This is a long post, but hope you enjoy!
This weekend was LFCC - London Film and Comic Con at Earl's Court in London. This year, for the first time ever it contained YALC - the Young Adult Lit Con. This was set up by current Children's Laureate Malorie Blackman (author of Noughts and Crosses series plus many more)
I go to LFCC every year, it's my mum's annual Birthday treat. We usually go on a Sunday due to work commitments and it is just easier somehow. But this year with the YALC there were more people going on Saturday that we wanted to meet so we decided to book the day off work and head to London. I should also point out now that I went dressed as Katniss from The Hunger Games, so if you see a mark on my forehead in the photos - it's just make up, I haven't really cut my forehead!
Knowing there would be a lot of authors there I packed the books I wanted to get signed in a bag and got ready to carry them around London. My backpack had about 10 books in it, mostly hardback and weighed a ton, but I knew it would be worth it to get them signed. I still had to leave a couple at home as it was. (some of the authors attending ---------->)
But I was ready, or so I thought!
The difference was astounding, usually on a Sunday we can get there for about 9:30 and just walk in and walk about leisurely. This year, this Saturday was crazy. We got a fairly early train and got to Earl's Court for about 8:50 - a whole 10 minutes before the doors were due to open for the Early Bird entries. We expected a bit of a queue, but not what we were faced with. The line went round the building TWICE!!! We were about three quarters of the way back. Slightly annoyingly the guys organising the lines kept changing instructions, we were told to stand on the right, then he told us to stand on the left, then to 'clear out the way' as cars with the stars were still arriving. He then said that the right side was joining onto the current queue and those on the left would then form the start of a line that would join the back of us. But by the time we got round to the front that line had long disappeared so I think he moved them out the way and let them in. But never mind. An hour and 10 minutes later we got through the door. Finally!
But immediately we doubted if that was what we really wanted, the room was packed and I am talking sardines packed in a tin level. You could barely move or breath in there. Luckily I am not claustrophobic but even so i felt a bit intimidated.
We scouted out the people we wanted autographs from first, as they do a 'Virtual Queue' system where you get a ticket number and just come back when that number comes up to save you standing around. Well my friend asked me to get 'Summer Glau' for her and my mum wanted her signature too so we headed straight for her. At approx 10:15 we got a ticket and was number 857 in the waiting list!!! I then grabbed T.J Thyne (number 231) and my mum got David Hewlett (again in 200's). Knowing it would be a few hours we decided to go to the book zone, there was a talk at 11:15 I was interested in and to be honest I was only there for the Books! The YALC was all I wanted.
I walked around some of the desks, talked to a few self published authors, looked at some publishers stands - Books with Bite, and Atom books were there. Waterstones had a massive table selling books. Then Egmont had an awesome corner and a table filled with freebies. I got a Tote back, some badges, some wristbands including a Skulduggery Pleasant wristband (ahhh!!!!) some posters for various books including Starcrossed series and A.G.Howard's new book. It was awesome.
To the side was a reading area with a wall of hanging books which was really cool
I then ran across to Sarah Crossan's signing, leaving a little early from the talk to get to her table, only to find thre was already a handful of people in the queue, but I think I was about 8th. On the way there I spotted Derek Landy's queue - he wasn't due for another hour but people were already lining up so I asked my mum to stand in line and hold me a place whilst I met Sarah and being the wonderful mum she is, she agreed.
So I met Sarah Crossan and she was lovely! She is the author of 'Breathe' and 'Resist' which I adore. She signed my books and let me take a photo. (or rather the random strangers behind me took it for me - thank you whoever you were)
Sarah Crossan and Me!
I then went to the Derek Landy queue and took my place back from my mum, she was about 6th back from the front and I'd say there was already about 30 or so more behind her. We then stood for the next hour. It was chaos!
Stan Lee was appearing for his final time and so had mass people waiting for him, they stupidly put his signing area right to the side of the author table. This table included Darren Shan, Derek Landy and Malorie Blackman - the queues for all 3 authors and Stan Lee were so big they ended up just clashing in one massive huddle in the middle. The organisers had to do some serious re-arranging. That hour felt so long, it was so hot and my feet and back were killing me, I put my backpack of books on the floor but there wasn't space to sit.
I was a bit disappointed that they scheduled Malorie and Derek at the same time. As Malorie's line was also very big so I realised I wouldn't be able to get her autograph too.
Derek arrived and started to sign
I then got to the front and he signed the 2 books I had with me, so that means I have all but 2 books in the series signed, but I had to leave those at home as they were both over 600 pages long, fat and heavy and just wouldn't fit in my bag.
We then had a photo, he said to look 'intriguing'. Not sure if we managed it, but it was fun!
Love that photo!
I then decided to head back and see if the film stars where up to our numbers, Summer Glau was only on 200 or something, after all that time and had left for lunch and then to do a photo shoot so it would be a couple of hours before she was back. That was when we realised that with ticket 857 we were never going to meet her.
I wanted some more authors so I left my mum to get T.J Thyne's photo and her David Hewlett, while I checked out the lines.
Malorie Blackman's queue had gone down so I thought I would join, there were some others behind me joining too and very soon her line was quite big again, but then an event organiser said that Malorie was doing another panel talk in 10 minutes so she wouldn't be able to sign our books but we could come back afterwards, seeing as it was already gone 2pm and we were knackered and she wouldn't be back until gone 4pm. I did not want to wait around that long so I faced the fact I wouldn't get to meet her, but I have seen her before so it wasn't too bad.
I then walked round to see if Rainbow Rowell had a queue, and Oh My Goodness did she have a queue. 30 minutes before she was due to be there, she already had a line of about 50 people, I didn't want to stand in that, it was too hot and too long, I hadn't even got back to the main room for a look round yet. I then tried to see where Will Hill and Andy Robb would be. Andy didn't have a sign up - confusingly and Will Hill wasn't due for another 15 minutes. I walked out to see if there was anyone else I was interested in and tell my mum what I was going to do next.
When I came back Rainbow Rowell's queue had taken over the back half of the room and was fighting for space with Derek Landy's line which was still going and Darren Shan's fans. Both authors agreed to stay longer so they could sign more (aren't they great!!!) There must have been about 300-500 people in the queue for Rainbow.
I managed to squeeze by and noticed someone sitting under Will Hill's sign, having never seen him and there being no picture in my book I didn't know what he looked like, so I asked. Once I had established he was in fact the person I wanted to see I got my book out (Department 19 series).
I was relieved about this, I thought I would end up missing everyone else and not getting anymore books signed which seemed a waste after carrying them for so long. So bonus!!!
Will was really nice and we had a quick chat, we were totally hemmed in by Rainbow fans but it was still nice. He also agreed to have a photo
Will Hill and me
I haven't actually finished reading Department 19 yet but I'm about halfway and really enjoying it so knew I wanted to meet him and he was very nice.
I then decided to have one more look for Andy Robb, my mum was still in the autograph area and probably looking for my brother who had been trying to walk round and look and escaping into one of the cafe's/restaurants there just to get some space all day. I figured they would find me eventually. there was still no sign up for Andy so I asked a very helpful lady who was working for the event and she told me that Andy Robb would be signing where Will Hill was, they would switch. So I went back to the table and lingered, being constantly squished and jostled by the manic crowd behind me.
A few other brave people got through for Will's book to be signed and SJ Skuse sat the other side, I'd never read her books but she had a steady stream of people too.
Will got up and said goodbye then about 5 minutes later they finally came and changed the signs. Then Andy Robb himself arrived, and he signed my book for me. Wish I had brought both of the Geekhood books now, but never mind. We had a chat and he was really nice. I didn't manage to get a picture with him, wish I had but never mind.
By now it was almost 3pm, I had no idea where my mum and brother were the Rainbow queue was still growing. I actually heard two of the organisers arguing about what they were going to do about all the lines saying it was 'totally out of hand', but 'what exactly do they expect us to do about it!?' I felt so sorry for them, they were all trying really hard but bad organisation was causing mass problems.
I managed to find my family and we agreed to give up. I had wanted to wait to see Steve Cole again and talk to Sarah McIntyre, there was also a panel discussion about Fantasy writing and Dragons on later, but none of us could face staying any longer. My back weighed more and more as the day went on, our feet hurt, it was stiflingly hot and still as crowded as ever with more people coming in all the time so we opted for 'run away'.
My brother had been round half the stalls earlier in the day, but my mum and I literally spent the day standing in lines and yes meeting the authors but we didn't get anywhere else. But by that point even if we had wanted to have a look round, there were so many people and the aisles were so narrow you couldn't even get near to the tables. I don't know if any Fire Safety or Health and Safety laws were broken, but it surely couldn't have been safe to have that crush of people in there. If there had been a fire or some other emergency we wouldn't have been able to evacuate without some sort of stampede and people getting crushed and no paramedic could have got through easily. It's actually scary.
So we ended up leaving earlier than planned. I was quite happy as I got most of the autographs I wanted so I felt like I had mostly achieved what I set out to do, but I didn't enjoy it anywhere near as much as other years.
It was a fabulous event, but they seriously underestimated how many people would be coming for the YALC. In comparison to the building size they gave it a fairly small corner, almost like it was tucked there as a little bonus area, but it was heaving. It exploded, they obviously didn't think that many people would be interested, but it was fabulous to see so many people passionate about books.
I hope they do another YALC next year either as it's own event, or with a bigger section of LFCC.
It all just needed a bit of number control and better organisation, but I am glad I went