Pro Tips: Yallwest Writers Speak Out

Santa Monica’s 4th annual youth literary event, Yallwest, took place Saturday May 5 with thousands of young book fans packing Santa Monica High School eager to meet their literary heroes and participate in panels and discussions.

Author C.B. Lee moderated the panel, Sheroes of SFF, that consisted of Ariel Lawrence, Amy S. Foster, Matt Dunn, Kiersten White and Claudia Gray. The ensemble of authors spoke about their writing process, character tropes, their favorite literature and film, as well as individual challenges. “SFF stands for science fiction and fantasy,” Lee clarified for the mostly teen audience.

  Sources of inspiration for the authors ranged from “Star Wars” to “Star Trek” to David Bowie in the “Labyrinth,” J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” Ariel Lawrence and Matt Dunn, both writers at Riot Games, addressed the growing representation of female characters within video games. Lawrence cited that they are not just secondary characters that “help the hero” anymore. She’s currently playing “League of Legends,” an online multiplayer game that consists of 140 characters, many of which are female.

Amy S. Foster, author of “The Rift” trilogy and Kiersten White, author of the “Paranormacy” trilogy, both addressed the challenges of being a writer and a mother. For both writers, a devoted “space to write” was essential, even if it meant separation from their respective children. Meanwhile, Claudia Gray, author of the 2017 book “Leia: Princess of Alderaan” as well as other young adult “Star Wars” novels spoke about consistently writing fan fiction over the years, because it was “less pressure” and “a fun type of writing.” She recommended that aspiring writers give it a try because the characters are already familiar.

In addition to speaker panels, writing activities, book signings, publishing discussions and “ask me anything” with authors, the festival included resources to foster professional growth and interest in young adult literature.

Amanda Santos, who started as a volunteer for Yallwest, coordinated the author signing area this year and she told The Mirror that working in a bookstore that held book signings for Stephanie Myer, Justin Bieber and other authors helped to prepare her for the position.

“Challenges are an eager crowd and making that sure people are comfortable while waiting,” she said.

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