Developing a programme is hard! I know that sounds like the most obvious statement ever, but I had no idea how difficult it would be – and in so many ways. There’s the emotional component, not just because I’m friends with so many authors and bloggers, but also in relation to panel ideas that don’t work out and authors I’d *love* to invite but who don’t fit the developing strucure. Then there’s the logistical stuff… It’s been brilliant but draining. I’m so glad I’m finally there now – and I’m really proud of the result.
Whenever things got tricky, I focused on the YA Shot ethos. If I summed it up in 5 words they would be generous, passionate, inclusive, challenging and fun. Coming back again and again to that summary helped me to take the personal out of things so I could produce a programme that stood on its own and, above all, on the values behind it.
So how did it all work?
Hillingdon Libraries already had a list of names when I came on board as Chief Bossy Person (i.e. YA Shot Director), so that was a great start. However, the thing about a list of willing people is there’s rarely diversity and balance. On the one hand I needed to develop a coherent programme of panels with authors and books that made sense together, and on the other I needed to make sure we didn’t have ten horror writers or ten urban fantasy authors, etc… Add to that the fact that I want YA Shot to be inclusive in every way possible, I needed to give some thought to inviting a diverse group of writers to fill in the gaps.
But there’s a massive gap between sending out invitations to a diverse group of writers and confirming a diverse programme. When funding is very limited, as it always is with library projects, this becomes an even thornier problem.
Moreover, every time something doesn’t pan out it’s back to the drawing board. If I don’t have enough people for a panel on the subject of X, how about a panel on Y? Oh, I’ve got a few too many people writing X genre, how can I reconfigure that so I don’t have multiple panels on the same thing? Which groupings will make for the most exciting panels – panels that are coherent but where the people have different perspectives to share? Do I have a mix of established authors and debuts? Do I have a mix of big names and people who are just starting to gather a following? Have I invited plenty of writers/bloggers I don’t know yet as well as friends so it’s fair in that sense too? Oh, and how is the programme as whole shaping up in terms of which invitations become confirmations: is the diversity I’m trying so hard to build in actually working out and, if not, how do I tackle that in a positive way since tokenism is by no means the same as legitimate diversity?
On that note, one quick reminder… People are diverse in many ways. Some of these ways are visible and some are not. Some people share their stories in public, and some don’t. There is a lot of diversity at YA Shot that you won’t necessarily see. But trust me: it’s there. I care enough about it to have made sure to think broadly and inclusively about the issue. And I’ll keep doing so. At the same time, it was hugely important to me not to tick-box. I’m really proud to have a diverse programme that wasn’t built on labels but through throwing the net wide and then thinking inclusively about the options.
What did that mean in practice? Let me use the blogging/vlogging workshops as an example. I felt it was important to not play ‘friends and favourites’, not to replicate events that have already happened (no matter how brilliant they were and I know the YALC workshops were AMAZING!), and to think about how many absolutely brilliant, talented people there are who might not put themselves forward but who’d be *great* at delivering workshops. Also, Hillingdon Libraries had already brought a few people on board so with only 6 slots that rather narrowed the field! Anyway, the first thing I decided was to restrict to London and its close environs partly to simplify and partly because of funding restrictions. Next I turned to the London-based person who’d been in the right (wrong?) places to listen to me prattle about various stages in the development of the blogging/vlogging programme (a lot of events, a lot of prattling, and a lot of really great advice about how to make it work). And then I thought about people who I knew were applying for/had recently got jobs using relevant skills and who might find YA Shot useful. And then I thought about how to be inclusive and open to everyone – so look out for an exciting announcement about our final workshop slot on Monday 26th during #UKYAchat! The end result: we have a programme of 6 workshops, 5 to be announced soon and 1 in due course. But if we get funding, we might be able to expand (I’d love that as there are so many bloggers I admire) so do watch this space!
As for how the programme has developed over time (bearing in mind I only started working on this in March), it’s been a process of drafting endless lists of people in endless configurations and then doing it all over again. At one point I had to freeze development to find an extra venue. And of course there were requirements from the Libraries and Council too about their ethos and framework.
But I’m almost there now and I’m so proud of what YA Shot has become. I’d want to come even if I wasn’t organising it. We’ve got loads of fantastic authors and great panels and workshop topics. And, best of all, I really believe this programme delivers on the principles behind YA Shot. I hope you agree. 🙂
If you do, please support us by helping to promote the event (we need to sell as many tickets as possible to fund our year-long legacy programme for libraries and disadvantaged schools) and hopefully by coming along on the day itself!