Unless you’ve been living under a rock or missing your 8LW posts – you wouldn’t miss your 8LW posts, would you? – you know several of the Ladies are on our way to New York City next week for the annual RWA National Conference. Kat and Jilly have been perfecting their pitches, Elizabeth’s been making introvert contigency plans, Jeanne’s been practicing her Golden Heart award acceptance speech (at least she’d better be!), we’ve all been trading cab and hotel and wardrobe questions and ideas. As for my conference preparation…well, about that…
The truth is, beyond some wardrobe planning, I haven’t been preparing. And while I still have more than a week to get my act together, realistically, I probably won’t. It’s not procrastination or conference phobia or avoidance. It’s the day job. I client called with an emergency and with less than a days’ notice, I jumped into an important project for them. The bad news is, I worked 78 hours this week and will probably work something similar this week. The good news is, now that I’m a consultant, I get paid for every one of those hours (not the case for a direct salaried employee, at least not here in the good ol’ US of A). But all is not lost. I have a plan.
Rely on Lessons Learned from Past Conferences. Remember last July, after last year’s RWA Nationals, when I wrote about post-conference organizing? I suggested making a lessons learned list, a trick I learned from my lovely husband. I’ve now been to a number of writing and other business conferences and I have lists, people! Referring to my packing list helped me remember to spend this past week wearing my potential conference shoes to work (with a spare pair in the car if needed) to make sure they’re wearable for long days. One pair I’d planned to pack will no longer be taking up space in my suitcase, thanks to the blister one shoe left on my big toe. And by the way, blister band-aids are the second item on my business trip packing list. If you don’t have them on your own list, I highly recommend you add them today, and run to the store tomorrow to by them.
Prepare En Route. I’ll be on a train for just over two hours to get to the conference. That’s not a lot of time, but it’s enough to pull out my old pitch for My Girls, tweak it, and (mostly) memorize it. I’ll also be able to use the time to make a list of questions I want to ask during my agent and editor appointments. I have an agenda for this year’s conference – I want to leave with a better sense of which – if any – of my books I might try to self-publish. To make that decision, I need to gather information about traditional and self-publishing. But like far too many of my characters’ goals, that’s a bit nebulous. I’ll use my train time to ponder the schedule and develop a strategy.
Play It By Ear. To be honest, I do this to some extent at every conference. I blame it on my debate team training as an extemporaneous speaker. I want to leave a little something to chance, leave myself open to surprises or (just a few!) last minute changes. I’m a planner and spreadsheet builder and detail-agonizer-over by nature (and probably nurture – thanks, Mom!). Every once in a very great while, I have to allow, nay require myself to be spontaneous. I huge, noisy, busy conference abounds with opportunities to do just back. I’ll get back to the spreadsheets the week after the conference.
Enjoy Friends. I’ve really saved the best part of my plan for last. To me, this is the most important thing I’ll do in NYC. Yes, this is a professional conference. Yes, I’m paying a lot of money to attend it. And yes, I plan to get the most out of it professionally that I can. However, now that I’ve reached a certain age (let’s just same somewhere north of 30 and south of 60), I’ve come to appreciate just how ‘precious and few’ the moments are that we get to spend with true friends. Almost all of the 8 Ladies will be there! One of my critique/writers’ retreat partners will be there! Our mentor Jenny Crusie will be there! There will be dinners and dances and an award ceremony and hanging out at the bar and in each other’s rooms. Life is short. I plan to enjoy every minute I get to spend with good friends.