Countdown to the RWA Conference – Part II – How to Schedule and What to Bring

This is part two in the Countdown to Conference blog series.  In the last blog we talked about what to wear to the conference.  This entry is about how to schedule your time and what else you should bring, besides clothes.

Try to have a game plan before you arrive.  I go through the conference schedule, read about all the workshops, note when the spotlights and signings are and then create a FLEXIBLE schedule for each day.  Then I schedule a meeting/lunch/coffee/dinner whatever with agent/editor/pr person/pals, etc… so I can see how my days have filled out.  Then, taking note of publisher and agent parties, I look to see when the chapter parties are and if I have time to hit a couple.

    • Spotlights:  Most of the publishers will have a spotlight.  (See conference schedule).  During this time, the editors will usually talk about what’s hot, what they’re looking for, and how to submit to them.  It’s very handy.  They’ll also sometimes highlight what releases they have coming up…so you can see what’s hot.  They take questions…and I’ve seen people line up to do a quick pitch when the presentation is finished.  Also…look around the room.  AGENTS attend these spotlights.  The one you want to pitch to might be sitting next to you.
    •  Book signings:  Besides the literacy signing the night before the conference actually starts, the individual publishers also have signings.  Translation:  FREE signed books.  (Though you end up with tons of free books even if you don’t make it to the signings.)  NOW…I will be participating in Kensington’s book signing on Friday from 12:00-1:30, so I hope to see you there!
    • Workshops:  I love workshops.  Just love them.  So I create a schedule with my first choice, second, and so on…and often end up going to my third choice because it may be about craft, and the ones I’d attended already were about PR. 
    • PRO Retreat:  If you’re a member of PRO – definitely go to some this.  They have cool workshops.  (See guidelines for PRO).
    • PAN Retreat/workshops:  There’s a list up now of the workshops for PAN members – looks awesome!  (See guidelines for PAN).
    • Goody Room:  Don’t forget to check out the goody room for pens, books, notebooks, candy…
    • Free Time:  Give yourself some.  Trust me.

So, there’s a breakdown of the conference and how to schedule your time.  Now…what should you bring besides clothes? I always bring:

  • Granola bars.   You will be unexpectedly hungry and running from workshop to workshop…and who wants their stomach to growl in the middle of the presentation?
  • Emergen-C .   Some people bring that Airborne instead.  You’re in a place with a lot of people, maybe not eating right, and probably not getting enough sleep.  I drink one of these every day of the conference and haven’t come down with that ‘conference cold’ so many people go home with.
  • Comfortable shoes.  By day three, your feet are freakin sore.  Yeah, bring the pretty shoes for night and even the first day.  By day three, you won’t care how your feet look.  You’ll wear the flip flops.  Trust me.
  • Safety pins.  You’ll be a hero.  There are always wardrobe malfunctions…and safety pins are necessary.
  • Sunglasses.  You may end up venturing outside with Cynthia Eden because she wants to check out the ducks in the middle of a pond.  You don’t want to go blind.
  • Pen and notebook.  You’ll be surprised how many notes you’ll take at the workshops…you can even blog about them later.  And you’ll be getting email addresses for new friends.
  • Laptop…if you want.  I bring mine.  Many people will tell you they don’t write while attending conferences.  I do.  I’m usually inspired by something and will need to type something…but you could always just write it in your notebook.  J
  • Prepaid USPS (or Fed Ex) labels.  You’re going to get a lot of stuff.  Books, postcards, pens…so many!  They’ll have boxes and labels at the conference, but if you have your own, you can pack the boxes in your room and drop them at the mailing place WITHOUT waiting forever in line.
  • Ones.  If you’re going to the cocktail parties, you’ll want to tip the bartenders.  Bring ones—you can usually fit those with your cell phone in your conference badge so you don’t have to carry a purse.
  • Your book on a flashdrive.  If you’re pitching (see later posts), bring this.  Don’t bring a hard copy. We’ve all heard the urban legend of the author who pitched and the editor asked for a digital copy to read on her kindle during the plane ride home—loved it and bought it.  Have the flashdrive…just in case.

Okay, that list is by no means exhaustive.  But it’ll get you started.  Next time (on Friday) I’ll blog about pitching…