Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kate's Lucky Thirteen Conference Tips

I recently returned from the RWA conference in Dallas, Texas, and I decided to sit down and compile a list of Conference Tips, based on my own experiences, to help make my next conference an even more enjoyable and rewarding time. I really hope these tips will work for you, too!

1. Take lots of pictures so you can prove to your family back home that you know people. Important people. And they like you, really! (Here I am with this year’s American Title winner, the very important Jenny Gardiner!)

2. Just accept the fact that no matter how well you pack, no matter what special tips you employ, no matter how many plastic bags and tissues you stuff into each sleeve and fold, you are still going to end up ironing every single article of clothing in your suitcase. It's like a cosmic law or something.

3. Oh right, pack that bathing suit. Please. Like that’s ever going to happen.

4. Go ahead and drag your Alpha Smart across the country with you but don’t come whining to me when you realize you’re going home with nothing written. Nada. Zip. Zero. Seriously, who did you think you were kidding, packing that thing?

5. Make friends with a smoker. Smokers hear all the best gossip. Ashtrays are where it’s all happening. And breathing is highly overrated at conference, don’t you think?

6. Packing three different outfits for the Rita Awards ceremony is simply insane … or is it? What if you spill tomato sauce all over yourself? What if your gown is set on fire during a freak lightning storm? What if you discover the dry cleaners shrunk your beaded blouse and beads start popping like a fireworks display on the Fourth of July? It's not your back fat, it's the dry cleaners! Things happen. Pack extra stuff.

7. When dining in revolving restaurants, avoid placing personal items on the non-revolving portion of the table area. On second thought, avoid revolving restaurants altogether.

8. If a giant grasshopper dive bombs your head during dinner at the hotel restaurant, try to get your meal comped. It helps if you scream.

9. If a strange man pulls up a chair and tells you he’s got brilliant stories to tell if only he could find a ghost writer, maybe someone like yourself, direct him to a hotel across town. Or better yet, across the country.

10. The best way to stop the elevator doors from closing is to throw your entire body into the space between the doors. This will hurt. But it’s better than thrusting just your arm between the doors as this could result in permanent damage to your writing career.

11. If you fly on a plane for four hours, eat Mexican food for five days straight, drink vodka & tonic for five nights straight and dance all night at the Harlequin party, chances are good that those puffy ankles are NOT an indication of Deep Vein Thrombosis. (But you can’t be too careful. Check out Christie Ridgway’s story here.)

12. Ooh, don’t forget to take those very important pictures! (Here I am with best pals Maureen Child and Susan Mallery.)

13. Start your conference diet today and you just might reach your ideal weight by next July. Seriously, start today because pretty soon it’ll be Halloween candy time, then Thanksgiving, then Christmas, and then it’s just one long downward spiral into Fat Back City.

Now I know everyone has a conference tip or two to share—for real. Seriously, I packed three Rita outfits for Dallas. This must stop! Give me conference tips, people, please!


Keira Soleore said...

Pack one suitcase, then fit this one into a larger suitcase and take it with you. You'll save on shipping books home.

Unknown said...

I found taking a flat box with you and sending it out through the hotel business office works great for all those books. But always save one or two for the plane.

Caren Crane said...

Let's talk about shoes! Start shopping now for the cutest, most comfortable shoes you can find. This year, all my shoes were both comfortable and extremely cute. Others complained of how many band-aids they had used during the conference. I used none and needed none!

The greatest conference gift you can give yourself is cute, painless feet!

Oh, and don't feel alone, Kate. I brought two extra outfits, just in case. I was with my friend Claudia Dain a couple of years ago when a waiter dribbled oil-based salad dressing on the shoulder of her silk blouse. The horror! She had no back-up outfit. From her experience, a new rule was formed: always bring a backup!

Caren Crane said...

Um, Kate? I want to hear more about the giant grasshopper (which was probably a katydid). Did this happen to you or a friend? *g*

Anonymous said...

Lord, girl, you crack me up! :-) I also want to hear about the grasshopper!

I didn't go to conference this year, but I packed and wore my bathing suit in Reno and Atlanta! In Atlanta in particular, a few friends and I hung out by the pool forever one night. It was awesome. Though perhaps San Fran might not be quite so balmy...

Don't put too much energy into worry about getting pitching appointment, getting them with the right editors/agents, or putting together the "perfect" pitch. It's great practice and a great experience, but not going to make or break your career. There are plenty of other things that make conferences worthwhile!

Love the diet tips (snort). I dieted for three months to get rid of the winter spread, and then gained it all back on a two week vacation. Deep sigh. But that's inevitable-don't let that stand in the way of eating and drinking whatever you damn well please while you're at the conference!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Kiera! Good idea on the extra suitcase advice. I've never tried that but I have brought a flat fedex box with me to ship back all those books as Christie suggested. The amount of books given away is amazing, isn't it? I love it!

Oh Caren! The shoes!! I was so good this year, only brought four pair with me. But comfy? Not so much!

And poor Claudia! Salad dressing on her blouse? Ugh!

Suzanne Ferrell said...

When I'm traveling by plane, I pack a 12-pack of bottled water to drink at conference. I share with friends and that leaves a lot of room in the dufflebag suitcase just for books! Saves me only shipping one smaller box of books home.

Day 1 of conference, (the first 10 minutes after checking in on whatever day you arrive), find the bar. Memorize the path so that you can find it no matter what state of happiness, drunkeness or sheer humiliation you might be in.

Kate Carlisle said...

Okay, the grasshopper--or whatever kind of gigantic prehistoric creature it was--came from nowhere and slammed into me like a rock! I thought someone had dropped something from a balcony ten floors up.

I looked around the floor to see what had hit me and saw the massive critter scurrying away. That's when I screamed, LOL. It was BIG and Creepy Crawly! The waiters and manager came running and I felt like such an idiot. But dinner was free! ;-)

Kate Carlisle said...

Suzanne, memorizing the path to the bar just might be the best advice I've ever heard!!! LOL

Donna MacMeans said...

My tip is to not sit with anyone you know at lunch. I like meeting new people and making new contacts. This year I found myself next to RITA finalist Cindy Dees. She was great! THen on Saturday, when I was running late, I ended up at the table reserved for RWA board members - that was fun as well. Besides, don't you hate those table-nazis who snag an empty table and fight out anyone who might dare to think they can sit at said table?

My other tip is to buy the workshop CDs as it's a steal for $100 for all the good information it contains (plus you can spend the time normally devoted to workshops in the bar (smile)). Remember the good price only lasts for a week or so after conference so order now if you didn't earlier.

Kate Carlisle said...

Oh Kirsten, you're a much better person than I for actually using that bathing suit. But good news for you, our San Francisco hotel has an indoor swimming pool!

And unless the diet seriously starts TODAY, you won't catch me anywhere near there!

Anonymous said...

Keira, I've got a roller suitcase with pouch for a lightweight duffle at the bottom, so I do exactly this! great advice! Oh, and I heard that several of our Bandita got to meet you at conference--how fun. Hopefully you'll be in San Fran so I'll get the pleasure as well! :-)

HUGE Bandita party in San Fran, don't you think, ladies? I'll have to take Kate's advice and start dieting now in preparation!

Anonymous said...

Kate, you know they let you eat fattening foods and drink very unhealthy things while lounging around by the pool, right? ;-)

I'll show you how it's done in SF.

Kate Carlisle said...

Donna's advice about buying the workshop CD is invaluable. That $100 is the best deal in town.

LOL, Kirsten -- Will there be cabana boys by the pool?

Yes yes yes! Bandita Blow-out in SF!

Sabrina Jeffries said...

Kate, I LMAO at your tips!!! Every one is a jewel, and so true. I actually stopped and looked at the swimsuit this time (I've been seriously trying to lose weight), then said, "Self, who are you kidding? Do you really want to display this body in a swimsuit at CONFERENCE??" I left it home.

My tip would be--set up at least one booksigning close to the end of conference, so you can give all your leftover promo to the bookseller. Bell's Books was delighted to get them, and I was delighted not to have to haul them back with me. I always try to gauge how much to bring, and I never get it right.

Maureen Child said...

Great tips, Kate!!! And as I remember it, your scream hit a certain PITCH that had everyone for miles running to our table. (Not that I blame you one bit. As it was I leaped so high out of my chair, I left my shoes behind!)

And LOVE Suzanne's tip. Especially handy this year when you had to memorize different paths to get to the bar!!

Susan Mallery said...

Okay--trying this again. If there are 2 posts it's because google is being stupid this morning!!

Anyway...great tips, although I would like to point out that some of us didn't have to iron at all! It's a fabric thing. Or a heavy pattern. A nice pattern can hide wrinkles and pasta sauce! :)

Buying the CD ROM is also a great idea. So much info. I do it every year and love it.

The grasshopper thing was very real and Kate hit a sound usually not heard in nature! Wow-- And that weird guy was creepy.

All in all, it was a fabulous conference. Loved seeing my friends and getting the books. Can't wait for SF!!!!

Kate Carlisle said...

Hi Sabrina! You made the smart and realistic choice on the swimsuit front -- while I went ahead and packed the dumb thing. What was I thinking???

And good tip on the promo goodies!

Hey Maureen and Susan, thanks for verifying the grasshopper story! I don't make this stuff up!!

And Susan, I didn't realize you never iron! Guess I need to re-think my fabric choices. It's probably a big mistake to pack all linen, huh? LOL

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

And UGH!!! I'd have made a similar sound if a GINORMOUS BUG had hopped on me. I HATE BUGS! (Think Indiana Jones and snakes.) As Foanna and Mme D-W will tell you, they have some DOOZIES down under! I had some personal experiences on the Sunshine Coast that I do NOT wanna remember! Hawaii runs a close second in the ugly bugs department, right DanetteB?

As for pools, the INDOOR variety are about the only ones in SF that get any use. HA! So no surprise that the conference hotel has one. "Sunny California" does NOT apply to the City by the Bay. But it is a FABULOUS CITY! (I'm a native Californian and didn't visit there until I was in my late teens.) Those of you who have been there know what I mean, and those who have yet to experience it are in for a WONDERFUL TREAT!

Since ironing is against Aunty's religion (I belong to the Church of the Permanent Wrinkle) I LOVE Susan's tip! And luckily, since I live within driving distance, I'll have a WHOLE TRUNK for free books!

San Francisco BRACE YOURSELF! The Banditas are headed your way!

Maureen Child said...

Aunty Cindy...I had no idea my people had their own church!!! I don't believe in ironing. It's unfair to the ironer and painful to the fabric. Let our wrinkles be!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Kate, those tips are BRILLIANT! My tip is elastic waists. There's a brilliant chain of shops for women of a certain size (and no, I don't mean size 2, sadly!) called Taking Shape down here. They had a sale just before I left and I basically cleared their shelves. It's all microfibre so it doesn't crush, it's all loose tops and elastic waisted skirts and it's coordinates so you get ten outfits for the price of four or five. And I really like their clothes so it's not as if you're doing penance in the fashion department either. Best bit of shopping I did all year!

Suz, loved memorising the way to the bar. Although I'm an Aussie. We're born with bar GPS!

Eek to the grasshopper story! Mind you, they eat them in Thailand so perhaps it had escaped from a restaurant somewhere!

Keira, great to see you there!

Helen said...

Love those tips for conference I will keep them in mind if I am ever lucky enough to get there.
Have Fun

Jenny Gardiner said...

Kate you ALWAYS crack me up! I can't wait till you're published because I'm buying your entire backlist. When you have it, I guess ;-)
My conference advice?
Umm...FiRST of all, NEVER pre-pay for shuttle buses, especially when they're operated by Yellow Checker Cab Company. They may seem efficient in their manner of money collection, but they really have no plans of getting you any place soon.
Second of all, if you're gonna be in a hotel with a fire, I recommend being on the 17th floor sleeping with ear plugs because no one's gonna tell you the place is on fire, and fact is who is gonna escape 17 floors anyhow? So at least you'll burn in peace and silence.
And third of all, I know everyone says that the Harlequin party is by invitation only, but I also now know that's a lie and a conspiracy by people who don't want you to attend that party--I'm pretty sure even the drivers of the Yellow Checker Cab Company were in attendance. So next year, my friends, do what I plan to do, and crash the damn thing. Where else are you going to get appletinis as truth serum?

Kate Carlisle said...

Aunty Cindy, I'm right there with you on the bug issue. I always figured there were parts of the world I could never visit, just because of the size of their bugs!

And your Church of the Permanent Wrinkle made me LMAO. I do believe I'll convert!

FoAnna, I'm so jealous! We have nothing like the Taking Shape shops here. I must do more research before next conference so I'm not stuck ironing for four hours, sigh.

Hi Helen! Hope you can make it to a conference very soon. We have a good time!

Kate Carlisle said...

Jenny!!! Hi!!! Excellent conference advice, LOL!

And now that you mention it, I believe I did see a few strange men in yellow checkered shirts working the Harlequin conga line! ;-)

Keira Soleore said...

Kirsten: I definitely plan on being at SF.

Caren: Starting buying shoes? I laughed my head off when I read your message. I took a pair of scissors, a blister kit, and moleskin with me. :)

Suz, yes. The bar. Dropped my bag off upstairs and that's what I did first. :)

Kate: Diet starts TODAY?! *groan*

Susan: It was so much fun chatting with you last night!!

Sabrina: Given how much promo material I picked up today, I probably would've been the one hauling it all away. :)

Jenny: I agree with you about the Harlequin thing. Perhaps the Banditas can storm the party en masse. Who'd dare stop us then?

Kate: Many travel clothing lines offer the kind of clothing Foanna talks about. I've bought clothes from Travel Smith and Ex Officio. My requirement was also that the clothes me hand-washable and dry in an instant.

Though I don't think I'd have the guts to travel for six months and then attend Conference. Foanna, you're amazing!!

Joan said...

Kate and ladies, thanks so much for the laughs. I needed them.

Ok, I think we're all in agreement about the grasshopper. Ugh. I want to know about the weird guy. Was he wearing a tie die T-shirt with a straw hat hanging down his back? There was this guy who handed me my bag at registration. I thought he was asking for a handout. Then I saw him later with a badge on and that hat! Everywhere with the hat? I thought maybe HE had escaped from Thailand.

He had this weird Norman Bates shadow smile on his lips too.

I admit it. Me, the nurse with the nurse feet brought 12 pairs of shoes with me. I wore all but 2 and bought that other pair at Nieman's. Unlike Caren, I was in pain and unlike Keira, I did not have moleskin.

I limped but my feet looked good!

Tawny said...

ROFL at all the great advice! I thought I'd brought an extra suitcase, since I'd packed it with promo stuff that I knew I wasn't bringing back with me... but wouldn't you know, somehow the clothes all expanded for the trip home (as did my hips).

I love the shoe tips, and will say that I made it through blister-less but did have to resort to bandaids by Saturday. But only because I broke my foot last fall and it hasnt' supported heels until now (thats my excuse and I'm stick to it). And I only brought 6 pair of shoes... I showed amazing restraint.

Christine Wells said...

Kate, I snorked into my spagolini over this post! Nothing is stopping me going to San Fran and your tip about starting that diet today is certainly gold. Loving everyone else's tips, too! I'm going to print this and keep it for next year.

MJFredrick said...

Joan, I think you win for most shoes!!! Wow, I only bought 4.

Annie Solomon (RITA winner!!) showed me this product called Blister Block. It was kind of a powdery product you apply to your feet (like a stick deodorant) to reduce friction.

Another woman I met in the bathroom had wicked looking heels, and when I remarked, she said she got those pads you put under the ball of your foot to keep your foot from sliding forward and they really work!

Caren Crane said...

Mary, you are a shoe tip goddess! Really, you can get through conference blister-free. Any shoe inserts can be cut down to whatever size and shape you need. They keep your foot from slipping forward and also provide much-needed cushion for the ball of your foot.

Claudia Dain, the fahionista, always has the cutest shoes ever. But she never buys a pair unless they are incredibly comfortable. So, while she always looks like her feet should be in pain, they aren't. It's kind of sickening, really.

And Sabrina (who is the fabulous Sabrina Jeffries) knows about hauling promo stuff. I thought the late-conference book signing was brilliant--if you have time. I don't have this problem yet, but hope to develop it soon. *g*

Anna Sugden said...

Great post, Kate, and great tips everyone! Especially the non-ironing brigade!

Ah shoe tips. I've worked out that the cheaper the shoes, the bigger the blisters! But to combat that, wear any new shoes around the house for a week before conference to break them in. The sole pads Mary mentioned are also great, especially if you're not used to wearing heels for any length of time. Someone also recommended some shoes by Cole Haan that were designed by engineers (NASA I think!), that are a nice mix between looking good and being comfortable.

My trick this year was to come in a day earlier, unpack (last year I didn't unpack until about Thursday) and eat a decent meal - good thing as I think existed on cheese and beer all conference. Way too many dessert receptions!

And definitely buy the CD's. Aside from being great value - it means you can make a point of going to the ones that aren't recorded!

Big wave to Keira - it was great meeting you!

Caren Crane said...

Packing tips! I meant to add that almost all clothes (except linen, sorry Kate), benefit from being rolled rather than folded. It seems counterintuitive, but rolling your clothes means they arrive with far fewer wrinkles. I ironed only one shirt at conference and only because it was 98% cotton and wrinkled when I packed it. *g* I folded nothing, including my cocktail dress and RITA outfit. Of course, avoiding cotton (and linen) helps!

Kate Carlisle said...

Wow, Mary *IS* the shoe guru! Great advice. I'm going to find those little pads.

Speaking of shoes, Anna, your polka-dot shoes were adorable! And coming in a day early is so smart. It gives you a chance to breathe before the insanity begins!

Joan, that was the guy!! And OMG, 12 pairs of shoes?? You win!! LOL

Cassondra said...

OMG Kate!

I just about spewed chardonnay on the computer screen. I'm hopelessly behind reading everyone's blog posts, and just got to this. It's the funniest thing I think I've ever read. I cannot wait for your books now!