Sunday, 22 November 2015

Spotlight Sunday: An Evening With...

Melinda Salisbury, Holly Bourne, Keris Stainton, CJ Daugherty and Alexia Casale.

Image from the @YALiverpool1 Twitter Account.

So a few Fridays ago, on October 30th, I was lucky enough to have the chance to go to my favourite place in the north west, Waterstones Liverpool One, and meet some incredible authors.

I've been a fan of CJ and Holly for about two years now, ever since I discovered the YA genre. More recently I read The Sin Eater's Daughter and Counting Stars, and became big fans of them too. I'd not yet read any of Alexia's, but having missed the chance to meet her and become acquainted with her books at YALC, I was excited to finally get the chance. All in all, this was set to be an amazing event and I couldn't resist attending.

Armed with TSED, Am I Normal Yet?, The Secret Fire, and a copy of Legacy for my lovely friend Cazz who couldn't make it (and also had my copy of Counting Stars ;) ), I headed into town at around 4pm. I always feel a little funny attending events on my own, but after going all the way to YALC solo, nothing really compares and I was determined to have a good time.

Once there I got myself Alexia's House of Windows and Keris' Emma <3 LA then, slowly counting the minutes until 6.30, purchased a fabulous hot chocolate from the cafe. Sweets were handed out by staff upon sitting down (Sadly I'm on a low sugar diet. The hot choc' was my limit) as we eagerly awaited the five amazing authors, four of whom were apparently stuck in traffic.

No-ones mood seemed to dampen however, the little YA community abuzz, and by 6.45 I glimpsed the familiar figure of Melinda Salisbury. Having been unable to find her in the crowds at YALC, my excitement increased ten-fold. Yes, I absolutely adore TSED, in case you hadn't already guessed by my constant rambling about it (*Cough* See review *Cough*) and Twitter picture. Yes, I am super excited for The Sleeping Prince. Yes, I want it now.

By 6.50 the panel was underway, led by the amazing Keris and hot on the topic of feminism and strong female characters. In a room with around 25 women total, and given the title of the event, what else were we going to talk about? That being said, the discussion did occasionally move sideways onto the town of Leek, which is where all but Keris had been stuck for a good portion of the day. Is it sort of weird that I now want to go to Staffordshire and see this place? Possibly.

Image from the @YALiverpool1 Twitter Account.
(With the back of my head in the foreground)

Some laughs were had, many of which were orchestrated by Melinda who described her novel as 'Rapunzel with poison and incest'. While that's boiling the novel down quite simply, we all had to agree with a chorus of giggles. There were some solemn, serious moments though - as in all panels - because the representation of strong women is a big issue in fiction right now, and especially in YA. All these authors have fantastically represented women as strong, independent characters who are not limited by their anatomy and physiology. Once again Melinda orchestrated a laugh with her very blunt 'I have breasts. See?'. She makes a valid point though - they all did. Women are no different from men in their ability to be strong, heroic, and fight for what they believe in. They are different only in anatomy, and one could technically argue the other side of the coin and say men have different organs to women. Why does any argument have to be from the man's point of view, arguing the difference of women? After all, there are always two sides to every story. In my opinion these authors, and many others, are a part of the driving force that is starting to change the way people look at women, and really make a difference to the world. Sadly though, there is still a fair way to go.

The panel was fantastic overall, and I learnt a good deal about how to make my own female characters even stronger than they already are. It's not simply about outward strength, about moving boulders or wrestling dragons. Its about inner strength too. About fighting the demons within you, moving away from comfort zones, confronting fears, and living the life that you want to live regardless of what people think you are or should be. Its about being strong in all aspects of life, ripping away labels, and not letting anyone tell you otherwise.

As with all panels/events, the evening came to a close with all five authors signing as many books as we could carry (Or so it seemed...). Though I hadn't brought my hamster as Melinda and CJ had jokingly suggested on Twitter earlier in the day, I did have six books, which was a substantial amount for my YALC tote bag to carry. Rambling to each in turn about my love of books in general, their books, their writing, them, YALC, etc, I came home with five gorgeous personalised copies of some of my favourite books and some I've yet to read, a copy for Cazz, and a huge smile on my face. It was an evening I will not forget, and one I hope to have again in the future.

So all I can say is thank you to Melinda, Holly, Keris, CJ and Alexia, and the always wonderful staff at Waterstones Liverpool One, for such a fabulous evening. You guys are truly amazing!

Holly @TheArtsShelf

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