YALLfest 2023 Recap

Posted by Jessi (Geo) on December 27, 2023 | 0 Comments

I’m a little late posting this, oops…

YALLfest haul

Signed books

Books I brought

These are the books I already owned and brought with me to the festival to get signed!

  • Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong
  • We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal
  • Spells for Forgetting by Adrienne Young (Owlcrate edition)
  • That Self-Same Metal by Brittany N. Williams
  • Song of Silver, Flame Like Night by Amélie Wen Zhao (ARC)

Bought at the festival

  • YALLfest hoodie & shirt (not pictured)
  • YALLfest pin & sticker

Freebies from the festival


  • The Poisons We Drink by Bethany Baptiste
  • King of Dead Things by Nevin Holness
  • Tender Beasts by Liselle Sambury
  • Heartless Hunter by Kristen Ciccarelli
  • Everything I Learned About Racism I Learned in School by Tiffany Jewell
  • The Shadow Sister by Lily Meade
  • We Don’t Swim Here by Vincent Tirado
  • One Last Breath by Ginny Myers Sain
  • Hearts Still Beating by Brooke Archer
  • The Invocations by Krystal Sutherland
  • The Encanto’s Daughter by Melissa de la Cruz
  • Dark Star Burning, Ash Falls White by Amélie Wen Zhao
  • These Deadly Prophecies by Andrea Tang
  • Snowglobe by Soyoung Park
  • Cupid’s Revenge by Wibke Brueggemann


  • Zipper pouch
  • I read horror/thrillers/fantasy pins
  • Zhara pin
  • Delicious Monsters coaster
  • Snowglobe paperweight
  • Various stickers & bookmarks


YALLfest recap

I was so stoked that my bookstabestie Christy (@cbookaddiction) was able to go this year!! She was supposed to go last year, but ended up getting COVID the week before and had to cancel. We went in 2018 together, so it was awesome to get to go together again! My buddies Kate (@0cheekykate0) and Maura (@armywife2310) couldn’t make it again this year though :(

We both stayed at Staybridge Suites in North Charleston, which was the same place I stayed last year – and will def be staying at every year from here on out! It’s such a fancy hotel and I’m in love with it! They have a pool and fitness center, free laundry service, computers for the guests to use, a small library of books & DVDs, complimentary breakfast (and a NICE one, too, with a large variety and the most delicious hotel food I’ve ever had in my life), AND complimentary dinner M-W and free wine (something I’ve never had a hotel before), and the hotel itself is really nice. I still can’t get over how comfortable the bed was!


This was my fourth year attending on Friday! We arrived around 1 pm and headed separate ways – Christy went to the Rebecca Ross line at Fierce Friday, and I went to get into line for Amélie Wen Zhao. I was pretty early and the line wasn’t bad yet, so on the way I stopped by the festival booth to pick up a hoodie. Last year I bought my hoodie on Saturday and they were sold out of M, so I wanted to get it early this year. They still had my M, but to my shock, most of the other stuff was already selling out and the hoodies were the only thing with any M left! I ended up buying a shirt too because they were pink and super cute. I really needed a M – I got a S and it’s tight, ugh. A large would have been huge on me, though, so hopefully I can lose some of this weight I’ve put on since my wedding, heh.

Amélie was super nice! I told her I was excited for Dark Star Burning and asked if it was going to be at the festival (Song of Silver dropped last year) and she told me Underlined would be dropping it, but she didn’t know when.

After Amélie, I booked it over to the Charleston Museum for Fierce Friday so I could get in line for Hafsah Faizal. Her line was thankfully short (it got long all of the sudden as soon as I got into it, so great timing!) and I was able to get through it quickly. It was so great to meet her! I’ve been friends with her on bookstagram since before WHtF even came out, back in the old Icey Design days! Her hubby was there with her and they were so cute! I tried to get a pic with her, but it was probably the most unflattering picture of myself I’ve ever taken in my whole life lmao, so I am sooo not going to post it.

Adrienne Young was my next author, and she was at the same place, so I went out and hopped into her line. I wish I’d have just stayed in the courtyard, because apparently that’s what a lot of people that went through the Rebecca Ross line did. Which meant that the people who started the line outside had to stand and wait for SO long. She started at 3:30 and it took nearly 40 minutes before we moved at all, it was so frustrating! It felt like her line took forever and I was thinking about bailing so I could go to Chloe Gong’s line. The Fairyloot Spells for Forgetting was the only book I had for Adrienne, and while I enjoyed it I didn’t love it so I would have been fine without getting it signed. Buuut I had been standing in line for so long already that it seemed silly to leave when I was so close, and I’m nothing if not stubborn lol. I managed to make it and hurried over to Chloe’s line.

Christy was still way back but I hopped in line with her. I can’t even remember how long we waited, but it felt like forever! By the time we got up there they had implemented a one book limit. I only had Immortal Longings, but I felt so bad for Christy because she had 6 books. I was going to take some of hers to get signed since there’s a general 3 book per person limit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them do a 1 book limit at the festival.

Honestly, Friday was insane this year. I’ve never seen it like that. Usually the lines are only bad for huge authors like Cassie Clare or Stephanie Garber (and her line was capped 2 hours before she started signing O__O), but it seemed like ALL of the lines were out of control, and the wait times were stupid long! It was also extremely hot and miserable, I was sweating like crazy.


Last year, I got there at 7:40 and the lines were still short, so I figured 8 would be fine this year. Boy, was I wrong! By the time we got there, the Fierce Reads line was already insane. Like, wrapped around the tent, wrapped around the building and all the way down the side street. I didn’t have high hopes but we got into line anyway. I guess people had started lining up at frickin’ 7 am!! It was just so wild. On our way in we saw a giant line wrapped around a couple of blocks and it was for Leigh Bardugo’s wristbands. YALLfest even had to post something about not lining up before 7 and I guess people did it anyway. Holy shit, dude.

9 am

It took FOREVER for the line to start moving. We had barely gone anwyhere when someone came around and told us that Tempest of Tea (the one that I wanted) and another one were already sold out. We stayed in line to try for the others, but I didn’t have very high hopes. We didn’t even make it halfway to the tent before they told us they were completely out of tickets. And because we wasted an hour and a half standing in the Fierce Reads line, I missed out on getting tickets for Simon’s Book Crush event. I had wanted to get tickets to the Underlined Dance Party as well, but that line was insane as well because it was Taylor Swift related, so I gave up on that one pretty quickly. We missed out on the magic 8 ball drop from Sourcebooks, too.

I was feeling pretty bummed starting out because we were having such lousy luck, and honestly I figured that was how our whole day would go because the lines were so bad. We were not off to a great start, but thankfully the whole day wasn’t like that!

We had some downtime after we left the failed Fierce Reads line, so we went over to line up early for the Snowglobe drop at 10. There were about 43 people in line already – we were a little concerned about being so close to the cutoff of 50 people, because if anyone jumped line we’d get pushed past the cutoff and waste time waiting in line for nothing yet again. Thankfully, Underlined actually had their shit together and gave out tickets to people as soon as they got in line, so we were guaranteed a copy!

I left the line at some point to go check out the publisher tents and see what swag they had. There were lines for almost everything so I wasn’t able to get a whole lot. (Usually there’s swag sitting on the tables and you can just drop by and grab stuff!) I did manage to catch the ticket drop for Witching Hour, which was where Invocations was dropping, and they were kind enough to give me a second ticket to bring back to Christy (it was her second most wanted ARC drop)!

10 am

While we were in line for Snowglobe, they were giving out wristbands for the EpicReads spin to win, so we both grabbed one of those. The line was moving SO. SLOW!!! They were sending people one at a time to go through the giant snowglobe, so the next person had to stand and wait until the previous person came back out of the snowglobe. It was taking several minutes per person. And there were some people in line (like us!) who just wanted the ARC and didn’t want to go inside the snowglobe, which was extremely frustrating. We thought we were going to have to bail because the top ARC drop of the day for both of us was Poisons We Drink, which was dropping at noon and had a 50 person limit. By the time 10:30 rolled around we were getting very antsy! Another worker stepped in and split the line, thank heavens. I think it was about 10:40 by the time we finally got out of the line.

Immediately following that, we ran over to the start of the line for Bethany Baptiste and Poisons We Drink, and shockingly there were only about 4 people there!

11 am

At some point in the hour we were waiting for Poisons We Drink, Simon was handing out tickets to the 12:00 drop of King of Dead Things, so the group of us standing in line took turns running over to grab a ticket. (The people we were waiting with were super cool! They held our place in line and watched our stuff and vice/versa a couple times to go to other lines! One of them, Kana, ended up being a new Insta friend – @kayreenea_) I left to run through the Penguin line and snagged Hearts Still Beating. I was honestly shocked by how many they had! I was super late to the line – like 11:30, I think – and they still had quite a few left.

We also kept an eye on the spin to win line, and when that dwindled we took turns going to that. Sadly, by the time we got there, all the good stuff was gone. We both wanted Compass & Blade, but they only had 3 books left that I’d never even heard of. We thought because it was spin to win you wouldn’t have a choice of the book you got (I was expecting the titles on a wheel tbh), but you got an ARC of your choice then you spun for the chance to win either a second ARC or other swag. I grabbed Everything I Learned About Racism I Learned in School, because it looked interesting, but the other two didn’t even remotely interest me. And of course because I wasn’t interested, when I spun I landed on extra galley XD I chose one at random and ended up giving it to Kana because she was more interested in it.

12 pm

Right before noon we were able to run over to Simon for the King of Dead Things drop. Then we were moving!

Bethany was such a sweetheart! I got a picture with her and got my ARC of Poisons signed. I was squealing internally when I held it in my hands! I’m so stoked I was able to get a copy! I was all worried about it because there was such a low cutoff, but I really don’t think many people knew about it. It was in another drop at a different time, and the drop with her signing wasn’t in the YALLfest newspaper, just on the website’s schedule, which is probably why the line was so small. Fine by me!

After that we tried to swing by the Music Hall to see if we could get into the panel that was giving away This Dark Fable, but they were already all gone. We went over to the Blue Bicycle courtyard so I could see Britney Williams and get my copy of Self Same Metal signed real quick. She was really nice, too!

Even after seeing Britney it was still only like 12:20 or so, and we didn’t have anything until 1, so we were going to swing by the car and drop off a load of stuff. But we got to the garage and the freaking elevator wasn’t working, so we said screw it because neither of us wanted to climb a bunch of stairs.

(I swear I had terrible luck with elevators this trip! The hotel elevator was out on Friday, then the elevator at the garage we parked at for the YALLcrawl was down, too! We even parked at a different garage on Saturday and it went down after we’d parked *rolls eyes*)

We got into the Witching Hour line about 12:30 – we had wristbands as well as the ticket, so we didn’t really HAVE to wait, but we both wanted a break. I knew tickets for Where the Dark Stands Still were dropping at 1, so I planned to swing by at 5 til to see if they’d give them out a little early since they’d done it earlier in the day. However, when I went over to the booth, there was already a line for the drop! It was crazy! They hadn’t had lines for their ticket drops all morning – there were 3 others that they just started handing out tickets and people randomly walked up to the person giving them out. Womp womp.

1 pm

We were able to snag our Invocations ARCs with no problem at all, but we decided to skip the tarot reading because it would have taken forever. We swung by the Fierce Reads booth in hope there were unclaimed copies of Tempest, but no luck there. (I can get it on Edelweiss so I wasn’t super bummed, but I really wanted a physical ARC so I could have Hafsah sign it!) There was a line for unclaimed drops, but they said they didn’t have anything left. Tbh they were a little snotty about it, and I felt like they were just saying that, but whatever lol. Fierce Reads was a clusterfuck all day and the way they handled their drops was…not great. Every single other publisher I went to had their shit together, were efficient and friendly, and gave tickets and/or wristbands to avoid line jumping and pushing people out of the cutoff. Fierce has been like this the last couple of years I’ve attended, though. They’re really strict about the drops but not their actual lines.

Because we missed the ticket drop for Where the Dark Stands Still, we had tons of time to spare! We ran over to the little macaroon & croissant shop that I have been meaning to go to for TEN FREAKIN’ YEARS. It was hella expensive – delicious, but damn expensive. Now I can say I tried it, and I probably won’t ever do it again lol. The chocolate croissant they had was delicious though!

After getting our croissants we went back over to the publisher tents. This was the point that it started to rain for real – it had been sprinkling on and off all day – and we had nothing better to do, so we got in line for the Underlined Spring Into Books drop super early. (It was only about 1:30 at this point and the drop wasn’t until 3!)

2 pm

It was a very long and miserable hour and a half wait. We were wet and cold even with our ponchos on.

The Penguin line was getting pretty long, too, and that was the drop with One Last Breath & Deadly Prophecies, which we both wanted. We were pretty close to the front of the Underlined line, though, and with Penguin having such large quantities I was willing to gamble. I knew Dark Star Burning would be dropping at some point and I was banking HARD on it being that drop because I wasn’t able to get tickets to the Dance Party and didn’t think it’d be in there, anyway.

About 15 minutes before the drop someone came around and told us what books there’d be and I almost screamed because I was right! One was Dark Star Burning! I can’t even remember what the other one was now, lol. Which is a shame, because it sounded interesting.

3 pm

We were able to get through the line pretty quickly and headed directly over to the end of the Penguin line. It was wrapped way around, but everyone was saying there were tons of books left so I wasn’t too worried. The end of the line was pretty close to the Simon booth, and they just happened to be handing out tickets for Tender Beasts so we both got one of those.

The Penguin line moved pretty quickly, and there were indeed plenty of books left when we got up there! They had more than just the two we wanted, and awesomely enough they were letting you pick two, so I was able to get both One Last Breath and Deadly Prophecies. Yay!!

We wanted to try the Somewhere in the Deep drop, but it had been capped before the giveaway even started.

We had another fairly long break, so we decided to go ahead and make a trip to the car to drop some stuff! I figured we’d have to climb the stairs eventually so may as well just do it so we could stop carrying around so much stuff. I left my bags with Christy and went up to get the car and bring it down. Of COURSE we parked all the way on the roof when the elevator didn’t work!

We took a few minutes to rest and I ate the lunch I’d brought before we headed back out.

4 pm

We went to Simon first to snag Tender Beasts, and while we were in the line for that we saw people leaving the Penguin booth with pretty purple books that looked interesting, so we jumped in line for that. Again, they had plenty! It ended up being Encanto’s Daughter.

Sourcebooks was having their second 8 ball drop so we went through that. Christy got Shadow Sister, then I turned up the same thing on the 8 ball and they asked if I wanted something different, but I just went with Shadow sister as well.

When we got through that line, we went over to the Fierce Reads booth for the 4:30 raffle. And let me tell you, it was crazy!! If you’re not present, they call the next person. And I have NEVER seen them go through so many people!! I guess lots of people left due to the miserable cold rain, but they went through about a dozen people that weren’t there. I’ve never seen that happen before. And of course we didn’t win even with all the extra chances, lmao.

After we left the raffle, the magic 8 ball line was still going and it was short, so we got back into that line and did it a second time, and I got We Don’t Swim Here.

We still had well over an hour to wait for the Smackdown, so we went to the Theater. There was a panel with Jason June on it (who I had just seen a few weeks prior for the Night of the Witch tour), and he’s charismatic and hilarious so I wanted to attend. We ended up going into the wrong room, but we got lucky because they passed out ARCs of Heartless Hunter at the beginning of the panel we just happened to stumble into! It ended up being the Spooky Season panel with Bethany Baptiste, Ashley Poston, Danielle Page, Vanessa Montalban, and Angel Luis Colón.

6 pm

After the panel was over, we went to the Smackdown. We were able to meet up with our buddy Christine (the lovely @xenatine on Insta!) and get a pic before she left!

The Smackdown was super fun as always. They had us cracking up!

In conclusion

This year was WILD! Last year I mentioned how it was super chill compared to previous years (the lines were surprisingly short). Well, I feel like this year made up for it and jammed two full years of crazy in because the lines were longer than ever. Last year gave me a false sense of security XD

Out of all the years I’ve attended, it has never rained before, and I’m desperately hoping it never does again because it was MISERABLE. It was even worse than the one year it was freezing!

I had an even lower amount of books this year – last year I said 16 books was the lowest I’ve ever taken and how crazy it was, but this year I only brought 8! What the heck! I used to take so many books I had to bring a suitcase to tote them around! The list of authors I haven’t seen is getting smaller and smaller, and since they have a ton of repeat authors I doubt I’ll ever have as many books as I used to. Not only that, the new authors they’ve been hosting have been contemp authors or ones I haven’t heard of. This year I only had 6 authors on my list, which is less than last year. And the only author I really wanted to see was Hafsah because I’ve never met her. All of the others I would have been okay missing. Here’s what it looked like in the past:

2013: saw 8 authors (missed 2) // brought 20 books
2014: saw 5 authors (missed 8) // brought 34 books
2015: saw 7 authors (missed 4) // brought 21 books
2016: saw 11 authors (missed 1) // brought 28 books
2017: saw 16 authors (missed 0) // brought 25 books
2018: saw 16 authors (missed 0) // brought 42 books
2019: saw 9 authors (missed 2) // brought 18 books
2022: saw 3 authors (missed 2) // brought 16 books

Authors I got to see:

  • Amélie Wen Zhao
  • Adrienne Young
  • Chloe Gong
  • Hafsah Faizal
  • Brittney N. Williams
  • Bethany Baptiste

Previous years’ recaps


Tips for YALLfest

Jessi (Geo)

Posted in: Events, Wrap Ups | Tags:

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