The Romance Writers of America national conference is about a week away and preparation around here has shifted into high gear. For those who don’t know, the RWA is a national organization that helps romance authors with information and resources on the business and creative sides of writing. It’s a great group of people, and a strong and supportive community.
The national conference is the once a year opportunity for people who mostly communicate electronically to meet in person. This time it’s in Orlando, Florida. My wife, Zoe Archer (AKA Eva Leigh), and I have gone over the last several years, but this one is particularly exciting for me. My book One Minute to Midnight has been nominated for a RITA award in Romantic Suspense and the ceremony to announce the winners will be on Thursday night of the conference.
So really, the conference prep started soon after I found out I was up for the award. The people at our local Y have definitely seen a lot more of me in the run up to the ceremony. Zoe has been nominated a couple times before and I’ve attended with her, so I know how good everyone looks on the big night out.
Which means: fancy clothes. I’m not one to dress up, so it took a while to put together what I'm wearing to the ceremony. But clothing choices to the rest of the conference are important as well. You want to be comfortable, but also to represent your style. Can’t dress too warmly for summer, but there’s always air conditioning, making layering important.
And then there’s the shoes. Prepare to spend a lot of time spent on your feet, chatting with people at the bar, or navigating through the hotel corridors. Sometimes it’s a hike just to get from your room to the central area of the conference.
After all your sartorial choices are settled, the next packing challenge is swag. For the first time, I’m going to be signing at the massive literacy autographing book sale. Some authors go all out with swag, creating unique environments made of balloons, tassels, stuffed animals, riding crops, etc, in what space they’re allocated on the table. I don’t know which approach works best, but a minimalist aesthetic is what fits me best: A pen cup with custom pens, a bowl of chocolates.
Other obligations at the conference require different plans as well. Zoe and I will be giving a panel on Mindfulness for Writers, and while the handouts are finalized, we still need to practice our talk a couple of times in order to refine it and make sure we’re getting our points across clearly.
Other packing essentials include:
-A notebook and a pen you enjoy writing with. There are plenty of pens and paper to be had at the conference, but there’s so much good insight on the panels to be written down, you’ll want to be using your personal setup. Or bring a laptop or tablet if that’s best for you. I’ve seen a lot of people clicking away on their keyboards during panels.
-Hand sanitizer. Sometimes there isn’t a moment to wash your hands before rushing off to a meal.
-Lip balm. Air conditioning always dries me out.
-Snacks. With a full calendar, meals don’t always come around when you’re needing them. I like to keep a couple protein bars in my day bag just in case my blood sugar starts to crash.
-Band aids. Depending on what kind of fancy shoes you’re bringing.
-A flask of booze for the room for a quiet moment before sleep after spending all day interacting with interesting, creative, excited, encouraging people.
-A readiness to approach strangers and strike up a conversation, based only on what you can learn from their name badge. Along with this, bring your desire to share your experiences and ideas with others. That’s one of the great ways this community grows and evolves, by listening and sharing.
If you’re attending RWA this year, I hope I see you there. Or if you’re only hitting up the big signing, stop by for some chocolate.
Here’s the LINK for the conference.
And the LINK for the signing.
Did I forget anything? How do you prep for conference?