Up until the middle of October, I had never even heard of this epic festival of YA author awesomeness. Then Stephanie Perkins sent an update to her followers about how she was going to be there and I become obsessed with going. I live about 4 hours away from Charleston, so the thought of making a day trip wasn’t too far of a stretch for me. From that point on, I was in super-excited fangirl mode. I purchased tickets to the YA Author Smackdown and it was official: I was going to my very first author event.
With baited breath, I impatiently awaited November 9th. Yes, I was a little less than overjoyed about having to get up at 4 to make the drive and arrive early, but hello? 45+ YA authors! Margaret Stohl! David Levithan! Rachel Cohn! Veronica Rossi! Myra McEntire! It would be well worth the effort, right? The fateful day arrives and we arrive in Charleston fashionably early. A little sight-seeing beforehand because Charleston is gorgeous. We take our bags of books and head to Blue Bicycle Books, the shop spearheading this event and holy fucknuggets, the people. It was utter chaos in the tent where they were selling books. I’m not claustrophobic, but even I wanted to get out as soon as possible. Luckily we’d purchased almost all the books we needed beforehand so we only had to pickup one item for a friend. I was then greeted with this board:
That spelled out who was going to be signing where. I had been under the impression that I would be able to get the majority of the books I brought signed and also attend a few panels in between because the lines wouldn’t be ridiculously long, right? WRONG! We waited in line after line, with my husband and I in separate lines for most of the day. From the time the signings started at 10 until they were over at 5, I didn’t have a moment to spare! Not even a minute to spare even to pickup something to eat. I had a quick breakfast sometime around 7 and didn’t eat again until a little after 5. I was in love with the authors and the quick chats and the autographed books, but by the time we finished our last line (Kami Garcia), I was dead set on NEVER doing this again. It was hot, I was on the verge of passing out from hunger and dehydration, and I didn’t get to see a single panel. I did get the majority of the books I brought signed, plus all 7 of the ones I had brought to get signed and give for Christmas gifts autographed, most of them were personalized and that made it worth it, but holy hell, can I just say it again? THE PEOPLE! Some of the lines were so long I didn’t think I’d ever get through. I stood in line for Rainbow Rowell for over an hour and a half and I didn’t even get a copy of Fangirl because they sold out.
A little after five, we finished with Kami Garcia’s line and searched for a convenience store to grab some snack food to tide us over until after the Smackdown. And then we go in search of the music hall where the smackdown will take place and once again: holy fucking shit THE PEOPLE! The line for the smackdown literally wrapped all the way around the square. I didn’t think it was ever going to end. We get into the building, grab our seats and a bit of the swag offered at the tables in front and settle end for a hopefully entertaining event. I don’t know exactly what I was expecting, but I was completely blown away. That hour and a half made up for all the chaos of the rest of the day. I’m now determined to attend the next one, albeit with a much smaller stack of books to get signed and more panels to attend and lots and lots of snacks hidden in my bag.
The Smackdown opened with a long Tiger Beat performance. I had never heard of Tiger Beat, but was informed by another event attendee that it was Libba Bray’s band. It consists of Libba Bray on vocals, Barnabas Miller on drums, Daniel Ehrenhaft on guitar, and Natalie Strandiford on bass. You guys, they were AWESOME. Seriously. I LOVED them. Videos as proof:
And then, the crowning achievement, their YA Song, which stayed stuck in my head for days. I really wish they’d release a copy of it because I’d love to have a studio copy.
After Tiger Beat had rocked our faces off, then we settled in to watch the author’s do bunchies of improv skits. Also, right at the beginning, they took suggestions from the audience for two popular books. The two chosen were Lord Of The Rings and Twilight. We weren’t told why we had to choose, just that it’d be important later. I do not have to words to do justice to the hilarity of the improv, so I will also include videos for those as well. Watch and enjoy!
There were many more skits, but I was low on memory space so I didn’t get more. I did however get the finally event. After the other skits, the authors were tasked with turning the books we suggested into songs to the tune of predetermined songs and this amazing nerdiness is the result:
Yeah, so that totally happened. It was an amazing event. I later learned that 5000 people attended the festival. I can’t wait to do it again. I got a bunch of signed stuff and the smackdown was just unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. See all my pretties below! After the smackdown, we had a quick dinner at Mellow Mushroom and headed home. We didn’t get home until nearly 2 in the morning, but it was all worth it in the end, I’d say.
One last word: Margaret Stohl is fucking awesome. She was everywhere we turned at YAll Fest. She made it her personal mission to high five as many fans as she could and when her hour of signing was up, she stayed over to make sure all her fans got the autographs and photos they had waited for. She was the only author I got a picture with. She was also gracious enough to sign a random post-it note for me because my copy of Icons did not arrive in time to bring with me. You’ll see below, it’s a poor man’s bookplate.