Tuesday, July 14, 2009
What Else to Pack
Aside from the right clothes (still not sure I'm settled in that department!), there are some essential things a writer should bring to a great conference like RWA Nationals. And they don't have to fit in your suitcase. Here's my list:
1. Patience--RWA isn't DisneyWorld, but there will be lines--for registration, for free books, for food. Use the time to make friends with your fellow line-dwellers.
2. Social Courage--As writers, we tend to be a little introverted. Resist the urge to find people you already know to sit with for meals. Most attendees are either published or working toward it. You already have plenty in common with them. Half the world is waiting for the other half to say "Hello." Be in the "Hello" half.
3. Room Avoidance--Don't cocoon in your hotel room. Ok, an occasional "gotta-put-my-feet-up" is allowed, but remember you're there to learn, to connect with writing friends and to network with industry professionals. You can't do that if you're watching Pay-per-View.
4. Teachable Heart--Writing is an ocean and I've only dabbled my toes in the shallow end. There is always more to learn about the craft.
5. Common Sense--No editor or agent stalking. Try not to stare when Nora Roberts walks by. (It's perfectly ok to wish for a little of her mojo to wash over you, but don't be obvious about it.)
6. Open Mind--This specifically refers to attending the General Meeting which I fear will turn out to be a gripe session of catfight proportions, if the message boards and blogs leading up to it are anything to go by. There will always be tension in an organization that strives to serve such a diverse membership. In a group this large, we need to give each other the benefit of the doubt and believe the best of each other. Remember what unites us. Whether we write inspirationals or erotica, the common thread is love. I hope we show each other a little.
7. A Plan--I have a number of meetings planned (very excited about meeting my new agent, Natasha Kern and her assistant, Becky!), but I'm taking care to leave room for some serendipity. You never know when you'll run someone whose ideas will revolutionize your writing or your career. Factor in some down time. Otherwise, by Saturday night, you'll be stumbling about on swollen feet, blubbering incoherently.
When I went to my first Nationals (2003 NYC!) I was unpublished (unless you count letters to the editor of the local newspaper!) with only a sad little western manuscript to my credit (a manuscript that still lurks in obscurity with the dust bunnies under my bed! And deserves it!) I didn't have an agent and couldn't even get a pitch appointment (in retrospect, probably a good thing. See sad little western comment above.) But the conference jazzed me up and for the first time, I felt like a real writer.
I missed the 2004 conference because my DH was out of a job (along with the rest of the R & D department in the company). If your family is going through a period of unemployment, I feel your pain. I've been there and it's rough, but it doesn't mean you have to give up your dream. Thanks to my e-critique partner, Darcy Carson, who delivered regular kicks in the pants when I needed it, I kept writing. When I attended the 2005 RWA Conference in Reno, I had a contract for my first book MAIDENSONG in my hot little hands.
Each year, as my understanding of publishing changes, my conference experience changes as well. I've met publishing powerhouses like Sue Grimshaw (Borders' romance buyer) and opinion-makers Barbara Vey (PW Beyond her Book) and Chicago Tribune's John Charles. I've learned from authors I respect and admire: Jo Beverley, Jayne Ann Krentz, Lisa Jackson and Anne Stuart. I still enjoy the workshops, but I spend more time networking now. That's the real beauty of the RWA Nationals. It offers something for every author, no matter where she/he may be along the writing road.
So if you're attending, I hope to see you there. I'll try to be the one who says "Hello" first.
And if you're not attending, I'll be posting updates on the conference each day right here. With pictures, if I can work the camera. And if I can get a decent wifi connection. The DH (my personal computer guru) won't be with me for this trip (heavy sigh!). Say a prayer for the anti-techno queen!