I only two RWA Chapter conferences under my belt, put on by the New Jersey Romance Chapter, and they were simply amazing. I can’t imagine the major RWA conference topping them. Someday, I’ll make it to the annual RWA Conference and I’m sure I’ll be amazed there.
But for now, here’s my FIVE THINGS TO KNOW about your First Writer’s Conference:
- You need to pack EARLY. Circle the date a MONTH before your travel date in your daytimer. That’s the day you hit the grocery/pharmacy and buy 2 sets of travel size toothpaste, deodorant, hairspray, toothbrushes, suntan lotion, Tylenol/Advil, Imodium, Gravol, Bandaids (yes, Bandaids), dental floss, Tums, mouthwash, lip balm, hand cream, eye make-up remover pads, Q-tips, shampoo & conditioner. While you’re there, get your birth control dial filled a month early if they’ll let you.Put one set in a large freezer bag and the other set in another large freezer bag. One goes in your carry-on and one in your checked luggage. Put them in your luggage RIGHT NOW. Trust me on this–you’ll thank me later. 😊 If I had a $1.00 for everyone I bailed out at my first conference, I’d have paid for all the books I took home!
- You need two daytime outfits and one-night (Gala) outfit. That’s it. And a sweater/light jacket. Save the luggage room for all the books you’re going to tote home. It’s business casual and they mean it. Even if you’re a stay-at-home mom, ditch the yoga pants/jeans and buy yourself one good pair of black dress pants with two nice tops to go with the sweater/light jacket. You don’t have to spend $$$ but first impressions are important and you need to look like you could at least pass for the receptionist at the editor/agent’s office.
- You’re probably signed up for an editor/agent appointment and have your pitch prepped/memorized/on cue-cards. You’ve been told NOT to approach said editors/agents in the washrooms, at lunch, etc. This is great advice, DO NOT do this and make a fool of yourself. On the other hand, don’t go to the other extreme and be so anxious about your appointment you’re tossing your cookies in the washroom before your appointment, as one gal was when I found her at my second conference. The editors and agents are there to network and find NEW writers. They are women just like you and I (and in many cases, years younger than you and I! 😊) We all put our pantyhose on one leg at a time.
Not that you should be so laid back you’re unprofessional in your presentation. Just remember that the other woman across the table is a human being and is here to listen to you and wants to hear about YOU, your book, and why you’ve written it. Do give her your best, be courteous, and be friendly. But don’t get yourself so worked up you can’t sleep the night before or you lose your lunch over it!
- Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Drinking alcohol at a business conference. Yes, we’re there to have a great time. We’re there to celebrate the RITA’s and the Golden Heart winners, the Kiss of Death winners, etc. We’re there to make new friends who’ll hopefully last for years. I may get tomatoes pitched at me here, but I’d like to suggest that because RWA especially is a mixed group and it IS a business conference (I don’t believe ACFW serves alcohol so it’s not an issue) you might want to limit yourself to two drinks. Think about it. You want to impress these professionals who hold your future career in their hands. They may be partying down themselves–who knows? But they will remember the writer who falls over her heels and goes bottoms up on her way to the washroom at the RITA’s because she’s had more than her limit, or the one who can’t keep quiet from the back of the room. You do not want that–you want to be remembered for being fun, friendly, and professional. Save the hard partying for when you get home to celebrate that request for a full manuscript!
- And finally, relax and enjoy every second. You’ll only be a “newbie” this one conference. It’s a grand experience and one to cherish for the rest of your life. Soak it all up. And don’t forget to take a good pair of RUNNING SHOES and ditch the flats, heels, wedges, and sandals. You will walk MILES in the three days, never mind what you do at night. It’s RUNNING SHOES–or sneakers, depending on what part of the country you’re from–all day, my friend! Save the heels for the one night you HAVE to wear them. And have a fabulous time!