Friday, 16 August 2013

Leakycon Lit Panel Recap: Part One

So I went to Leakycon last week and took part in the Leakycon Lit track. This meant I got access to some awesome panels with YA authors, where they discussed their work and tips and experiences from writing. I also got the chance to go to two signings which was incredible. In this post I'm going to recap the panels from the second day of Leakycon (which was the first day of lit panels!). I hope you enjoy!

The Panels

Sally Gardner and Elizabeth Wein in Conversation

This was one of my absolute must-go-to panels when I first saw the schedule, and it was up first! I arrived a little bit early to the room and was the first one there. There were two lit panels on at the same time, so a lot of people headed to "Let's Make a World" instead. When we got into the room and got started, there were only about ten or so people there, partly due to the other lit panel taking place next door and partly because it was at the same time as the Nerdfighter meet up with Hank Green in the Grand Hall. We started out by explaining to Sally Gardner who Hank Green was. Of course everybody's heard of John Green because of his books, but Hank Green is a bit more of an unknown!

The panel was moderated by Rosianna Halse Rojas who did a fantastic job of asking questions and creating some great discussions. The two authors covered topics such as writing historical fiction (Sally Gardner commented how it gave characters more freedom for adventure because there are less health and safety restrictions to be tied to!), as well as the pressure of writing after winning awards. Sally Gardner discussed the reception of Maggot Moon and how it was very love/hate.

This brought the authors on to one of my favourite parts of the discussion - online reviews! They both said the negative ones were very hard to take at the beginning, but over time they've learnt to ignore them and sepearate themselves from that nasty 1%. The two also talked about participating in blog tours which was really interesting. They both commented on how hard it can be to rush out extra pieces which distract from their writing time. Sally talked about her dyslexia and how rushing to finish something which was all spelt correctly for a blog tour or interview was quite a challenge. 

The two talked about the more technical side of writing historical fiction and the research that goes into it. Elizabeth Wein spoke about the pen she describes at length in Code Name Verity and how fascinated she was by it that she simply had to include it. I loved hearing her speak about that because when I read the book I remember thinking how cool it was too! The two of them spoke about researching the different types of aeroplanes they've both had to describe in their writing. Elizabeth Wein commented that feedback from Code Name Verity about their being too many technical descriptions was taken into consideration when editing Rose Under Fire, and that they actually cut down on the amount of technical detail in the second book.

They also discussed the crossover appeal of YA and Elizabeth Wein talked about visiting book shops with dedicated YA sections and how that was a new thing she wasn't used to. She also mentioned how intimidated she was by the paranormal romance-esque sections of book shops filled with black covers, and how uninviting those sections seemed!

They opened it up to questions and I got up the nerve to ask the first one! I asked what they thought of how history was taught to youngsters because I myself struggled with it in the past and have often been intimidated by history and historical fiction. They both agreed I'd had bad teachers (I'm with them there!) and that sometimes the most fascinating bits of history are the bits they don't teach you in school. It definitely encouraged me to go out and immerse myself in history a bit more.

It was an absolute pleasure to hear two incredible authors speak and I'm so glad I got the opportunity!

Fear and Loathing in the Writing Process: How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Terror
James Dawson, Matt Whyman Sally Gardner, Samantha Shannon, Elizabeth Wein

I like to write myself and still harbour dreams of publishing a novel one day, so I was really excited to hear first hand experiences of authors and their fears when it came to writing. The authors introduced themselves and their work to start out. Then there was a hilarious moment where somebody bought James Dawson some Haribo after he'd mentioned wanting some on Twitter!

One of the the first things they discussed and which they all agreed upon, was how scary it was to label yourself as a "writer".  All of them were even more intimidated by the term "author"! They all mentioned how they felt like frauds and that they'd be caught out at any moment as not being good enough. I thought it was really interesting to know that even published writers struggle to feel good enough, which is something we can all relate to when we write!

Rosianna - who moderated this panel too - asked all the authors about writer's block. Samantha Shannon had some great words to say on this topic, talking about the difference between writer's shock and writer's block. She described shock as having to power through and just write anything at all, whereas when she has writer's block she needs to step away for a little while and come back to writing later.

There was lots of talk about how you balance your writing around other life commitments. An audience member asked a question about being motivated to write when all they wanted to do after work/school was come home and watch TV. Laure Eve gave some great advice about this, as she is currently working as well as writing. She says she makes the most of her commute and writes on the train to and from work. They agreed it's all about finding that window and making the most of it!

Samantha Shannon talked about how shy she was this time last year and  how she wouldn't have been able to do the panel this time last year because of it. I could definitely sympathise with that!

One of my favourite discussions was on making dialogue sound realistic (as it's one of my pet peeves when I read dialogue that isn't!). They talked about how reading and acting things aloud can really help not only dialogue become more accurate, but things like facial expressions and body language. If you act them out it ensures the positions are physically possible!

Another audience member asked about the technology they used to write which was a great one to talk about. Somebody mentioned Scrivener, which is a writing programme which allows you to organise your story. Most of the authors still used old fashioned Microsoft Word, but Sally mentioned that she uses her Mac which syncs to all her other Apple products, so whenever she goes back to her story on whichever device she uses, she has the most recent version of her manuscript.

Somebody also asked about NaNoWriMo which I was really excited about, having taken part myself. I think all the authors agreed that getting that initial draft on paper was a huge advantage.

I felt like I learnt a lot during this panel and it definitely inspired me to get back to writing!

I was a Teenage Author
Will Hill and Elizabeth Wein

This is a panel that has taken place at other Leakycons and has had a great reception. Basically the idea is that the authors turn up with writing they did as a child and read it aloud to the audience. There was a pretty good audience for this panel and it was honestly one of the funniest parts of the con.

The two authors for this panel were Will Hill and Elizabeth Wein, and the two shared several stories they'd worked on, even pieces from as young as the ages of six and seven. There were short stories and excerpts of full length novels. What was really fun was seeing how the two authors had been influenced by books and films. They were effectively writing fanfiction before fanfiction was a thing like it is today!

One of my favourite parts of this panel was when Elizabeth Wein brought out university applications she'd filled in as characters from her stories. It was so funny! And such a brilliant idea to really get you in the head of those characters. If you've read Code Name Verity then you'll know that Wein uses prescription forms in the story for one of the main characters to use as paper, only she ends up filling them out on behalf of the people around her. Wein commented that she'd filled them out herself for so many characters whilst writing the book.

It's hard to recreate the stories they read aloud in a blog post because they were so hilariously bizarre! Elizabeth Wein read a lot of her Welsh historical fantasy novel, and Will Hill read several short stories as well as a story featuring a CIA agent set in Canada. What was great was that the authors could look back and laugh on their attempts from such a young age, and it gave us all hope that no matter where you start out, and how crazy those initial attempts at writing are, every little helps!

The Lit Signing

Earlier in the day, I'd popped round to the signing room which was where Waterstones were based, so that I could get my hands on a copy of Fearsome Dreamer by Laure Eve, which I knew they'd be selling early. I practaiclly ran to the stall to get my hands on a copy, then saw they had The Bone Season too! That meant I had a copy of a book by each of the Lit authors for the signing later that day.

The signing started whilst I was in the Movie Actor Panel, so as soon as that was over I headed up to the fourth floor (from the ground floor!) as fast as I could. Luckily there weren't too many people there yet so I didn't have to wait long. 

I can honestly say that every author was SO LOVELY! I tried to speak with each of them which was hard because I was so nervous and shaking, but I had some really great conversations with them. I talked with James Dawson about this book trust article because I'd read it a few days before and loved what he'd have to say. I also spoke to Elizabeth Wein about Stockport, which is one of the main settings for Code Name Verity, because my mum is from there. I mentioned that I'd be lending the book to her as soon as I got home! Will Hill spoke about how awesome cons were and me and someone else in the queue mentioned comic-con jealousy! Anyway, they were all awesome and here are the books I got singed on day one of Lit!

Thank you to all the authors and organisers involved in day one of the lit panels! Check back soon for my recap of day two's events.


  1. Ahhh! I'm so jealous! It's so awesome that you got to go there and I'd love to go to one in the future. Hopefully there'll be another one here! All the panels sound great. Thanks for sharing with us, Sarah!

    1. I hope you get the chance to experience it lovely, because it was an incredible experience every Potter fan and book lover should get to experience! :D Keeping my fingers crossed for another London one! :D

  2. What a great writeup! All the panels sound amazing, especially the sally garder/elizabeth wein and the panel about being scared of being a writer. Fingers crossed for another one next year!


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