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Like almost everything brilliant in the world, Deptcon, Ireland’s biggest Young Adult fiction convention, is a simple idea, executed very well. Over the course of two days young people gather to see new and well-known YA authors in a series of panel discussion broken up by book signings. There are no breaks; it’s a panel, a signing, a bit of craic from Deptcon- inventor and YA book buyer for Eason, David O’Callaghan, then another panel. If you want to eat and see everything then you time it well or bring sandwiches. It means that for approximately 7-8 hours, two days in a row, you are completely immersed in a world of writing, fiction, reading, and generally having the best craic. And it’s only 25 Euros for the whole thing.
Young people wander around with piles of books and their convention tote bags, and collect free t-shirts, books samples, badges, bookmarks and arcs of the latest fiction. I spoke teenagers who had travelled from England and even Sweden to see writers like Patrice Lawrence, Sarah Crossan, Brian Conaghan, Juno Dawson, Derek Landy, and tons more, but I was particularly happy to see young people who had come across the border from the North to the event. It feeds my growing suspicion that there is far more appetite in the North for YA fiction than we realise and someday I will execute my grand plan to bring us all together to find out why we don’t know more about one another.
All writers, whether new or multi-award-winning had the same format: a panel which was moderated by another writer, or someone in the YA book industry.
As an audience member it meant that everything was constantly moving, like a kind of author/reader speed dating event, so, as with the best YA novels, it’s easy to keep focus and pay attention because the plot changes all the time. We moved from controversial opinions about the deaths in Harry Potter, to discussions about feminism and witchery, to contemplations about One Direction fandom, fat-activism, queer narratives in YA fiction, and maybe the best discussion of ‘Own Voices’ fiction (the idea that minority voices should be championed in fiction for young people) that I’ve heard to date. We heard many authors talking about their writing process, strong opinions about whether or not to read reviews, journeys into writing, the intersection between writing and activism, problems with translating fiction… It’s hard to think of a writing-related topic that didn’t come up.
As one of the authors, appearing with Tom Pollock and Bethany Rutter, the relaxed atmosphere of the weekend made my job really enjoyable, but I was also impressed at how much work Deirdre Sullivan had put into her part as moderator, having clearly read all our books but also taking time to think of questions which were insightful and which we would enjoy answering. It was a huge thrill for me to appear in front of a young adult audience. Every single book event I’ve ever done, apart from school appearances, has been populated by adults. This is fine, because adults read YA too (and if you don’t, you’re missing out), but it is really wonderful to look out and see the faces of the people you had in mind when you were writing.
Perhaps my favourite thing about Deptcon, however, was that from the very first moments it was clear that the young people in attendance had ownership of the weekend. They were there before the doors opened. They were hanging around between panels drinking coffee and comparing books, or sitting in the theatre chatting to friends, or spotting people they recognised from previous years. I spoke to many who had been coming every year from the beginning, some who had made life-long friends. As an author I felt like their (very welcome) guest. That is different to other large events that I’ve attended, where as an audience member you feel like the guest of the authors/speakers who have allowed you into their world. David O’Callaghan has built community of readers who feel that Deptcon belongs to them, and that is a really special and lovely thing. I came away from the weekend thrilled to have been a part of it, to have met writers that I have admired and new writers that I now want to read, but also feeling so privileged to have been among this community. So thank you, people of #Deptcon5!
You can find out more on Twitter @dept51
Due to an increase in submissions we are now closed for new submissions for the Poem of the week, Unbound and New Voices section of the website. We will still accepting interview, essay and article proposals. Check out the website for future updates.