Friday, 25 November 2016

'One-Man Show' by Will Kostakis

The big piece of advice I give aspiring writers, young and old, is to write and write often. Write what comes naturally, write what takes effort, write what scares you and write what makes your heart full.

And never, ever delete a word.

It isn’t just about honing your craft, this is an exercise in preserving who you are and where you’ve come from.

In my early teens, I was consumed by one goal: to become an author. I wrote manuscript after manuscript. As a twenty-seven year old, I envy my former self’s ability to balance school with writing over 100,000 words in a year. As school became too much of a burden, I wrote less. And I wrote poetry. I freed myself of the burden of larger projects, dipping my toes into creative writing with a handful of free-verse lines when I could. My grip on language improved, and after years, I built a collection of poems that captured my teen years.

I recently revisited them in order. It was like tracing a line through my past. I watched myself grow and relived my life in all its shades. After the read-through, one stayed with me:
One-Man Show

I roll my world into a ball –
my pride, my joys, my tasks and tortures –
with carefully chosen words that vaguely imply.
I can keep my secrets close for now, but
as the amphitheatre fills, the audience
will expect more. Details.
And then my skeletons will dance,
as I, the poet, whore extracts from my diary
for applause and quarters.
But you’ll remain unknown, unwritten,
behind the curtains I will never draw,
until attendance slows, my one-man show
is cancelled, and all I have
to show for it are coins, pages, and
you, my best kept secret.
I was seventeen. It was the first time I had risked writing about being attracted to guys. Reading it back, I’m proud of how far I’ve come. A younger me predicted a closeted, secretive life. Now, not only have I drawn on my gay teen experiences for my novel The Sidekicks, but I am out professionally. My pride is mixed with anger though. Ten years is not a particularly long time, but a seventeen-year-old me had been taught to hide himself, to be ashamed of his feelings, and to prepare for a life in the shadows.

And if ever I need a reason to represent diverse sexualities in my work, it’s that poem. No teen should ever feel as I did. We need to write, share and celebrate diverse experiences, so that our readers can envisage a future free from shame and secrets. Stories can change their world, and it’s our duty to write them.

About Will:

Personally, Will Kostakis is ready to catch a ball two seconds after it’s hit him in the face. Professionally, he’s thankful he’s chosen a career that requires little (if any) coordination. After dabbling in celebrity journalism and reality TV, he now writes for young adults.

His first novel, Loathing Lola, was released when he was just nineteen, and his second, The First Third, won the 2014 Gold Inky Award. It was also shortlisted for the Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year and Australian Prime Minister’s Literary awards.
The Sidekicks is his third novel for young adults.

As a high school student, Will won Sydney Morning Herald Young Writer of the Year for a collection of short stories.

For more information about Will and his books, please visit his website.

Monday, 21 November 2016

The #YAtakeover Down Under

The #YAtakeover takes a turn Down Under this Saturday 26th November. The event will launch with a publisher panel including Old Barn Books (UK) and Allen & Unwin Australia, who will explore the appeal of Oz YA. We're also hosting exclusive video interviews, live Twitter author panels and our YA quiz as well as blog posts from some incredible authors leading up to the event and lots of giveaways on the day. Mark the date and don't miss it!


9.00-9.45am GMT (8.00-8.45pm AEDT) Old Barn Books and Allen & Unwin discuss the appeal and themes of Oz YA with host Emma (blogger at My Book Corner)

10.00-10.45am GMT (9.00-9.45pm AEDT) Twitter panel looking at Identity with Jaclyn Moriarty (author of the Ashbury/Brookfield series and the Colours of Madeline trilogy) and Will Kostakis (author of The Sidekicks) with host Michelle Toy (blogger at Tales of Yesterday)

11.00-11.45am GMT (10.00-10.45pm AEDT) Twitter chat on Oz YA themes and books

12.00pm GMT (11.00pm AEDT) Exclusive video interview with Glenda Millard (author of The Stars at Oktober Bend) with 5 book giveaways (courtesy of Old Barn Books)

12.15-1.30pm GMT (11.15pm-12.30am AEDT) Big Fat YA Quiz

1.30pm GMT (12.30am AEDT) Exclusive video interview with Krystal Sutherland (author of Our Chemical Hearts) with 5 book giveaways (courtesy of Hot Key Books)

GMT: Greenwich Mean Time
AEDT: Australian Eastern Daylight Time

Saturday, 22 October 2016

Girl Power: fairy tales and feminism

Guest post by Katharine Corr

To begin with: I’m not an expert on myths or fantasy literature. I studied history at university, not English. But – like most people, I suspect – I was brought up on fairy tales. Ladybird ‘Well Loved Tales’ are some of the first books I remember possessing: Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Snow White & Rose Red. I fell in love with those illustrations long before I could read the words.               

One of the things I liked about fairy tales as a child was how many of them were about girls. Sure, some of them concerned boys (Jack and The Beanstalk), animals (The Little Red Hen) or baked goods (The Gingerbread Man). But on the whole I was reading about female protagonists. It didn’t really bother me that Cinderella’s main skills seemed to be subservience and looking pretty; it was her story and her name on the front of the book, not Prince Charming’s.

Then there were all the subsidiary characters. The men in the stories tended to be attractive place-holders (Prince Charming, again) or curiously weedy and pathetic (pretty much any King or father you’d care to mention). But the women… I read about witches (good and bad), fairies, stepmothers and Queens. Women with real power, even if they were misusing it.

As I got older, I realised that these women were often more interesting than the pure-as-the-driven-snow protagonists (though intrepid Belle, from Beauty and the Beast, is an exception to this). Who wouldn’t sympathise a tiny bit with side-lined Maleficent’s desire for revenge? Who wouldn’t at least understand the Evil Queen’s wish to be ‘the fairest of them all’? And there are fairy tales which give the Fairy Godmother a more robust and interesting attitude to granting wishes. A lot of tales, due to the ‘damsel-in-distress’ behaviour of the heroine, have the reputation of being anti-feminist. But I can imagine the creators of these stories (of which more below) slipping these strong supporting women into their tales, giving them powers and freedoms which women have been denied for so much of history. Could this not be an early form of feminism?
Not all fairy tales fit this mould, obviously. For every Clever Gretel, the Grimm’s hungry cook who tricks her master, there is a Little Mermaid: a story that, like The Wild Swans (another Hans Christian Andersen tale) seems to suggest that the ideal woman is a silent one.

Maybe I’m being a bit harsh on Andersen. But, I do wonder whether the best fairy tales – the ones with the powerful female villains that leap off the page at you – are the oldest ones. They may have been collected and recorded by men, but I’d be willing to bet that they were originally made up by women. I like to imagine a medieval mother, sitting in the shadows by the fire, laying aside her distaff and turning with a sigh to the insistent children sitting at her feet: ‘Very well, then. Once upon a time…’
Fairy tales have staying power: they endure. That’s why so many writers have chosen them as a starting point, reinterpreting characters and themes for their own times. And now my sister and I have done the same. Our Sleeping Beauty is an Anglo-Saxon prince, and his potential rescuer is an untrained, uncertain teenage witch. The story is inspired by the original tale, rather than being an exact retelling. But we still have curses, true love, and more than one powerful woman. We hope our fairy-tale-telling foremothers are looking on from somewhere with approval.

Katharine and Elizabeth Corr are sisters.  They both read history at university, worked in London, took a break from work to raise their families and now live in Surrey.  The pair decided they wanted to write novels and it seemed obvious that they should do this together.  In addition to writing, Katharine loves playing the harp and learning dead languages.  When Elizabeth is not writing she enjoys sketching, dancing round the kitchen and hatching plans for free time away from children and cats.  

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Subscribe to our seasonal newsletter

We're launching our seasonal newsletter on the 28th October. If you subscribe, we will send you our newsletter every three months (on the last Friday of the month) about our upcoming competitions, the best YA reads between newsletters, upcoming books to watch, our #SundayYA book club with Rachel, upcoming #YAtakeover events and more.

We may send additional emails occasionally, if there is a digital event we are organising that we think you may find interesting. You will never receive more than one email a month and we will NEVER give out your contact details to third parties.

If you would like to receive our seasonal newsletter, email us ( with the word "Subscribe" in the subject line.

The first 50 people to subscribe and RT our pinned tweet before the 15th October will be in with a chance to win an exclusive proof of The Sun is Also a Star by New York Times best-selling author, Nicola Yoon.

Friday, 26 August 2016

Win your height in books!

The lovely book people at Hashtag Reads (home to Cassandra Clare, Gayle Forman, Paige Toon, Morgan Matson and Darren Shan and more!) are giving you the chance to win your height in books.

Let me clarify:


Hashtag Reads have launched their first newsletter today. If you want to hear the latest news about your favourite authors, discover some incredible books, interviews, videos and more, sign up for their newsletter below. To be in with a chance of winning, sign up to their newsletter below.

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Gothic Roots by Danny Weston

It never fails to make me smile.  

'Why?’ ask the concerned parents, ‘do our children have such dark imaginations? What attracts them to such sinister fiction? Is it healthy to be so preoccupied?’ 
My retort is invariably the same. I invite the parent to think about the first stories they ever gave to their children, long before they were able to read for themselves; the ones they read to them at bedtime. Little Red Riding Hood: Hansel and Gretel: Snow White. A dark twist of the gothic lies at the heart of all these stories – they are tales of murder and cannibalism and savagery and yet we deem them perfectly suitable for the youngest audiences. The dark seeds are planted early. 

As the children grow older, able to read for themselves, they’ll invariably fall for the stories of Roald Dahl, in which a succession of luckless youngsters are gleefully put through the mill by a series of evil adversaries. Dahl knew better than most authors, the attraction that the grotesque has for young readers. Little wonder that years after his death, his books still figure prominently in the charts.   

By the time the kids are into their teens and start to really look at the world in which they live, they see darkness all around them; in the daily news reports on television and social media, in the actions of corrupt governments that only ever put their own interests first. Here’s a generation of readers that aren’t old enough to vote but who are gleefully invited to massacre hundreds of strangers on their PlayStations and Xboxes whenever they’re in the mood for it.  
Little wonder that dark dystopias like The Hunger Games have become the order of the day. Little wonder that cheery escapist fiction is struggling to keep young readers hooked.

When I came to write Danny Weston’s first novel, The Piper, I was looking to recapture some of the atmosphere that appealed to me as a teenage reader – the unsettling ghost stories of M.R. James, the cold brilliant satires of Saki (H.H. Munro) and the nightmarish qualities found in the writing of the legendary Ray Bradbury. I wanted to write scenes that would make the hairs on the back of a reader’s neck stand to attention… Danny, I decided, would only ever write about unsettling things. He would only ever see the glass half empty. Danny clearly was not going to be invited to many parties. 
Winning the Scottish Children’s Book Award for teen readers felt, somehow, like a vindication. It seemed I wasn’t the only one who liked my fiction dark. A lot of readers clearly agreed with me. 

And you know what? It’s all perfectly healthy for one very important reason. In fiction, we are able to ensure that after a long struggle, the powers of good will eventually triumph over the forces of evil – the sun will rise, vanquishing the darknessthe towers of the wicked will crumble and fall - our young protagonists will survive and will be immeasurably enriched by what they have experienced. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you that real life is rarely like that. On a daily basis, massive companies that defraud millions of people walk away without a stain on their character. Corrupt politicians stab each other in the back before being voted into power. People that cheat, lie, steal, murder, all seem to get away with it.

It’s only in fiction that we can make them pay for their transgressions. And it seems to me, that is the most powerful and compelling reason for me to continue in the same vein.
About Danny Weston:

DannyWestonis the pen-name for Philip
Caveney, author of the international bestsellingSebastian Darkeseries. Philip has written two YA novels under the pen-nameDannyWeston:The Piper,set during the Second World War and following the story of Peter and his younger sister Daisy and the unearthly music the pair hear...  Danny's second novel is the darkly comedic,Mr Sparks. Based in Llandudno during the Great War, there is much suspicion in the town.  Dannyhas a third book due out 1st September,The Haunting of Jessop Rise. 

2016 has been a great year forDanny! He won the Scottish Children's Book Prize withThe Piperand has embarked on a terrific and terrifying tour of schools, talking about his latest book Mr Sparks.  Danny(or Philip) is also a highly experienced tutor in creative writing. He has been writer in residence with the University of Central Lancashire, Worcester University and Lancaster University. Philip is a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund.

Memories and Myth by Julia Gray

From the nod to the tale of the Minotaur in The Hunger Games to Susan Cooper’s reworking of the Arthurian legend in Over Sea, Under Stone, there is an abundance of myth and fairytale in YA and children’s books. I especially love the British fantasists, such as Penelope Lively and Diana Wynne Jones, who in turn were inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. In my book The Otherlife, Ben finds that he is able to ‘see’ the world of the Norse gods and monsters; it is his way to cope with the pressures of his daily life. One particular tale, the story of the death of Baldr the Beautiful, becomes intertwined with the plot. The process of using one text as part of another is known as ‘intertextuality’ and it has always fascinated me.

I tried to come up with my ten favourite YA novels that feature myths and fairytales in this fashion, but couldn’t - there are simply too many. So instead, I’ve decided to write about one book in particular: Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones. A modern fantasy written in 1986, it combines strands of myth and folk-tale in an assured, powerful and complex way.
Fire and Hemlock is a book that very much celebrates the love of reading. (Indeed, the word ‘book’ is used twelve times in the opening three pages.) At the start, a nineteen-year-old girl named Polly is preparing to return to university. The book she is reading triggers the sudden discovery that she, like the man in the story she has just encountered, has two sets of memories; as she accesses the long-forgotten ‘hidden’ set, she remembers the strange friendship she once had with a cellist, Tom Lynn, whom she met at a funeral at the age of ten. Suddenly remembering the five years that followed, Polly struggles to uncover the mystery behind Tom’s sudden disappearance from her life. Then she sets out to rescue him from a fate that she manages to piece together from the books Tom has sent her throughout her childhood.

The plot is a puzzle, but so too is the way the book is constructed from other, older stories. Jones used two 16th century Scottish folktales as the basis for the main story: Tam Lin and The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer. Extracts from both appear at the start of each chapter of Fire and Hemlock. Tam Lin is recast as Tom Lynn, while Polly is his rescuer, Janet. Polly does not realise this until very late in the narrative:

‘Polly’s fingers shook as she opened it to the list of contents. The first two ballads were ‘Thomas the Rhymer’ and ‘Tam Lin’. Of course, when she was twelve, she had not known that Tam was simply a North Country form of the name Tom.’^

In Polly, Jones seeks to create a ‘real female hero’; and casts her in ‘a whole series of heroic roles […] Gerda in The Snow Queen, Snow White, Britomart, St. George, Pierrot, Pandora, Andromache’*. By alluding to so many different literary characters, she is able to build on
the reader’s picture of Polly and her heroic qualities by capitalising on associations the reader may already have. Using these reference points also gives Jones the opportunity to question preconceived notions of gender: she deliberately portrays both Polly’s tomboyish and feminine sides, creating a more rounded picture of what a ‘real female hero’ might be. 

In addition to the Scottish folktales, Jones uses another ancient story in Fire and Hemlock: the story of Odysseus from Greek mythology. Again, it’s reworked delicately and used in different ways. The character of Odysseus is reflected in both Polly and Tom, enabling Jones to continue to explore the notion of a ‘real female hero’. The characters of Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, Telemachus, his son, Calypso, Circe and Polyphemus all appear in some way in Fire and Hemlock. Jones also adopts part of the The Odyssey’s structure, beginning and ending in the present day, and telling a large part of the narrative in the form of flashbacks, as Homer does. 

There are many, many more allusions. The Norwegian folk-tale East of the Sun and West of the Moon is referenced several times. The Three Musketeers plays an important role. Jones also used T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets as a way of organising the whole of the book.

When I first read Fire and Hemlock I never knew any of this, and of course it was not necessary to know what literary ‘underlays’ Jones was using in order to fall in love with it. But it made for a very exciting moment when I did find out. Just as Polly goes on a voyage of literary discovery, rereading stories and books and letters to find clues that will help her to rescue Tom, so can the reader keep coming back to Fire and Hemlock to trace further similarities between it and the myths and folktales that went before it. 

About Julia Gray:

Julia Gray was born in London and still lives there today.  Julia’s two loves are words and music – both separately and together.  As well as having written an impressive debut novel, The Otherlife, Julia is a singer-songwriter – bringing together her two loves! Julia studied Classics at UCL and has a diploma in Children’s Literature and an MA in Creative Writing.

^ Quote taken from Fire and Hemlock. This is to illustrate a point and not used in a way to seek or exploit any monetary value of the work.

* Jones, Diana Wynne, ‘The Heroic Ideal: A Personal Odyssey’ The Lion and The Unicorn, 13 (1989) 129-140.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Roads from Harassment to Hope: 'Caramel Hearts' by ER Murray

Although Caramel Hearts is about a girl trying to cope with her mother’s alcohol addiction, there are plenty of other relevant issues weaved into the story; friendship, sibling relationships, first love, taking responsibility, making wrong choices, absent fathers and bullying. I wanted anyone who has experienced any of the issues that Liv and her friends/family go through to have all the feels; that the story felt real was my number one priority. 

I decided to touch upon bullying because it is a very real issue for teens – and it’s something that has far-reaching consequences for the victims in their future. In addition, the bystanders and loved ones who don’t know how to deal with or stop the bullying are affected too, with lifelong repercussions in many cases.

How exactly do you get a bully off your back? How do you protect someone else that’s being targeted? Is fighting back, or ignoring, the correct route to take? Do you tell someone in authority, or perhaps a friend or family member, or do you pretend it’s not happening? Every possible action and inaction can have such huge consequences, with the potential to make matters worse. Bullying creates anger, resentment, helplessness, and in some cases, the cycle is repeated.

Bullying comes in many forms and can be difficult to detect or prove, which makes it even harder for the victim to fight back. There’s group bullying that can be openly violent, but then there’s also friendship switches, backbiting and bitching, forced isolation, verbal cruelty and peer pressure – all equally damaging. There are also bullies who target alone, sometimes openly and sometimes secretively; they can seem really nice to the rest of the word, except for their victim, increasing the victim’s isolation. Cyber-bullying is another huge issue, both open and private – and with our increasing reliance on social media, this means it can be difficult to escape the attentions of a bully, even in solitude or the safety of home.

It is during our teenage years that we form our opinions and personalities, and so it’s no surprise that it’s a really difficult time to navigate. As teens, we feel adult enough for more freedom and responsibilities, and yet, people aren’t quite ready to listen to us – we don’t really have a voice, or at least one that is taken seriously – and this leads to all kinds of frustration and emotional anxiety. And as if these times aren’t difficult enough, when you add bullying into the mix, it’s a whole new level of awful.

In Caramel Hearts, the main character, Liv, is initially confronted with the problem of seeing one of her old friends turn against another; Liv’s best friend Sarah becomes the target of Maddy ‘Mad Dog’ Delaney’s bullying and Liv tries to help the best she can in her way. Later, when Liv becomes a victim, we see a shift in her understanding of bullying, of its consequences and how it feels.

The bully is not a nice character, but Mad Dog has a story of her own and I hope that readers can tap into that. Many factors affect people’s personalities such as poverty, life experiences, medical conditions and trauma. People are complex, rather than good or bad; they’re multi-faceted and changeable. And so, just like all the other characters, I wanted to show Mad Dog in different lights. I doubt the reader will accept Maddy’s behaviour, but I hope they can see where it stems from, and perhaps feel some sympathy.

Another important aspect of Caramel Hearts was a sense of hope. Having grown up in a family affected by addiction, and attended a school fraught with bullying, I know that in these often traumatic situations, your one true weapon is hope. Hope lets you see that life can be different to your present circumstances, that challenges can be overcome and changes can be made. Hope helps you understand that there is more to the world and that you can strive for it.

For Liv, hope lies in her friendships and in the handwritten cookbook that she discovers. The recipes provide her with a chance to be good at something; they’re a focus, but they also provide a connection to her absent mum who’s trying to deal with an alcohol addiction in a recovery centre. For Maddy, it’s a very different situation. Does she feel hope? Can she see a way out? Does she want to change? I’ll leave that for the reader to decide.

About Caramel Hearts:

Liv Bloom’s life is even more complicated than that of your average fourteen-year-old: her father walked out on the family when she was young, her mother is in a recovery centre for alcoholics, and her older sister is struggling to step into Mum’s shoes. Structured around real cake recipes, Caramel Hearts is a coming-of-age novel about love, disappointment and hope, and discovering the true value of friends and family, no matter how dysfunctional they are.

About E.R. Murray:

Elizabeth Rose Murray lives in West Cork, Ireland, with her dog Franklyn.  As well as writing, Elizabeth loves to travel and has worked bathing rescue elephants and scooping up their poo.  On her travels Elizabeth has eaten crickets, kangaroo, chicken feet, water beetles, frogs, ostrich and snake.  Elizabeth has had poetry and short fiction published in journals in both the UK and Ireland.  Her debut novel for children, The Book of Nine Lives, was chosen as the 2016 Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Citywide Read for Children. You can contact Elizabeth via her website, Twitter @ERMurray, instagram and Facebook.

Buy Caramel Hearts on Foyles anWaterstones.

The Big Fat YA Quiz

Our first-ever Big Fat YA quiz takes place on the 19th August at 8pm BST. There will be 40 questions divided up into six rounds:

  • Round 1 - 6 questions: the emoji round. Six book titles told through emojis.
  • Round 2 - 6 questions: the first-line round. Six first-line quotes. Can you guess which book they come from?
  • Round 3 - 6 questions: the book cover round. I'll show you six book cover sections; can you guess the book they come from?
  • Round 4 - 6 questions: the character round. I'll give you clues to YA characters and you need to match them to the book.
  • Round 5 - 6 questions: the quote round. Six quotes from YA books.
  • Round 6 - 10 questions: mix 'n' match. A little bit of everything to test you hardcore YA fans.
For each question, you'll need to tell me the book title AND the author (Twitter handle if you can) to win the point. You must also use the #YAtakeover hashtag to gain the point.

Each question is worth one point. That's a total of 40 points that are available on the night.

May the odds be ever in your favour.

The rules:
  1. No Googling, Binging or asking Jeeves or Siri. Keep it fair and keep it exciting.
  2. I will like, from the @YAfictionados, the person that answers the question correctly with the book title, author and accompanies it with the #YAtakeover hashtag and in the quickest time.
  3. If the book title is abbreviated, I will accept this answer if it is clear you know the book. For example, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, answered as "Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender".
  4. Reply to my question rather than quoting the tweet. It becomes more difficult to decipher who got the answer first.
  5. This is open to UK and Ireland only BUT if any of our international friends want to join in and win, I will do my best to send you some book swag. I'm nice like that.
  6. If you win, please DM me your full name and address and I will endeavour to post the books ASAP. In your DM, please mention the "Big Fat YA Quiz".

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Engaging with On and Offline Reading Communities by Alexia Casale

The landscape of YA publishing is ever-changing – and changing so rapidly it’s hard even for those who live and breath it to keep up. But that’s one of the things that make it so exciting. Our community and world isn’t a fixed, static thing but constantly being created and recreated so there’s always space for new people and new ideas. It’s like the ideal high school, where everyone is welcome and the weirder you are the more you’ll fit in. The best metaphor must be the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – only with half the teapots full of prosecco.

One of the reasons it moves so quickly is social media. The UKYA and UKMG world comes together for events – launches, festival, author events, UKYAX – but usually it’s only a small part of the community apart from two key dates: YALC and YA Shot. In between, our community lives online: we dip in and out of hashtags, Twitter conversations, scheduled chats and on-line events like the #YAtakeover, touching base with each other often multiple times a day. Twitter is very much the UKYA/UKMG office ‘water cooler’: it hosts a lot of what happens in our community, providing continuity to relationships between opportunities to meet in person.

Before becoming an author, I was really worried about Twitter. I thought it was a space where strangers told each other random, meaningless facts about the minutiae of their lives then never spoke again. The online book world isn’t at all like that. Many of my author friends are people I first met on Twitter. I still remember going to Edinburgh Book Festival when The Bone Dragon was only just out and lovely Cat Clarke coming up to hug me and launching back into a conversation we’d been having a few days earlier on Twitter. For the first time, I felt like I was at a party where I knew people and had something to say.

Twitter has continued to be crucial to my feeling of belonging, to my personal and professional relationships, and to my happiness. It’s amazing to have a space filled with wonderful book-loving, liberal-minded people to retreat to when the world is awful.

Twitter is also a great equaliser for the publishing industry and I love that. It’s much easier to join a conversation online – and often surprising people will respond if you’re legitimately joining in rather than trying to force an opportunity to make a person engage with you. Twitter means that everyone’s invited to the party and no one has to stand in the corner alone if they don’t want to. This replicates itself, though to a lesser degree, at events. Yes, authors are onstage and then behind signing tables, but the closeness of the online community breaks down some of the formality and barriers that would otherwise exist. It’s why the atmosphere at events like YALC and YA Shot is so friendly – so happy. It helps us create an ‘all of us’ feeling about UKYA/UKMG spaces so that authors and readers and publishing people know they can mix freely and talk to anyone they want to.

The fact that the UKYA/UKMG world is so bound up with the Twittersphere means that rich but free opportunities are available to publicise events and to reach out to all sorts of people to say ‘you are welcome, everyone is welcome’. This makes a huge impact in YA Shot’s ability to put its ethos of inclusivity and generosity into practice. An obvious way is the YA Shot Blog/Vlog Tour, which involves most of our authors and around 60 bloggers and vloggers each year. But there’s also our Internship Programme, which I am incredibly proud of. Although we do reach out specifically to local universities, particularly Brunel, social media means that we can get the word out quickly and easily to a far wider range of people. Yes, only those on social media, but let’s face it… most young people who want to work in the UKYA/UKMG fields are on there – or should be! – as it’s such a huge part of the job and the world of publishing nowadays.

YA Shot is an organisation built on transparency and equality above all else: we explain what we’re doing whenever anyone asks and we say why. Social media makes that not only possible but an on-going conversation, as it should be. Above all, it helps us reach out as widely as possible so everyone knows they’re welcome. It’s why our Internship Programme is full of diversity. We don’t select authors or interns based on personal characteristics: instead, we make sure we throw our net so wide that we can choose the best people each year and find that translates (as it should) to a diverse pool of authors and interns, bloggers and visitors. If the playing field is level, then there will be equality and, quite naturally, there will be diversity. Social media and the online world helps us turn that ethos into reality.

A related way that social media shapes the UKYA/UKMG world is that it gives people who want to listen to different voices the opportunity to do so. Yes, some people misuse the opportunity. And, yes, some lack nuance and/or the ability to articulate their perspective. And, yes, it isn’t always fair who gets the most ‘air time’. But everyone can speak and that’s a start.

So come and say hi! Join us on the #YAShot and #YAShot2016 hashtags. Join us at YA Shot itself! Let us know if you want to steward in exchange for a ticket! From August 1st, join us for over 60 stops on our Blog and Vlog Tour! We’ll see you at YALC too… and of course on #UKYAchat and #YATakeover, always with a cup of tea… though a teapot of prosecco may well be the way forwards now our Mad Hatter Tea-Party metaphor has put the idea in our heads.

About Alexia:

A British-American citizen of Italian heritage, Alexia is an author (The Bone Dragon and The House of Windows), editor and writing consultant. She also teaches English Literature and Writing. She is the visionary behind #YAShot and she will be taking part in the "Growing up and Moving out" author panel alongside Keris Stainton for the #YAtakeover on the 21st August.

Follow Alexia on Twitter (@AlexiaCasale)

Buy House of Windows on Foyles and Waterstones.

Monday, 8 August 2016

The #YAtakeover 2.0 Schedule

The #YAtakeover takes place from the 19th August until the 21st August 2016. All of the times are in BST (British Summer Time). Times will differ depending on country. +1 hour for GMT.

19th August 2016

Bullying in YA
Time: 7.00pm-7.45pm BST
Interview panel: E.R. Murray, Eve Ainsworth, Jenny McLachlan and Susin Nielsen
Host: @ChelleyToy

Some of your favourite YA authors will be discussing the various kinds of bullying from different viewpoints and the affects on the victim. 

The Big Fat YA Quiz

Time: 8.00pm-10.00pm BST

40 questions on YA lit including book cover questions, quotes, emojis and more. Be the first to reply to the question with the #YAtakeover hashtag, answer the most questions and you'll win a bumper YA prize (UK and Ireland only) which will include copies of:

  • C. J. Skuse's The Deviants,
  • Taran Matharu's The Novice,
  • Manuela Salvi's controversial Girl Detached (advance copy),
  • Leo Hunt's 13 Days of Midnight,
  • Sarra Manning's London Belongs to Us and
  • Lucy Saxon's Take Back the Skies

20th August 2016

LGBT: You Be Who You Want to Be
Time: 9.00-9.45am BST (+1 hour for GMT)
Interview Panel: Lisa Williamson
Host: @YAundermyskin

Lisa and Robin discuss sexual identity and being true to yourself as well as some of key themes in their award-winning books.

Supernatural Seduction

Time: 10.00am-10.45am BST
Interview Panel: Julia Gray, Katharine Corr and Lu Hersey

Julia, Katharine and Lu discuss the myths in their stories and how these shape their writing.

Where do you read?

Time: 11.10am-11.50am BST

Where do you read? Post pictures of your favourite reading spots across Instagram and Twitter, using the #YAtakeover hashtag. Bookshops, parks, beaches and more - we want to know! There will be a book prize for the most unusual reading spot and the most creative picture. We may throw in another spontaneous prize or two on the day. You can post as many times as you like. 

'It's Behind You': Horror in YA

Time: 12.00pm-12.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Alex Bell, Danny Weston and Dawn Kurtagich
Host: @HowlingReviews

Our panellists discuss the different kinds of horror and what inspires them to write for the genre.

Peer Pressure in YA

Time: 1.00pm-1.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Claire Hennessy and Patrice Lawrence
Host: @Jenny_books_art

Debut authors Claire and Patrice discuss peer pressure and the impact it has on their characters and stories, exposing and exploring issues that include body image, crime and drugs.

Unheard Voices

Time: 2.00pm-2.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Alex Wheatle, Jon Walter and Robin Talley
Two acclaimed authors discuss representation in YA fiction, covering the challenges and obstacles they have faced in their careers and those that exist in the wider field.

YA Thrillers 

Time: 3.00pm-3.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Emma Haughton, Liz Flanagan and Sue Wallman
Host: @ohhiimjosh

We unearth the relationships between friends and family and the emotional aspects of Liz's and Sue's stories and how they channel this into pulse-pounding, thrilling narratives.

Let's Talk Depression in YA

Time: 4.00pm-4.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Jay Asher
Host: @HowlingReviews

'13 Reasons Why' was published almost a decade ago and it's never been more relevant. We'll look at depression in this panel and try to unearth why this iconic book has stood the test of time. 

Hope and Resilience

Time: 05.00pm-05.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Eliza Wass and Jeff Zentner
Host: @HowlingReviews

Eliza and Jeff explore hope in their stories and the resilience of their characters.

Blood is Thicker than Water
Time: 6.15pm-7.00pm BST
Interview Panel: Clare Furniss, Ellen Hopkins, Liz Kessler and Sarah Crossan
Host: @AnnaliseBooks

Our panel discusses four very different family portraits.

'To Infinity and Beyond'
Time: 7.15pm-8.00pm BST
Host: @yablooker
Join us for a Twitter chat on Sci-Fi in YA with our special guest, Meaghan McIssac.

21st August 2016

Dazzling Debuts

Time: 9.00am-9.45am BST
Interview Panel: Alwyn Hamilton and Lauren James
Host: @demoniqueshadow
Alwyn and Lauren take us through 'Rebel of the Sands' and 'The Next Together',  their writing techniques and their experiences as debut authors.

Growing up and Moving out

Time: 10.00am-10.45am BST
Interview Panel: Alexia Casale and Keris Stainton
Host: @ChelleyToy

Alexia and Keris explore university and beyond (and the challenges their protagonists are faced with) in this discussion on coming-of-age YA.

Tech in YA

Time: 11.00am-11.45am BST
Interview Panel: Amy Alward and Keren David

Our panel discusses technology in their work and how this impacts on their stories and themes.

Rude, Crude and Uncouth: The Shouldn'ts, Couldn'ts and Wouldn'ts of YA Lit
Time: 12.00pm-12.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Jess Vallance, Manuela Salvi and Moira Fowley-Doyle

Our panel looks at taboo and censorship in YA.

Ha ha ha: The Funny Side of YA
Time: 1.00pm-1.45pm BST

Join us for a Twitter chat on humour in YA; why it's important and reading recommendations with special guest

Everybody Say Love!
Time: 2.00pm-2.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Joss Stirling
Host: @cityofyabook

Our panel discusses love in YA.

#SundayYA book club

Time: 3.00pm-3.45pm BST

Rachel leads this joint book club with the YAfictionados. Our first YA read is 'Paper Butterflies' by Lisa Heathfield. Join in using the #SundayYA hashtag (just for this book club segment).

Keep your Friends Close

Time: 4.00pm-4.45pm BST
Interview Panel: C. J. Skuse and M. G. Reyes

C. J. and M. G. discuss lies, betrayal and friendship in this nail-biter panel.

The Affects of War

Time: 5.00-5.45 BST
Interview panel: Brian Conaghan and Michael Grant
Host: @ChelleyToy

Our panel looks at war, the affects and the scars it leaves behind.

What is Normal?

Time: 6.00pm-6.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Eric Lindstrom, Louise Gornall and Siobhan Curham
Host: @zarinatweets

Is there such a thing as 'normal'? And if so, what does it mean to be anything but 'normal'? Join our panel as they provide insight into an incredible deconstruction on the idea of 'normal'.

Fantastic Fantasy

Time: 7.00pm-7.45pm BST
Interview Panel: Melinda Salisbury, Samantha Shannon and Taran Matharu
Host: @Lottie_LovesB

Why fantasy? What inspires you? How do you create your worlds? Join our panel as they share their passion and enlighten us to some of the challenges associated with writing fantasy.

There will be tons of giveaways throughout the event across Twitter and Instagram. To be in with a chance of winning, follow us on Twitter @YAfictionados and on Instagram yafictionados. We will feature blog posts, giveaways, Twitter chats and interviews so be sure to mark this event in your calenders.