2019 Golden Heart Finalist Kellie Parker on What She’s Packing for Nationals!!

Today we’re joined by another lovely Omega, Kellie Parker, a 2019 Golden Heart Finalist whose manuscript THE INN AT MILL CREEK has been nominated as Best Romance with Religious or Spiritual Elements.

Kellie Parker writes inspirational romance and young adult fantasy novels about flawed characters finding courage to face hardship, love in unexpected places, and a dash of danger. In her quest for adventure, she earned college degrees in biology and nautical archaeology before figuring out what she really wanted to do was write novels. Kellie lives in west Michigan, where she homeschools her four kids, helps her husband with DIY projects, and looks for new ways to eat local. When she’s not writing, she enjoys baking, gardening, and camping.

You can connect with Kellie online at, where she blogs about the writing life, and on Twitter at @KellieMParker. Her inspirational romance Fatal Flashback debuts with Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense in December of 2019.

Here’s a blurb for THE INN AT MILL CREEK:

Katie Morris has spent the last six years caring for her sick father and struggling to keep the family bed and breakfast afloat. When news breaks that a major resort will be built in her tiny town of Mill Creek, Maryland, Katie is determined not to let it affect her life or her business. But when the resort owner’s handsome son arrives with an offer to buy her property, Katie discovers that following her own heart may be the most complicated business of all.

 Nick Reynolds will be the next CEO of Reynolds Resorts, if he can convince the board he has what it takes to fill his father’s shoes. The task should be easy enough—all he has to do is get stubborn B&B owner Katie to sign on the dotted line. Between his charm and his father’s unethical tactics, the sale should be easy…until his heart gets involved.

 It isn’t long before Katie becomes painfully aware of her growing feelings for Nick, but is his interest in her purely an act? And will Nick’s increasing respect for Katie and her faith be enough to change his heart?

That’s a fabulous set-up!! (Future Lifetime Channel Christmas movie????) I feel happy just reading the blurb!!

Kellie’s here today to share her plan for what she’s bringing with her to Nationals. Kellie’s a conference newbie, but I think we all could learn a thing or two from her approach!!

Take it away, Kellie!!


What I’m Packing for My First RWA National Conference

Thank you, Rubies, for having me as a guest on your blog! What a thrill it is to be an Omega and join so many amazing writers as a Golden Heart finalist! I have a confession to make: I’ve never been to a national writing conference before, especially not one as big as RWA. As you might imagine, my head has been in the clouds for the past three months ever since I got “the call” and decided I had to go to New York.

I’ve spent way too many hours shopping for dresses, thinking about shoes, and reading blog posts on what to pack for RWA National. But today I want to add a few of my own ideas to the packing list. Some of them are a little unconventional for a list like this (don’t worry, I won’t forget the basics like my toothbrush and business cards), but hopefully they’ll help you get to know me a bit.

CourageI’m a homeschool mom to four kids ranging in age from toddler up to thirteen. My imagination is a whole lot bigger than my actual day-to-day world. So the prospect of traveling alone into New York City to a hotel right on Times Square, to a conference where I’ll hardly know anyone and be expected to mingle with industry professionals, is just a bit daunting. While I know it’ll make a great adventure in hindsight, I’m going to need my courage to get me there and back again in one piece.

My phone – My courage needs a sidekick, so I’m coming prepared with Google Maps (hey, a girl’s gotta eat, and that means finding restaurants!), the RWA app (where am I supposed to be?), and pictures of my kids (free warm fuzzies).

My Extrovert Hat – Sadly, it’s not a literal hat, though I bet something hot pink with ostrich feathers would make a great conversation piece. Since I’m a tried-and-true introvert, who almost always prefers a book to large social gatherings, I’ll be bringing along my extrovert hat. Pop that little puppy on my head, and I can smile, make pleasant conversation, and try to set others at ease for as long as need be. But you can be sure as soon as I reach my hotel room, I’ll hang it back up, throw on my cozy jammies, and curl up with a book to recharge.

Tea bags and snacks – Speaking of recharging, a scalding hot cup of tea is like a mini-getaway in every sip. I might not be in my room very often to make a cup, but when I am, I’ll have my tea bags on hand. And snacks. Maybe some Larabars, apples, and chocolate. Which I won’t have to share with any kids. Bonus!

Respect – With all the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion swirling through RWA right now, it’s a given that I’ll meet people from different walks of life, with views and ideas unlike my own. I feel very strongly that the foundation of every conversation should be respect for others. We’re all unique, beautiful in our own way, and have something to contribute.

Ribbon to decorate my RWA tote – Because nothing says respect like not mixing your stuff up with everyone else’s. 😉

Humility – I’ve been writing seriously for about five years now, which is long enough to know that there’s a lot I don’t know. Being teachable is a good first step, and I look forward to soaking up writing wisdom from my fellow Omegas, other writers I’ll meet, industry professionals, and the amazing workshops. And I hope to be able to share a bit of what I’ve learned already with writers coming after me on the journey.

Notepad and pens – I’m very picky about my pens. My favorites are Pilot EasyTouch (black for notes, blue for revising/editing, red for grading kids’ schoolwork), and my kids almost always swipe them off my desk. Maybe I’ll treat myself to a new pack for the conference, because I suspect I will want to take a lot of notes!

Excitement – This one’s kind of a given, considering I haven’t stopped being excited in nearly four months! I never expected to be chosen as a GH finalist, and I had no idea what it entailed before I finaled. Considering how amazing this experience has been so far, I can only imagine what it will be like to meet so many of my Omega sisters in person and be part of the conference!

So, if you see me wheeling my little suitcase along the sidewalk, looking lost and confused in the neon lights of Times Square, be sure to remind me to pull out my courage. My extrovert hat will already be on. See you in New York!

Now it’s your turn! What have I forgotten? What are your must-have items for RWA National?

34 responses to “2019 Golden Heart Finalist Kellie Parker on What She’s Packing for Nationals!!”

  1. Elisa Beatty says:

    Brilliant approach, Kellie!! I know you’re going to have a blast in NYC!!

    I’m looking forward to meeting you in person, there. And I promise you’re not the only one who will be working hard to be a Temporary Extrovert…writers are a notoriously introverted bunch.

  2. Becke Turner says:

    Love the story premise. And you aren’t going to NYC. You have many Omega sisters at your side to find a meal and buy a hat!

    Bring an anchor: something to ground and remind you that you’ve earned an honor, you already had the courage to submit your story, you are a writer. Besides if you’ve home-schooled four children, you can do anything!

  3. Alice says:

    Love your packing list! I hear you on the pens. I am also super picky and love my Coleto 5 for note taking (4 colours plus a pencil in one pen body!) and highlighters. So many highlighters lol.

    Can’t wait to meet you!

  4. Congrats on your final, Kellie! Your book does sound like it would make a great holiday movie. 🙂

    I’ve been going to conference off and on for a decade, but my packing list looks EXACTLY like yours. Gotta have my courage, my excitement, my humility & respect – LOVE LOVE LOVE.

    I would add LAYERS because I am always freezing in the conference rooms and sweltering in the summer heat outside. And aspirin, cough drops, vitamin C and hand sanitizer (not just for me, but to share with other folks, because the last thing we all want is to get conference plague). And business cards! I like to tuck them into my lanyard so they are easy access when I meet new authors I want to be able to connect with again after conference!

    You are going to have such an amazing time! Hopefully I’ll see you there!

    • Kellie Parker says:

      Yes, layers are a must! I love the idea of the Vitamin C and cough drops. Hope to meet you there!

  5. Kellie–

    I so look forward to meeting you. I feel like i could have written your list. Plus I homeschooled for two years and have four children, ages 5-13.

    I’m bringing a lot of snacks with me in my suitcase. I have diabetes and I gotta keep my blood sugar level. (I do get two cheat meals over the six days I’ll be there as per doctor’s orders but I’m going to pick them very carefully).

    Less than two weeks now!

    • Kellie Parker says:

      I can’t wait to meet you too! It’s always nice to meet someone who knows about homeschooling *and* writing!

  6. Kellie, First of all you are so dang photogenic, I might be a little jelly if I didn’t love you so much :-). This was such a lovely post … heartfelt and introspective. Very much looking forward to giving you a big hug in NY. AND you homeschool? Can I just say you’re amazeballs?? I’m buying new undies for this trip (isn’t it just like a mom to have ugly underwear haha) xxxoo

  7. Tracy Brody says:

    Sounds like a fabulous list. Congrats on your GH final on a sweet-sounding story. I look forward to meeting you soon!

    I also bring earplugs for sleeping when I don’t have a fan for white noise. And all my pins and bling for my badge and snacks because sometimes there’s not a lot of time at conference to eat and NYC is expensive. But I saw there’s a Chick-fil-A .3 miles from the hotel – yay! A place that will feel like home. I’m curious to see if they say “My pleasure” when giving you your order there. 😉

    Oh, and you might even post when you’re arriving if you’re traveling alone to see about finding someone coming in the same time to share a ride with.

  8. Love your list, Kellie.

    The only thing I’ll add is comfy shoes. Or as comfy as you can make them when you’re wearing your fancier clothes as a GH Finalist.

    And one other piece of advice for all the first-timers– pace yourself. You don’t have to do everything. That’s why they record almost everything.

    We are going to have a wonderful time together, Omega Sister. And if you need a tea break, call me. I’m bringing a little hot water pot so I can boil water that doesn’t taste like coffee. 😉

  9. Valen Cox says:

    Kellie Parker! LOVE–LOVE–LOVE all that you are packing to come to NYC! What thoughtful, astute, and meaningful things to remember. Thank you for sharing and reminding us that we CAN do this! Can’t wait to meet in NYC! Please make sure we connect up!


  10. Jilly Wood says:

    Hi Kellie,

    Congratulations on your final, and on your Harlequin debut. I think you should pack confidence alongside your courage. You’re a GH finalist. You’re about to become a published author. You have nothing to be daunted about, and much to celebrate!

    Looking forward to meeting you and celebrating with you!

    • Kellie Parker says:

      Thanks, Jilly! Confidence is definitely going on the list too. We all should bring it along!! See you soon!

  11. Fenley Grant says:


    LOVE your list! So many worthy things to pack.

    I would add the following to your wonderful reminders:
    * Sweater (I’m a Northern transplant–I’ve lived in Texas too long to deal with the a/c blasts in the conference rooms)
    * Pilot G2 pens (these are my go-to and thank you for the reminder to buy a fresh pack)
    * Print outs for all events / reservations / schedules (because technology hates me and I need the back-up)
    * Post-It Notes (because, well, I live by Post-It Notes)
    * Golden Heart pin (because we are blessed to be a part of this amazing sisterhood of authors)

    Can’t wait to meet you in person and if you need a fellow introvert to stand with you at any and all events, I’ll be there!

    • Kellie Parker says:

      Ha ha, I’m so paranoid I’m going to forget that pin. I always forget something! Let’s hope it’s something easier to replace.

  12. Elisa Beatty says:

    Oh, here’s an item Damon Suede recommends: a box of Throat Coat tea!! Saves the voice in those over-air-conditioned rooms when you can get throat strain from talking more than usual. Really works to save the vocal cords!!

  13. Elizabeth Langston says:

    Hi Kellie and congratulations on your debut!

    My suggestions for things to pack:

    flexibility–some of the best moments at the conference will be meeting new author-friends. Be open to changing your plans to build relationships.

    pacing–I agree about this one! The options at Nationals can be overwhelming.

    About pins… The Rubies have sparkly red stiletto pins (if we remember to bring them.) When you see one of us wearing a ruby slipper, introduce yourself.

    Another homeschooler here: I homeschooled both of my daughters through high school. And we loved it. We wished we discovered it sooner.

    • Kellie Parker says:

      Thanks, Elizabeth! Flexibility – I love that! Will definitely have to add it to my list. 😉

  14. christine gunderson says:

    You are my hero for being a homeschool mom with four kids AND a writer. My sister homeschools. I write. Neither of us has the talent or energy to do both like you do 🙂

    I’m with you on the Larabars and the tea. Earl Grey all the way 🙂 And you won’t need to pack any extra courage. You’ll have your Omega wing sisters standing with you all week to provide that 🙂 Can’t wait to meet you in person!!!

    • Kellie Parker says:

      I’m so glad I’ll have you all by my side! (Or hiding with me behind the planters? Lol) See you soon!

  15. Lisa Heartman says:

    Kellie, what a great packing list! Remember, you are not there alone. You have all the GH sisters there with you. Program in our phone numbers before you leave so you have someone to call/text if you need anything…like a trip to Duane Reade for something you forgot to bring or Chick fil a for comfort food.

    And your book blurb is awesome. I see a lifetime or hallmark movie in there for sure.

  16. Janet Raye Stevens says:

    Hi Kellie… Playing comment catch up on the Ruby posts. I love your list, especially your extrovert hat! So thrilled you’re an Omega with me — we’re going to have some fun in NYC! See you soon.


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