YA Shot is delighted to welcome Kerry Drewery to the website to talk about why events like UKYAX and YA Shot are important and what they add to the wealth of book events already out there. Kerry will be talking about Intrepid Girls: Adventure heroines at YA Shot.
Kerry Drewery is the author of two books (A Brighter Fear, A Dream of Lights) and her third, Cell 7, is out Autumn 2016 from Hot Key Books.
I was absolutely thrilled when Alexia Casale (The Bone Dragon, House of Windows) asked me to be part of the YAShot. As a co-organiser of the UKYA Extravaganza events (along with author Emma Pass (ACID, The Fearless), I know how much time and effort it takes to get these events together, but whereas ours have involved around 33 authors within one venue, YAShot is a massive 71 authors over 3 venues!
While the UKYAX is moving around the country, YAShot has a Year Long Legacy Programme within in the Hillingdon Borough, working with disadvantaged schools and reminding teenagers how brilliant libraries are.
It did make me think and wonder though, why exactly do we do this? Why organise these events at all? And why are they important – indeed, if they are?
I often see events happening in central London that I would love to attend, and be able to take my teenage son to, but with time, distance and expense, it’s often impossible. I then imagine what that must be like for teenage readers who don’t live near the capital or who aren’t able to travel in, but who would love to meet authors, be inspired, meet fellow readers, or bloggers, but for that to be inaccessible to them.
From mine and Emma’s (a UKYAX) point of view, it’s about taking events, and authors, to people who might not otherwise be able to attend such things. As Emma says, these events ‘help to reach readers who might otherwise be excluded’.
All the authors at UKYAX in Nottingham
Our chair at the recent Extravaganza in Nottingham, Paula Rawsthorne (The Truth About Celia Frost, Bloodtracks), agreed: “The event reached an audience including teenagers, families, teachers, librarians and bloggers,” going on to say, “a fabulous opportunity for people to meet so many great authors and spread the love of UKYA and reading in general”.
I asked a few other YA authors to share their opinions of events such as UKYAX and YAShot:
Zoe Marriott (Name of the Blade, Daughter of the Flames trilogies) I think it’s because it fosters a sense of community – not just among writers, even though our job is famously lonely – but also inclusive of everyone who cares about and believes in the transformative power of YA literature. Readers, bloggers, librarians, teachers and parents. It stops being about writers on their websites or Twitter, handing down pronouncements from on high, and becomes a dialogue, a back-and-forth, where writers can really see the effect that their words have on their audience. And young readers, especially those from vulnerable or marginalised groups who perhaps don’t feel that their voices are heard or their stories and experiences are considered worthwhile, can not only speak up, but also see for themselves that writers are a diverse group, and very human, and that if THOSE people can get published… why not me, too?
Book 3 in Zoe’s Name of the Blade trilogy
Sheena Wilkinson (Name Upon Name, Still Falling) As a UK writer who’s pretty much off the radar because of being from NI with a Dublin publisher, it’s very rare that I get included in UK events… Which means I stay off the radar, despite my books being award-winners, and despite my doing everything I can to raise my profile on this side of the sea. UKYAX was the first time I was able to do that on an equal footing with other writers. The whole atmosphere, with no star billing, and every writer given the same amount of time, and the same size lettering on the poster, really added to the sense of a truly democratic event and indeed movement. I was thrilled to be involved.
The feeling of community within UKYA is something that’s struck me as we’ve been both organising the UKYAX and at the events themselves. Leila Rasheed (At Somerton series) agrees: “Community is massively important and so are local events” as does Hilary Freeman (When I Was Me) when she says “meeting readers and bloggers, sense of community, reaching out to readers, feeling like part of something”.
From a writer’s point of view, it’s fantastic to be able to get out there and meet your readers, to meet bloggers you’ve chatted to online, to meet other authors, and to inspire future authors. The UK has a fantastic history of children’s literature, and right now there is a wealth of talent out there, but it’s talent that is often not heard, or lost in the hubbub of other voices.
These events allow authors who might otherwise be under the radar to reach out, and they allow readers to discover voices and stories they might otherwise have missed. Voices that maybe say something very special to them. They are inclusive, bringing people together from across the country, out from the virtual world and into the real one. They are encouraging, friendly and welcoming.
While both the UKYAX events and the YAShot have their differences they’re both full of this real love for YA and reading, and that real sense of community.
I hope in moving forward with events, myself and Emma can continue to share this wonderful community with as many readers across the UK as we are able.