Prepping for Nationals: Location, location, location

July 7, 2008 at 10:17 am (Events)


Welcome to my first official Prepping for Nationals class. If you didn’t know this by now, I’m a panster (at least 65% worth), so there is no lesson plan, but I am following a rough order (because if you do the math, I am about 35% plotter that way.) If I missing something, call out.


Lesson One:  Given that Nationals are in San Francisco this year, prepping for them does not include watching The Rock. Or Dirty Harry, or 48 Hours, or A View to a Kill. (Sorry, Dad.) But let’s talk about setting. Of the conferences I’ve been to, this one is shaping up to be the best as far as location. This doesn’t mean the city, this means what’s around the Marriott. Where you do spend the majority of time in the hotel, there are times you need/want to get out, or need to purchase something that really can’t be found in the hotel gift shop (or has a 500% markup.) To illustrate how wonderfully this hotel is located, allow me to list some examples:

·         There are several pharmacies within .5 miles.

·         There are at least 4 grocery stores under .25 miles away. (They look like smaller, independent (or local) stores, but I’ve never found one yet that doesn’t carry the basic food items like granola bars, apples and bottled water.)

·         There are two 7-11’s nearby—one just around the corner and up the block, the other around the corner and down the block. (Both under .25 miles.)

·         There’s a Kinko’s (which also means FedEx shipping) around the corner and up the block, and there are a few USPS branches under .25 miles as well. (I know the Marriott has a business office with shipping, but we tend to overwhelm these poor folk so it’s nice to have a backup—more on this in a later lesson.)

·         There are a ton of restaurants of all types and sizes nearby—check the Westfield San Francisco Centre’s Food Court across the street and the Metreon less than a block away. (Again, yes the Marriott has several restaurants, but we overwhelm them too, so a backup is a necessity. Plus, there may be times you just need either alone time or want to get out of the hotel for a few minutes.)

I think you’re getting the point. The underlying message is that judging by the nearby businesses, this area looks really nice and safe. I’d probably use the buddy system to be sure, but there were some spots around Dallas I was nervous even with 6’5” Montana with me. Not so here. To find what’s helpful to you, the best thing to do is MapQuest the address of the hotel (55 4th St., San Francisco) and use their search feature to check nearby stores of your choosing. Print out that map (making sure to get the phone number of the stores) and bring it with you. You may not need it, but when you do, you’ll be glad for that information.


Lesson Two:Now I know it’s almost insulting to have a lesson on getting from the airport to the hotel (and vice versa), but there are a few tips I’d like to share just so you have them.

·         Check out the RWA site on travel information. Some wonderful person has compiled some basic information about estimated taxi fares, hotel shuttles and other similar details I absolutely adore.

·         Look into using the Super Shuttle (and there’s a discount coupon on RWA’s site above.) In fact, I would highly recommend it. It’s cheaper than a taxi and a set fare so if you get stuck in traffic, the meter is not running.

·         If you prefer a taxi, you may have luck splitting a fare. When you’re at baggage claim (or in the hotel lobby when you’re leaving), look at your fellow travelers. Odds are, there will be at least a few, possibly many more, fellow conference attendees. (Trust me, you’ll know—some are obvious between bags or pins, some aren’t, but we all have a certain look to us. Feel free to ask one if they’d like to split a taxi to the hotel. I met Susan Crandall this way. This is a terrific way to meet people, and trust me–this is the most welcoming, open, friendly group of people in the world and that includes walking up to them at the airport.)

·         I know that for many, this conference is a lot of money, and ways of saving cash are highly scrutinized. However, I also think there are times when it’s better to spend a little more and consider it money well spent (says the voice of experience.) One of these instances may be the travel to/from the hotel. I know BART has a line that runs from the airport to about 1-2 blocks from the hotel and it’s tempting to spend $2 on travel instead of $20 (I’m guessing here, so don’t hold me to those numbers), but I would strongly suggest skipping a dinner out here or there in the next 3 weeks and saving those funds for the shuttle or taxi. Or at least split the difference—take BART in, then take the shuttle or a taxi to the airport back to the hotel when you leave. Trust me on this—when you leave you’re going to be loaded down with not only your luggage, but the books and goodies people throw at you left and right, completely and utterly exhausted, and have a wicked case of Fried Brain that will rival anything you did in college. The last thing you want to do Sunday is have to think or be alert. It’s just not going to happen.

·         One more message on transportation—just as I suggested printing out some MapQuest locations of grocery and drugstores nearby, I also suggest doing some research and finding some methods of transportation (taxis, BART, cable car) for when you feel like doing something during the conference. Print out those phone numbers, fare lists or schedules. You may think you can walk to Chinatown and back, but by the time you’re done, you may be so tired that taxi is well worth the money. Reach into your bag and voila!An instant list of taxis with their phone numbers. You may never need this list, but when you do, you will be soooo happy you have it.  


Okay, the first two lessons took way more space than I thought, so I’m going to stop for now. If you have any questions about the setting or transportation, either comment or email me and I’ll do my best to answer them (or find somebody who can.) I’m a firm believer in there is no such thing as a stupid question, but I also know some people do feel really embarrassed about asking certain things. If you email me with your question, I promise upon pain of never eating chocolate again that I will keep you 100% anonymous. Sound fair?


Next lessons are ‘What Clothes to Bring’ and ‘Ins and Outs of Pitching’. Don’t know which order, but those are the ones floating around my head. Plus, they seem like ones you’d need more time for, so the earlier in the month, the better. 


Thanks for visiting. I am having a blast with this series and I hope it’s helping you. And since you’ve made it this far, I’ll add another shameless plug for my new website. Your comments on it have caused warmth in my cockles.


My cockles and I thank you.





  1. Melina said,

    Pam, I LOVE your lessons! So helpful!

    As a native Bay Area girl, I have to say that the BART line at the airport is nice and set up for people with luggage. But after a long flight and if you have luggage the walk could be a pain. Personally, I wouldn’t brave a cable car with a suitcase! But that’s just me.

    I’ll be staying in Albany with my mom, so I’ll be taking BART to and from S.F. every single day. Better start hoarding podcasts and books for the schlep!

    I’m eagerly awaiting the next lesson!

  2. Marilyn Brant said,

    Lovely first lesson, Pam! You got me thinking, though, about location… I haven’t been out to SF since I was 15, so I really don’t know the area. I would love to slip away for a few hours and visit the home of Ghiradelli Chocolate (of course! :)–any idea where that is in relation to the Marriott??

  3. Pam said,

    Melina–aw, shucks! I’m just having so much fun doing this! And don’t worry about the books–once you get there you’ll have plenty! (But podcasts don’t hurt either!)

    Marilyn–first, I applaud your excellent taste (no pun intended!) in sightseeing! Ghiradelli is near Fisherman’s Wharf, which is a little less than 2 miles north. The beautiful thing is, the Cable Car turnaround is a few blocks from the hotel, so you can cable car it there and double your sighteeing (triple it if you zip over to the Wharf). It’s only $3.00 each way and you can check them out at

    And to all, the Marriott is located one block over from the Moscone Center if you ever need a reference point. Trust me–it’ll be on any map.

  4. Pam said,


    I just got this notice so wanted to post it here for you:

    If on foot, avoid traveling west of the hotel past Fifth Street. This area becomes the Tenderloin and is famous for its down-and-out residents. Stick to walking East or North across Market Street and up Powell or Stockton to the famous Union Square shopping and hotel district.

    Further clarification said 5th street was okay, but don’t walk past it (to 6th) and if you are in the area, use the buddy system and walk with a bit of an attitude. However, looking at the map, there is NOTHING down there worth going to, so I wouldn’t worry. All of the neat things are to the north, east and west of the hotel, not south (where 6th is.)

  5. Robin said,

    Pam, these were great lessons! Thank you so much for taking the time to post them! You’ve supplied a great deal of information and I appreciate it! I can’t wait to get there! 🙂

  6. Marilyn Brant said,

    Pam, thank you!!!! I’m so excited My Chocolate Mecca is THAT close to the hotel! Thanks for the info on the cable car and Fisherman’s Wharf, too. I intent to follow your advice EXACTLY and will happily ditch a few workshops, if necessary, to make time for this adventure :). Can’t wait!!!

  7. pamwritesromance said,

    Marilyn–glad to see you’ve got your priorities in order! 😉

  8. alyson noel said,

    Oh, I LOVE SF! I used to layover there all the time when I was a flight attendant, so I’m looking forward to returning!

  9. Alyssa Goodnight said,

    You have me wishing I was going to Nationals! Have fun! And your new blog looks very spiffy. 😉

  10. lainey bancroft said,

    Wow, what a planner. See, if I were going, I’d likely quit at ‘bucks, book bag…
    I’d love to say ‘bikini’ but who the hell am I kidding?

    You certainly can ‘has’ website 🙂
    Love the plans and goals page. And WHEN you’re presenting, I’ll be there. Come hell or high credit card. 😉

  11. pamwritesromance said,

    Alyson– I love SF, too, so I am so excited. Now if they’d only have it in Seattle one year…

    Alyssa–thanks! I’ll take spiffy anyday! And I’ll be blogging about Nationals so much you’ll feel like you were there, so stay tuned! 🙂

    Lainey–How about bucks, book bag and bread (as in sourdough!) And when we present, you’re going to have a chair reserved with a big, red ribbon!

  12. Melissa Blue said,

    Hmm, I have suspicions you are more plotter than you admit to.

    So, two things:

    1. Wow. I didn’t know half of these cool places existed in SF. Must check them out.

    2. You received honorable linkage at my blog, because of this post.

    Okay, now I’m starting to get beside myself about National’s. 21 more days. AAAHHH!!!

  13. pamwritesromance said,

    Melissa–in my writing, I’m less plotter. In my everyday life, I know I get half my DNA from my accountant father. ‘Nuff said. And yes, S.F. is wicked cool and will be hard to leave. But you’ll be there with your pink ribbon and editor and all the great things, so whee!

    Must go check your blog now! 🙂

  14. Melissa Blue said,

    Well, I don’t know if my editor is going. *Maybe I should ask?*

    Sadly, I’m a gypsy through and through when it comes to traveling. I go for a walk and explore. I talk to strangers. I live life dangerously, but I take your warning to heart about sticking to North.

    Oh, if you need to spaz out, email me. I’ve been known to talk writers away from the ledge.

  15. Melissa Blue said,

    Or was it over the ledge? 😉

  16. Sandra said,

    We just came back from San Antonio and I had loads of local information on sites and restaurants for our trip. Only one went completely awry and sent us on a wild goose chase. We had more trouble with the hotel information –sending us out to locations that closed early, or we’re quite where they appeared on the map. All in all, we managed to navigate all right and had a fun — if hot — time in the Alamo city.

    Have a great time in San Francisco.

  17. Caryn said,

    Pam, that was WONDERFUL! So helpful. I’m going to have to print all these lessons out now. You’ll be laughing at me as I’m walking around the conference center looking through reams of paper and muttering, “Let’s see, Pam, what was it you wrote about where I should go if I’m in dire need of a granola bar?” Seriously, this is so helpful. Though I’m feeling like I’ve done no research at all, compared to you. Good thing you’re willing to share the fruits of your labor with us!

  18. pamwritesromance said,

    Sandra–glad to hear you had fun. Sometimes it’s the unplanned events that give us the best adventures!

    Caryn–glad I can help! You can ask Montana–I am a research geek! We can be going to a new store across town and I’ll have at least 3 printouts about the store, how to get there, and what’s around.

    But I’m a pantster–I swear!

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