This past weekend, Ally, Melissa, and I headed to Charleston, South Carolina for YALLFest. It was our first time attending, as well as our first time visiting Charleston. The amazing lineup of authors included Richelle Mead, Alexandra Bracken, Gail Carriger, Gayle Forman, Scott Westerfeld, Brandon Sanderson, Libba Bray, Marie Lu, Veronica Roth, Leigh Bardugo, Marissa Meyer, and many more. Since BEA was not in the cards this year and Charleston was reasonably manageable travel-wise, we decided to go for it.
Our plans hit a pretty big snag the night before we were supposed to leave. Melissa was ecstatic to be seeing Rick Yancey, whom she worships, and he was THE author she had to meet at the festival. Unfortunately, he had to cancel due to illness, and I saw the announcement on Twitter on Thursday night. I broke the news to Melissa, and she was heartbroken. But, she still wanted to go, and so we did.
On Friday afternoon, a small group of authors was scheduled to sign at various venues. Ally wanted to see Scott Westerfeld and I wanted to see Gail Carriger, so after scoping out where we each needed to be, we went our separate ways (we were actually only a block away from each other) and got on line.
Gail Carriger's signing started a little early, and the line moved quickly. I got this feeling of unreality when I found myself next in line, like this couldn't possibly be happening. She was super sweet, and I was giddy to have a signed copy of Soulless:
Melissa went with Ally to wait in Scott Westerfeld's line, so I joined them over there in the tent next to Blue Bicycle Books. Ally got Leviathan signed, and after getting some much needed coffee, which would be our fuel throughout the weekend, we called it a day and headed to the hotel.
Saturday was the main day of the festival, and we knew that a game plan was absolutely necessary with all of the panels and signings that would be taking place at the same time. We thought that we'd arrived downtown early, but there was already a line outside of the Charleston Music Hall at 8 AM for Richelle Mead and R.L. Stine's opening keynote, which didn't start until 10. We were useless without coffee, so we went to Starbucks first and then got in line for the keynote.
You needed a wristband for Richelle Mead's signing following the keynote, and a limited number were being distributed to those waiting in line. We were among the lucky recipients, which totally surprised me because a good number of people were in line ahead of us. I hadn't even taken my copy of Vampire Academy out of the car, so guess who had to go back to the parking garage to retrieve it?
After the doors opened and we went inside, we were each given a sampler of Richelle Mead's upcoming The Glittering Court. We made a strategic decision to sit toward the back of the music hall so that we could make a hasty exit for the signing afterwards. Margaret Stohl said a few words before the keynote moderator, Kami Garcia, introduced R.L. Stine and Richelle Mead. We got to see a clip from the Goosebumps movie, and R.L. Stine was just hilarious throughout the keynote. I never read Goosebumps or Fear Street, but I so want to now.
We scooted out of the keynote the second it was over, and as we were exiting, there were some ARCs available. I just about freaked out when I saw Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys, which is already garnering a ton of buzz. So I was very, very, very happy at this point, and the day had only begun.
Melissa and I got in line for the Richelle Mead signing while Ally went to explore some of the booths. We were the last two people in the first group that was allowed into the train museum where the signing was taking place, and it wasn't long before it was our turn to go up. Again, I had that incredulous feeling, like I couldn't believe this was actually happening. Richelle Mead was so, so sweet, and I'm still in a little bit of disbelief that we were able to go to her signing.
After meeting up with Ally outside, we went to two panels back-to-back. The first focused on world-building in historical fiction and was moderated by Libba Bray. Then we went straight to the next panel, which also discussed world-building and was moderated by Alexandra Bracken. Gail Carriger spoke at both panels, and Richelle Mead was at the second one. Both panels were excellent, and I just loved listening to some of my favorite authors talk about writing. There were so many great panels going on, but alas, with all of the signings happening simultaneously, we could only make these two.
Next we headed back to the train museum so that Melissa could get on line for Gayle Forman. Ally and I thought we were super early for Alexandra Bracken’s signing, but there was already a huge line, so we just got on it. Melissa kindly got my copy of If I Stay signed for me while Ally and I stood on our line; we ended up waiting for about two hours, but it was totally worth it when we finally got to meet Alexandra Bracken!
We hadn’t had time to eat lunch and were completely famished by this time, so we had a nice pizza dinner, grabbed more coffee, and retired to the hotel for the night. It was an exhausting day, but also extremely exhilarating.
We spent our last day in Charleston browsing some of the cool shops downtown and walking around a bit. The weather was very fall-like throughout the weekend, which we enjoyed since it’s still been in the mid to high 80’s in Florida. We also checked out the Charleston Museum and toured one of the historic houses before heading home. We all agreed that we could have used another day to just explore the city and will file that bit of knowledge away for next year, because we absolutely loved the entire YALLFest experience and would go again in a heartbeat.