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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

7 Things You Can Do Right Now to Get Ready for RWA Nationals

The Romance Writers of America® National Conference is just 35 days away. That can seem like a very short time if you’re trying to finish writing a novel, or a very long time if you’re anxious to attend your first conference. Here are a few suggestions for those who can’t wait to get on that plane:

Polish your manuscripts. Yes, all of them. Obviously, you’ve finished polishing the novel you intend to pitch, but what about the other ones? You know that old historical you abandoned when you heard they weren’t selling? Well, markets change. What are you going to do if the editor tells you she has enough of whatever you’re pitching? Better have a backup plan just in case.

Practice your pitches. Yes, all of them. Even if you’re not formally pitching, you never know when you’ll end up sitting next to an editor or agent. Prepare concise answers to questions like “What do you write?” and “What else do you have ready?”

Get in Shape. Often, in the mad push to prepare manuscripts for conference, writers neglect themselves. No one expects you to drop twenty pounds between now and conference. But if there’s something about your appearance that makes you feel self-conscious, maybe now is the time to get it fixed. There’s still plenty of time to order stylish new glasses or whiten your smile.

Don’t wait until the last minute to make a major change in your appearance. I would show you pictures of last year’s hair disaster, but I was too traumatized to take any. Make sure you have enough time to get it fixed if it doesn’t work out.

Be Kind to Your Feet. If you have a regular day job, chances are you’ll be able to get by with the clothes you have in the closet. But the one thing you don’t want to skimp on is shoes. Even if you never leave the hotel, you’ll be amazed at how much walking you do at Nationals. Now’s the time to break in that new pair of sandals. If they’re not comfortable, don’t take them.

Update Your Phone: Nothing is more frustrating than making plans to meet up with your online friends and then not being able to find them. Now is the time to exchange cell phone numbers and save them in your phone’s contact list.

Coordinate Schedules: Workshops and chapter events often overlap. Chances are you’ll want to be in two places at the same time. Rather than being swept along unaware, take a few minutes to figure out what’s most important to you and plan accordingly.

Relax. Don’t let conference anxiety overwhelm you. Some of the best conference experiences are the ones we didn’t plan for. That timid person you meet while wandering the halls may turn out to be your best critique partner or the next great NYT bestseller.

I would love to hear your conference prep suggestions. What are you doing now to get ready for Nationals?


  1. Great list, Clarissa! Breaking in the new shoes is especially a good one. Even with that, I still brought the band-aid blister covers last year - and used every one!
    SOooo looking forward to seeing many of you at Nationals soon:)

  2. Very disappointed that I will miss Nationals...I'll be in Montana this year. But I enjoyed the advice for upcoming conferences. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Erin--Blisters? Really? Because you looked so lovely I never noticed any limping.

    Renee--We will miss you too. I was hoping to see you at Nationals. But Montana's great fun too. Just make sure your spare tire is inflated :) *Voice of experience here* :)

    Thanks for the comments.

  4. Great post, Clarissa! I've been debating the shoe thing for weeks now...why can't anyone design heels that are as cushy as regular shoes? lol

  5. Such great advice -- wish I was going to be there to follow it! :) I've been to other conferences, and they always end up being more exhausting than people realize. So it's good to go in prepared -- and maybe sneak in a little "down time" too.

  6. Good idea to plan for down time, Donna. I always make great plans, but then collapse at 4pm. LOL.Thanks for commenting

  7. I think it's good to have business cards made up with your name and email address at a minimum. I've pulled out ones I've received at conferences even a year later and remembered the person and conversation we had. Seeing their name in print and an image helps to solidify that person in my mind. I know some people make small notes on cards they receive to job their memory.

  8. I meant JOG their memory. That's what I get for commenting late at night. :)

  9. Great suggestion, Samantha. I thought of that one too after I posted this. Definitely need business cards. Thanks :)

  10. Great suggestions - but I can only dream! One day though .....