Let the Countdown Begin!

Happy July!  And you know what that means… in just three weeks two thousand romance authors will be descending on Disney World for the epic awesomeness of the Romance Writers of America National Conference!  Wheeeeeee!

The last time conference was at Disney, I wasn’t able to make it, but I was cheering from afar.  (Shout out to the Unsinkables, the GH Class from that year!)  This year, I’m going to be there with my Mickey travel mug in hand, ready to rock this scene. 

We’re still a few weeks away from packing, but now is the perfect time to start getting prepared.  This will be my seventh (I think?) national conference and over the years I’ve picked up a few tips.  For our other conference going veterans, please sound off in the comments with your best advice too!

Download the App

All registered attendees should have gotten an email last week with a link to the RWA 2017 App and your individual login credentials.  Go ahead and put that puppy on your phone and then as you’re waiting in line at the grocery or to pick your kids up from day camp, you can be scrolling through the conference offerings and adding some promising workshops to your schedule.  (Kim Law, Sara Ramsey and I will be giving one on Quitting Your Dayjob on Friday afternoon, if you’re interested!)

Start Planning Your Meet-Ups

If there is an editor or agent on your must-meet list, or an author friend you’d like to make connections with at conference, now is the perfect time to be shooting them a friendly email.  Even if you can’t get a formal pitch appointment, you might be able to sit down with someone for five minutes over coffee and see if you’re a good fit.  And when it comes to connecting in person with authors I’ve mainly met online, conference can be a zoo and I always find there are at least a few people I wished I’d managed to bump into, but never saw.  Scheduling a time or trading phone numbers so you can text to arrange one later is a great way to make sure you make those connections.

Do Any Last Minute Shopping

Conference venues vary, but two things I always want at conference are comfy shoes and layers.  You will be walking.  A lot.  And between the sweltering heat outside and the arctic freeze of the air conditioning inside, layers are a MUST. 

In terms of what else to bring, for daily wear, most attendees will be dressed professionally – business casual is common and you will see many cute day dresses – and for the RITA ceremony there will be folks dressed to the nines, though not everyone goes full Red Carpet.  This year there’s an after party (wheeee!!!!) so be sure you bring your dancing shoes (and find me on the dance floor – as I will definitely be shaking it). 

Also be sure to bring anything YOU need to unwind.  Bathing suit for soaking in the hot tub.  Exercise gear for hitting the gym.  Sleep mask for blocking out the light from your roommate’s laptop.  Conference can be intense for the introverts among us (*raises hand*), so be sure you’re taking time for you and doing what you need to stay recharged each day.

Plan for Bringing Home Goodies

If you want to stock up on reading material, there will be lots of chances to collect books throughout the conference.  In addition to the books you will get in your swag bag, you will also get books at the keynote luncheons and there are publisher signings throughout the week when you can load up on beaucoup free books.  Not to mention the goodie room, stocked with lots of author promo.

The best thing to do is PLAN AHEAD for bringing home more than you brought with you.  Nesting two suitcases together on the way to conference is a great trick, or just tuck a folded up flat rate box into the your suitcase and fill that puppy up with books.  There is usually a shipping alternative on site, but it may not be the cheapest, so having some extra space in your luggage can save you $$$.

Don’t Forget Your Business Cards!

Most people you meet at conference will be authors, so if you don’t have room/money/time to bring a lot of reader-focused swag, no worries, but you WILL want business cards.  When you sit next to someone at breakfast and chat about pitching or bump into someone at a workshop and share tips on process, the best thing you can have is a business card to exchange so you can further that connection.  (And the good news is, you still have time to order them if you don’t have any – and they’re inexpensive!)  Some people put their latest cover on the reverse side, but I tend to leave mine blank – mostly because I use the back side to make notes on where I met the person so I don’t forget.  For me this is the one MUST in a conference tool kit.

What will you be bringing to conference?  Any questions on getting ready?  Any advice for newbies?  Anyone else counting down the days?

14 responses to “Let the Countdown Begin!”

  1. Tracy Brody says:

    In addition to all the other things like dresses, shoes,and business cards, I’ll be bringing a batch or two of my freakin’ awesome brownies to share with my Golden Heart Sisters.


  2. Pack a few breakfast bars, bite size chocolates and mints. I opened a few doors sharing mine during the long day when everyone starts to seem to need a nap.


  3. Tamara Hogan says:

    I’ll second Autumn’s breakfast bar suggestion.

    For fellow light sleepers, I also recommend earplugs. Hotel walls are notoriously thin, and having a set of earplugs along can preserve a night’s sleep in the event things get noisy in the hallway or in the room(s) next door. I keep a set in my travel bag. Never leave home without ’em. 😉


  4. Don’t forget your favorite pins from your various chapters and contests to place on your name badge. Displaying your Golden Hearts, local chapter pins, past RWA conference pins, or even those giant pink daisies from the YA RWA chapter are great conversation starters. The pins also help you find your tribe mates. 🙂


  5. I’m going to add a small sewing kit and safety pins. Stuff happens.


  6. jbrayweber says:

    Every year I find something new that I need at conference that I didn’t have a need for before. But bandaids are constant.

    At home, I sleep with a box fan. I need that white noise. Traveling with a box fan isn’t feasible. So if you are like me and need white noise to relax and fall asleep, a noise machine or noise app for your phone/tablet is a must.

    Can’t wait to see everyone!


Subscribe to the Blog

The Latest Comments

  • Lana Pattinson: OMG Janet, that’s awful! See, it’s prevalent in many industries…not a great thing. 🙁 But I’m...
  • Janet Raye Stevens: Hi Lana! Great interview–and loooove your story idea, it sounds like so much fun. Shocked...
  • Lana Pattinson: Ooh well you’re going to the right place! Speyside – which is where Jamie is from – is...
  • Addison Fox: EXCELLENT advice, Elisa!! My CP lives in Denver and every time I go visit she insists on my drinking...
  • Addison Fox: EVERY time I hear a story like this, I’m like…it’s 2018. Can we all just move...