A day of book panels and signings with best-selling authors in the Young Adult world comes to Santa Monica this weekend.

Yallwest marks its fifth anniversary this year, bringing book panels, book signings, food trucks and more to Samohi May 3 and May 4. The festival is free and open to the public, with the exception of some keynote speaker events which are ticketed for space restrictions.

YALLWEST was born in the wake of the success of YALLFEST, a Charleston, South Carolina young adult and middle school book festival that Stohl co-founded in 2011 with Kami Garcia and Jonathan Sanchez of Blue Bicycle Books.

In 2015, Stohl and de la Cruz decided to bring the festival closer to home, launching the inaugural YALLWEST festival. They chose Samohi as a location as Stohl says the school has always been a very willing participant.

“We are thrilled for Samohi to once again be the location of the annual Y’all West Festival,” Gail Pinsker, public information officer for SMMUSD said. “We welcome our own students and families, along with thousands of other students from around the country, to enjoy this wonderful event on our campus. It’s positive exposure for SMMUSD and the Santa Monica community.”

Last year’s Yallwest drew over 20,000 attendees, raising thousands of dollars in book sale proceeds that were donated to SMMUSD and LAUSD school libraries. A 25,000 attendance increase is expected for this year.

Margaret Stohl, Yallwest cofounder and a writer herself, says the festival’s purpose is to encourage creativity in a new generation of students.

“Yallwest has one mission: putting books into the hands of kids,” Stohl said. “We want to empower young readers and send a message to Los Angeles-area students that we want to stand side-by-side with them and see them as readers, creators.”

Inclusiveness is inherent in the festival’s core and that’s reflected in the programming and guest attendees: Over 100 authors will be in tow, diverse in ethnicity and mediums — some authors range from the New York Times’ best-seller lists as YA writers and others range from the same list as comic writers.

A panel schedule shows a lineup that will cover a multitude of topics such as LGBTQIA representation, discussing women in Marvel and how to build a video game world a la Fortnite.

“L.A. is such a wonderfully diverse community,” Stohl said. “We take representation very seriously and want students to look up and see heroes and creators who look like them, doing the things they want to do.” 

For more information and a full schedule of panels and events, visit www.yallwest.com.

angel@smdp.com

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