Free-for-All Friday: RWA National Tips and Tricks


Can you believe the 2013 RWA National Conference starts next week? It seems like just yesterday that the Rubies were all named 2009 Golden Heart finalists, but if you look at the right hand side of our website’s home page, so much has happened since then.

In those four years, there have been many additional Golden Heart finals and wins, several RITA finals, and one RITA win (Darynda Jones generously let us rub RITA’s belly for luck). A gratifying number of Rubies will walk the stage as nominees and presenters at this year’s awards ceremony.  But to me, the biggest metric of our success is this: since 2009, the Rubies have collectively published over 200 books.

OVER 200 BOOKS. Yay, us!

There’s a lot of experience here at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, from the sisters and from members of our community.  Whether you’re a RWA National newbie or an old hand, today, in true free-for-all Friday fashion, we’d like to learn everyone’s tips and tricks for navigating RWA National.

Here are a few of mine:

Don’t overpack! (You’ll need room in your suitcase for books!) I challenge myself to make it through the entire conference on four pairs of shoes. Four. I choose my shoes first, and build my wardrobe around them. Take it from a massive shoe hoor, IT CAN BE DONE.

Wear comfortable shoes – Yes, more about the shoes. Showing off our fierce footwear is part of the fun, but on the other hand, no one wants to hobble around with bloody blisters all week long. You’ll be on your feet a lot throughout the week, so plan ahead. Break in your shoes beforehand, and bring blister treatment products.

Dress in layers – I had an amusing chat with a hotel employee at last year’s conference about how, at an event like ours, dominated by women, ABSOLUTELY NO ONE is happy with the temperature!  I’m always cold in air conditioned hotels, so you’ll find me bundled up in long sleeves and a sweater. Other attendees will be walking around in sleeveless shirts, carrying battery-operated fans to battle hot flashes. As Grandma Marion always said, “It never hurts to carry a sweater.” Grandmas are wise.

Eat lunch with strangers – Get out of your comfort zone a little! Break away from your buddies and sit with strangers at the conference’s luncheon events. Everyone at the conference loves reading and writing, so you won’t be strangers for long.  It’s not unheard of to find yourself sitting next to, and making informal contact with, an agent or editor who might then ask for your pitch. The person you ask to please pass the salad dressing might be an influential blogger, someone you follow on Twitter, or an author whose work you enjoy. This is the easiest networking opportunity you’ll have all week long. Take advantage of it.

Take some downtime – for most of us, the conference is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t feel like you have to attend every single workshop. Sometimes the best use of your time is to go up to your room for an hour, decompress or take a nap, and re-energize for the evening to come. For more on this topic, here’s a blog post I wrote in 2011:  Behold My P-Ness! Writers, Myers-Briggs, and An Introvert’s Guide to RWA National.

Some things I don’t leave home without:Deep water plug

  • earplugs, in case the room next door gets rowdy
  • bubble bath and my overflow drain cover – turns even the stingiest hotel bathtub into a soaking tub!
  • First aid kit, including Band-Aids, safety pins, the aforementioned blister treatment products, ibuprofen, tampons, etc. (Why pay inflated gift shop prices?)  I didn’t even NEED tampons during RT2013 in May, but I gave two away from my purse stash to authors in need. Is this sisterhood or what?  😉
  • NutriGrain bars, for breakfast or a quick afternoon snack
  • 6′ cheapo extension cord, for convenient gadget charging
  • Favorite book signing pen
  • Bookmarks and business cards – carry at all times!


What are your conference tips and tricks? Any items you don’t leave home without? If you’ve never been to the conference before, what questions do you have? It’s free-for-all Friday; anything goes!

Tammy’s latest release… 


Touch Me…An Underbelly Chronicles Novella

Mere hours after human technology whiz Bailey Brown learns the truth about her Sebastiani Security co-workers—they’re all vampires, incubi, succubi, sirens, faeries, Valkyrie, and werewolves!—she’s thrown into an undercover operation protecting a siren singer at Underbelly, one of Minneapolis’s premier nightclubs. With pheromones saturating the air like sweet chloroform, starving for touch, and her inhibitions fading fast, Bailey has to avoid Rafe Sebastiani, her boss’s gorgeous sex demon of a brother, at all costs…

Because only his touch will do.

$0.99 at! Other digital formats available Sept. 2013.


41 responses to “Free-for-All Friday: RWA National Tips and Tricks”

  1. Elise Hayes says:

    Great tips for the conference, Tammy! I won’t be making it to this year’s conference, but I’m hoping some of the Rubies will share their tales via the blog next week!

    I’ll add two more packing tips:

    1) Remember to pack your bling! Pins from the GH, various writing groups, etc, on your nametag create great conversation starters when you’re sitting next to that person you’ve just met at lunch.

    2) Volunteer. I’m a bit of an introvert, so volunteering is my way of connecting to other people in ways that don’t rely on my, er, sparkling conversational skills.

    Enjoy the conference, everyone!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Awesome tips, Elise! If I remember correctly, an email arrived from the RWA Nat. office earlier this week saying that there were still volunteer openings. And you’ve reminded me that I need to make sure my PRISM pins from last year’s conference are in my “bling bag.”

      I’m so sad we won’t see you at the conference this year ;-( but I think most of the Rubies who are attending will be posting and commenting here at the blog throughout the week.

  2. Jenn! says:

    Great tips, Tammy. And love TOUCH ME’s blurb!

    I also bring my current WIP to either work on or edit.

    I’ve been known to bring an extra carry-on to bring home books in. It folds flat in the suitcase and it is cheaper to check-in at the airport on the return flight than to pay for shipping from both the hotel and FedEx.

    My iPod and sleep mask are a must, too.

    Have a great conference, all!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks for your kind words about TOUCH ME’s blurb, Jenn. It’s the first one I wrote myself. 😉 And yes, the WIP and the iPod are must-haves. When I fly, I also bring a rolling computer bag as my carry-on. It’s amazing how many books you can stuff into that sucker. 😉

  3. Hope Ramsay says:

    In my “day job” I do a fair amount of meeting planning. So I spend lots of time at conferences, usually as one of the people on the other side of the registration desk. So here are a few of my conference wardrobe packing tips:

    1) Bring coordinated separates, not dresses. I have three business suits for summer: A seer sucker, a navy blue, and a red one. They all have pants and the red one has a skirt. I also have a casual khaki skirt and navy and white sweaters. Rounding out this professional wardrobe is a bunch of tank tops that go with everything. I can get about 19 outfits with these separates by mixing and matching them. For a five day conference I don’t even need to take the whole wardrobe.

    2) If you can fit it in, bring a shawl or a big scarf that coordinates with your separates. This is for when the AC gets turn up to the Nome, Alaska setting. If you don’t have room for a shawl, bring a matching silk scarf. It’s amazing how covering up your neck will make you feel warmer.

    3) If you bring separates that coordinate, you should only need one pair of comfy shoes in a complimentary color that you can wear to everything except the awards. Of course I have a pair of blue suede shoes that come with me for when I’m wearing the seer sucker, even though they don’t coordinate with the red suit. We have to make allowances for shoes.

    4) If you’re bringing workout clothes, wear your sneakers when flying even if you have to untie them through security. They take up too much room in your suitcase.

    5) I’m going to disagree with Tammy on one thing. Don’t leave room in the suitcase — plan to have your books shipped home by FedEx. It’s worth every penny and it gives you room to really go all out for that formal dress and matching shoes! BTW I believe there is a FedEx ship center right in the Marriott.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Great tips, Hope! I agree; coordinated separates are definitely the way to go if you’re looking to pack light. Plan your outfits beforehand, and don’t deviate! Shoe-wise, it definitely helps that I pretty much live in black clothing. I’m packing two pairs of black shoes to cover the conference, and wearing a pair of black Keds on travel and off-site tour days (I’m visiting the ATF with the Kiss Of Death chapter Tuesday). My awards ceremony dress is extra-blingy this year – turquoise, not black! *gasp* – so I have one pair of shoes I’m wearing only Saturday night.

      Re: shipping books home, I think I’ve grown lazy over the years. Getting a box, packing it, standing in line to mail it… I’d rather pay the overweight suitcase fee at the airport if I need to – sometimes it’s a horse apiece cost-wise – and I usually don’t have to pay it because I DO pack light. 😉

      • Terri Osburn says:

        Last year, they wanted to charge me $100 because my bag was 1 1/2 lbs overweight. Fedex might be the better option, depending on your airline.

  4. delia says:

    I won’t be able to make the conference but I do plan on going to the literacy signing. Any tips on maximizing time at the book signing? The staff at the Marriott Marquis are awesome. I’ve attended DragonCon for the past couple of years (they’re one of 5 host hotels) and they do a great job of getting people where they need to go.

    I don’t have any conference tips but I do have some about Atlanta:

    1) Atlanta has over 70 streets with the name Peachtree in them. If you are driving, get very specific directions.

    2) Atlanta traffic is awful. You will need to factor in extra time if you’re driving.

    3)If you’re flying, you can take MARTA straight from the airport to the hotel.

    4) Frizz Ease is your friend.

    5) If you have a little extra time to explore the city, there’s lots to do.
    The Georgia Aquarium is near the hotel. The Margaret Mitchell House is off one of the MARTA lines. The King Center.My personal favorite is Oakland Cemetery. It’s a Victorian cemetery with some of Atlanta’s famous buried there including Margaret Mitchell and Bobby Jones. Go have a Frosted Orange, some onion rings, and a hamburg/hot dog at The Varsity. It’s a heart attack on a plate but it’s an Atlanta tradition.

    • delia says:

      One last thing, you may need to bring an umbrella. We’ve had enough rain this past couple of weeks that we may need to build an ark soon 🙂 I hope everyone has a great time!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      delia, thanks so much for the Atlanta tips. And yes, I’ve heard that Atlanta locals are at risk of developing webbed feet to deal with the rain. Good call on the umbrella!

  5. delia says:

    One last thing I forgot to mention. If you are driving from another state to the convention:

    No one goes the speed limit, and most of the drivers consider blinkers optional. Be prepared for crazy driving. I lived in the Midwest for several years where people actually went the speed limit and used turn signals. I had to re-acclimate myself when I moved home 🙂 Anyone who drives the speed limit needs to stay in the right hand lane or risk being run over. Drive with the flow of traffic. Example, speed limit on I-285 is 55 mph but most people go 70. That being said, Georgia has a super speeder law that tacks on an additional $200 to any speeding ticket if you go over a certain speed. Don’t end up like some out-of-staters I know 😉

    For more info:

  6. Elizabeth Langston says:

    My biggest tip: talk to people. Don’t let being an introvert get in the way. I’m an introvert–and yet I still say “What do you write?” if I see someone sitting by themselves.

    If you see someone wearing a Golden Heart ribbon, Rita ribbon, First Sale ribbon, or First Timer ribbon on their name badge–you have an instant ice-breaker. So speak!

    Here is my packing list for RWA Nationals:

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Great tips, Elizabeth. I remember how good it made me feel to receive congratulations for wearing GH and First Sale ribbons. It’s a great conversation-starter.

      And your packing list is awesome! Off to photocopy my ID and CC…

  7. Great tips! I’m bummed I won’t be going this year, but am excited about San Antonio (my home town) next year. Somebody mentioned the bling – yes, definitely have that packed.

    Loved the blurb for your novella – had to go buy it immediately! LOL

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      We’ll miss you this year, Anne Marie, but you have to know you’ll be our go-to girl for all things San Antonio next year. You’d better start gathering those restaurant recommendations now! 😉

  8. Terri Osburn says:

    Great tips! And holy hot sounding novella.

    I’ll second the down time. There’s nothing wrong with disappearing to your room for a while. Be it 10 minutes or an hour, if you need a break, take one.

    My other tip would be, if you’re pitching, remind yourself this is NOT life or death. I know it feels that way, and I botched more pitches than I care to talk about. But the worst pitch I ever gave landed me my agent. Really. It’s going to be okay.

  9. Rita Henuber says:

    Tammy I would say you’ve nailed it. I would like to say to everyone going – You will have an amazing time. Relax, you are with 2000 other people who know how you feel.

  10. Sandra Owens says:

    This is my first conference, Tamara, so I’m loving all the tips from you and the others. I would have never thought of Band-Aids. Adding those to my list.

    Oh, about the relax part…I’ll try. 🙂

  11. Hi Tammy,
    Great, great tips from you and all the other Rubies (and guests). I always have to remember to take the down time. I’m a true extrovert and I can’t STAND being alone in my room if I think there’s fun or networking going on anywhere else. I usually sprint through the conference and crash when I get back! So–I will remember to relax now and then just for health’s sake!

    I always take a PO Priority flat rate mail box or two that have the postage in stamps already on them. (No meters because you can’t mail metered mail from a spot other than where the meter was created.) Only once in five years have I had to pay just to turn in the boxes. Usually I just hand them to the shipping guys and that’s it, no line, no fees, no worrying about the suitcase!

    Looking forward to seeing lots of you in Atlanta!

  12. All great tips, Tammy, especially the comfortable shoes. One of the things that’s really helped save my back is to travel around the conference hotel with a small wheelie carry-on case to put books in. Inside I put a tote bag to ride on top with MORE books.

  13. Elisa Beatty says:


    I’m so sad I’m not going to Nationals this year. (Staying home and WRITING instead, but it’s just not the same, and I’ll miss all my Ruby Sisters!!).

    But your tips are fabulous.

    And over 200 Ruby books!!! That’s just amazing.

  14. Maggie Kelley says:

    I will be missing RWA Nationals again this year…sigh. I need to make a promise to myself to go next year. Hope it’s a successful conference for everyone heading to Hotlanta.

    BTW, Tammy, LOVE the cover!

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      Thanks for your kind words about the cover, Maggie! Kim Killion at The Killion Group designed it, and we just finished the cover for my next book, TEMPT ME. She’s got the vibe down, definitely.

  15. I bummed so many Ruby sisters will be missing this conference, I am going – and bringing my daughter to show her what the writing life is like—but I will be spending most of my time holed up in my room (per usual) trying to meet my next deadline.

    I have memorized your tips, Tammy, and have printed out Elisabeth’s packing list. Now if I could only get 20,000 words in before then, I’ll have it made.:0

    Can’t wait to see you all.

    • Tamara Hogan says:

      The writer’s life…so glamorous! Not. It seems there’s always some work to do, even when we’re all at a conference.

      Can’t wait to see you!

  16. Hey There. I discovered your blog using msn. This is a very neatly
    written article. I’ll be sure to bookmark it and
    come back to learn more of your useful information. Thank you for the
    post. I’ll certainly return.


Subscribe to the Blog

The Latest Comments

  • Vivi Andrews/Lizzie Shane: Conference was amazing – seeing the Rubies, watchig Darynda emcee for the fabulous...
  • Elisa Beatty: I really hope we’ll see you there!!!
  • Tamara Hogan: What amazing pictures! Everyone looks like they’re having such a great time. I tried to enjoy...
  • Bev Pettersen: So nice seeing these pics. But my heart gave a little twinge at seeing the Omegas and knowing it was...
  • Darynda Jones: This was such a fun conference! I love seeing the Rubies and had a great time welcoming the Omegas to...