Tips from YALLFest!

If you read yesterday’s post, you know I spent last weekend in Florida, which meant I missed the literary event of the year here in SC, an event I participated in last year. When I realized I’d double booked the weekend, I asked Nerdy Chick Jocelyn Rish to share some of the tips she picked up at YALLFest. Thanks Jocelyn! Here’s Jocelyn’s post:


JocelynWithHighlightsStoryThis past weekend was the third annual YALLFest, and it gets bigger and bigger every year – we’re talking lines down alleyways and wrapped around buildings for the Keynote and Smackdown sessions. Soon they are going to have to bite the bullet and split it into two days because it is just too much awesomeness to be contained in one day.

This year there were 50 YA authors, many of them New York Times bestsellers, speaking at various panels. They shared a mind-melting amount of advice and wisdom about writing and storytelling, and Kami asked me to share five tips from YALLFest. Fair warning, these are horribly paraphrased because I was scribbling notes on a piece of paper resting on my thigh (which, let’s be honest, is not exactly rock hard with muscles) while also trying to absorb what the next panelist was saying.

 1. During the Keynote, Rae Carson and Veronica Roth talked about being frustrated with people always asking them why they write strong female characters because it’s such a limiting term, and several times they referenced this article ( by Sophia McDougall. Two snippets from them that resonated:

Rae Carson: A strong person is not the same as a strongly written character.

Veronica Roth: Strength on the page means a character has agency -> they drive their own narrative. And vulnerability does not equal weakness.

2. Rainbow Rowell: Everything that happens to you is in your head and that becomes your palette, so that you can reach for different details while writing. Writing about real things lets you work through your knots through your characters.

 3. In talking about world building, especially in Fantasy…

Leigh Bardugo: Give the reader a tether, like sign posts similar to our world, so that understanding the world is not a burden on the reader.

Myra McEntire: She wanted to put something magical in the place she lived everyday.

David Macinnis Gill: As a kid he always asked “What if?” so now all his books are born of that same question.

 4. Rachel Cohn: You write what’s in your heart and let it out there without knowing how people are going to interpret it.

 5. Kami Garcia: Don’t try to write a bestseller – write the best story you can write.

YALLFest is always very inspiring, so if you haven’t had the chance to attend, start making plans for next year!

To find out more about Jocelyn, and to read interviews with YALLFest authors, check out her BLOG(For those of you who don’t know, Jocelyn just won the SCBWI Work in Progress Grant!)