated by Claire Hennessy)
Another merging-of-genres line-up. Estelle Maskame (author of contemporary YA trilogy Did I Mention I Love You?), Eilís Barrett (dystopia, Oasis) and Lucy Sutcliffe (contemporary memoir, Girl Hearts Girl) talked what they like most/least about YA, editors as bungee cords and their paths to publication at a relatively young age. It was interesting to hear Estelle speak about writing her first book in frequently uploaded Wattpad chapters but writing her latest book in a more traditional writer-editor process. I would’ve liked to hear Estelle speak more, actually – this was one of the only panels over the weekend where the chemistry seemed a bit off, with quite an obvious disparity in who got to speak and lack of focus on solid questions. It ran over time, too, so the signing was a bit of a rush!
Lisa Williamson and Susin Nielsen (moderated by David O’Callaghan)
Ah, the panel in which we discovered Lisa and Susin were separated at birth. These two had such a great, natural rapport. Lisa Williamson is a fantastic panellist – professional, funny and down-to-earth – and Nielsen (We Are All Made of Molecules) seemed to embrace being over for the convention as well as regaling everyone with tales of writing for TV before her first novel. Both kept teen diaries and neither think about the reader while drafting. The audience Q&A included questions on approaches to writing (do your research, have fun with it, remember that you’re only writing one experience, not all), whether being involved with the screen helps their process (Susin works well to deadlines but had to improve description, Lisa acts out dialogue), and who they’d invite to a dream dinner party. I recommend Lisa’s The Art of Being Normal all the time so naturally I forgot my hardback, but picked up samplers from All About Mia.
Catherine Doyle, Laure Eve and L.A. Weatherly (moderated by Elaina Ryan)
I’m running out of adjectives to describe how much I liked these panels but this may have been one of the coolest: Laure Eve’s The Graces has been a big blogosphere hit, Cat Doyle writes about hot Mafia brothers, and L.A. Weatherly went flying to research her latest book. They talked influences, planning, reviews and if being a part of multiple cultures and countries has changed their writing. Elaina Ryan was a great moderator, relaxed and friendly while keeping the conversation on track (though she had less luck trying to guess her panellists’ contributions to the infamous DeptCon2 Playlist). AND this was the panel where I asked a question (it was supposed to be about how fan interaction or reaction changes a writer’s perspective but ended up being about shirtless Luca)…!
Alex Scarrow, Peadar Ó Guilín and Dave Rudden (moderated by David Stevens)
My unbroken streak of attending ALL THE THINGS ended when I had to get food during the first half of this panel (if the convention happens again they’ll really need to schedule a lunch break). I got back for the second half, however, and it seems I missed some laugh-out-loud moments, including Dave Rudden’s now-notorious “Labels are for jam-makers!” which I’m having printed on a t-shirt as we speak, and some great back-and-forth punning between the panellists. With another great moderator in Scholastic’s David Stevens (neé Maybury), it was lively and entertaining to the last, and I met all three authors at the signing (I enjoyed TimeRiders – but left the copies I read in the library where they belong)!
Deirdre Sullivan, Kim Hood and Claire Hennessy (moderated by Elaina Ryan)
Colloquially known as the ‘Ladies of Darkness’ panel (even though they are very nice), this ragtag group of Irish (and a bit Canadian) YA authors talked feminism, juggling multiple careers, their recent releases, books with tough subjects and what they love most/least about YA. Kim Hood came up with possibly one of the best answers of the entire event when she pointed out how many people – individuals, movements, organisations, gatekeepers – talk about what teens ‘want’ or ‘need’ from YA but never actually ask teenagers themselves. There was plenty of fascinating discussion over the weekend but that really struck a chord with me. She was lovely to chat to during the signing, too! Each hinted at new projects (Sullivan has a collection of dark feminist fairytales out next year, for those interested in short story happenings) and when talk turned to collaboration, Deirdre and Claire were ADORABLE.
Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan (moderated by Sarah Bannan)
IT’S THE FINAL PANEEEEEEELLLL! And they saved one of the best ‘til last: Sarah and Brian were fabulous. They were funny, smart, candid, had terrific chemistry and really made the panel worthwhile, even when it was their first event for We Come Apart – the initial draft of which was written over WhatsApp, exchanging chapters and poems in a game of literary tennis due to busy schedules. They talked the hard graft of writing (“people say you have to have the language but maybe you have to have the heart first”), thinking they couldn’t be writers, the appeal of verse, how “young people are the best critics – they scrutinise in a way adults don’t” and how their collaboration came about before READING FROM THEIR NEW BOOK AHHHHH. I loved the extract. We Come Apart – which Sarah described as “freeing” and Brian classed as “the best writing experience [he’d] had” – is an alternate-narration novel-in-verse about two teenagers, Jess and Nicu, from very different backgrounds. And oh, Nicu is such a good egg. Last stop of the day was the signing queue, where I got my ARC of One signed and BRIAN CONAGHAN ASKED ABOUT MY BLOG which made me beam.
So there you have it: all the highs, lows, twists, turns, and book love from one of the biggest YA events of the year. And to top it off I even have a giveaway! Enter to win a tote bag signed by SEVENTEEN DeptCon authors including Sarah Crossan, Laure Eve, L.A. Weatherly, Estelle Maskame, Peadar O’Guilin, Lisa Williamson and Catherine Doyle – plus plenty of signed swag!