Hey, I’m not going to Orlando for the Romance Writers of America conference next week. I hadn’t planned on going when it was in Nashville, and as I told my editor, I had no desire trade a swamped hotel in Nashville for a hotel in a swamp. But then again, after nearly twenty years of attending RWA National conferences (Gads, I must have started going when I was like, 12) I’ve come up with my Glee inspired Top 5 Tips to keep you from going mad in the rushed, harried craziness that is “National.”
1) Conference is not Sectionals, Regionals or even Nationals. It is not a competition no matter what the big-haired barracuda across the luncheon table tells you. Let the mean girls have their club. We all know who they are and really, do you want to be in Sue Sylvester’s clique? Here is the best advice I can give you–find your friends and hold onto them. Laugh, sing your own song and enjoy the friendship that is at the heart of RWA. This will let your light shine through–don’t let others put a shade over it. Believe me, after twenty years of going, the mean girls usually end up as back up singers for a reason.
2) Don’t Listen to Gossip. Not so much listen, because, heck as writers we are practically given a license to eavesdrop and gather information on the human condition all in the name of research, but if you must listen, don’t take it to heart. Learn to step back and measure what is being said around you with an air of detached reason. Because writers love to sing out loud even when we can’t hold a note. We love the spotlight. I’m not saying we are all a bunch of liars trying to get our solo, but we do get caught up in the competition that seems to take on a life of its own every year about this time. I’ve seen good writers literally melt down and let themselves be derailed by gossip or even, believe it or not, another’s good fortune. Stay focused on your dreams and goals, like Rachel does episode after episode. Even with a slushy in her face, she remains a focused star in the making.
3) Pack Light. Really, you don’t need a sparkling new outfit for every event of every day. You are not Lady GaGa. You don’t see the editors and agents wearing outfits to dazzle. They wear comfortable clothes and sensible shoes. Take a cue from them. Having a small, well coordinated suitcase of clothes takes away the stress of what to wear. At least it does for me. Besides, that saves more room for bringing home goodies. And like Rachel, bring a nice cardigan. You can never go wrong with a good cardigan.
4) Pitching. If you disregard everything I’ve said, hear this. If you have a chance to pitch, but are shaking like a sapling in a Florida hurricane, remember this: that junior editor across the table is sweating bullets that someone is going to cry if she refuses their pitch, so she’ll most likely say yes to everything. So go in and think of yourself as a sure thing. If you have issues with being easy, then cry. Your choice.
5) You are not there to sell a book. Yeah, you heard me correctly, you are not there to sell a book. So why go? To grow as an artist. To learn, to listen, to make new connections, to take the pulse of what is happening in the industry. If you go like my barracuda friend above, prowling the corridors in your perfectly coordinated suit and heels, and shooting down the competition by throwing slushies at other people’s dreams, you will miss opportunity after opportunity to meet some really great people, to gain priceless advice in workshops, to gather around you the energy that will carry you back home ready and excited to get writing again. Besides, no one likes the slushy tossers.
Meanwhile, I’ll be home, watching Glee reruns and missing all my good friends. Now, did I miss anything? What is your best advice, Glee inspired or not?
Fantastic blog, Elizabeth. Every point is spot on.
I hope you are going to next year’s conference. It will be great to see you there.