Not that I’m an expert or anything, but having slogged through my first Nationals Conference, I’ve learned some very valuable lessons that I’m going to share with y’all.
First we’ll work on the “Do’s”:
DO wear your First Timer’s badge if it’s your first time. People actually gravitate towards you more. It makes them remember their first conference, not to mention that this great group of people are more than happy to help you out.
DO talk to as many people as you can. Writers are introverts. I think I read that in the contract I made with myself. My real self (the one who doesn’t go to conferences and blogs) is antisocial. She doesn’t like people, she doesn’t like crowds, and she doesn’t like to talk to anyone but family. Danica, on the other hand, is a social butterfly. Once that badge was slipped over my head, Stephanie became Danica. I talked and talked and talked (I might’ve even asked some questions too). While you’re talking to new people, you’re learning more about…sorry y’all, Coast Guard guy just walked by my office. *takes a moment to drool* Um, where was I? Oh yeah, you’re learning about the industry from people who’ve been in it longer than you have. Plus, you’re able to impart some of your own hard-earned lessons to other newbies.
DO attend as many workshops as you can, but don’t wear yourself out. There is so much going on at every given moment that it’s easy to be overwhelmed. I slacked, skipping workshops to go to book signings (did I mention there are free books all over the place???), catch a bite to eat, or hang out with the smokers. But I don’t feel as though I missed out on anything. The six workshops I did take were great and I learned a lot, but I didn’t fry my brain out either. That’s very important.
DO bring plenty of comfortable clothes for those moments when you aren’t being a writer. Orlando was hot. It wasn’t much hotter than South Louisiana, but I don’t move around as much here as I did there. I took so many showers, I’m surprised the housekeeping staff didn’t just leave me a dozen towels. Light, loose-fitting clothing that allows your body to breathe is important in that kind of heat. If you’re like me and anal about sweat and body odor, make sure you have plenty of clothes to change into because you’ll be showering until the cows come home.
DO volunteer. I signed up to help set up for the literacy autographing. It was sweaty, dirty work, but I met new people and got to peek at the books that were being signed that night. In fact, I found books I ended up either buying or picking up at the book signings. It was like being in a book reader’s heaven all week.
Now for the Don’ts:
DON’T think that flip-flops are the best shoes to wear for a conference no matter how comfortable they are. You will be doing a hellluva lot of walking. I think the second toe on my left foot is permanently damaged. It’s been numb since Thursday. I don’t think I’ll ever wear another flip-flop as long as I live.
DON’T bring the most uncomfortable heels you can find because it matches your outfit. You will be standing a good deal. 2000 people trying to get into a room…yeah, the lines are long. Make sure your shoes are ones you can wear for hours and hours.
DON’T skip the Literacy Autographing. It’s a great time to mingle with non-writers, see what they’re buying, plus you get to help out a wonderful cause. It can be intimidating to walk into a room with over 500 authors and try to find the one you’re there to see, but it’s worth it.
DON’T be a wallflower. This harkens back to one of the rules in the DO list. Sitting off to the side, closed off from people (body language, people!) is no way to have fun. If you’re looking for peace and quiet, but don’t want to be alone, sit in the lobby and people watch. I had several moments like this and I loved it. I also met people this way.
DON’T expect to get a full night’s sleep. Y’all know how much I love my sleep. I crave it, yet I might’ve slept at the most 4 hours a night. I stayed up late chatting with my newly found friends until the wee hours of the morning and woke up at my regular time (5 a.m.), and though I ended up passing out the minute I got home, I can’t be upset about it.
That’s about it. I’m pretty sure this will be the last post I make about Nationals because I don’t want to bore everyone. Suffice it to say I had a blast, made some wonderful friends, and met my role models. Could an introverted, antisocial writer ask for anything more? (Other than a six book deal and a seven figure signing bonus, that is.)