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!
Those are all places I’ll be visiting and speaking at writer’s conferences or RWA chapter meetings in the next three months! In addition, I’ll also be near Tampa, Florida. If you’re in or near any of those places, and would be interested in attending, meeting me and hearing me talk about publishing, brand building, social media and the rise of digital, then read on! Also, I should note that I’m nearing the end of 2011 and the year of travel. In 2012, I’ll be traveling and doing far fewer appearances (for my own sanity, and the sake of all the other things I need to accomplish!)
Here I’ll be speaking to this chapter in a smaller environment. My agenda hasn’t been set by the chapter yet, but I’ll be there speaking for at least 4 hours on brand building, publishing Q&A, social media, etc. From their website, I understand that non-members are welcome to attend. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come and see me!
This will be my third year attending the NINC conference and if last year is anything to go by, I think this will be an outstanding conference for authors. On Thursday, the conference gathers together a collection of industry professionals to sit on panels, asking some in-depth questions about the industry (only one panel at a time goes on). On Friday thru Sunday, there are writing workshops offered by a variety of authors, agents, editors and other experts. I believe I’ll be participating in both the Thursday panels, as well as offering a workshop that weekend (the schedule hasn’t yet been set).
I should also add that St. Pete was one of my favorite conference locations. The beach was beautiful (and I live near a beach, but I still enjoyed being right there) and the hotel rooms very comfortable. I’m so glad the conference is going to be there again.
In Seattle, I’ll be taking pitches, drinking martinis, giving a workshop Q&A on the future of digital and future of publishing, and drinking martinis (okay, I threw the drinking martinis in this one just to change it up a bit, lol!)
This is a larger regional conference, and I encourage area authors to attend! For readers, there’s also a booksigning that you might want to check out!
The program for Toronto hasn’t been set yet, but I can tell you a few things: I’ll be doing a Q&A about publishing at the very least, and there are a number of Carina authors who belong to this chapter, as well as a number of published authors, so you’ll have a lot of people to meet and ask questions of.
Toronto is also where the Harlequin offices are located, so I’ll see what kind of goodies I can dig up for this event 😉
Guests/non-members are welcome at this chapter. Look for more information here.
Continuing the theme of talking about conferences this week, I wanted to expand on a suggestion I made in a recent interview for the Australia RWA group. Here’s the question and answer:
Any advice for conference first-timers and/or nervous introverts?
If you’re afraid no one will talk to you, carry an interesting bag, or wear some unique jewelry. It gives people a reason to say something to you. Don’t be afraid to talk to other people. I don’t think conferences are meant to be experienced as a solitary venture, and I believe the experience is always much more memorable and positive when you interact with others.
Here’s what I think: I think every author should attend at least one writer’s conference in their writing career (or belong to a local RWA chapter they attend regularly, in person). Yes, there’s a lot of support and information to be had on the internet, but there’s a particular kind of energy you get from meeting up with fellow writers in person, something you can’t get online.
The face-to-face interaction, workshops, adrenaline, talking, friendship, all add up to this rather manic, wonderful, almost gleeful energy that can not only invigorate your creativity, but remind you that there are people out there, behind those books and computers, people who are struggling, searching, trying to succeed like you. That manic, gleeful energy you can get from a conference, and slightly less so from in-person meetings, can’t be reproduced through an online interaction, or even through the phone line.
But not only should you attend a writer’s conference to capture some of the mania, but to explore opportunities. Don’t just go to a conference to socialize, go to learn and expand what you know. Maybe about the craft of writing, maybe about the business of writing. Even as someone who doesn’t write, I find part of my enjoyment of conferences comes from attending the workshops, the craft sessions, the spotlights, the Q&As and absorbing what’s being said. It’s a fantastic way to stay up-to-date with the industry, with what authors are telling each other, and it’s also a great way to remind myself–for you to remind yourself–that there’s always something new to learn, or a new way to approach the craft and business of writing.
So take yourself out of your comfort zone: go to a conference, meet new people (don’t just hang out with the people you already know), introduce yourself to new people, make connections, learn new techniques, explore new publishers and get inspired!
Conferences are on my mind right now because I’ve been doing a lot of them this year. I have a few short posts planned about conferences from an editor perspective.
For the editor (or agent) who’s not naturally extroverted (and even for those who are), going to conferences where we don’t really know anyone can be…challenging. Not only are we giving up a weekend (or longer) with our family, still having to return to a full work week after the conference, but we’re also entering into an experience that can feel uncomfortable and awkward. We go to cocktail parties, dinners, lunches and other social conference events and are forced to mingle. Remember that feeling of entering the high school lunch room, standing there with your tray, wondering where you could sit, who would talk to you? Riiiight. Now you understand.
So we’re actually grateful when people talk to us and draw us into conversation. It’s so much better than standing in the corner alone, feeling like you’re back in high school. Really.
Last year, I really believed the Columbus, Ohio Romantic Times convention was the best ever. There was a wonderful atmosphere, the hotel was fantastic (both in venue and in staff) and the events themselves stellar. But I honestly believe this year was just as great, if not better.
Now, to be honest, I was…more than incredibly busy (if I showed you a picture of my calendar, it would show time blocked out from 8am to midnight each day) and I didn’t get to enjoy some of the conference events as much as I would have liked. I’ve vowed not to book myself quite so much next year, so I can enjoy more of the workshops and events (I am super bummed I didn’t get to see Dean Koontz speak, for instance).
But I could still get a sense of the energy and tone of the conference, from the panels and workshops I was involved in, and it was…amazing.
Wednesday night, we had dinner with some reader bloggers, and it was one of the best dinners I’ve had at any conference I’ve ever attended. What do you get when you bring together people who love books? Conversation about books. Dinner went from 6:30p to 10:30p and we never. shut. up. We talked about books for four hours straight! It was wonderful and energizing and just…utterly fabulous. I didn’t get a picture but there were a few others who did, and you can see one here on Lori’s blog. Thanks so much to Barbara, Lori, Tracy, Renee, Katie, Amber, and Sarah for a memorable evening. I thoroughly enjoyed myself.
I’m not going to talk about every single meal I had and with who, though they were all fun and full of great conversation (and yes, some gossip), but I also got to meet with a few agents individually. Poor Kevan Lyon, who let me harangue her about something (not really, it was in fun), Kim and Jessica from BookEnds, who were so gracious in letting me pick their brains on a personal matter. And Laura Bradford, who I’m so grateful continues to have meals with me at conferences, even when I’m a harbinger of gloom. All of those ladies, and the other agents I met with, were just as smart as you might imagine from their Twitter and blog accounts.
So most of my week was absorbed with meetings and meals and panels and workshops. I went from one thing to another. On Wednesday, I gave a workshop and found I had an LA Times reporter in my audience. He wrote what I think is a positive article on romance here (and though I’m not attributed, I would be the one who gave the “sage” advice). It’s hard not to be nervous when there’s a reporter in the audience, but he seemed genuinely interested in the material, and asked some great questions at the end.
But on Saturday, my day slowed down. After a leisurely breakfast with a longtime industry friend I adore, I headed up to the Book Fair to take pictures. And take pictures I did. You can see my entire photo album here (sorry, no captions right now) but here’s my favorite picture…my meeting with Catherine Coulter.
I silently squeed and let my inner fangirl loose for a minute while meeting her. She was everything you’d expect: gracious, charming, funny and personable. Also, she was wearing really cute shoes, which made me like her even more.
After that, I ran around and took pictures of many, many authors (did I introduce you to the online album of my pictures?) but I have to admit to having another moment when I took pictures of, and spoke with, the Days of Our Lives actors that were present. Though I don’t watch it anymore, I have fond memories of DoOL growing up, and I always will. It was amazing to see actress Suzanne Rogers and think “Oh my God. It’s Maggie.” She looks exactly like I remember her looking twenty years ago, as do the actors who play Doug and Julie Williams (they are also married IRL).
Last, from the booksigning, I have to share this picture of Patrick Rothfuss, who I met for the first time at the conference, and found to be an interesting guy to speak with. I bought his un-children’s book (un-children’s is my term) The Adventures of the Princess and Mr. Whiffle. It’s a bit subversive, the story is delightful and the illustrations killer. I later gave the book to Megan Hart, because I thought she and her family would appreciate it. If you get a chance, you should check it out. It’s pretty fun.
I also took pictures of the Mr. Romance contestants at the Book Fair. Later that day, Sarah convinced me that I had to go to the Mr. Romance competition (instead of napping or living on the sofa in the bar, either of which I would have happily done). I love the Mr. Romance competition not so much because of the competitors (sorry guys!) but for the audience reaction. Entertaining. This year, Sean McDermott sang. Lucky for you guys? I got video.(oh, and it should be said, he was a total pro and such a good sport when the sound system failed the first time he started singing. Major props to him for that).Um…warning…there is pelvic thrusting in this video.
And here’s one of my favorite pictures from the Mr. Romance competition (I was taking from my iPhone, so couldn’t zoom) of the eventual Mr. Romance 2011 in a toga, and one of a very tired competitor (Shane) taken after the competition. These guys really worked hard over the week. (thanks to Megan for the correction on my picture order)
The last order of the night was the Carina Press cocktail party, where we gave away an iPad2, had fruit, champagne and cake pops, and forced attendees to interact with out authors. It was pretty fantastic 😛
And then it was time to cut loose at the last party of the week, the Harlequin Party. There was dancing! And I got to dance for the first time all week. It was pretty clear to me that I wasn’t the only one feeling a bit of relief at the end of the week, the Mr. Romance competitors seemed to feel less pressured than they had all week.
All in all it was a great conference. Next year, it’s in Chicago, one of my favorite places to visit, so I’m determined not to overschedule myself, to actually take some time to enjoy both the city and the conference.
This weekend, Saturday, April 16th, I’ll be doing a presentation for the Nashville (Music City) RWA chapter. The presentation will be three hours (lots of speaking from me!) and we’ll be talking about Carina in particular for the first 45 minutes or so, and then the other 2+ hours will be spent talking about publishing in the digital age: DRM, contracts, royalties, self-publishing…you name it and we can talk about it.
The presentation will be at the DoubleTree Hotel off Briley Parkway. The business meeting starts at 10:00, my presentation will start around 10:30 and they tell me we should wrap up around 2:00 or so, with a 30 minute quick buffet lunch in there.
There will be a cost of $17 at the door, which covers your lunch (the chapter is not making any profit from this).
2424 Atrium Way
Nashville, TN 37214
If you have further questions, please visit the MCRW website (www.mcrw.com).