Every November, YALLFest, a young adult and middle grades literary festival, takes over the streets of Charleston for one weekend. Authors and fans from all over interact on a personal level through book signings and discussion panels.

But the annual event, which takes place Nov. 10 & 11, 2017, is also an opportunity for College of Charleston students to make connections and network with various authors and publishers. Volunteers are the unsung heroes of the weekend, helping to direct crowds and keep things running efficiently behind the scenes.

Books stacked up at YALLFest. Photo: David Strauss

Representatives from Big Five publisher Penguin Random House (as well as various other publishers) will set up tents during Saturday’s festivities for giveaways and prizes. For studnets interested in working in publishing, particularly English majors, this is a great way to make connections with potential employers.

Who knows? You could be the next CofC English major to make it big in book publishing. Ryan Graudin ’09, who majored in English and is the author of six young adult novels, is a regular at YALLFest. Graudin will be participating in talks and book signings on Nov. 11.

As a third-year volunteer with the event, Rachel Faller, a junior majoring in English, says she’s received valuable advice from both publishers and authors alike.

“I get to connect with people, which is a part of networking. There are authors I’ve met who are willing to give me advice on my story ideas, and I’ve met with people from publishing houses who have given me contacts and told me different places to look into for future jobs and graduate programs,” says Faller, who is also concentrating in creative writing.

YALLFest Assistant Director Emily Williams can attest to the many doors the festival can open. She volunteered during the first ever YALLFest back when there were only 25 authors to manage. Seven years later, the festival is expecting 77 big-name authors and organizing three keynote panels. YALLFest has grown so large, a sister festival has been started in Santa Monica, California, called YALLWest.

Author Ryan Graudin ’09 (middle) on a YALLFest panel.  Photo: David Strauss

Now on the board for YALLFest, Williams says volunteering was an important step in her career path. She writes grants for YALLWest, helps build the finances to donate money to underprivileged schools to build libraries and serves as a personal assistant to two authors.

“I would have never done as much as I have and gone through it had I not volunteered that first year,” says Williams.

It doesn’t have to stop at volunteering. This year, Faller has worked closely with Williams as her intern. Faller is in charge of making sure the festival has the right number of books for sale, and she monitors crate sizes to make sure there are enough books in each one while also checking that the ISBN numbers (which denotes if a book is hardcover or paperback) are correct.

“I never knew the importance of ISBN numbers until this year,”says Faller. “For publishers, making sure the right books go out is a huge part of their job, so I’m learning lessons I can apply to in the future.”

First-time volunteer Rebecka Lindahl, a junior majoring in English, is excited about the weekend ahead and is looking forward to learning more about book publishing.

“I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for me to network and to get a look into one aspect of the publishing industry,” says Lindahl. “Reading was one of the main reasons I became an English major.”

It’s not too late to sign up for YALLFest, either. Williams will be taking volunteers up until the festival begins on Friday, Nov. 10, 2017.

Lilly Frederick is a junior from San Diego studying English and creative writing at the College of Charleston. She is also an Orientation Intern for the Office of New Student Programs.