I travel a lot for Harlequin and I stay in a lot of hotels. I also go to a lot of conferences, and I see attendees doing some unsafe things, probably without even knowing, at every single one of these conferences. So as you prep for #rwa12, please keep these things in mind
1) After you get your room keys, do not, under any circumstances, keep them in the package that has your room number on it. Once you get to your room, throw that little envelope away in your hotel room bin (don’t toss it in a trash in the lobby, just to be on the safe side, either). It’s so easy to lose this envelope, or if you have your purse or bag stolen (god forbid) you don’t also want to give the thief free access to all of the possessions in your room. Memorize your room number and keep your room keys somewhere else in your purse or pocket. Not in the envelope.
2) As soon as you know you’re leaving the hotel, take off your name badge. There are a variety of reasons behind doing this, but all of them are meant to keep you safe and from being a target. Gently remind the people with you to take theirs off as well.
3) Know where the stairs are in case of a fire alarm. Yes, it’s a running joke that the fire alarm seems to always go off at RWA, but even so, there is always the very real possibility that it’s a genuine fire. Don’t get caught not knowing which direction to go. If you’re not sure, there’s a map on the back of your hotel room door, but scope it out ahead of time. It only takes a minute and it could literally save your life.
4) Keep your valuables in the safe in your hotel room. Jewelry, ereaders, cash, small laptops. Anything you’re leaving in the room while you’re not there. And even if you decline housekeeping, don’t assume no one will be coming into your room. You’d be shocked at how often hotel employees may have reason to enter your room (checking air conditioning filters, restocking the minibar, maintenance issues, etc.) there are also other people who might enter your room (see #5)
5) And on that note, when you ARE in your room, put the security bar (you know, the one you always forget to take off before you open the door. Or is that just me?) on. As I said, hotel employees often have reason to enter your room, and it’s my experience that they rarely actually give you enough time to get to the door after they knock. You don’t want them walking in on you at any time, though especially while in the bathroom, changing, napping or doing other, er, more intimate things. Not only that but hotels often mistakenly assign rooms more than once so it’s entirely possible they could give someone the key to your room–and your possessions. I have twice been given the wrong room and I know others have as well. Never assume your room is a totally safe haven, free from others entering, because it is not.
6) This is common sense but…if you’re leaving the conference hotel to go drinking, please have at least one person who’s staying relatively sober, who can make good decisions for getting everyone safely back to the hotel, keep an eye on everyone while they’re drinking, and basically make sure nothing tragic can happen. The same things that can happen to us at the bars at home can happen at the bars in the conference city.
7) and on that practical note, here’s another that every college-age girl knows: whether at the bar in the hotel, at the bar somewhere else, do not, under any circumstances, leave your drink or drinks unattended, or accept drinks from strangers. It should come direct from the bar staff, bartender or one of your friends. If a stranger hands you a drink, decline politely. If you all want to go dance, finish your drinks and get fresh ones when you get back, or leave someone to guard them. You guys know this, but I see people treat their time at conferences like it’s life in a bubble, not the real world. Don’t do that.
8 ) Last, be cautious about sharing your room number. Of course you can tell your conference buddies where to meet you. Just don’t shout it across the bar, okay?
I know I’m forgetting some important tips but I’ve covered some of the key things I’ve noticed at conferences. Please share your conference or travel safety tips in the comments.
I see anxiety ramping up for RWA Nationals and it’s enough to make ME nervous for all those people who are letting their nerves get the best of them. Nationals can be a frantic, fast-paced conference for some but it can also be not only a lot of fun, but an incredible source of energy that will help you remember why you love writing and give you a ton of motivation to get back to your keyboard and get back to work. But in all the things people are talking about doing for preparing for #rwa12, the manicures, the visits to the salon, the party dresses and the right shoes, there’s a few key things that you should remember about this conference, and any other.
1) When next week is over, and we’re all back doing a postmortem of the conference, nobody will remember if you had your nails or hair done, or if your shoes perfectly matched your dress. But they will remember if you got completely trashed and made a fool of yourself. This is a fun conference, but it’s also a professional conference. Don’t let the heady excitement of being out with your peers and away from the husband and kids make you forget that you’re still at a professional conference, and you don’t want anyone’s most vivid memory of you to be puking in a trash can, stumbling to your room, or screaming at the barstaff for not getting your next drink to you quickly enough (I’ve witnessed all of these things at conferences). Moderation. If you drink, do it in moderation, pace yourself, drink things that aren’t 3 shots of alcohol at once, drink lots of water in between and at all times, be sensible!
2) You’ll get out of the conference what you put into it. You’d be surprised at how many people you’re jealous of for having a great time, holding avid conversations with others or seeming to be everywhere at once are really closet introverts. Many of them are putting themselves way beyond their comfort zone in order to get the most out of the conference and you may have to do that as well. Introduce yourself to people, attend lots of workshops–not only are they amazing in helping grow your writing, but you can make contacts just by chatting up the person next to you in the workshop before and after! Get out of your room, ask the people you do know to introduce you to people you don’t know, sit at the bar by yourself (I meet a LOT of people this way) and chat up the person next to you if they’re wearing an RWA badge and don’t seem to be engaged in doing anything else. There are so many things you can do to make this experience not only fun, but professionally worthwhile. But only you can make yourself do these things. Now is not the time to let shyness or lack of confidence get the best of you.
3) Editors and agents are just people too. We’re not mythical creatures. We don’t hold the sum total of your career in our hands. We’re not all powerful or all knowing or all anything (sorry to bust through any illusions!) We’re just people. So if you have a pitch appointment, it’s okay to be nervous, but not so nervous that you make yourself sick. Look, the worst you’re going to hear is no, but you’re likely to hear it pretty kindly. And no, while not what you want to hear, doesn’t mean your career is over, it just means you move on to the next choice, work harder, keep networking, attend the workshops to grow your craft and hey, keep moving forward because you will be published! In addition to all that, even if you don’t have pitch appointments, it’s okay to talk to us (just don’t talk at us). If you like our books, our blog, our Twitter, if you just want to say thanks for a personal rejection, or introduce yourself because you’ll be submitting in the future…those are all perfectly okay as long as you don’t a) do it in the bathroom (I’ve actually had people wait for me outside the bathroom so they don’t do it in the bathroom, lolol) and b) interrupt a 1:1 conversation. Don’t interrupt a one-on-one conversation. But if it looks like we’re in a big group at the bar, just chatting, it’s generally okay to just approach for a quick intro or minute or two of convo. It’s actually hard to find us when we’re not in convo, eh?
And even though I said it was only 3, there’s one last thing I want you to remember as you proceed to Nationals: Voices carry. Stories travel. People remember. Don’t say or do anything while you’re with a friend, at the conference hotel, at a local restaurant, or even at Disneyland, that you wouldn’t want everyone to hear. Be discreet, because you never know who’s sitting next to you, walking by your hotel room (hey, you really can hear conversations through the door!) or standing in line behind you. And not only that, be polite. The “anonymous” person you’re rude to might be the managing editor of the publisher you just signed with (yeah, that’s happened too! Not to me but…remember how I said stories travel?)
So there you have it, my tips for the most important things (okay, what I think are the most important things) to remember as you make your way to conference. Don’t let your nerves get the best of you now, because you’re going to have an amazing time & you’ll wonder later why you worked yourself up so much!
If you have other tips that you’d like to share, please feel free to do so in the comments. I’d love to hear them. There’s always something more to learn about getting the most out of conference!
Ah, RWA Nationals, right around the corner, eh? When several thousand authors, editors, agents, publishers and other people in the industry descend on a hotel to talk about the thing we all love the most…
I’ve attended a rather obscene number of conferences in the past few years, but I do have a special fondness for Nationals. Not because I gain 5 lbs from the ridiculous number of meals I eat, but because of the sheer number of people to talk to, the frenetic energy, the parties, the conversations and, yeah, admit it, the gossip.
But there’s one thing that happens to me every year…someone stops to talk to me and carries on the conversation as though we’ve met before. The truth is, we probably have, maybe even more than once, but I may not remember. I mentioned in the previous paragraph that I attend a lot of conferences and it follows that I meet a LOT of people. Many of whom are lovely enough to remember me. Unfortunately, though my memory isn’t too bad, it’s pretty impossible for me to similarly remember each of you/them. Those meetings are important to me, and I enjoy them, but I simply meet too many people to remember the specifics of each meeting or each person’s name, what they write, etc.
So as you’re enjoying RWA Nationals this year (or any conference in the future) take a moment to reintroduce yourself when you stop someone for a conversation. Not just me, and not just editors and agents, but your fellow authors as well. It’s a good opportunity for you to remind them of not just your pen name (and who knows, this time it might stick!) but of what you write, where you met, etc. It’s a valuable part of building your brand and helping others get the most out of your presence at the conference!
This past spring, several of the Carina Press freelance editors and myself donated critiques to the Brenda Novak auction. With the critiques was also the opportunity to have breakfast with the three of us. Unfortunately, one of the winners cannot attend RWA Nationals, so we’ve decided to pass the opportunity on to someone else, since it was all for charity anyway.
On Thursday, July 26th at 8am (yes, that’s early for some people!) in Anaheim, California, I’ll be hosting breakfast along with editors Mallory Braus and Rhonda Helms. We’ll be joined at breakfast by 4 authors via the Brenda Novak auction, and we’d like to invite one of you to join us. You can be a new author, aspiring author, self-published author, multi-published author or not even an author at all! Readers, bloggers, reviewers, editors…anyone who has the ability to attend the breakfast at that time and date is welcome to enter to win! (well, maybe not creepy old men looking to just have breakfast with some hot young chicks–that’s us. You guys shouldn’t enter, mmkay?)
This is your opportunity to pick our brains about books, editing, the publishing industry, Carina, our love lives, Harlequin or to just hang out and chat!
To enter, simply paste the first sentence of your book, work in progress, current favorite book, or a book you loved in the comments below. Make sure to include your name and when you fill out the comment form, a valid email address (no need to leave it in the comment box, I can see it in the dashboard). And please make sure you’re able and willing to attend on Thursday the 26th.
We’ll draw a winner next Wednesday morning, so you have time to plan. The drawing is random–the posting of first lines is just for our entertainment since we’re giving the breakfast away. If we get more than 50 entries, we’ll pick 2 entrants to join us (we feel this is a safe offer, since we don’t think there are 50 people out there who want to get up for breakfast at 8am. Have breakfast with us? Maybe. Get up that early? Haha, no!)