C is for Conference Redux: Prepping for Nationals

July 7, 2009 at 1:00 pm (Virtual Gems)

Part 3 of my Prepping for Conference repostings. This one was originally posted on July 22nd, 2009 and I’ve been having a lot of fun re-reading them. Of course, I’m crying because I’m not going to be there this year, but just you wait for Nashville in 2010! Yee-haw!


Ho-lee Cow. A week from tonight I’m going to be in San Francisco. (Montana and I are going in a day early because it’s San Fran. How could I not schedule a day for playing tourist?) I am so incredibly excited, but I’m also looking forward to Nationals being done. No, I’m not being wishy-washy or nutsy—it’s just that after a month of planning (with 2 or more months of pre-planning before that), I’m ready to soak up that vibe, take my knowledge (both new and refreshed) and requests for partials or fulls, and come home and write, write, write. Last year I was so juiced after the conference that I wrote 100 pages in August.

So it’s time. This post is going to be random bullet points about the conference, mainly because I can’t find a way to organize it other than “The Conference.” Let’s dive in, shall we? 

  • I like to start with “walking the terrain” as Bob Mayer says, or at least as much as I can before actually being there. This means getting a good feel for the layout of the conference facilities so when I do get there and walk around, the floorplans I’ve studied help the visual cues in front of me click. Most hotels have a Meetings/Conference tab and you can find floorplans there, but since you’re my readers, I’m going to make it easy on you. Click here. Print them off and bring them with you. When you check in and get your schedule (which you’ve already downloaded and made a preliminary list of what you’re interested in), you can plot out which rooms you need to be in when. Trust me, there are times speed is of the essence, so if you know where you’re going and don’t have to keep checking for directions, you’ll be ahead of the game.
  • This year RWA is doing something different with the seminar handouts, and I give them a standing ovation for it. Usually, you have a chance to request either the book of handouts or a disc. The book is handy because you may need the handout during a seminar, but it’s big and heavy and there are a lot of handouts you don’t need. This year, go here and download the ones you think you’ll need, leave the rest. (You still get the disc, so you can download the handouts later, but your carry-alongs are severely diminished.) And many trees are saved. Please join my in a round of applause for RWA.
  • Along with the handouts and my floorplans and my granola bars, I always take my own bag. Yes, you get a nice bag at registration, you don’t know what size or capacity it is, and it doesn’t have any zippered pockets or such handy things. Wonderful bag, just prefer my own, thankyouverymuch. It’s a black tote (in good condition—remember, this is still a job interview) big enough for my notebook, handouts, wallet, little bag of makeup and medicinals, snacks, business cards, pens…you get the idea. It’s zippered, has an outside zippered pocket, and I can use it as a carry on for the flight home.
  • And I’m going to need an extra carry on for the flight home because of all of the extra books I’ll be in happy and proud possession of. There’s the literacy signing Wednesday night (where you pay for the books, but the proceeds benefit literacy—woot!), but then after that, books are thrown at you. I’m not kidding. There are books on your chair at the luncheons, giveaways at the seminars, the goody room, books in your bag at registration, and lest we forget, the publisher signings throughout the conference. Yes, tables of your favorite authors signing books for you. No charge. These are the nicest people, friendly and appreciative, and I have picked up more new authors that way. Anyway, you’re going to be leaving the conference with dozens of books, so plan ahead. I like to use the balanced luggage approach (after Reno, one of my suitcases weighed 49.5 pounds), but the hotel has a business office with shipping capabilities and there are nearby post offices and Kinko’s/FedEx shops.
  • This may sound minor, but I guarantee you’ll be thinking of me after the first luncheon when 2000 women charge the bathrooms. For these conferences, the hotels convert many of the public men’s restrooms into women’s. (Sorry, guys. Montana, I hope our room is on one of the lower levels…)
  • Of anything else I’ve talked about in the past few weeks, this is the thing I feel is the most important to impart. Conference time is carnival time. What do I mean by that? Time is going to lose almost all meaning for you during these 4 or so magical days. You’re going to want to do anything, everything, feel like you need to go to every seminar and every signing to get your money’s worth, and the raw and powerful emotion of being around other writers is going to amp you up more than a case of Red Bull. Soak in that feeling, absorb the vibe to carry you through the next year, but don’t let it overwhelm you. The seminars are available on CD, and you’re going to get enough books to last you without those last twenty at the St. Martin’s signing Saturday afternoon. Take time for yourself—enjoy the quiet of your room, skip a seminar and grab a cup of tea, take the cable car to Fisherman’s Wharf—and you’re not going to lose anything by doing this. In fact, I would be willing to bet a little “you time” is going to help you refresh and recharge.

I hope I’ve helped with my series on RWA Nationals. I’ve had a blast blogging about it, and I invite all of you back next week when I’m blogging from San Francisco. If I get my juju together, there’ll be pictures, too, but I’m not guaranteeing anything. Carnival time applies to me, too, and I may forsake some blogging if my brain is fried. Or at least until after my editor and agent appointments. 

Wish me luck.



  1. Caryn Caldwell said,

    I haven’t commented since I’m not going to Nationals this year either (*sob*) but I just had to tell you that these were SO helpful last year. I think you must have been the best-prepared person in the whole durned place.

  2. Marilyn Brant said,

    Pam (and Caryn…), I’m going to miss you both in D.C. this year! 😦
    And, oh, as helpful and instructive as your posts have been (last year and this year), I am not ready…not ready AT ALL for next week.

  3. Montana (curtbooks) said,

    Next year all we’ll be taking is a compass and a book of matches. And agent flash cards, of course. And a Swiss Army knife–and a tiny bit of string. That’s it.

  4. jeniferm said,

    Can I recommend adding a pack of chewing gum (in foil wrappers) to that list, Montana, just in case? A paper clip or bobby pin might also come in handy.

  5. Pamela Cayne said,

    Careful, everybody–we’re getting a little too close to MacGyver territory, and I’d hate to have Robin and L.A. be forced to pick sides… 🙂

  6. L.A. Mitchell said,

    see? everyone is a closet MacGyver. Da da da!!!

    So much of this holds true this year, too. Thanks for the advice, hon 🙂
    I’ll miss meeting you 😦

  7. Karen said,

    Your posts caught my eye – I think I’m ready for this year (sad you’re not coming…) all except for the granola bar point. Almost forgot to pack the emergency food!
    Thanks again!

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