After the conference

Crossposted from Silk & Shadows

Currently working on: Missing all my friends in New York
Mood: Wistful

As you read this, about 2,000 romance writers are converging on New York City for the annual Romance Writers of America conference. Con attendees will take workshop, “network” at the bar, giggle too much, and get blisters in the miles of hotel corridors.

In the weeks leading up to a major conference, the blogging world, Facebook and Twitter are full of advice for eager newbies and old war horses trying to be more efficient with their conference time and money. The advice runs the gamut from the eminently practical (“stay hydrated” and “bring a sweater; some rooms are cold!”) to the sublime (“RWA is not a popularity conference. Which makes it easier to win”) to the ridiculous (“Remember, editors and agents are human too”; no they aren’t, if they hold the life of your work in their hands, that makes them demi-gods at least).

But I haven’t seen as much on post-conference advice. To rectify that…

1. Don’t lose momentum.
Conferences are exhausting. With the prep time before you leave, the travel stress, and the forced extroversion (not to mention the laundry and dirty dishes that mysteriously piled up at home while you were gone) it’s easy to come back from conference utterly drained. Take some time to recover, but don’t let it derail you for more days than the conference itself, which can easily happen.

2. SUBMIT your requested work.
The anecdotal number varies, but editors and agents all say that they get shockingly few of the manuscripts they request at conferences. Don’t be that writer. Or if you want to be that writer, don’t take away the ed/ag appointment from a writer who WILL follow up.  After conferences, there’s always a flurry of emails on writing loops asking “How long do I have to send in my story? Cuz, uh, actually, it’s not done. Really, it’s not even started.”

My answer (and not everyone agrees) is: Send it fast. It has to be good too. Not fast OR good; fast AND good. An editor or agent probably isn’t going to ding you on points if you take too long, but if she asked for it, it’s because she thinks she has a place for it.* Later, that maybe not be the case.

* Or because she’s just being nice. Which is a waste of everyone’s time. But don’t waste more time by NOT sending your work.

3. Do something with those business cards you collected.
If you followed the pre-conference advice and networked like crazy, you probably have lots of cards. Hopefully you followed good pre-con advice and jotted down a note on the card to remind you who this person was. Now to figure out what use you can make of those cards. Rather than keep scraps of paper around, you can data enter names, email addresses and the identifying feature you noted earlier into a word doc or spreadsheet for later retrieval. Send a quick email to people you want to remember so you have their addresses handy in your contact system.

4. Distribute all that swag.
You probably came home with more bookmarks, pens and plastic whatnots than you thought possible.  Contact your local romance book club or indie bookstore to see if they’d like to paw through it for the vicarious thrill. Your local RWA chapter might be interested in deconstructing the swag to see what marketing efforts seemed effective.

5. Put your favorite workshop advice to use.
Handouts and jotted notes seem to accrue more easily than mastery.  Actually TRY some of the craft, business or inspiration ideas that you learned. Also, share them with writing friends to reinforce them in your own mind. Keep a folder of only the very best (for you) of what you learned. That’s a great folder to take with you to writing retreats when you need a boost of remembered excitement.

6. Stay hydrated.
Hey, can’t hurt.

What’s your best post-conference advice? Anybody going anywhere else fun this summer? I’ll be at RomCon in Denver the first weekend of August and Authors After Dark in Philadelphia the second weekend of August. I’ll let you know if I follow my own advice!

More conference follow-up

One of the best parts of RWA conferences, whether it’s the huge national gathering or the smaller regional events, is all the amazing people.  What a supportive, fun and clever group.  Why, here’s some of them now.

Michelle Buonfiglio of the new Barnes & Noble romance blog, Heart to Heart, and, hosted a breakfast of writers and industry folk.  Her recap of her conference is online here.

She mentions her fan-grrl encounters, and I have to share a few of my own.

JR Ward was sooo nice. She sold out of her books right before me but took a long minute to chat. Also, she swore like a card-carrying member of the BDB during her workshop, which gave me the giggles.

I did the dolphin squee on Jenna Black and she hardly laughed at me at all. She even came back later to give me a “Don’t Bother Me I’m Reading” pin.

I already have all of Melissa Marr’s books, but when I went to her signing to say hi, she gave me a bracelet for my niece.

Jeri Smith-Ready gave me a hug after I stopped gushing about her books! I mean, I would’ve rather had a hug from her hero Shane, but…

There were a bunch more, of course: Jeaniene Frost who wished me a happy birthday; Jessica Andersen who signed a giveaway for Silk And Shadows; C.L. Wilson, Angie Fox, Jade Lee (who wears awesome clothes!); many debut authors and new authors whose books aren’t out yet who shared their excitement…  Man, I want to be them when I grow up.

Post-conference hangover recap

Not that I’m literally hung over since it’s hard to drink too much when you’re talking non-stop.  But I have used up my allotment of words for the next, oh, decade or so, and the feeling is akin to the morning after too much wine: Dry mouth, woozy, a desperate urge to eat an orange then nap.

Here are a few notes I jotted down, to remind myself about making the next conference even more fun:

1. Don’t play with sunless tanner before important meetings.

2. Sleep is for wimps.

3. Remember elevator pitch at all times.

4. Try to not booby-trap the bathroom for late-night returning roommates. (Unless roommates are evil, and then feel free to booby-trap away.)

5. BYODC (Bring Your Own Dark Chocolate)

6. Elbowing a lady in sequins to get to the after-awards ceremony chocolate is considered slightly rude. Plus, her heels are probably higher and more weapon-like than mine.

7. Pack blister strips.  Or duct tape.  Clear packing tape doesn’t work as well.

8. Bring silver shoes to match the duct tape. Electrical tape for black shoes.

9. Practice smiling in a non-doofusy way.

10. Practice stealing roommate’s dark chocolate after lights-out.

11. Switch to all-black wardrobe for ease of packing.  (And ease of sneaking through room to steal roommate’s chocolate.)

12. Develop appreciation for white wine to minimize red wine spillage potential.

13. Get a cell phone.

14. Bring needle-nose pliers. (Trust me; this comes up more often than you’d think.)

15. Learn to swear in Chinese.  I can’t remember why I jotted this one down, but there must have been some reason.  Maybe it was just an excuse to rewatch Firefly and Serenity.

16. Stop breaking fingernails two weeks before conference and get a manicure.  Might as well get spray tan too.

I’m sure I learned more, but it’s apparently still locked in the post-conference fog.  I can’t wait for Nashville next year!