Monday, June 29, 2009

A Fever of Preparations

In case you haven’t noticed, the Playground is in a fever of preparation for RWA National Conference in a couple of weeks. Two exactly. Most of us leave on a Monday.

Anyway, today I thought I’d offer a few tips on preparing for writer’s conferences, whether Nationals or a regional conference. These experiences can be some of the most exciting and nerve-wracking activities in a writer’s journey. I hope these tips might smooth your way just a bit:

1. Plan your wardrobe around one color.

As we mentioned last week when we talked about shopping, planning around either black or brown for your wardrobe can cut down on the number of clothing items you have to take. For instance, I’m taking a black skirt with 2 different shirts for my cocktail events this year. One black pair of shoes that will go with those outfits, my black dress pants, and one of my formal dresses. That’s really helpful because shoes take up lots of space and add up weight quickly.

2. Get travel size bottles whenever possible.

I’ve been grabbing travel size soap, shampoo, and toothpaste at the store over the past few weeks. Taking these instead of full size bottles can really cut down on the weight of your suitcase. Need specific products that don’t come in travel size? Purchase some refillable bottles.

3. Wear new shoes before you go, even if it is just around the house.

There is nothing worse that breaking in new shoes at conference. That is just a blister waiting to happen. If you’ve purchased new shoes (which I have), be sure to break them in before you go. I have some just-purchased flats that I’ve been wearing out and about, but my new black heels aren’t exactly made for running errands. My family laughed when they walked into the kitchen to find me wearing them with a pair of gray shorts and a t-shirt, but at least I won’t have to deal with as much foot pain in DC.

4. Prepare your story pitches before you leave.

In the rush to get everything ready, working on your editor and agent pitches can get shuffled to the background. But trust me, you don’t want to be up until 1 a.m. the night before, stressing over just the right word to describe your hero. (Been there, done that.) Instead, you should be getting a couple of extra hours of sleep. Do yourself a favor and put together your full-length and elevator pitches before you go. It will save you a lot of stress later.

5. Write out your schedule, but leave room for the unexpected.

It is said that a lot happens in the bar at National conference, and that’s certainly true. Even if you don’t meet your dream editor there, lots of hilarity can ensue with the right group of friends. I have a lot of events that I have to attend this year, so this list-maker definitely has her schedule already worked up. I’ve also listed a couple of workshops that I’d REALLY like to attend in person. Other than that, I’ve tried to leave some space free. You never know what you might get swept up into during that down time.

6. Take whatever steps necessary to leave home without worrying what you’ve left behind.

I’m not talking about stuff here. You can always purchase something you forgot to take with you. I’m talking about peace of mind. My husband makes fun of me for the extensive lists I write out for those keeping my kids and the freezer full of convenience foods they’ll probably leave in favor of fast food, but that’s okay. If putting myself to all that trouble means I can fly to Washington with a little less worry over leaving my loved ones, then I think it is worth it. So do whatever you need to, in order to feel more comfortable about what is happening in your absence. You’ll be happy you did.

7. If you haven't already, go read the fine print on your travel requirements... now.

While this may seem self-explanatory to well-seasoned travelers, I rarely fly anywhere except to conference. Imagine my surprise when I looked up the luggage weight limits and found a little tidbit about checking my luggage in before I get to the airport. If I don't, they are going to charge me an additional $5 for doing it when I get there. Go read all your flight information now, so you aren't surprised and scrambling at the last minute. You'll be glad you did.

These are some of the travel tips working through my brain at the moment. With conference 2 weeks away, this stuff is at the forefront of my mind. But thanks to Kathy, I’ve got 2 full pitches and an elevator pitch ready to rehearse. My wardrobe is planned and the suitcase is sitting in the living room for me to drop stuff into it as needed.

For those of you heading out to conference, or used to traveling, what other tips can you offer those of us about to wing our way to our nation’s capital?



Linda Winstead Jones said...

Ah, yes. I just took a dress out of the to-be-packed area of my closet because it requires a pair of shoes that goes with nothing else. I'll do that for the RITA ceremony, but it's best if the other shoes can be used for multiple outfits -- especially since I'm trying to get everything in one bag. I'll be there 8 days! One bag! I'm hyperventilating. Thank goodness for travel knit. :-)


Playground Monitor said...

I always take a bottle of pain reliever (my choice is Aleve or the generic equivalent) and I carry it in my tote during the week. You never know when a headache might spring up, and you can also make a friend for life if you hear someone in the elevator complaining of a headache and you can offer them relief.

I just got home from one weekend trip and have to decompress from that before I can start thinking about packing for conference.

Smarty Pants said...

2 weeks?


Stephanie said...

I am glad that I am not the only one who is feeling the "Conference Crazies." :-)

Writing Partner and I are trying to finish our WIP before we pitch it at Nationals. It is difficult to try to write when there is a Jungle Drum going, "Nat-ion-als, Nat-ion-als, Nat-ion-als" in my head!

M.V.Freeman said...

I'm taking notes and cheering you all on! :-) I'm hearing those drumbeats now that will follow me now for the next 12 months *sigh*

Nothing like a Mantra to keep you going...:)

Problem Child said...

Can't comment. Hyperventilating at all that must be done.

~goes to get a paper bag...~

word verif: pleis. Pleis let me get everything done...

Angel said...

On one of my other loops, someone mentioned shipping extra books, etc home. Go to the post office and purchase some prepaid priority shipping boxes. They'll lay flat in the bottom of your suitcase, and for that flat rate you can ship however many books you can stuff inside (and still close the flaps). :)

Just drop it off in the business office or with the hotel concierge for mailing.


Lynn Raye Harris said...

You mean we aren't supposed to take a pair of shoes that only go with one thing?! B-b-b-but, what if the shoes are pretty? What if they are so awesome they must be seen?

I took six pair last year, I think (or maybe it was 8). I'm trying to cut that down this year; not sure I'll succeed. :)

Oh, the thing I recommend, which I did not have last year but one of my fab roommates did (Pam!), are these blister things that are like gel pads. You put them over any blisters, and you can still wear your heels, etc.

Angel said...

Ha ha, Lynn! Yes, we do have a bit of a shoe thing going on. I am taking 1 pair of shoes that only go with my RITA ceremony dress. With my tennis shoes for sight seeing, black heels, and flats, I'll end up with 4 pair. And that's conserving. :)

But I'm wearing the tennis shoes on the plane, since they weigh the most and take up the most space.


Linda Winstead Jones said...

When we went to Reno, I took 11 pairs of shoes. Or maybe 12. 13? With the airline charge for the second bag (how dare they???) I feel the need to be more conservative this time around. Naturally the Rita shoes are an exception. Everything else can go with at least 2 outfits. I think. Considering daytime and nighttime outfits, I think I'm going to end up with 6- 8 pairs of shoes. It's still a work in progress. :-)


Kathy said...

Goodness! Life is at a hectic pace, isn't it? (Thanks for increasing my nervousness, Stephanie. I will be hearing Nat-ion-als! all day long now)

Packing? I don't even have a new suitcase yet.... ;(

word verific: winem
(win em, Angel!)
second: boardu
(board u that plane to DC!)
third: musseral
(use your musse- rals)
sadly fourth: raphi
(If this happens again, I'll be crying raphi on the throne.)

Jamie Michele said...

Fear not -- those handy blister pads and forgotten toiletries will be easy to purchase. There's a CVS next to the Metro stop you'll use for the Marriott and Omni.

Both the Marriott and Omni are within sight of the Metro stop. Omni's lobby might be 250-300 yards; Marriott 150-200 yards. I checked it out yesterday, taking the Metro in from the 'burbs. As you exit the Metro, you'll see the Marriott to your right and what looks like a service driveway. WALK UP IT. It's a regular entrance.

I'll post pics of this sometime soon on my website...

Angel said...

Thanks, Jamie!!! I'll be on the lookout for those. SP is our resident navigator, so I'm sure she'll be working out the logistics on how we get from the airport to the hotel. (SP, hint, hint...) :)

Poor Kathy! It just didn't want to let you post today, did it?


Christine said...

I am sticking to one color scheme, but must round out with a few items. I have 4 pairs of shoes planned, and I am working on my pitches (I know I'll probably only need one, but one never knows). My family is coming up with me so I have room in the car for more, but we're bringing another teen back with us! I am definitely shipping my books home! And I still don't know what workshops I will attend other than the PRO Retreat. Oh, and do they feed us for all three meals? I am clueless....

Angel said...

Christine, The hotel will offer breakfast on Friday and Saturday, and the only luncheon is offered on Thursday and maybe Friday. There are desserts served on Saturday night. Other than that, you are on your own for meals.