Follow the Yellow Brick Road to My Handy Dandy Conference Scheduler
One week from today, Romance Writers of America will kick off another National Conference. Blogs have been blasting the air waves with helpful hints and lists to prepare a romance writer for the journey to Orlando, as well as imparting wisdom on how to survive those five inspirational and insightful days. Whether this is a romance writer’s first time attending, or fifth time, every attendee develops his or her particular way of getting through the week through a process of elimination. I’m no exception.
The best thing to do before leaving for conference is to gather every bit of advice, apply it and personalize it to fit your lifestyle or conference experience. (An excellent packing list is available in the archives of: www.writingplayground.blogspot.com/.)
No one should have to go into conference oblivious. Writing chapters and websites are loaded with advice and motivation: bring a sweater or pashmina (conference halls are chilly), wear comfortable but totally rockin’ shoes (a Heart of Dixie phenomena), bring an extra bag or box to send home free books, share a business card and strike up conversation with someone you’ve never met (the greatest friendships are forged this way), and remember to present yourself in a business-like manner (you are your brand).
How do you stay calm? How do you find the yellow brick road sure to lead to the best workshops, booksignings, author chats, spotlights on publishing houses, and special events without losing track of time or forgetting where you wanted to be? My secret is my Handy Dandy RWA Conference Scheduler.
You may scoff at my anal attempt to be organized. Those who know me know I love spreadsheets. But don’t be fooled. It’s extremely hard to keep up with all the events going on at conference. And for a borderline introvert/extrovert, with one look at my Handy Dandy scheduler, I know what is going on, and when and where I need to be there. Less headache, double the fun!
Where do I get this schedule and how do I go about creating one, you ask? First, decide which track you are on at this stage of your writing career. Do you want to learn more about Craft, Publishing, a Writer’s Life, or Research? Is this the year you want to learn as much as you can about the particulars of writing in general, publishing houses, editor/agent panels, and diverse or trendy genres? Are you in need of inspiration? Author chats and special presentations are good for encouragement and rejuvenating the muse. Deciding these key points puts you 1/3 of the way there. You've dodged the wicked witch of the east, confusion, and are headed to a headache free conference.
Second, select the workshops you are most interested in, hour by hour, day by day. Print off the schedule RWA has posted online. Highlight workshops on your track. Pick 1st, 2nd, and 3rd choices because classes are sometimes rescheduled when you arrive. This also gives you the ability to pick something else right away— and I recommend sitting at the back of the class if you are so inclined— and in that case, slip out and attend one of the other classes on your list. Now you're skipping 2/3 of the way to a headache free zone.
Third, add this detailed list to the Handy Dandy spreadsheet I use at conference. I’ve developed my own formula in Excel to keep me organized. With this schedule, I never feel overwhelmed or flustered. There are columns for Meals, Publisher spotlights, Booksignings, Events and three Workshop choices. Later, during conference, I can easily pencil in something new or change my mind. But the basic shell of my schedule is always there to keep me from feeling overwhelmed. Oh, Dorothy! No need for ruby slippers. You've made it to Oz!
I’m including the basic shell of my Handy Dandy spreadsheet in this blog for anyone who would like to give it a try. There is no reason to be unprepared at conference and with a little bit of planning on your part, you can walk into every room with confidence so you can learn and network with the best.
So what helps you stay on track at conference? Do you rely on lists? Is this spreadsheet something you might be willing to give a try?