W&P' s Deputy Editor, A M Dassu, talks to Dr Alexia Casale, Director of the YA Shot book festival, which raises money to support libraries and runs author events for disadvantaged young people across the UK.

YA Shot is in its third year and, after seeing the programme for 2018's festival, I can't wait to attend! This year, there are over 20 events to choose from, including thought-provoking panel events on topical human rights issues, and plans to arrange free author visits to libraries around the UK. Ahead of the festival, I thought it would be great to find out more from the Director herself, and I am delighted to share Alexia's insightful interview with you.

Q. What is YA Shot?

YA Shot is an author-led, not-for-profit Middle Grade and YA festival that raises money for year-round outreach work: a large internship programme and a programme of free author visits to public libraries, so that they can invite in local schools to inspire a love of reading, a passion for writing, and aspirations to careers in the arts.
Over 50 authors will take part in our human rights-themed 2018 programme.

Panel Event with (left-right) Alexia Casale, Sara Barnard, Jess Vallance, and Maggie Harcourt .
Image Credit: YA Shot

Q. What inspired you to set it up?

In 2015, Hillingdon Libraries wanted to do a YA event and, knowing me as a local author with experience in event management, they asked if I’d help. I said yes… but that we shouldn’t just put on an event but, instead, create a festival that could raise money for outreach work.

Students who are never told that the world of books and publishing is open to them are disadvantaged when it comes to developing a love of reading, with all the benefits it offers for enhanced empathy, critical thinking, literacy, and learning. If they don’t know about the world of books and publishing, how are young people to aspire to careers in the arts? This impoverishes our industry and society, limiting who reads, who writes, who publishes and promotes books, and also who helps people find the books they need.

YA Shot is about authors coming together to reduce inequality in our corner of the world. It is hugely important to us what we do also supports libraries: without libraries there is no equality of access to education or opportunity.

Books by YA Shot authors. Image Credit: YA Shot

Q. Who have you had at the festival in previous years?

So many wonderful authors! Our inaugural lineup included Frances Hardinge (Costa winner), Tim Bowler (Carnegie Medal), Sally Nicholls (Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize), Cat Clarke, Keren David, Cat Doyle, Taran Matharu, Natasha Farrant, Piers Torday, Tanya Byrne, Abi Elphinstone, Katherine Woodfine, Tom Ellen, and Lucy Ivison.

In our second year, we hosted Holly Smale, Jenny McLachlan, Maggie Harcourt, Chris Russell, Patrice Lawrence (YA Book Prize), Steve Tasane, Tanya Landman (Carnegie Medal), Catherine Johnson, Polly Ho-Yen, Martyn Bedford, Jenny Downham, Zöe Marriott, Clare Furniss, Michelle Harrison (Waterstone’s Children’s Book Prize), and Kiran Millwood Hargrave (Nibbies).

These names and awards are just off the top of my head - there are 50-72 authors each year!

Panel Event: (left-right) Elizabeth Corr, Katharine Corr, Lucy Ivison, Honor Cargill, Perdita Cargill, Tom Ellen.
Image Credit: YA Shot

Q. What do you have planned for this year?

Lots of amazing new authors are joining the YA Shot family, including Nick Ostler, Mark Huckerby, Vic James, Sufiya Ahmed, Nicci Cloke, Will Hill, Leila Rasheed, Anna Perrerra, and Sita Brahmachari. Returning favourites include Holly Bourne, Alwyn Hamilton, Samantha Shannon, Tom Easton, Sara Barnard, Melinda Salisbury, CJ Daugherty, Lauren James, Lisa Heathfield…

There are over 20 events and all authors will do signings. Our seven panel events will cover a range of human rights issues, including ‘home and belonging’ and ‘How relationships shape women’s lives’, with seven in-conversation events tackling topics such as political engagement and social justice, and seven writing workshops on subjects like ‘Writing across cultures’.

The UKYA Blogger Awards take place in the evening, and include workshops and panels about blogging and vlogging, followed by the awards ceremony. Tickets must be purchased separately at www.ukyaba.co.uk

Q. Where and when will YA Shot 2018 be held?

YA Shot 2018 is on Saturday 14th April in the Hillingdon Civic Centre (on Uxbridge High Street) and Uxbridge Library (150 metres away), with Waterstones to cover all your book needs.

Uxbridge is in west London on the Piccadilly and Metropolitan lines, with excellent bus and road links (M25, M40, M4, M1, M3).

Tickets: £20 adult, £15 concession (no additional charges)

Uxbridge Library 'Narnia' window for YA Shot. Image Credit: YA Shot

Q. Tell me more about your outreach plans.

After this year’s festival we’ll be working to raise further funds to support and grow our efforts, including our new PhD Placement Scheme (already recognised by CHASE, one of the main arts and humanities funding bodies).

From 2018 we’ll be working with a wide range of library groups each year (instead of just one or two) to arrange free visits by YA Shot authors around the UK. If you’re a library, or a school willing to work with a local library, do get in touch!

We also have free tickets for young people nominated by a librarian or teacher on the basis that they’d benefit from going but can’t afford it: drop a line to ya@yashot.co.uk from your professional address if you know who deserves a ‘gift ticket’!

Signed YA Shot bag. Image Credit: YA Shot

Q. I've seen that you have been actively recruiting and training interns. Tell us more.

This year we had eight first-years, eight second-years, and one PhD Placement Scheme student. Many of our second-years are staying on to join the core team.

Although currently unpaid, our internship programme is primarily digital and only requires a minimum commitment of about 25 hours distance work across most of a year, a half-day training session in Uxbridge, and attendance at YA Shot (expenses are covered for the training day and YA Shot). We feel strongly that because we aren’t able to pay, our internship activities should be structured around opportunities to learn and develop new skills: interns must get as much, if not more, value than we do!

Interns take on a range of tasks (and can opt in to others). For first-years these include researching a ‘publicity target’ (e.g. Buzzfeed), coming up with a pitch, and revising it with a second-year mentor then a member of the Senior Team before submitting it. If it’s accepted, the intern gets to help see it through to publication with help from the Senior Team. Second-years take on research tasks, mentor the first-years, and act as point of contact for at least one publisher during the run-up to the Festival.

Our interns spend the majority of their time on challenging tasks with real responsibility and credit, receiving intensive feedback and support throughout. We open to new applications in February; visit www.yashot.co.uk for more info.

YA Shot 2016 Internship Programme. Image Credit: YA Shot

The Festival and your outreach plans sound incredible and much needed. Bravo! Is there anything else our readers should know?

Come and join us on the day! If you can’t make it, you can still join in on social media, including through our GoodReads BookClub, or buy a gift ticket for a disadvantaged young person.

You can find out more about the programme here:

Panels: https://yashot.wordpress.com/ ya-shot-2018-panels

Workshops: https://yashot.wordpress.com/ ya-shot-2018-workshops

In-conversations: https://yashot.wordpress.com/ ya-shot-in-conversation-events

Profile photo Credit: Art by LAW Studio

BIO: Dr Alexia Casale is an author, writing consultant, teacher, and editor. Her debut novel, The Bone Dragon, was shortlisted for the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize and Jugendliteraturpreis; it was also a Book of the Year for the Financial Times and Independent. Her second book, House of Windows, is a 'Reading Well for Young People: Shelf-help' title. Alexia is also Director of the YA Shot book festival, which raises money to run author events for disadvantaged young people across the UK.
Website: www.alexiacasale.com
Twitter: @AlexiaCasale

*Featured image credit: YA Shot


A. M. Dassu is Deputy Editor of Words & Pictures. She writes contemporary fiction and is currently planning her next book.
Contact her at deputyeditor@britishscbwi.org
You can find her on Twitter @a_reflective and Instagram @a.m.dassu


  1. Great post about an amazing initiative. Good luck with everything.

    1. Thank you Rowena! The festival's aims are worthy of supporting. A great way to support the Arts and young people.


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