Conference Madness!

JodieGriffinIt’s that time of year when writers dream of conferences, when those who are going go nuts trying to get ready, when those who aren’t but want to wish they could, and when those who shudder at the idea of all those people together in one spot are grateful they’re not going.

This week, we’ve got the Romance Writers of America’s national conference in Atlanta.  It’s chock-full of workshops, book signings, meetings and parties, parties, parties. For years, I’ve been one of the wanna-bes. I’ve watched on Twitter as people tweeted all kinds of cool things going on, and I’m fairly certain I turned Kermit-green with envy.

This year, however, is a different story. I’m going to conference.  And I’m freaking out.

My plan was to go, have a relaxing, fun chance to meet people I’ve talked with online, learn some new things, and immerse myself in all things writer.

(Right now, anyone who’s been to a conference is laughing their heads off at me. I can hear it from here.)

I arrive on Wednesday and as soon as I get to the hotel, I have a thing. Then the literacy book signing,  which I’m not doing because SOMEONE *looks at self in mirror and sticks out tongue* waited too long to sign up for conference and missed a chance at that.  I’m planning on being just another fangirl that night, saying hi to all my own favorite writers.  And in case you’re interested, I am doing the Harlequin book signing on Friday, so if you’re at RWA, stop by and see me!  The rest of my days are full of meetings, parties, meetings, parties.  And then I go home.

I’m excited for all this, don’t get me wrong. But I’m an introvert, like many writers. This means I need downtime.  So if you see a woman with crazy curly hair sitting in a corner with earbuds in to block everything out, tapping away frantically on a laptop, it’s probably me.  I have edits due right after conference is done.   And considering it’s a conference full of writers, I’m guessing I won’t be the only one.

Another crazy part of conference is the clothes. And the shoes. And the clothes. And the shoes. And the bags. Usually I can pack for a four-day trip in a duffle bag. This one, not so much.  I’ve been ordered to leave my crocs at home, too. *sad face* If you’re there, you may see me barefoot.  Or in sneakers.

Then there are the things. Business cards. Promo items, if you’ve got them (I don’t, except for business cards and promo cards). Anything else you might need.

Who knew? Not I.

But I do know one thing. I’m really looking forward to meeting all the people I’ve met online who are going. Writers, readers, bloggers, agents, publishing people.  It will be really nice to put names (and avatars!) with real faces and voices.

So, if you’ve been to conferences, what advice would you give a newbie?  If you haven’t been, do you watch the tweets and FB posts for pictures and stories?


Conference Madness! — 20 Comments

  1. Find little pockets of time to take 15-20 minutes by yourself. Enjoy random moments of quiet rather than rushing to the next thing. Drink water. Bring hard candy/gum/cough drops to combat dry mouth. Stick deodorant (the clear kind) can provide some barrier against chafing, blisters, etc. Pack band-aids anyway. Have a fabulous time!

  2. Have an awesome time Jodie! I’d love to go to a conference but living in Johannesburg pretty solidly rules it out. 😛 I hope you’ll offer lots of updates for those of us living vicariously through your shoes (or bare feet)!

  3. I’ve never been to RWA either. Aside from the cost, and the fact that I’d have to buy a whole new wardrobe, I’m terrified of this conference. Like Jodie, I’m an introvert, so the idea of the crowds is daunting. But it sure does sound like fun. I’ll be with you in spirit, Jodie. Have a blast, with or without your crocs!

    • Thanks, Jana! It’s more expensive than I’d thought between the conference, the airfare, the hotel, and yes, the wardrobe! I’m hoping (and assuming!) it’s worth it!

  4. Count me in the jealous-wish-I-was-going group. I’ve never been to a conference before and the thought of huge groups & travelling alone freaks me out. Maybe next year? LOL

    Have fun. I’ll be stalking you on Twitter. I wanna see plenty of pics so I can live vicariously!

    • Ah, Gillian! I wish you were going…I’d love to hang out in real life. But I get it. I’ll let you know how I did with it. And yes, I’m hoping to tweet pics, for sure!

  5. Can’t wait to meet you! My tips for first-timers are:

    1. Don’t plan on attending every single workshop. Pick the ones you can’t miss, and then plan on spending some time alone in your hotel room to decompress & to psych yourself up for going back out into the crowd. Otherwise it can be exhausting for introverts like us!

    2. The easiest way to start a conversation is by asking “What kind of stories to do you write?” This only backfires slightly when you are talking to a NYT Bestselling author and don’t realize it. It happens.

    3. Don’t be afraid of editors and agents. They are regular people too, and they love books.

    4. The lines for the women’s room is always crazy long. It might actually take less time to go back to your room real quick.

    5. Hotels are notoriously cold no matter how hot it is outside, so bring a blazer or cardigan.

    6. Be nice to everyone, all the time. Even if you’re not a morning person, or you’re nervous, or something bad just happened.

    7. Touch up your make-up before the book signings, because you’ll be taking a lot of pictures with readers! :)

    Hope that helps! I’ll be live-Tweeting using the #RWA13 hashtag all week!

  6. I popped my conference cherry a couple of months ago at NECRWA, and while I had a wonderful time and will definitely do it again, there are definitely stress factors for us introverts. While some of my experiences were unique to me (not much of a line for the men’s room at a romance writer’s convention), others were generally applicable.

    1. Shoshanna’s advice about taking some workshop sessions off is dead on. In addition to recharging the “dealing with people” batteries, some of the most fun conversations I had took place while hanging with other people who were doing the same thing, because it was laid back and unstructured. Kind of like being on Twitter but in real life.

    2. I found the biggest stress points to be meal times. You’re walking into a large banquet room, and need to find a table of people to sit with from among a large group of people some of whom you kinda sorta but not really know, when your every social instinct is not to intrude. If you have a group of people you can walk over with from the previous workshop session, that helps. Failing that, try to strike up a hallway conversation immediately prior to meal times.

    PS – I’m envious that you’ll be doing this next week and I won’t.

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