Monday, 27 June 2016

How to Deal With YALC if you Have Anxiety

Going to YALC was a huge deal for me last year, and it will be this time, too. YALC is the Young Adult Literature Convention in London, so you can probably imagine that it's not the ideal place to go when you have anxiety and want to cry just thinking about crowds. I still went though, and it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be; in fact, it was my highlight of last year. Here are my tips for dealing with YALC if you have anxiety:

Email YALC beforehand

If you're anxious about the event, email the team and let them know what you're worried about along with any questions you have that, when answered, might relieve your anxiety. I did this, and they couldn't have been nicer. Their lovely response made me feel much more comfortable. After all, they've spent months working hard to make the event as fun and inclusive as possible, and at the end of the day they're there to make sure you have a good time!

Plan, plan, plan...

Yes, hello, it is I, the Queen of Planning.

...unless it makes you anxious to be on schedule, in which case, go with the flow and do what makes you comfortable. But if you do feel better with a plan, then do that! I did and I was able to enjoy the event so much more as I knew where I'd have to be and when. If you want to know how I planned my day, click here

Take time out if you need to

At YALC there's an area dedicated to chilling out, with a row of comfy beanbags and deckchairs along a wall decorated with hanging books. If you need a break, it's the perfect place to go. There are also easily-accessible toilets where you might even bump into your favourite author. Ha, yeah... #awkward. I believe you can also leave the building and come back if you want to - at least, that's how it was last year - as we had wristbands. So if you need some air that shouldn't be a problem, and there are lots of staff members in Showmasters t-shirts should you need any help.

Get the YALC ticket

You can get into YALC with a normal LFCC ticket, but you can also pay a couple of extra pounds for the ticket specifically for YALC (and you can get into LFCC with this, too.) Make sense? With the YALC-specific ticket, you have early access to the venue (which is good if you need to chill out and acclimatise a bit first, as far fewer people will be in the building at this time) and you get into the event from a different entrance. The LFCC entrance last year was rammed and I was so glad when I got to walk past and join the much shorter, much calmer YALC queue. This only costs a couple of pounds extra and I'd say it's well worth it (plus you get a goodie bag!)

Take someone with you

Unless you'd prefer to go on your own, obviously! My parents came with me last year and at least one of them will be with me this time. Having extra pairs of hands was SO helpful, because you go to the convention with bags full of books and you come away with even more - way more. It also means you have someone to calm you down if you get panicky, and a spare rational brain when yours isn't coping so well. 

Think about your travel options

This might seem a little weird, but it made me feel better knowing that we were travelling there in the car. If you think about it, your car is basically a portable space for you, whoever's with you, and no one else. Kinda like a home away from home but less comfortable and much smaller, you know? Not having to rely on public transport took a lot of pressure off and it helped knowing that there was somewhere just for me where I could go if I needed to. It's very expensive to park at Olympia but it might end up cheaper than a train ticket depending on where you're coming from, so look into it if you think that'll be useful.

Other things you might want to know...

I don't know about you but the more I know about something that makes me anxious, the better. Here are a few scraps of info that might make you a little more comfortable:

  • YALC 2015 had an entire floor to itself and wasn't in the depths of madness that is LFCC, so even though there were lots of people there, it was very spacious.
  • No one minds if you leave halfway through a panel. Lots of people do this so they can start queueing for signings. If you need to go for whatever reason, you won't be the only one.
  • If you get anxious about the way you look, LFCC/YALC is actually one of the best places you could be. If you want to cover up, cosplay is totally acceptable. And if you don't get dressed up, no one's going to be looking at you because the room will be full of Disney princesses, Hogwarts students and men in extremely tight Batman costumes... 
  • EVERYONE is nervous, and you can guarantee there will be other people there with anxiety (including me!) Meeting actors, illustrators, authors and friends from the Internet is nerve-wracking stuff even when you don't have diagnosed anxiety. Sure, yours might be harder to deal with, but at an event like this everyone is pretty much in the same boat. Last year I spotted someone crouched in a corner having a panic attack. Trust me, you won't be the only one struggling (and that's if you struggle at all. Having an entire room understand your Clace obsession is wonderful and distracting.)
  • People said it was pretty hot last year. That's to be expected considering YALC is at the hottest time of year, but I thought it was pretty cool. Wear loose-fitting clothes for comfort if nothing else - you'll be moving around all day.
  • They sell food and drink on site but, as far as I know, it's fine to bring your own. Keep hydrated.
  • If you're too shy to say much or anything at all to authors you meet, don't worry - they're used to it! We've all been there...

So, if you have anxiety and you're going to YALC (or any convention, really) then I hope this was helpful. I have every faith in you that you can get through the day and end up enjoying yourself. If you don't have anxiety, then I hope you enjoyed this insight into an anxious brain... and here are 8 things you should do in preparation for YALC whether you have anxiety or not.

If you have any questions about YALC, feel free to ask!

Do you have any tips to add?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

5 Reasons You Should Join #TeenBloggersChat

Earlier this year, myself and fellow bloggers Jack, Hannah and Holly launched #teenbloggerschat on Twitter. It's a weekly Twitter chat especially for teen bloggers at 8pm every Sunday, and it's amazing if I do say so myself. If you haven't joined us yet (why not?!) maybe the following reasons will convince you...

We can go from discussing serious topics like inspiration and the influence and responsibility of bloggers, to freaking out over Harry Potter and playing a (very, very weird) game of Would You Rather. Nothing's off limits and because the topics are so different each week, it never gets boring.

The moderators are pretty cool, if you ask me. We work really hard throughout the week to make sure everything is ready and as good as possible. Plus, we might all be book bloggers but we all have different interests and ideas - it's not just one person thinking along the same lines week in, week out.

The chat is an amazing way to make friends in the blogging community! #teenbloggerschat has only been happening for a couple of months or so, but I've already had the pleasure of watching so many friendships blossom between bloggers.

If you need help, someone will be there. Whether it's a technological problem or you can't think of anything to blog about, pop your question on Twitter with the hashtag and another teen blogger will be happy to help. Alternatively, you can tweet @TeenBloggersGR and one of the moderators will get back to you!

As far as I know, it's the only Twitter chat specifically for teen bloggers. It's a safe space for us to unapologetically have fun and discuss the issues that are important to us, and everyone involved loves it a lot.

The next #teenbloggerschat is this Sunday at 8pm BST/3pm EST, and we'll be talking about fandoms. Join us!

Saturday, 18 June 2016

The Moonlight Dreamers by Siobhan Curham

Title: The Moonlight Dreamers
Author: Siobhan Curham
Published by: Walker Books
Publication date: 7th July 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: YA Contemporary/Friendship
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Amber craves excitement and adventure. Instead, she's being bullied at school for having two dads, and life at home isn't much better. Inspired by Oscar Wilde, Amber realises that among the millions of people in London, there must be others who feel the same as she does; other dreamers - moonlight dreamers. After chance encounters with Maali, Sky and Rose, Amber soon recruits the three girls to the Moonlight Dreamers. It's high time they started pursuing their dreams, and how better than with the support of friends?

Regular readers of mine might know that Siobhan Curham is one of my favourite authors. Her books end up making the reader feel better about themselves, humanity and life in general, and The Moonlight Dreamers is no different.

Amber has two dads, a wardrobe of vintage clothes and an obsession with Oscar Wilde, all of which she is relentlessly bullied for. Maali lives above her parents' Asian sweet shop and dreams of finally being able to talk to a boy without running away. Rose is dealing with the unwanted attention that comes with having famous parents, and Sky - the total opposite of Rose, complete with a modest houseboat and a love of poetry - is about to become her step-sister. What should be a difficult time for all of them becomes something none of them ever expected.

What I love most about The Moonlight Dreamers is that, however unlikely their newly formed friendships might be, they all actively work on empowering each other and helping each other achieve their dreams. I really enjoyed watching the growth of their friendship and confidence within themselves. I also liked the mix of different backgrounds, from a lonely Hampstead mansion to a cosy, secluded houseboat.

Out of all Curham's books, this one is particularly gorgeous - and I'm not just talking about that beautiful cover. The only way I can think of to describe The Moonlight Dreamers is that it's like a hug, and it's absolutely perfect for fans of Holly Bourne and Keris Stainton. A must-read.