OMG! Squee! T -19 days and counting until we all go wild at #LoveGoneWild #RWAus17 and… well, I’m just a little bit excited.
Love Gone Wild is my third conference, so I’m now an ‘old hand’ – ha! I remember how nervous I was at my first conference (Get Fresh in Melbourne in 2015) and how I made myself a promise going into the event that I would say yes to everything – no matter what it was. That promise was hard for me – I’m normally cautious and don’t often say yes to anything that I’ve not been able to plan, organise or research. But I did it for conference and it was the best thing I have ever done.
So, in the spirit of passing some good advice onto anyone attending for the first time, here are my ten best tips for getting the most out of conference.
1. Step out of your comfort zone
Make yourself a promise to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Set yourself a challenge to meet five new people. Introduce yourself to five of your favourite authors (this is a tough one but try it, I dare you!). Try to work your elevator pitch into every conversation you have, or learn ten new things from the workshops. If you’re a newbie – go to all the newbie events.
That being said, think like a professional. DO NOT bail an agent or publisher up in the loo (yes, it’s been done before…). DON’T interrupt your most favourite ever author when she’s in deep conversation with someone (yep, that’s been done too). DON’T get yourself into a fight with a publisher or agent (yep, this has also been done before…). It’s okay to fangirl a little – but don’t be a stalker. If you happen to rub shoulders with Valerie Parv at the scones – introduce yourself. If you happen to be in a lift with Anne Gracie, say hello. If you happen to be standing behind Kate Cuthbert in the coffee queue, smile and ask her how she’s enjoying the conference. If you happen to be sitting at a table with Amy Andrews, ask her when Ryder will be let loose on the world – her #SydneySmokeRugby series is hot!
2. Take time out if you need it
There are a lot of people at the conference. If you need to take a little time away from people, then do it. Duck back to your room, take a walk around the block, go get your caffeine hit from a café outside the venue. You don’t HAVE to go to every session… if you’re inspired by something and want to take some time out to brainstorm how you’re going to use it then do it. Do what works for you.
3. Set yourself some goals
Writing is fun (in a kind of sadistic way…) but you’re likely at conference because you want to be a ‘professional’ or ‘published’ writer. This means treating it like a job – and most jobs require you to set some performance goals. It costs a lot to get to conference – so what is that worth to you? What do you have to achieve while there to make that outlay worthwhile? Don’t forget to make your goals specific, realistic and timely – and relevant to you. Everyone’s at a different place. If you’re only just finishing your first novel and want to sell it to Harlequin Mills & Boon, don’t compare yourself to Marion Lennox (but read her stuff, she’s amazing!
4. Take a bigger suitcase than you need
For those coming from interstate, believe me the hassle of having to wait for your baggage to be deplaned or manhandling luggage on public transport will be nothing compared to trying to shove your book booty into your carry-on. And then there’s the horror of having to debate which books you must leave behind. There will be loot. It’s unavoidable. So be generous with your luggage sizing (or maybe bring some sort of hardy tote bag with you that you can fill up as carry on for the trip home).
5. Layers, layers, layers or let’s talk about clothes
Advance weather forecasts have Bris-Vegas in the early 20s temperature-wise for Love Gone Wild, but the air-conditioning in hotel conference suites is always low to combat the body heat of hundreds of people. Pack wisely – and think layers. Most people wear something in the broad realms of business casual. Neat, tidy, professional. You may want to try something fancier if you’re pitching but it’s not required. As long as your ass isn’t hanging out of those trendy jeans, you’re good. For the cocktail party and dinner –some people go all out and some don’t – so wear whatever makes you feel fabulous, and confident (but beware, you’ll be walking/standing some so make sure the shoes are comfy).
Also, finally, remember that Love Gone Wild is advertised as a fragrance-free event (to ensure that everyone can focus on the event and not get sick/sneezy/a headache from the eau de whatever on their neighbour).
I love pens. And, as was pointed out to me by the awesome Janet Gover, you’re going to want to have something with you to capture all the brilliant tips you’re going to learn. So, conference is an excellent excuse to hit Kikki K right? Alternatively, you can bring your laptop, or tablet. Whatever means of capturing information works for you.
7. Engage on social media
Whether you’re a Facebooker, a Tweeter or an Instagrammer, there are plenty of opportunities to get involved online. I’ll be tweeting some (find me @wordsbykc) so please say hi! And, maybe think about bringing a portable charger for your phone/tablet… because trust me, that battery will drain and you don’t want to be caught short when [insert fabulous author name here] agrees to have a selfie with you.
8. Drink water
There can be a lot of alcohol at these events 😊 so remember to alternate between the champers and the H2O. Bring a water bottle with you and fill it/chill it in your room. Also remember you’re at a professional conference so naked runs down corridors at four in the morning* should be left to the rugby league players please. Limit your liquor and don’t forget to eat.
* No, as far as I am aware this has never actually happened at a conference but… there’s a first time for everything!
9. Be ready to pitch at (almost) any opportunity*
Even if you’re not ‘officially’ pitching, you should have an elevator pitch about your current work in progress. Or about you as a writer. If you’re in that lift with Anne Gracie and she asks ‘so, what are you writing?’ you want to have something to tell her. Any sensible opportunity to pitch is good practice. Also, think about investing in business cards (check out Vistaprint or moo.com, and you can design some great stuff on canva.com). They make you feel professional, and they’re a great way of keeping track of your new friends.
*Except the loo. Pitching in the loo is the poo.
10. Find your tribe, love them hard
At the 2015 conference, on the last day, I found myself sitting at a table with a bunch of women I’d met at various times over the weekend. These ladies are now my tribe. We all write within different sub-genres of romance and live up and down the eastern seaboard. We’re all at different stages in life and on our journey to publication. But we’re besties. They’re my tribe (and if you don’t find us at conference, you can come hang out with us at lovesabre.com).