Memory recall & reflection.

It’s like starting all over again” said my 13 year old who is going into Year 9 in September – and is dyslexic. “I don’t remember anything…a, b, c”. Then he laughed as he spelled out the alphabet.

Privately assessed by an educational psychologist when aged 7, who said “it’s glaringly obvious” that he has dyslexia, we have been aware of his learning needs for some time.  We’ve done our best to support him throughout – including moving schools, when one particular headmaster responded to my complaint that my son was not getting any support, even with an ed psych report:  “This is all we are going to do. If you don’t like it, take him somewhere else”. So I did. Parent power is essential for any child with a learning need, in an age where some schools are still ill-equipped to help or are oversubscribed with an ever-increasing number of children who need extra help.

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My first YALC!

Attending YALC for the first time, I wasn’t sure what to expect. As part of the London Film & Comic Con, YALC has been running since 2014, created with the support and encouragement of the then Children’s Laureate, Malorie Blackman.

It was, quite simply, FANTASTIC! A veritable feast of YA authors spoke on a variety of topics from Resistance & Protest in YA Fiction to Humour in YA.  Authors from both the UK and US were in attendance.  I particularly enjoyed the YA Book Prize Panel featuring Sarah Crossan, Jenny Downham, Catherine Johnson & Lisa Williamson who shared insights into their wonderful shortlisted novels and writing in general.  I also loved the conversation with Frances Hardinge, Philip Reeve and Tanya Landman.  The New Voices authors gave a wonderful insight into being the new kid on the block.

“Once you’ve written a book, it’s almost like the characters aren’t yours anymore – everyone is emotionally invested” Lisa Williamson

“Read everything!”   “You want to write something that’s the you-ness of you!”  Catherine Johnson

“Writing for unheard voices – you’ve got to be passionate” Deirdre Sullivan, author of  Needlework, Unheard Voices Panel

“Be prepared to let go of the things that aren’t working and learn from them”  “Stories are really organic; they grow; they’re like a collage”  New Voices Panel

“I can convey more about the real world through fantasy than with what might be considered ‘realistic'”     “I am allergic to unfairness: it brings me out in literature”   Frances Hardinge

“Everything you read, everything you see, everything you’ve done feeds into your writing”  Tanya Landman

“The job of the author is to write the story they want to write”  “I like inventing worlds”  Philip Reeve

Author panel discussions are a brilliant way to find out more about the writers behind the pages, the inspiration for their novels and a thoroughly enjoyable way to see how authors respond to questions from both the host and the audience.

The major publishers of YA fiction were out in force, with fantastic displays of current and up & coming books.  Their stalls were manned by lovely book-ish folk – one girl I met was an intern with OUP and was clearly having a ball: what a great internship to do!

There were some self published authors working hard to promote their books, who I thought were incredibly brave and I really hope they had a good response.  It’s not easy putting yourself out there amongst what might be considered the ‘big guns’.  I know exactly how that feels! For me, it was an amazing opportunity to network and meet new people, bump into new friends again, sharing my love of reading with all. I had some really great chats with people about books, my work, their work and reading in general.  It definitely gives you a boost to be amongst like minded people. I was also fortunate to have my ‘bag man’ with me, ready at a moments notice to take pics etc! Thank you Mr Book Activist. Except on the Sunday, where I had to do the selfie thing, with minimal success!! Trying to get your arm at the right length away from you body, without pulling some weird grimace is not easy – I clearly need to practice more…

Taken courtesy of Mr Book Activist!

There was something very special about seeing so many young people enthused about reading; getting excited about seeing their favourite authors; clamouring for autographs; taking full advantage of all the fantastic freebies.  And on the last day there was this wonderful moment where I looked around and there were young people sitting on the floor, just reading – totally engrossed in their new purchases. If I could bottle that enthusiasm and pour it over everyone I meet, like a love potion for books, I would.   If these wonderful YA advocates of reading are able to share this with their friends, then there is definitely hope for all those young people who haven’t discovered the magic of reading, isn’t there?