In its second year, Yay! YA is a celebration of the Teen Reads Scene in Scotland, bringing together pupils from schools across the country in Cumbernauld Theatre, where they can hear from and chat to several excellent authors.
The day is divided into two sections: two 25 minute chats with author Alex Nye and Yay! YA curator and author Kirkland Ciccone; then a reading relay, rotating smaller groups around the remaining authors as they do readings of their titles and take questions.
Alex Nye sets the scene on writing her creepy YA – Chill, Shiver and Darker Ends. She talks of the iceberg illustration for writers: you see the good bits above the surface, the finished book, the events, but the reality is to get there there’s loads below the surface: rejection, determination, writer’s block. But it’s absolutely worth it, she insists, as she offers advice to aspiring writers. Write from the heart and you can’t go wrong.
Kirkland Ciccone comes next with a zany tour through his life to date, and how he came to write his “punk not disco, quirky YA” like latest North of Porter. The pivotal change was the discovery of libraries: that changed his life. It was a place where everyone was equal, and anyone could access books, which opened a whole new world to him. Offering a peek into the world of publishing, he talks about his own book covers before showcasing some of the worst he’s come across (though Cooking With Pooh is a title he questioned from around Age 9 and still does to date).
To the reader relay, Martin Stewart‘s debut Riverkeep began life as a short story. He had no idea what would happen next, and discovered it along the way. It spirals from an article in the Sunday supplements he read about the Glasgow Humane Society, where his character is about to take over the profession from his father – pulling dead bodies from the water – and doesn’t want to take up the job.
Elizabeth Wein talks through three of her titles including Code Name Verity, but the common thread is aviation. She was the only woman on the airfield as she was learning and became intrigued with the idea of women in aviation, and has turned her writing career to focus on them. The first two are set in World War II in different settings, where the third opts for slightly younger pilots, taught by their mother who is a stunt pilot. Opening to questions, she’s asked: ever crashed a plane? She hasn’t, but gives a great insight into how you’re taught to fly, safety-conscious to the point you’re almost surprised to land without something going wrong.
Alex McCall notes that he’s not in any way related to Alexander McCall Smith, but he has sold at least two books through people thinking they are one and the same. Why, he’s not sure, but let’s not complain. He reads from his book Attack of the Giant Robot Chickens, before explaining why writing sucks: it takes you ages to make money, your parents will ask why you don’t have a real job, and people on the street will think they can write better than you. But (and it’s a valid but) writing is so much fun and you’ll love it. Even if you write something that’s rubbish, you’ll take great joy in just doing it, and hoping people read it and it connects with just one person in any way that you have ever connected with a book. So being a writer doesn’t suck too much after all.
Victoria Gemmell‘s Follow Me is published by Strident, and she talks through the plot: Kat is trying to figure out the town she lives in. Her twin sister is the fifth suicide in a year, but she doesn’t think that’s something her sister would do, and so she starts to investigate, to unravel what’s going on and bit by bit the mystery unravels. Victoria shows off her Pinterest mood boards, from Andy Warhol’s work and how that links to part of the setting, to how characters look. She then takes pupils through the process of her cover design, a little look behind the scenes on how it all works.
The day closes on this particular relay with Estelle Maskame, whose Did I Mention I Love You? trilogy began on Wattpad. Eden’s parents are divorced and her Dad asks her to visit him in LA. She wants to see LA, so goes and meets her step family, where the initial dislike of step-brother Tyler begins to shift into something else. She’s always been writing, but when she was younger, ‘forbidden romance’ was a popular guy going out with a not-popular girl, and she began to wonder about more serious restrictions on romance. Step-family isn’t illegal, just uncommon – most don’t know each other until later in life, so don’t view each other as siblings. She used Wattpad to get her work out online without having to tell people she was writing, using it as a way to get feedback, and motivation to keep going with the story.
How can so much be packed into just four hours? An excellent day showcasing the Teen Read Scene in Scotland, and for those worrying about getting teens and those younger to read: worry not. The excitement of those in attendance to hear about books and talk to the authors is a fair indication that books are still exciting readers of all ages, and Yay! YA is doing a brilliant job of showcasing that.