Saturday, November 9 marks the third annual celebration of young adult and middle-grade literature known as YALLFest, held in Charleston, S.C. The free one-day event will showcase 50 authors, including keynote speakers Veronica Roth (Allegiant) and Rae Carson (The Bitter Kingdom), and Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl), Ally Condie (Matched), Libba Bray (The Diviners), and co-founder Kami Garcia (Unbreakable). With more than 3,000 readers anticipated to attend the 15 panels, this year’s festival is expected to see another surge in numbers.
Jonathan Sanchez, festival director and owner of Charleston’s Blue Bicycle Books, isn’t surprised by the growth or buzz that YALLFest generates. “The festival has grown like kudzu,” he said. “We had twice as many authors last year, twice as many people, and twice as many books sold. This year the hotels in town are maxed out, and we sold out the two ticketed events in the Charleston Music Hall, which holds a capacity of 928.”
Co-founder Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Redemption) is excited to see Veronica Roth give the keynote along with Roth’s friend Rae Carson, saying, with a wink at the online game, “Words with friends: that’s what this festival is all about.” Stohl is also looking forward to her turn as moderator on the YA-List in Hollywood 2013 panel. “Our readers will get to see exclusive video from the stars of some of our panelists’ movies or TV shows,” she said, among them Melissa de la Cruz’s Witches of West End, Gayle Forman’s If I Stay, and David Levithan and Rachel Cohn’s Naomi and Ely’s No Kiss List. “That kind of magic only happens at YALLFest.”
A new addition to this year’s festival this year is Coffee Talk: pairs of author-friends will talk craft and story while the audience listens in. Friendship and community are key parts of YALLFest, said Rainbow Rowell, who is making her first trip to YALLFest this year. “I live in Omaha, so I don’t get to hang out with other authors very often. Events like this make me feel like I’m part of a community,” she explained. “I’ve heard from everyone that YALLFest is the most fun of all the book and literature festivals, that it’s laid-back and kind of silly, and that everyone – authors and attendees – has a really good time.”
Sean Williams (Twinmaker) is traveling to YALLFest all the way from Australia, to kick off his book tour. “I’m coming to YALLFest for three reasons,” he said. “I’ve never been to Charleston before, I keep hearing how much fun YALLFest is, and it’s on at exactly the right time. My new book came out Tuesday, so it seemed a perfect fit. This is my first YA festival in the U.S.: where better to start?”