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.

Monday, July 09, 2012

The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical Packing List Rises

I just looked at my calendar and realized I'm leaving for the RWA conference in Anaheim in less than two weeks. Not ready? Neither am I. I have been crazy busy. But not too busy to revive this list from the dead. I depend on it, every year, so I thought I'd bring it back to life to help others.  It's tradition and a great place to start building your own list if you don't have one already.

Mine is broken into sections, starting with what I'm wearing on the plane. These are usually items that are too bulky to pack and comfortable for travel. Jeans, a sweater and sneakers are must haves in my book and I've racked up my share of airline miles in them. Planes get cold and I've been so happy to have my sweater instead of wearing shorts and flip flops like all the other tourists. Plus, when they change your gate for the 10th time or your plane is late and you have 5 minutes to make your connection, sneakers are a godsend.

Wear on Plane :
- Shirt
- Jeans
- Sweater
- Sneakers (or slip-ons for walking to make getting them on and off in security easier)
- Socks

Then I have the list of what goes in my backpack. I like backpacks because my hands are free, but this could be your small roller bag, laptop, your toiletry bag...whatever. Just make sure these items are in a bag you physically have custody of at all times. Must have stuff. You don't want it to end up in DC while you're waiting at the luggage carousel in Orange County

Backpack :
- Plane Itinerary / Ticket
- Camera & Battery Charger
- Cell Phone & Charger
- 1 extra pair of panties & socks (just in case)
- Book or e-Reader of choice (& charger) to read on the plane
- ID and/or Passport (I keep this and some cash in an easily accessible pocket - one that zips for security - for the 20 times I have to get it out to travel. This is mainly because of the next item.)
- Purse (I transition to a smaller purse and stuff it inside my backpack so I have less to carry. This makes it harder to get to, so I take a few essentials out for the day. Even though you won't need your keys, be sure to carry them with you as well so you have them when you get home.)
- Snacks & An Empty Water Bottle (They don't feed you on planes anymore, so this is a MUST. Its also good to have once you get to Nationals so you have something to eat aside from the overpriced hotel food. As for the water bottle, you can refill it as you travel, but it must be empty to get through airport security.)
- Prescription Medication (Never, ever check your pills with your luggage.)
- Travel Alarm Clock (If you can't set your cell phone, and you can, I'm pretty sure)
- Mini flashlight
- Business Cards
- Presentation Materials and/or laptop (I'm doing a workshop this year, so anything I need is staying on my person.)

Next is what goes in my toiletry bag. Mine is actually a small bag that fits inside my luggage, which is good considering all the charges for extra pieces these days. If you're carrying this on, remember all liquids, gels and aerosols must be smaller than 3 ounces and must all fit within a clear, one quart ziplock bag. You have to pull this out and run it through the security x-ray separately. If you do check the bag, I still recommend putting liquids inside a ziploc bag in case a bottle comes open and leaks all over your clothes.

Toiletry Bag :
- Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss & Mouthwash
- Deodorant
- Hairbrush
- Shampoo & Conditioner (if you can use the hotel provided ones, ok, but my hair is too picky)
- Lotion and Soap (I will use the hotel provided stuff, but if you can't, pack your own)
- Hair Products - Gel, Hairspray, Mousse, Detangler
- Hair Electronics - blow dryers, curling iron, flat iron, etc. (coordinate w/ roommates to cut down on unnecessary appliances)
- Makeup, brushes, cotton applicators, good mirror, tweezers
- Moisturizer w/ SPF (you might also take outright sunblock if you'll be outside a lot)
- Razor & Shaving gel
- Feminine Hygiene (I always take an emergency stash just in case.)
- OTC Meds - Pain Reliever, Antacids, Stomach Pills
- Clear and colored nail polish & file for manicure fixes and hosiery runs
- First Aid Kit & Extra bandaids (if you have to ask, you haven't read this blog for very long)
- Mini Sewing Kit
- Mini bottle of Downy Wrinkle Release Spray & Febreze
- Bandaid Friction Block

Luggage :
- Another copy of your flight itinerary in case your bag loses its ID tag
- Panties x # of days, plus one or two if you're going siteseeing and might get sweaty
- Sport or Trouser Socks x # of days needed
- 1 pair pantyhose (I hate them, but its good to carry one pair JIC. I have a pair of shoes that just rubs something fierce without them, but are super comfortable otherwise)
- Regular bras & dress bras (as needed for formals, etc)
- Spanx (the ever-so important foundation garment) & slips as needed
- Casual tops x # of siteseeing/travel days
- 1 pair jeans (if you aren't doing a lot of tourist stuff, this might not be necessary, especially as I'm wearing a pair on the plane)
- Seasonal Jacket, etc, as needed (depends on where you're going, as SFO was cold, NYC is NOT)
- Pajamas (I don't know how many times I stress over every outfit, then forget PJs)
- Daytime Outfit Components (see breakdown below)
- Party Outfits as needed for Ritas, etc.
- Swimsuit, if you think you might manage to make it to the spa at some point
- Badge Lanyard with conference and chapter pins
- Shoes - At a minimum, 2 pairs of comfortable casual shoes or sandals, 1 or 2 dress pairs for formals, maybe some slippers or flip flops if you're inclined to swim or visit the spa. If you coordinate your outfit to a color scheme, you can cut down to less. I do not recommend wearing the same shoes every day, even if it matches. I find even the most comfortable pair will start to rub and make your feet sore if you wear them over and over. You will do a lot of walking.
- Jewelry - Make sure you know what you're wearing with each piece and put them all together in a bag with tissue if you don't have a jewelry travel case.

Finally, to determine my outfits, I use a daily breakdown. I try to bring some neutral pieces like black capris or a skirt that I can use a couple times. Microfiber is awesome - it doesn't wrinkle and it takes up almost no space in your bag. I also advocate the inclusion of one extra outfit that lies somewhere between your workshop attire and your formal in case you get an impromptu invite to a dinner or a party someplace nice. Here's my breakdown based on my typical activities...

Wednesday - black microfiber skirt, pink top, black sandals, pink jewelry
Thursday - black capris, blue microfiber top, black sandals, blue jewelry
Thursday Night - eHQN PJ party attire, flip flops/slippers
Friday - black microfiber skirt, purple microfiber top, black sweater, black heels, purple jewelry
Friday Night - black formal, sale shoes, black/silver jewelry
Saturday - black capris, pink satin top, black sandals, pink jewelry
Saturday Night - black and pink formal, pink heels, pink jewelry
Sunday - t-shirt, jeans, etc. for flight home (add days as needed if you're siteseeing)
Pitch Outfit - if you are pitching, bring the outfit that makes you feel your best if its not already one of the ensembles you're wearing
Extra Outfit - a fabu just in case outfit that you can wear with the shoes and jewelry you're already planning to bring

Hope The Comprehensive, Must-Have, Magical, Mystical, Packing List helps make planning for the big trip a little easier for you. Have I missed anything? What's on your must pack list?

Andrea AKA SP

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Launch Party

The day has arrived! Today my second book, More Than He Expected, hits shelves and ships from online retailers. At least, in theory. I found last time it took a couple days for it to show up on store shelves. With the holiday, maybe even a day or two longer. But I'm celebrating nonetheless!

I love this book. The hero, Alex, was just so much fun to torture. He's sole heir to a steel fortune, a real estate tycoon, and a real dog when it comes to the ladies. He's got everything he wants, but that's where the joy of writing comes in - making him want something he can't have and has never wanted before. Mwahaha. <-- Evil laugh

The heroine, Gwen, was a lot of fun, too. She's short and spunky. In a way, she reminds me a little of my great grandmother. She was four foot, eleven, but that never stopped her from giving her grandsons (all 6 foot plus) a piece of her mind. She even broke a chair spanking my uncle over her knee once. Gwen has the same fire in a tiny package, and I love that about her.

She's also got a little bit of my mom in her. Gwen is a caretaker, a giver. She'd do anything for anybody and ask for nothing in return. She's a nurse, and a surrogate for a desperate couple. If her apartment were larger than a postage stamp, she'd probably take in stray animals and unloved children. She deserves so much more than her life has given her and Alex is just the guy to give her everything she needs.

If he'd just get his head out of his rear end. Men.

Anyway, so let's celebrate! Let's pour some mimosas and pretend we're in the Hamptons for the 4th of July like Gwen and Alex are in the story. We're surrounded by sun and sand, country charm and subdued elegance. Tell me how you're spending your 4th of July holiday and you could win a copy of More Than He Expected!