Sunday, July 02, 2006

Nationals or Bust

If you are a member of Romance Writers of America, you'll get the title. If not, you are probably wondering what the heck I'm talking about. "Nationals" is the fond nickname of the RWA National Conference, held this year in Atlanta, GA. Writers, published and unpublished, convene on this conference to network with editors and agents, attend workshops, meet one another, and generally enjoy a wonderful time with friends new and old. Most RWA members are beginning to prepare, excited beyond measure about the four days we'll descend on an Atlanta Marriot to attend this unbelievable gathering. Those of us on the Playground are especially thrilled because Nationals is within driving distance this year--we can drive instead of fly.

Now, we're mostly planners, so the lists have begun along with the shopping. (You just have to shop. New clothes are not optional, are they girls?) So I thought I'd share with you today some of the things that I think about when planning for Nationals or any other writing conference:


Isn't this the first thing every woman thinks of when she has to go somewhere important? "What will I wear?"

Most conferences are 'business casual', which means dress pants, skirts, and nice tops. I'm not the suit type, but if that's what makes you comfortable, by all means wear one. Shopping ahead will allow you to hit sales (there are some great ones this time of year) and get any alterations done if you need to (which I do since I'm literally 5 feet tall).

Remember to bring some casual clothes for sight-seeing or hang-out time. And don't forget to check all your outfits to make sure you have the necessary undergarments to make them work. You don't want to arrive, then discover your blouse is transparent and you didn't bring a camisole.


Thoughts of clothes naturally leads to shoes. Comfortable shoes are a necessity! But I'm a firm believer that shoes can be comfortable AND pretty. After a long, frustrating search this year, I finally found a cool website with thousands of styles to choose from. Even better, shipping is free both ways and quick too! Check it out if you are still looking for that comfortable pair that will look good with your dressier outfits:


For anyone with a pitch appointment, doing your homework ahead of time is essential. All the necessary details are too numerous to list here, but my favorite workshop to prepare is Kelley St. John's Extreme Pitch Makeover workshop. She does a great job explaining how to put together the pitch and present it. If you ever have the opportunity to attend, take it! Alas, it was last offered in June, but online sources are numerous. Charlotte Dillon's website has a collection of articles grouped together.

Meeting an editor or agent is stressful, for us and for them. If I've researched my target publisher and prepared what I'm going to say, I feel less nervous. This is true for most introverts.


Most aspiring authors think, "I'm not pubbed. What do I need business cards for?" Well, you will meet lots of new people at writing conferences, from editors to aspiring authors like yourself. Handing over a card can help them remember you. Also, there will be plenty of opportunities to fill out your name and email address or street address for contests and such. Think how much easier it will be to just slip a card in there instead. And quite frankly, I feel more like a professional with them. Silly, but there you have it.

The Playfriends love Vista Print for business cards and promotional postcards. They are constantly running specials which makes this much more affordable.


Call me "spontenaity challenged", but I like to plan what I'm doing before I get there. Not down to the last second, but just enough to know where I need to be and what I'll wear each day. Think ahead about sight-seeing. We've already purchased advance tickets to the Atlanta Aquarium and made restaurant reservations for one night.

I'll also look at the workshop listings and decide which I have to see and which ones I'd like to get on CD. Going in together with friends can help cut the cost of this. Like I said earlier, I like to be prepared.


I've already started my packing list for Nationals (though I think Problem Child beat me by a few months). Yes, I realize it is still 3 weeks away, but if you haven't realized how obsessive/compulsive I am by now, you haven't been reading very closely. :)

For a packing list, here's what I do (you'll just have to visualize this because I couldn't get blogger to let me set up a table). Across the top of the page I write Day and Night. Down the side of the page I list each day (Tuesday, Wednesday, etc.) with major activities written underneath each one. This shows me what I'll need to be dressing for. Across from each day, I'll write what clothes, underwear, shoes, and accessories I'll need for Day and Night. Get it?

Then I list other essentials in a checklist fashion including toiletries, medications, paper/pens, cell phone, money, any paperwork I'll need, an extra soft-sided bag, snacks/drinks, and so on.

So there you have it. And by the way, Counselor Shelley told me that being this obsessive is perfectly okay. Just so long as I don't take it any further. :)

We've got some great goodies for the Goody Room in Atlanta, so if you are attending keep an eye out for those. If not, check the blog the last week of July as we'll have a special side-line reporter posting a day-by-day account of the Playfriends' wild happenings while we're gone (though Playground Monitor has threatened to lock us in our rooms if we don't behave).

If you see us there, come up and introduce yourselves! We'd love to meet you.


Challenge Meter:

Zokutou word meterZokutou word meter
32,250 / 50,000


Playground Monitor said...

Great list!

One thing I'd add is a jacket or sweater since most hotels keep their thermostats pretty low. If you're cold-natured like me, you may not want to wear sandals either. I wore them one day to my first conference and my feet were like ice cubes. My upper body was warm from my jacket, but those toes were blue.

I do a table to plan the workshops I'm attending too. I read through the workshop listings ahead of time (they're included in the RWR a couple months ahead of time) and put sticky notes on the pages of the ones I'm interested in. Then I go back and fine-tune. I do a table in Word and have the time slots down the side and the days of the week across the top. Once we get to the conference and they give us our materials there, I pencil in the location into each block. If I know ahead of time about appointments with people or a special lunch with a friend, I include those. There's also room on the bottom to add things once I get there. This way I have my entire schedule on one piece of paper that can be folded up and slipped into a jacket pocket or tote bag. Speaking of which... I wonder what the tote bags will look like this year? Last year's was awesome.


P.S. I never said I'd lock you in your room; I said I wouldn't bail you out of jail. :grin:

Problem Child said...

LIsts are essential in this type of situation. I also do a list like Angel's--I list what's happening each day and decide what I'm going to wear (including underwear jewerly and shoes).

Remember to take an extra outfit--or a blouse and pair of pants that will go with everything else in your conference wardrobe. If you spill coffee on yourself at breakfast, you'll have a back-up outfit ready to go.

I also pack Downey Wrinkle Release in my suitcase. Fantastic stuff--saves a lot of time on ironing!


tlc said...

LOL! Comfortable dress shoes? That's an oxymoron, especially if you wear a 6 Wide.

I went to that site, plugged in my size and what I considered a 'reasonable' price and got ONE pair that fit my request parameters.

Angel said...

I ended up with 2 pairs of shoes from Zappos, both heels with the gel inserts at the bottom in a 7.5 wide. Both pairs have been worn already (just to test them out) and I could wear them for hours without my feet hurting. I say that's well worth the $50-60 I paid for each pair (including shipping).

Sometimes it is worth the extra price to get exactly what you want (this coming from the girl who used to cringe at spending $25 for a pair of dress shoes). I'm definitely a convert! :)


Playground Monitor said...

I'm pretty much relegated to dressy flats these days because I've developed arthritis in my big toe joint. I have a pair of heels I can wear for an evening but that's about it. Mostly I go barefoot, but don't think that's appropriate for conference. :grin:

Donna Caubarreaux said...

I have a packing list up at:

I've been to fourteen conferences, so the list covers just about everything you might need.

Yes, I do an Excell worksheet to handle all my commitments.

Thanks for the shoe URL...I need some new ones, as I have a lot of foot problems.

I also forwarded this blogger URL to another National Conference loop.

So...many thanks.

Instigator said...

Gosh I'm so behind. I really need to start making out my schedule. And working on my pitches. And shopping for those last minute things I need. And getting my dress altered and dry cleaned. And....


Kathy said...

Great list, Angel! I haven't started being so organized, yet. But now I'm starting to think I should be. Up until now I've been doing everything in my head.

Thanks for the packing list, Donna. This gives me something to start with. All I need to do is break down outfits per day.

I'm starting to get goose bumps!


Kathy said...

Hey, I just checked out that Zappos site and ordered two pair of shoes. Anyone with a size 11 foot knows how hard it is to find shoes in regular stores that fit. I narrowed my field down more and more each time, taking into account price and type of shoe. Each time I came up with over 100 pages of shoes. And you'll never guess what I found... that pair of mocassins I've always wanted in my size!!!!!!

Thanks, Angel. You're the best!

Linda Winstead Jones said...

I'm not normally a list maker, but I always make a list for conference. And I still usually forget something. :-/ Comfortable shoes are essential. I don't need any new shoes this year, since I just had my annual pre-luncheon shoe extravanganza, but I might look at zappos anyway, just in case I'm missing something that I don't yet know I must have. ;-)