The Complete Yallwest Guide to Maximizing Your Time + What to Expect
Yallwest (n.) – a young-adult book festival in Santa Monica, CA where authors, publishers, and book lovers come together to celebrate the world of books and the advocacy they create.
ex: I can’t wait to go to Yallwest this weekend and score a ton of ARCs and swag.
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Anecdote on Why I Love Yallwest:
I have been attending Yallwest since the first festival four years ago. I was a freshman at the time, still relatively naive in a sense. Yallwest was (and still is) my Disneyland. Imagine having the opportunity to meet all of the people you look up to and aspire to be in one day. That was exactly how I felt. At my first Yallwest, I meet Veronica Roth (and nearly died) and got my Divergent series personalized by her. This was the first time I had ever met someone “famous”, and it was someone I genuinely loved and adore. The Divergent series was the book set that really inspired my love for reading. I had read and obsessed over Harry Potter and the Hunger Games, but Divergent was the first storyline that I had a personal connection with. That day I saw Veronica Roth another two times, both on Keynote panels. Meeting Veronica Roth and a ton of other authors and fans that day is what inspired me to pursue writing in the first place.
Four years later, I still feel that same nervous-joy when meeting authors. Because of Yallwest, I’ve been able to meet Marie Lu, Taheri Mafi, Victoria Aveyard, Cassandra Claire, Alexander Braken, and many more. Without Yallwest, I wouldn’t have the connection to reading that I have today. Without books, I would have found the strength to discover and advocate for rights that I care about.
What to Pack:
If you have never been to L.A. (or SoCal in general), it gets hot. Like, dripping in sweat even with a tank top and shorts hot. When you are Yallwest, the sun will inevitably beat down on you all day. I would take the proper pre-cautions to avoid sunburns and dehydration. Always pack:
- a hat, visor, or shade of some kind
- a Hydroflask (check out these ones from Amazon that I love)
When at Yallwest, you are bound to pick up a ton of ARCs and Swag. Plus, you will have a ton of books for authors to sign. I would recommend getting one of these rolling file/storage carts. They will save your arms and back the pain of carrying all of your things:
Where to Stay:
Santa Monica is home to stunning beach villas and very *very* expensive hotels. If you are planning to get a hotel room in Santa Monica for Yallwest, most rooms will run you about $250-350 dollars… on a good day. People aren’t exaggerating when they say LA is costly. However, by just finding a hotel 15-20 minutes away from Yallwest and out of the main Santa Monica area, you are bound to save hundreds of dollars. There is plenty of decent parking around the festival area and an abundance of Ubers for you to connect with. Here are some hotels in the Santa Monica area that I highly recommend taking a look at:
To be a thousand percent honest, there is no need to find a hotel right next to the festival. This last time I went to Yallwest, I stayed in a hotel 20 minutes away (Courtyard Marriott). If you plan ahead and use Waze (a GPS app that finds you the fastest route possible, and warns you of accidents and stops ahead), you’ll have just as amazing of a time than if you got a hotel room 3 minutes walking distance. Bonus: by not staying in a hotel by the pier and beach, you don’t have to deal with the insane traffic and skyrocketed prices.
How to Plan Your Schedule:
After a few years of Yallwest, I’d like to say I perfected the perfect schedule program. When mapping out which authors you want to meet and what booths to you want to snag swag from, it can get overwhelming. Every single one of us readers are different, so how you want to prioritize your opportunities is really up to you. Here is a few tips to get you started on planning your own Yallwest guide:
- Leave room for breaks. You will want food. Do not overload your schedule. With so many events going on, it can be overwhelming to find a time for lunch or a break. I would set aside an hour or two for you to just wander around the festival and grab a bite to eat. These times where I have nothing plan are always the most fun for me.
- Remember: some authors are wristband access only. How this works is that there is typically a meeting spot where you go to an hour before the signing. The staff hands out wristbands to a specific amount of people, so make sure you get there early. After the wristbands given out, lines will start to form shortly after for the signing an hour later. Make sure that you don’t schedule anything during these wristband times if you are dying to meet a specific author. Space is limited.
- Keep up with companies that will be handing out swag at the festival on social media. They typically release their schedules around 3-5 days before Yallwest. Always work the ARC drops into your schedule so you don’t miss any of the fun.
Though the swag and signings may be fun, I have a few oddball things at Yallwest to recommend:
- Check out the food trucks. Yallwest always has amazing food and you will not be disappointed. Also, if you are from out-of-state, stop by the In-N-Out truck to get in your “I Finally Tried In-N-Out and OMG I Can’t Even” moment.
- GO TO THE KEYNOTES. They are all so fun. It always interesting to hear about author’s experiences. Most of the Keynotes involve story-telling and character-building tips, perfect for aspiring writers. Even if you don’t know any of the authors on the panel, if the topic sounds intriguing, go to it. You will not be disappointed.
- Keep an eye out for special event. This past 2018 Yallwest, Fox was doing promotions for “The Hate U Give” and “The Darkest Minds” movies. There was crazy opts to be on camera and in social media advertising. I had the extraordinary opportunity to be a part of “The Hate U Give” Q and A Talk with Angie Thomas. I hope that Yallwest continues with these opportunities in the future, because they are a ton of fun and inspiration.
“The Hate U Give” Talk by 20th Century FOX:
For those who do not know, NY-Times Bestselling Novel “The Hate U Give” is in the works of a big-screen adaptation. As someone who loved the book, this is very exciting news. After reading it last year, I instantly fell in love with the story and its deeply rooted messages. So when I got an email asking me if I would like to be a part of a filmed Q and A for the movie, I could not have said yes fast enough.
The workers who put on the shoot did a fantastic job at staging us and making us readers feel as comfortable as possible. Going into it, I was very nervous. But, their constant reassurance made all of us feel a lot more confident in our answers. Throughout the session, we were all given a small guideline of ideas to touch on, but for the most part, it was free reign. We were able to ask any questions we wanted, and got to answer some of Angie Thomas’s questions as well. Even though there was a huge lighting wall and cameras around us, it felt more like sitting in someone’s bedroom and chatting about the book.
It felt really good to talk about some of the dark topics that “The Hate U Give” touches on, such as police brutality and racism. Hearing about all of the personal stories told by the girls around me brought a new light onto this topic for me. The issues that are illustrated in the book come from a very real place. One of the main reasons the book is so relatable is because it’s that we see happen everyday (as sad as it is). I am very blessed to have sat down and talked to Angie Thomas, along with the other girls, about “The Hate U Give”. If you haven’t already, pick up “The Hate U Give” at any place where books are sold.
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I hope you enjoyed the Ultimate Guide for Yallwest. If you know any more awesome tips or recommendations for Yallwest, let me know in the comments.
Planning on stay a few extra days in California? Check out my Ultimate Guide on Huntington Beach and my 10 Best Spring Break Destinations in Cali.
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