Wednesday, July 11, 2012

RWA Conference Advice

This is a repeat post from years past with a few changes to update location, circumstances, etc.  I hope it helps you if you're going to the RWA conference for the first time -- or for the umpeenth!

I love going to the annual RWA conference. And I'm especially happy to go this year because I didn't get to go last year.  No, that's not really it.  I'm happy because the conference hotel is across the street from the place where happiness began -- Disneyland!

You might not think this is such a big thing, but back when I was a little girl and not that many households even had a TV, we did.  And every Sunday night I'd watch The Wonderful World of Disney and dream of going to Disneyland.  But it was in that far, far away place called California and I didn't hold out much hope.  In 1973 I was able to go to Disney World in Florida.  And don't get me wrong.  It's wonderful.  I've been back several times with my sons and loved it.  But DISNEYLAND!  It's where the whole dream began.  And I'm going to get to go.  And the Disney folks have also been kind enough to offer conference attendees a reduced ticket rate.  Yay Disney!   But enough of my sentimentality about Mickey and Minnie and  back to the subject at hand:  conference advice.

I enjoy the 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 baggage fees 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.  You have to all get together at least once for a pre-conference fashion show to make sure you have things matched up right, have all the right accessories, loaned someone the top that matches their new skirt just perfectly and given each wardrobe the Playground Seal of Approval.

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 chapter leadership seminar.  Since our chapter president can't go, she asked for a volunteer and I said I'd do it.  I'm very excited to get a more inside look at how things operate and then come back and report to the chapter at our August meeting. 

And then there are the workshops.  I've poured over the listings and decided which ones I want to attend.  I'm even moderating two of them.  And on Saturday night, I'll be helping out at the RITA awards, which for those of you who may not know, are like the Academy Awards of the romance writing world.
Anyway, I thought I'd borrow from a previous 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.  AND, volunteering puts your name in a drawing to get your registration fee paid for next year's conference.  How cool is that???

* Wear comfy shoes.   This is especially important for me after my foot fracture earlier this year.  I have two new pairs of shoes that will accommodate my orthotics (my gawd, I sound like I'm 180 years old!), but are also attractive (or as attractive as orthopedic shoes can be).  I have no choice.  It's this or pain.  So I plan to have lots of cool necklaces and earrings so folks will all be looking at that and not my feet.

* 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.  And remember that most workshops are taped (the schedule will indicate this) so if you have to choose, go with the untaped one.  You can always get the conference CDs and hear the taped one later.

* Do not, I repeat, 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. When I first wrote this blog years ago, I spoke of not becoming next week's blog fodder.  But with Twitter and the wide availability of smartphones, you'll be Twitter fodder (would that be Twodder?) in SECONDS!  And it'll be retweeted until every person in the universe knows what you did.  There.  Have I scared you enough???

* 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.

* The conference hotel has a Starbucks in it.  I enjoy an afternoon cup of tea, so I plan to pre-load a Starbucks card and take it with me.  Then all I have to do is order my tea and hand them my Starbucks card.  It just simplifies things for me a little.  You may want to do the same if you're a coffee, frappe, tea, whatever lover.

* 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.


Maven Linda said...

A week prior, I always buy some Crest whitening strips and make sure my teeth are nice and bright. And I take some with me to the conference, too.

Angel said...

I'm SO jealous!!!! Wish I was going with y'all, but not gonna miss that long flight. :)

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