RWA National starts this week. My heels are polished and sharpened to a fine point, I’ve been working out my right arm so it’s ready to shake hands, hold drinks, lift chocolate treats, and of course pass out business cards, and I’ve been exercising my vocal chords so I’m ready to talk from 7am to midnight about everything from romance, writing, the Dallas weather and where to eat, drink and find a decent cup of coffee.
So what tips can I give you dear readers on how to handle National? Whether it’s RWA, SFF or Thrilerfest (which is this week as well) the tips are the same so listen up and I’ll clue you in on some of the ins-and-outs of surviving a four-day networking extravaganza.
1. Look nice, but be comfortable. Okay, I know I’ll be wearing my highest and cutest heels, but there’s no reason that all of us need to destroy our feet. Leave that to the fools like me. You however should think about what you feel comfortable in all day long. Sweats won’t cut it, but jeans are fine. Seriously. You want to look professional, but agents know that it’s a long day for everyone and showing up at your agent appointment in jeans is not going to kill your chances of a request. My best advice however, wear something that makes you feel good about yourself, confident and comfortable. You’ll do better in all networking and pitch situations if you do. If you want to wear jeans, pair them with an attractive shirt or jacket. Be yourself and you’ll do better than if you’re trying to dress like someone else.
2. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself. Don’t sneak behind my back whispering my name (I have razor sharp hearing and am aware of what’s going on) instead stop and tell me how lovely my shoes are and how charming my blog is. Ask for a card and let me know you plan to submit. If I’m looking forlorn engage me in conversation. Remember, I LOVE, love, love talking about this business and can go on and on for hours answering questions. So use that to your advantage. Feel free to grab me and ask me all of those questions I haven’t yet answered on the blog. Agents and editors are everywhere and as long as they’re in a public area they are fair game. Don’t hesitate to strike up a conversation in line for coffee, while waiting for what are probably going to be slow elevators, and definitely chat us up at lunches, cocktail parties and other events meant for networking. When not to corner an agent or editor? The bathroom, on the treadmill, when he or she is clearly engaged in an intense conversation in a hidden corner or at a restaurant table. Oh, and don’t follow agents and editors to their rooms. That just gets creepy.
3. Take time out to process. It’s overwhelming. All of those workshops, cocktail parties, free books and free food. Whew! Who can survive that? Enjoy, but don’t be afraid to take a few minutes, or a few hours, for yourself. Lounge in the pool, hide in the corner of the lobby, or crawl into bed. Let your mind rest or take notes on what you’ve learned. Watch a bad movie or just nap. Don’t feel that every minute of your days need to be spend writing, workshopping or networking. Trust me. You’ll do a much better job at all three if you take some time for yourself.
4. Take notes. Carry a notebook and pen with you at all times. Don’t be afraid to take notes during workshops, pitch appointments or even cocktail parties. If you’ve networked well and an agent at a cocktail party gave you a few key pieces of advice don’t be afraid to go to a quiet corner and write them down so you can think about them later. I’m a big fan of small notebooks. You never know when your greatest idea is going to come crashing in.
5. Have fun! All work and no play makes Jessica a very, very dull girl. I really and truly look forward to RWA. It’s a lot of work and completely exhausting (it will take me a week or more to recover) but it’s also invigorating and thrilling. I love chatting with my clients, old friends and new editors. Relax and enjoy. Each conference is a new experience and with each stage of your writing career you’ll find that it holds new possibilities for you. New conference goers have a huge list of all the workshops they need to attend while more experienced attendees and published writers often use their time more for networking and bonding with friends and fans.
Some of you might already be settling into your rooms while others are busy packing. I fly out on Wednesday and look forward to seeing you all there. For those not able to make it this year I will, once again, be blogging from Dallas. So continue to check in and see what I’m hearing and learning along the way.