#5onFri – Prepping, Planning, and Packing for the RWA National Conference

by Robin Lovett
published in Community

Four days in Manhattan. Thousands of writers at the Marriot in Times Square. Two hotels booked, over a hundred workshops planned, over a hundred agents and editors attending (including our own Bess Cozby). Next week, July 22-25 , the Romance Writers of America national conference is going to be a dizzying experience, especially for this first timer.

There’s been a lot of “P” words floating around the pressure to prepare and plan. It began in January with warnings that the conference would sell out, which it did. On Twitter, the chatter picked up in April with hashtags and chats and online classes all devoted to “Getting Ready”. Just this week, I received another email full of links to help first timers prep for the infamous four days. Deciphering the pre-conference advice has been as daunting as the actual nerves of attending. So here’s five of the “P” word things I’ve been doing to “Get Ready”:

1) Planning a schedule

The schedule of workshops was released in April: an endless list of talks, divided into ten different tracks. Many attendees planned their schedules that same week. But for me, looking at the list on the website intimidated me so much that, after one scan, I had to close the window. I avoided thinking about it, until June when the conference released an app, including workshop descriptions and the ability to create your own schedule. The app has become my new favorite toy, arranging and rearranging the options has been fun and far less intimidating than the blanket list.

2) Packing a suitcase

I’ve been hearing about what to pack for as long as I’ve been hearing about the schedule, and mostly about what to wear: business casual for workshops, business formal for pitching, cocktail wear for dinners, formal evening wear for the RITA Awards Ceremony, and countless reminders for comfortable shoes. Shopping for this conference has been a major hit to my budget, though my wardrobe isn’t complaining. As recommended, I’ve planned each day’s outfit to minimize wasted space in my suitcase, leaving room for “swag”. I’m to expect a lot of ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) at book signings, and yeah, I’m definitely excited about that. I’m bringing an empty bag with the hope of filling it with free books.

3) Prepping to meet people

This one’s hard to plan for, but it’s the part I’m looking forward to the most. I love meeting people who love to read and write the things I love to read and write. Many conference veterans plan their dinners in advance to ensure they meet everyone they need to see at the conference. Though I’m not in that camp, I’m planning as best I can. And of course, I ordered my business cards.

4) Practice Pitching

Luckily, I don’t need to pitch this year, but for a lot of people going to conferences, it’s the most stressful part. Since I’ve had success with pitching, I recommend it, and if I were pitching, here’s what I’d be doing to prepare: Spending a week or more ironing out my book blurb, then chipping and filing it down to one sentence—yes, one sentence. This is an elevator pitch, (as well as a Twitter pitch for later), then I prep bullet points, additional sentences to answer potential questions that the elevator pitch prompts. I’m a little sad not to be pitching because, despite the stress, it’s very validating to have the undivided attention of a publishing professional listen to you talk about your book. Bess Cozby discussed this in last week’s #5OnFri.

5) Pacing myself

The number one fear I have for this conference is potential exhaustion by day two. This isn’t easy to plan for, but I’m doing mindset training and schedule preparation. I’ll need at least one, likely two hours per day of alone time, to write or read, to re-fuel for maximum enjoyment of the overstimulation that will inevitably happen. Hopefully, unlike a child at Disney World, I will make it through without an emotional breakdown.

Veterans of the conference have touted it as fun, a vacation, something they look forward to all year. I’m excited, if nervous. I hope I’ve prepped enough, though mostly I hope I’ll be adaptable enough to enjoy the opportunities that can’t be planned for. Stay tuned for a post-conference #5onFri report.

Any other suggestions to help with conference prep? Please share!

Special thanks to Nisha Sharma, my RWA mentor through the pressure to prep, plan, and prepare for this potentially career bending experience.

Sarah-Lovett-photo-223x300Robin Lovett, also known as S.A. Lovett, writes contemporary romance, and her debut novel, Racing To You, will be released July of 2016. She is represented by Rachel Brooks of the L. Perkins Agency and has a forthcoming series releasing with SMP Swerve in the summer of 2017.

She writes romance to avoid the more unsavory things in life, like day jobs and housework. To feed her coffee and chocolate addictions, she loves overdosing on mochas. When not writing with her cat, you can find her somewhere in the outdoors with a laptop in her bag. Feel free to chat with her on Twitter.


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