It’s over. Nearly two hundred people turned up. Emails have been coming in all morning, saying what a great event it was, and the recurring word on the evaluation forms is ‘excellent’. All of the sessions went well. Delegates were particularly impressed that all of the speakers came for the whole day and I’m sorry I don’t have the energy to write about everybody’s contribution. I need a bit of time for reflection. I have to do an article summing the whole thing up for Books For Keeps by the end of the week. So, for now, once again a big thank-you to everybody: delegates, authors, students, support staff, Sue and, especially, Simon, for helping to make the thing happen.
Best thing about the day was meeting so many people who feel passionately about Young Adult Fiction. I’m only sorry that I didn’t have the opportunity to talk to more of them. Giving up a Saturday near Christmas is no small thing and many people had travelled huge distances (there were eight people on the morning flight from Edinburgh alone). Unsurprisingly, although there were tons of writers and publishing people at the conference, the biggest single group was librarians (both school and public, many very senior), the people who do the most to support YAF. Special thanks to the woman who told me she’d stayed up until half three a few days before because she had to finish reading ‘Denial’, for reminding me that I really am a writer, not a conference organiser. Or will be again soon.
Most heart warming moment of the day The spontaneous and enormous round of applause as I introduced Anne Cassidy and talked about her much deserved, overdue success with the Booktrust award and the Whitbread shortlisting.
Speech of the day isn’t for me to say, except that it certainly wasn’t mine. Too preoccupied with organisation to improvise as I normally do, I’d written it out, and had the misfortune to come after Keith Gray, whose brilliant riff on the instructions that came with a new ladder (see Achockablog where there’s now a full report of the conference) is impossible to paraphrase and was a tough act to follow. The session we were in, ‘The Death Of The Issue Novel?’ was the one that delegates rated highest, with Bali Rai and Beverley Naidoo both on top form and a very high level of discussion from the floor.
Housekeeping Hint Of The Day In the last interval, Sue had the brilliant idea of offering all the publicity posters on display to school librarians having coffee. Result, the walls were stripped bare in two minutes, saving us a bunch of clearing up and ensuring that the posters didn’t go to waste.
Final word from Melvin who did a great job with his entertaining keynote speech, especially since, as he pointed out to me as we walked over to the hall for the last time, ‘everything’s already been said’. From his website. ‘We all all came away with a clearer idea of what was going on than when we arrived’. If that’s true, it’s as much as I would have hoped for from the day, which was a celebration of the genre (or ‘literature’ as Alison Waller argued) at a high point, but also a call for YAF writers to raise their game even higher. This was the first national conference on Young Adult Fiction and I hope it won’t be the last, that someone will run with the ball and organise the next one. Not me, though. I’ve got a lot of writing to do.