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What an amazing weekend of books, authors and bibliophiles! Thousands of people descended on Santa Monica high school this weekend, to meet their favorite authors, win free books and enjoy panels with some of the best YA authors in the business!

For those of you who didn't get a chance to make it out there this year, I thought I'd share some highlights with you!

As you can see in the photo above, there were a ton of giveaways! I did end up buying, The Young Elites for my book club, and I purchased Seeker after attending a panel with the author but the rest were all won and some of them are even signed by the authors!

One of the things I love most about YA is how vast and voracious the readers are. There were young girls and boys in attendance, as well as adults who were just as excited about the books as their kids were. YA is special that way, it brings generations together and allows kids and parents to share in their passion for reading.

Moving on to the panel portion of the festival, I really enjoyed the handful that I went to. Listening to successful professionals who've been in the writing business for years is always an inspiration.

Here is a list of my Top 10 favorite moments, quotes and advice from the panelist:

1. Stop researching so much and work on building an emotional connection with your readers. Research is important to making your story real, but building a connection with your readers key to creating a story that will stay with the reader long after they've put the book down.

2. Content is KING! If you're not spending your time creating, then you need to reprioritize. At the end of the day everything comes down to what you get on the page.

3. Don't be afraid to fight for your story. There will be plenty of people who will try to change your story or put their own spin on it. Don't let them, it's your story, your vision that's on the page.

4. Every book has a place in this world and you will find your readers. No one can tell a story like you can, because they aren't you and don't have the same experiences that you do. So stop thinking that everything's already been done.

5. Let your characters grow and adapt over the course of your series, but always have one thread in them that ties back to who they were when they started their journey.

6. Keep it real! Get into the nitty gritty of your characters lives. Real life is messy and full of heartbreak and mistakes. Don't make your characters perfect and unbelievable.

7. Hang out with people who make you feel energized after you leave them. **This is particularly important when you are trying to grow creatively. People who are draining in your life, have to go. Surround yourself with positivity and like minded people and you will soar!

8. Sherlock Holmes is now in the public domain! I feel a Sherlock story percolating.

9. When writing your villains, make sure you give them a back story. Why are the evil? How did they get to be that way? Are they misunderstood?

10. Every character is the star in their own story. Don't forget to let them shine through.

There's so much more I could tell you, but really you just have experience it for yourself. There's nothing like a good book festival and I highly recommend attending a festival near you if you can't make it out to Yallwest next year!

Until Next Time!

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