Packing for Nationals? Don’t forget … 4


  • to leave lots of space in your suitcase for all the books you’ll be bringing back. If you live in the States you can arrange to have them shipped home, but if you’re from Canada or elsewhere, it’ll cost a lot more, especially if the government decides to charge a tariff on them. Then again with the new charges the airlines are adding for your luggage, you may decide it’s just as easy to ship them.
  • don’t over pack – If you’re going to the big Rita/Golden Heart do, then you need something more formal, and some of the evening parties you can get a little kicky but for the workshops during the day, business casual is good. Dress pants, blouses, etc. If you wear a three piece suit, people may mistake you for an agent or editor. (Or JR Ward) Well, maybe that’s what you’re going for, but still, remember to be comfortable. Just make sure your skirt’s not too short. I followed one large lady up an escalator last year and her a$$ cheeks were hanging below her hemline. It was not a pretty sight.
  • bring your laptop’s charger if you’re bringing your laptop with you. I went on a trip once (not to last year’s Nationals) and left it plugged into the power bar at home. Ooops.
  • and speaking of chargers, if you’re bringing a cell phone that works in the States (my Virgin one didn’t, so I didn’t bring mine), bring that charger too. Oh, and don’t forget the phone itself.
  • if you use a plug-in mouse with your laptop, don’t forget that either. Luckily I carried a spare when BlueSue realized she’d forgotten hers.
  • don’t forget to take a camera (and its charger too if it needs one, or extra batteries)
  • VERY IMPORTANT!!! Bring comfortable shoes! You’ll be surprised how much walking you’re going to do, especially if you want to wander around downtown San Francisco. But you’ll be getting a lot of exercise just in the hotel as you race between events.
  • don’t forget your business cards. You will be exchanging them with people you meet – and collecting theirs as well.
  • and of course, don’t forget your passport and plane tickets. Won’t get far without them.

And while you’re there, also don’t forget to:

  • talk to people. The lady who shares a couch as she’s resting her feet may turn out to be a big name author who inspired you to write in the first place. It’s very simple All you have to say is Hello – I’m [insert name here]. What do you write? or “Where are you from?” You never know who you may be sitting beside or what you may learn from them, published or unpublished. Who knows, it may even inspire your next plot, or may help get your manuscript a home.(Hint – if they have silver or gold pins on their name badge, the silver ones represent RITAs they were nominated for but didn’t win, the golds ones represent the RITAs they won! That’s how I met Pam Morsi last year when she was putting her badge together on the couch beside me and adding four silver ladies and two gold ones. “What are those pins for?” I’d naively asked. And she told me, and then we got into a lovely conversation for at least an hour after that.)
  • and while you’re talking with that more experienced writer, don’t forget to LISTEN. BlueSue and I had a wonderful conversation with Pam Morsi that afternoon. She was very gracious and gave us newbies some good advice. And then she introduced us to Cathy Maxwell and a few other authors.
  • If it’s your first time at Nationals, make sure you get a First Timers ribbon when they give you your badge. (It’s different from a First Sale ribbon). That way the more experienced authors, like Pam and Cathy, will know you’re probably lost and more than a little over whelmed (I didn’t get one or even learn about them until the second day, but I think my lame-ass question tipped Pam off that I was a first-timer) . Anyway, people will go out of their way to help you out. Believe me, you’ll meet some really nice people at Nationals.
  • Another Very Important thing to remember: be discreet – your conversations can be overheard. Don’t bad mouth ANYONE while you’re there, you never know who may be listening.
  • no matter how tempting it is, do NOT follow editors or agents into the bathroom. I didn’t see it done personally, but who hasn’t heard the horror stories.
  • if you’ve managed to snag an appointment to pitch to an agent or an editor, PRACTICE your pitch to your friends. Face to Face. It’s completely different than doing it to a mirror or to yourself in the car. And if someone’s practicing with you, ask them tough questions you think an editor or agent might ask (i.e. Tell me about the hero’s character arc, what’s his motivation?) It helps to practice clamping down on the floppy jaw syndrome that hits while you’re fumbling for an answer.
  • While you’re pitching, don’t forget to breathe! And when you’re pitching try to talk s-l-o-w-e-r. Believe me, knowing the clock is ticking, you’ll have a tendency to race through your pitch. 9 minutes is actually fairly long. And it’s not going to help your pitch if the editor can’t understand you.
  • Oh, and if you didn’t manage to get an appointment, don’t despair. While I was waiting for my appointment last year, openings came up with someone every single time they called out the groups. So hang around the hall and wait to see if you can luck into an appointment with your dream agent or editor. And while you’re waiting, don’t forget to practice your pitch. (It also helps if you’ve researched the various agents/editors who will be there so you don’t find yourself pitching an erotica to an agent who only handles inspirationals. I brought crib notes – honest!)
  • Remember that camera I told you to pack? Don’t forget to use it – take LOTS and LOTS of pictures, especially at the Literary Signing or while sightseeing. I’ll expect to see them when you get back, or while you’re there and you plan to post them to your blog.
  • Keep the little piece of paper the RWA sent you about your editor-agent appointments handy. Your head will be spinning really quickly with everything that’s going on – it’s handy to have it written down to refer to.
  • If you’re not signing at the Literacy Event the first night, and have to line up – get there early. The line ups are HUGE. And again, don’t forget to talk to everyone – ask what they write, where they’re from, be prepared with a couple of business cards just in case. And be aware, it’s not just authors but agents, editors and the PUBLIC who are there. So again, be discreet.
  • if you can afford it, buy a copy of the audio disks they make at the workshops – I’m still listening to my copies from last year. They’re worth the money. Plus that way if you have to choose between two workshops or a workshop and a publisher’s spotlight, you can still get the information on the one you miss.
  • At any of the booksignings, if you see an author sitting there without anyone in her lineup – go up and talk to her, pick up her book and ask her about it. I met some fantastic authors that way, and they come away feeling good too. I even got a hug from Beverly Jenkins!
  • And my last piece of advice which is really simple, but most people forget is: SMILE! During your pitch, while you’re standing in line, at the person sitting next to you at a workshop. It’ll relieve the tension on you, and make people around you loosen up too.


4 thoughts on “Packing for Nationals? Don’t forget …

  • Shelley Munro

    Great post, Leah. Another hint re chargers – if you take them with you don’t leave them plugged in the socket at the hotel. They’re no good to you there when you’re in another town/city/country! The voice of experience. 🙂

  • Bonnie Staring

    OMG Leah, you don’t know how much I needed to know all of this stuff. THANK YOU.

    :::sends chocolate fountain, a firefighter and a karaoke machine:::

  • Marley Delarose, Author

    Great list of reminders. I'm printing it to keep for all events. I'll take it for M&M in October.

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