Wow! What a year. RWA’s 30th anniversary celebration, fantastic hotel, riverboat cruises, country and western stars, bar-b-q, and then………………

I was going to blog about travel to Nashville and give tips about the area with the help of one of the Ruby sisters, Kim, who lives there. Heavy sigh. A really sad time for Nashville and it’s residents. Kim is safe, and tells us the city will take a long time to recover. Keep them in your prayers.

We are fortunate to have an amazing RWA staff that pulled off a minor miracle making a speedy venue change. So let’s talk. What do you want from your experience? Plan it now. Want to make as many workshops as possible? Then look at that workshop schedule and develop a killer plan. Network? Volunteer and attend your chapter parties. Nationals is no place to be shy. Talk to people. Writers, authors, agents, editors, and work shop presenters are all people. As of this date, not one has bitten any conference attendee.  Walk up to people. Introduce yourself, say what you want to say, be respectful, –do not drop to your knees in front of your favorite author– and unless you are invited to stay longer, leave after a brief time. Be prepared to be overwhelmed. Plan down time. Are you pitching? Start practicing in front of the mirror today. Summarize your story into that brilliant sentence and high powered paragraph.  Heck! Stop strangers on the street and pitch. Do what it takes to feel comfortable with your pitch before conference.

Your questions about the conference should start with the RWA pages. It’s always best to go to the source first. Go to and cruise the menu on the left.  Direct links to agent and editors pages are below. Check the spreadsheet for what A/E are specifically looking for.

Agents taking pitches link
Editors taking pitches

The schedule of events is in the May RWR.

If you are PRO there is a month long boot camp on the RWA PRO loop that promises to be fantastic.

Flying? Remember there is a fee for checked bags, each way. To get more into one suitcase try those vacuum bags. They work pretty good. You still have to watch baggage weight.  To avoid problems identifying your suitcase on the luggage carousel mark it. I have cheap luggage (red) and I’ve written all over it.- RWA, 09 GH, leave my granny panties alone (for TSA).  Of course a duct taped X will also do.  Wrangling baggage and a purse can be difficult. For hands free purse operation find one with a strap that goes over your head. It’s called a crossover style. Make sure it has zippered compartments to keep strange hands out.

To help you select a good seat for your flight, cruise seat guru While on the plane take a walk, wiggle your feet, move your legs to keep the circulation going.

The Orlando airport is nice. Check their link to see where your arrival gate is in relation to baggage claim and where to get transportation. Mears Transportation is the one connected to our conference reservations.

Orlando Airport link

Make a good color copy, front and back, of the photo ID you will use to board the plane. Put it in a separate, safe place. Should your original ID be lost most airlines will take the copy. Leave a copy, front and back, of the credit or debit card you plan to use with someone at home. Should it be lost you have the info to call the company. No one at home?  Program the credit card companies lost and stolen telephone number into you cell phone. Let your CC company know you will be traveling and where you will be putting charges on your card.

Questions about the Swan and Dolphin? Again go to the source.  Your reservation confirmation and the official RWA notice we received have links. The Dolphin is considerably larger, 1509 guestrooms, than the Swan with 758 rooms. The Dolphin has 10 restaurants and lounges, a health club, game room, shops, Mandara Spa and a launderette. The Swan has 7 restaurants and lounges, a sundry shop, health club and game room.

The hotel link is on the blue menu click on Home then Resort Brochure.

If staying at another property I strongly suggest you contact that hotel and ask them how long it takes to get to the S&D then add ten minutes to every fifteen they tell you. Wear sunscreen.

Download a Disney map or get the free DVD at

On the site go to Parks -Maps then you can customize your own map.

Orlando is very humid in July. The temperature can be 89 with 98% humidity. If you are walking between properties, planning to go to the parks or an outdoor meeting, be aware drenching thunderstorms can and often do roll across mid to late afternoon.  If you get wet reapply sun screen. The umbrella you bring for rain works just as good for sun protection when travelling between sites.

Talking about walking—Please, please, please wear comfortable shoes. You will be walking about a mile a day if you’re at the S&D. Expect your feet to swell. Should you get a blister I highly recommend Band-Aids blister ampoules. They are a waterproof gel pad that relieves pain and protects the blister.

I am an excellent map reader, but am severely directionally challenged. I carry a cheap compass any time map reading may be necessary. Beats waiting for the north star to come out.

There are a gazillion places to eat at Disney, from the chi-chi- poo-poo to squat and gobbles. Again check the S&D web page -Home- Resort Brochure – dinning- click on each restaurant then menu. It takes a few clicks but you get the prices. The same with the Disney sites. A good guess-ta-met is $10-12.00 for breakfast, $15-20.00 lunch, $20-30.00 for dinner. Of course it can be done for less and plenty more. Keep your receipts for tax purposes.   Included in the conference fee is breakfast Friday and Saturday, lunch Thursday and Friday and dinner Saturday.

Wear comfortable shoes.

The hotel has a 24 hour convenience store on the property and a Laundromat. For a complete list of on-site conveniences go the S&D page- About Us- in the blue menu across the top.

There is a Hess gas station across the street. Hmm! Raises eyebrow, perhaps a place to purchase adult beverages in a bottle.

The parking fee is $12.00 a day self park, $15.00 valet. I could not find it on the web page and called.

Check out Sunday morning can be a zoo. If you can use early or VIP checkout, do it.  The Dolphin has two ATM machines the Swan one. Don’t wait until checking out to get cash, a half a gazillion people may have the same idea and those machines could be empty or have long lines.

Be informed and above all be safe.

So excited and can’t wait to see you all there.

And… did I say wear comfortable shoes and sun screen?

Do you have any tips for conference attendees?  Please share.

50 responses to “NATIONALS”

  1. Gwynlyn MacKenzie says:

    I so wish I could join everyone! Take lots of pictures, and best of luck to all our sisters who are 2010 finalists.

  2. Tina Eden says:

    I live a little over an hour from Orlando and I’m planning on attending. I’m excited because this will be my first RWA Conference! It’s a little overwhelming!

    Be prepared for the heat and the humidity!


  3. Great tips, Rita!

  4. Kim Law says:

    Great tips, Rita! Bummer I didn’t get to help you with Nashville tips, though! Maybe in a few years instead.

    From what I can tell, there will be a huge amount of walking at the S&D, just like there would have been at the Gaylord. With back problems to worry about, I was planning to take tennis shoes and walk mostly in those while carrying something else to change into once I get to the meeting area. I did call the hotel to see if there were any rooms near the meetings rooms and was told NO.

    Getting pretty excited about going!!!!

    • rita says:

      Carrying a lot of things is not good with back problems. Using a little rolly suitcase for shoes, water, notebooks, etc might help.

      • I did that one day last year and felt like a huge dork. Maybe other people are OK with feeling like that, but I get red-faced remembering how awkward I felt wheeling my cute little bag into very crowded workshops. It was nice, I guess, to have the option of carrying stuff somewhere other than on my body, but also sort of overkill. For me. Just sayin’. Maybe just bring it on the days you know you’re going to pick up a ton of books.

        Oh, I did that. I just didn’t pick up as much as I thought I would. I would have been fine just using that enormous conference tote bag.

        • Kim Law says:

          Hmmm…now if I wheel things around, you’re going to call me a dork, aren’t you? 🙂

          Seriously, though. The day last year that I went to the HQN signing and came away with a loaded down bag of books, I couldn’t have made it back to the room without serious drugs afterward! Luckily I had a back-pain free friend there to help. This year she isn’t going because she just had back surgery. *sigh*

          • Though I’d heard a lot of pro-rolling-bag chatter on the Interwebs prior to the conference, I didn’t actually see many women with rolling bags there. I expected most women to be carrying one, but there were only two or three people rolling bags at any given point in a the hallways between workshops — me included. I had to keep apologizing when people tripped on my wheels, and I just felt like an idiot.

            Dorkiness factor aside, I found it hard to squeeze into crowded workshops and spotlights with a rolling bag, especially if I was arriving a bit late, which despite my desire to be polite and professional was sometimes unavoidable. If I saw a seat in a corner, I couldn’t just quietly excuse my way through the row and slip into the seat. I’d have to bring my bag, too, which usually wasn’t possible, or leave it behind, which made me uncomfortable — not so much because someone might take it, but rather be because someone might trip on it, or need to move it, or otherwise find it irksome. So I stood at the back a lot. Sometimes I was the person standing by the door while there were seats available, which strikes me as rude to the speaker, as if the person standing isn’t quite sure if the workshop is interesting enough to bother finding a seat.

            Anyway, I think I only brought it one day, but it wasn’t worth it.

          • Cat says:

            I have a rolling backpack that I love. It has straps if you want to toss it over one shoulder. It’s a little heavier than a regular backpack because of the wheels, but it’s great when you’re flying with kids and you can load it up with coloring books, crayons, dvd player and dvds.

  5. Diana Layne says:

    sounds wonderful, wished I could go this year.

  6. Tina Joyce says:

    Great tips, Rita! Making notes!

  7. Jeannie Lin says:

    Wow, thank you! I know I went searching all over for those editor agent links.

    And ditto on the shoes. Last year I packed too many conference bunny shoes (Ruby Slippers included, of course) and by the end there was nothing I could wear that didn’t kill my feet.

    Other than that, prepare to bring back LOTS of books. Leave some extra space in that luggage or be prepared to ship home.

    • rita says:

      Yes bring home stuff. In the past RWA has FedEx on site offering shipping.

    • I tried to bring enough shoes to switch mid-day, every day. Like, a more sensible pair in the day, and a more killer pair in the evening. By the end, everything hurt, but they each hurt in different ways, so I could give my heels a break while I tortured my toes, etc.

  8. Liz Talley says:

    Wow. Lots of info there. But I don’t think you mentioned comfortable shoes. 🙂

    I am very excited about going. Disney does everything well, so I expect the experience to be just grand. Of course, I’m looking forward to seeing all the wonderful people I meet on loops and blogs. So much fun to put names to faces.

    I’ll be there on Tuesday afternoon. I”ll be too excited to hang out in my room, so I’ll look for some of you gals at the bar? the pool? Stalking editors and agents?

    Can’t wait!

    • rita says:

      Dang! I knew I would forget something. Wear comfortable shoes. I swear to you I do not remember what any ones shoes looked. I do remember the people who were limping.
      Wait I lied– I do remember some fabulous red shoes with white poka-dots on Miss Gwyn’s feet.

    • Kim Law says:

      I’ll be there Monday!!! No doubt you’ll find me lurking about! Maybe we can stalk together.

      • rita says:

        Me 2.
        and I’m an expert stalker.

        • Liz Talley says:

          Okay, you’re on. I’ll wear camo to hide behind those ornamental trees…I’m feeling the hidden Shanghai aspects of the sisterhood coming alive.

          Rope? Tape? First ten pages? Testimonials from my mother on how great a writer I am? Do I need anything else? LOL

          • rita says:

            Forget the rope- plastic cuffs are better. Duct tape good. No testimonials -bring your mother.

  9. rita says:

    For those of you who have print books you might take a couple with you to leave on a plane or in the airport. Or simply hand it to someone.
    For epub leave a card on airport seats. if you see some one with a kindle hand them a card.
    If I were flying I’d do it for you.

  10. Tamara Hogan says:

    For anyone who is hypersensitive to sound – like me – I can’t live at Conference without an iPod. You’ll occasionally find me chilling in a quiet corner with my headset on, blocking out every noise except the music, just for a moment.

    About shoes: 1) break them in NOW if you can, and 2) don’t assume you’ll be able to find blister treatment onsite. Bring whatever you need along with you.

    • rita says:

      I do remember seeing some people with ear plugs. You are right about bring any first aid with you.

  11. Rita, this is super! What wonderful tips. Didn’t even realize Swan and Dolphin were two hotels. And parking isn’t bad, at all. Thanks for doing all this legwork.

  12. Elisa Beatty says:

    Thanks, Rita! Very smart and very funny. Now I’m SOOOOO excited to go, I can’t make it til July!!

  13. Elise Hayes says:

    I do wish I could be there this year, but there’s just too much going on this summer, so something had to go. But three cheers to all of the 2010 GH and Rita finalists–enjoy every minute of your time in the spotlight!!! (And don’t forget to have an acceptance speech prepped, just in case…)

  14. I’m sitting this one out–again. I really wish I could be there and hang with my Ruby Sisters, but it just wasn’t in the cards (or the wallet, LOL). Maybe next year!

    Have a great time for me, guys! 😀

  15. Cat says:

    Florida in July, you might want to carry water. Last year in DC I went down to the drug store and bought a 12 pack. Drank all of it. The heat and humidity will be a lot worse than DC.

  16. Lily says:

    Thanks for all the great tips, Rita. This will be my first conference, and I’m looking forward to it. Your info will really come in handy!

  17. Beth Langston says:

    Some other tips:

    — Have a shawl or lightweight jacket available for cool workshop rooms
    — Keep a power bar in your purse; 2000 people will be looking for food at the same time you do
    — If you have a room in the conference hotel, use it. Go back there and relax sometimes
    — Be nice. Volunteer. Smile. Compliment people on their accessories. Strike up conversations (as long as the other person is receptive.)

    I have a packing list; you’re welcome to check it out and send me additions.


  18. Addison Fox says:


    What a great post – I’m excited already!! I can’t believe National is just over 2 months away!

    I think everyone’s hit the high points, but all I can say is that National is an incredible experience – as a word of advice…remember to enjoy it! 🙂


  19. Rita, thanks so much for doing all this work. First thing I did after reading it was order that Disney-parks DVD 🙂

    Second thing I did was shake my head over my shoe wardrobe… comfortable or presentable; pick one.

  20. Darynda Jones says:

    Everything Beth said!

  21. […] Everything you need to know before you pack your bag and head to Florida! […]


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