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!
If you have any questions about YALC, feel free to ask!
Do you have any tips to add?