Wednesday, July 01, 2009
I love going to the annual RWA conference. I just don't like all the stress of getting ready to go. You have to pay your registration fee right after Christmas. Then you monitor airline fares and pounce the moment you see a great deal. You have an email loop with you and the others in your chapter who are going too so you can all obsess over the new baggage rules and how to get enough clothes for a week into one suitcase -- especially when you have to have not only business casual but sightseeing clothes and formal wear as well.
But once I've pared the clothing down to bare minimums, squeezed it all into the bag along with shoes, toiletries, jewelry, et cetera, flown to the conference city, negotiated that city's transportation system and checked into the hotel, the stress falls away (mostly) and I'm ready to learn and see old friends and make new ones too.
This year I get to go to something new -- the PRO retreat. And I've been pouring over the other workshop listings to see which I want to attend. Wouldn't you know that a couple I really like are the same time as the PRO retreat? Thank goodness for the conference CDs.
Anyway, I thought I'd borrow from my last year's conference blog and offer a few tips I've gleaned from both past experience and some of my ever-so-helpful writing friends from around the world.
* Volunteer because it's a great opportunity to meet other writers. And you'll be giving back to the organization that gives us so much.
* Wear comfy shoes. Mine this year will be not only comfy but ugly. My leg cast will come off three days before I leave for DC and I don't want to stress my foot. So I'm going to polish up my boxy-looking black shoes with rubber soles and wear them for everyday so I can don my new Kenneth Cole sandals for the awards night.
* Take a jacket or shawl to wear in the conference rooms. They keep the temps at a level comfortable for a man in a wool-blend business suit, which means a woman in slacks and a blouse will have blue lips and goosebumps before you can spell Antarctica.
* The workshop schedule is online at the RWA site. Take an afternoon or evening and go through it. Make a chart with Word or Excel for every day you're at the conference. Write down the workshops you want to attend. Add the get-togethers with various groups of friends you only see once a year. With a schedule, the whole affair seems a little less overwhelming, especially if this is your first conference.
* Do not do as I did at my first conference and try to attend a workshop during every slot of every day. By Friday night I felt as if I'd slammed into a concrete wall. I had major brain overload. Select the workshops you really want to attend, and if it's a popular one, arrive early to assure you get a seat. Then when there's an hour where no workshop really calls to you, visit the Executive Conference Room AKA the hotel bar or the hotel coffee shop and rest.
* If you are targeting a particular publisher, be sure to attend their spotlight session. You'll get a world of information straight from the horse's mouth.
* Speaking of mouths, be careful what comes out of yours. You never know who may be at the back of the elevator car. It could be the editor who has your manuscript or her best friend. Be especially careful not to enjoy the ECR too much because loose lips sink ships -- and writing careers too.
* If you see someone who looks lost or scared, walk up to them and say, "Hi, my name is _______ and I'm from ________. Is this your first conference? What do you write?" Invite them to sit with you at lunch. Introduce them to your friends. A big part of this business is networking and just saying hello may lead to something big.
* One of my writing friends is really big on goals -- even at conference. She doesn't leave home without a goal in mind. I try to do this too and come up with something that is tangible and can be measured, such as networking with five new people or learning about several publishing houses you were not familiar with before the conference.
* I always take a new bottle of over-the-counter pain reliever. I carry it with me everywhere for my own aches and pains or for the editor in the elevator who complains of a splitting headache. This is a great way to make a new friend too.
* Remember to take your camera and remember to use it so you can take home memories of the week. I have photos of myself with favorite authors and love to go back and look at conferences from years past. Remember the charging cable too!
* If you take your cell phone, be sure to TURN IT OFF during workshops. Put in on vibrate and stick it in your pocket. You'll know when someone calls but it won't disturb the speaker (unless you shriek when it vibrates). And remember the charging cord for it too.
* Leave your favorite perfume at home. Many folks have allergies, and even if they don't, fifteen women all wearing different perfume in an elevator can be olfactory overload.
Have I forgotten anything? Please tell me if I have because right now my brain is beginning to turn to mush.
P.S. How on earth can it be July already??? Check out the new contest at our website. I'm going to help one person Run Away from Home.