Yesterday I got to go to YALLWEST!!! I pretty much died and then came back to life. I am not exaggerating when I say that I couldn’t stop smiling. But, pray tell, what is this YALL thing that happens in the WEST? Well, straight outta the website:
A day of panels, book signings, food trucks, bad jokes, rock ‘n’ roll, killer photo ops & general geeky shenanigans” with “over 100  authors and presenters including New York Times Bestsellers along with local and acclaimed young adult and middle grade writers, plus notable TV, film, video game, and comic creators” that happens in Santa Monica, CA, every year.

This was my first time attending an event on this scale and man oh man, I LOVED IT. There was this feeling of community and excitement that I’ve never really felt anywhere else. It all started on Friday with the Fierce Friday preview event; bookworms all around got to meet cool authors, get our books signed and play games. It was a fun way to kick off the book festival.
But the real deal started at 9 AM on Saturday. When I got there, the line was already curled around the block and the sun was blazing (and yes, I did forget to put on sunscreen). But nonetheless, the flood gates were opened and all the bookworms streamed in.
Thankfully, I managed to get my First In Line bag to guarantee my spot at the 12 PM Pizza party (which I will word-vomit about later in this post). I then proceeded to practically skip to the Centennial Quad, where the signings were taking place.
Guys. I’m still freaking out.
I got to meet the amazing, makeup-wiz Renee Ahdieh, and not only did she look flawless, she is also the nicest person to ever exist. She signed my paperback of The Rose and The Dagger and I was internally screeching the entire time (but, thankfully, managed to remain outwardly eloquent).


And then for the 11 AM signing, I got to meet Marie Lu, who is possibly the coolest person you’ll ever meet. I’m currently reading The Rose Society, so I was practically bouncing right out of my skin while she signed my copy of The Young Elites, because I have so many feelings about this series!


I went over to the Main Quad and proceeded to hover around the First In Line booth, waiting for the 12 PM Pizza Party, since only the first 100 people would get in. Thankfully it all worked out and I actually made some friends while waiting in line! *gasp* Alina?? You?? Talked to new people?? Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m still shocked. But apparently being around people that like the same things I do really loosens up my tongue.
We got free pizza and to my surprise, got to sit RIGHT NEXT to the author chairs. We were under these big trees and it so freaking NICE. The moderator asked funny questions and we got to watch James Dashner, Leigh Bardugo, Kiersten White, Nicola Yoon, Jessica Cluess and Jennifer E. Smith exchange witty banter. Me and my newly acquired friends were in an understandable state of amazement.


And THEN, if being near them wasn’t enough, the moderator announced that the authors were going to go around and talk with each table for five minutes each. This is the point where I pretty much felt myself starting to float. The amazing Kiersten White talked to us about how she got courage to cut and dye her cool hair, James Dashner talked to us about how it was to visit the Maze Runner cast in South Africa and then, our Queen and Savior Leigh Bardugo sat with us and spoke to us about character ships and her badass crows-head cane. She is pretty much the only person I know that can pull off a long black lace dress and silver hair without looking funny (she looked so badass, my friends and I couldn’t stop gushing about it).


After that, I headed on over to the Clever Criminals and Dastardly Deeds panel on a cloud. First, if you know me, you know that Sasha Alsberg has been my ultimate inspiration for over six years, so when I walked into the North Gym and saw not only her, but Lindsay Cummings, Kami Garcia, Leigh Bardugo, Susan Dennard, Kiersten White and Traci Chee…ohhhh I practically squealed. The panel was super interesting and we all agreed Zuko is the best anti-hero.


I needed to head on over to the Wristband tent to pick one up for the Leigh Bardugo signing, so after the panel I headed towards the Science Quad… aaaaaaand ran into Sasha Alsberg. My Ultimate Inspiration. She was super super nice, took a photo with me and even gave me a Zenith bookmark. I felt like I was dreaming.

 


At 3 PM I lined up with a bunch of other bookworms after surviving the Leigh Bardugo Wristband Hunger Games. There were only a limited number, so I guess that explains why we had to run over to the line (literally. I had to speed walk really fast because people were DASHING). I even made some more Book Friends! We got our wristbands and then once again, ran to the Centennial Quad to line up for Leigh’s signing. We were the first few people in her line and it was AWESOME.
And then it happened. I met the Queen.


I didn’t word-vomit all over her and the words that came out of my mouth actually made sense! I was so, so excited and I couldn’t stop smiling. I have her a letter and she signed my copy of Six of Crows, even adding in a Kaz quote, and since we were the first few people, we got a sampler of her next book, The Language of Thorns.
To say I was happy is a big, BIG understatement.
(This is probably the longest post I’ve ever written but hang with me)
After that, I went to the 5 PM signing for Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings. I was a ball of nerves, but it was super fun and I gave them two letters and two little gifts (I mean, they signed my sampler of Because You Love To Hate Me and my phone case, it only made sense I gave them something in return).


While walking from event to event I also ended up meeting lots of cool and incredible people, and even managed to get my Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe signed by Benjamin Alire Saenz.

(That’s me trying not to freak out because THAT’S CHRISTINE RICCIO WHAAAAAT)


(Attempting to get a good photo with the stunning Natasha Polis, but the wind had other plans)


(SUSAN. FREAKING. DENNARD.)

And finally, the event came to a close with the Smackdown. We all piled into the Barnum Auditorium and watched as nearly all the authors came on stage, played games and tried to embarrass each other. It was absolutely wonderful and by then, I was smiling so much my cheeks hurt.

I left Santa Monica High School dragging my feet, because I really, really didn’t want to leave.
My shoulders are bruised from carrying so many books and I’ve got a sun burn around my ankles, but I seriously could not be happier. I got all my books signed and went home with a whole lotta free books and swag! I also got my first ARCs ever, and I keep wanting to take them out of my bag and stare at them.


Thank you, YALLWEST, for being the best experience I could’ve asked for. I can’t wait for next time!

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