Sunday, July 4, 2010

Conference Countdown - Kate Walker's Packing List For First Time Attendees

Conference veteran Kate Walker gives a bit of advice of what to pack...

I still remember how  it felt to head for my very first conference back in 2000. I was so nervous. But I soon got  settled and this year I’m back for my 10th – how did that happen?

In 2002, I helped introduce some ‘newbies’  (aka Conference Virgins)  to the Conference experience  and then for the next 2 years I ran the first timers’  welcome scheme and newsletter – something that’s now an established part of the conference. So when I was asked to write a blog post about the things a first-timer should pack, I just had to go back over my past newsletters to collect up my list.

So here is the Virgin’s/First Timer's Packing List.   Hope it helps!

  • Clothes you can  live in for a day of  workshops/sitting on chairs/taking notes/taking part/drinking tea or coffee/eating lunch/talking/meeting people.  Be comfortable  - dress code is pretty casual.

  • Layers – this is England

  • Rain protection – umbrella/ jacket to run from accommodation to workshops etc

  • Shoes you can walk in from bedroom to workshop to coffee to workshop to lunch to queue for lunch in to workshops to tea to your room . . .

  • Glitz  for the celebration dinner – this is the time to wear shoes to flaunt  and have photographed for the blog . Some people dress up to the nines, other just  up to five – use it as an excuse to glam up if you want.

  • Notebook File Pens – you may be provided with some of these – if fact I know you’ll have a pen because I’ve donated them – but it’s amazing how many people forget that they will need to take notes  etc The goody bag usually has paper in it but if you have a preference for a particular sort of notebook, bring one.

  • A bag to carry them around in and collect up handouts from workshops  papers will slip and slide in your hands. Straps long enough to go over your shoulder help – specially when trying to drink tea/coffee/eat bacon rolls etc

  • It can be useful to have a small fold-up/cotton bag to go inside your other bag to carry the books you inevitably buy from the bookshop

  • Don’t bring book(s) to read – your goody bag will provide some and there is always the bookshop

  • Small bottle of water to carry round  - specially in workshops etc if it gets warm and have water  in our  room to avoid hangover  see below!

  • Cash for  books, drinks, extras

  • Tissues

  • Alarm clock  - you don’t want to miss anything

  • Paracetamol  for ‘overload’ headache

  • And/or   hangover cure – water/paracetamol/milk thistle. Every year the bar staff are warned the Romantic Novelists can shift a little wine. Every year they don’t quite believe it – until they have to send for fresh supplies!

  • Ear plugs if noise bothers you – it’s a place you’re not used to and people do gather and chat in the kitchens etc.

  • Toiletries shampoo etc

  • Hairdryer if needed

  • Minimum makeup stuff – do you really think you’ll have time for a full glam up for the evening?

  • Pyjamas or similar for wandering from room to kitchen/staying and chatting in kitchen

  • List of books you want to get hold of/authors you hope to meet

  • Camera

  • Laptop/ipad/blackberry/whatever if you really can’t live without email

  • A pack of disposable plastic tumblers are a good idea – wine drinking back in the digs can be difficult with no glasses....  (Thanks to Anna Louise Lucia – one of the original ‘virgins’  who reminded me about this one!)

  • Anna also says:” I bring a note of my workshop choices, so I don’t have to double check.”

  • As Jan says in the Conference pack you might want to bring extra tea bags.

Other points you might want to consider:

Pace yourself 
The RNA is quite a small conference, particularly when compared to America’s RWA – but it doesn’t always seem that way when it’s your first time and you don’t know many people. You don’t have to do everything and even if you attended all the workshops you wanted you probably won't take everything in if you're rushing frantically from A to Z. One of the important benefits of a conference is meeting and talking with fellow writers - people who actually get what this is all about.  Balance this with the workshop benefits and take time out when you need it. It's so easy to get swept away in the hype, the networking, the fun but taking a moment to regroup your thoughts/grab a caffeine boost can set you up for the rest of the conference. If you give yourself some "break" time, it'll stop you feeling overwhelmed and give you a chance to absorb what you've heard.

Meeting authors and others
Remember that published writers are only human - this means that they  will  usually be easily approachable and happy to talk - if you approach them at the right time.  Specially if you want to ask them to sign a book! But published authors can get as overwhelmed as new writers. When an author is talking with an agent/senior editor - any editor is not the best time to approach. But if they are looking a bit lonely or in a queue for lunch  that's a good time to stop and say Hi.

Smile and say hello to people.  Introduce yourself. You never know who you might end up standing/sitting next to

Above everything else, have fun  and enjoy yourself.  If you have a problem  or feel lost – ask. There will always be someone who’ll know the answer or if they don’t they can find someone who will help.

See you there



Talli Roland said...

Great tips - thank you! I'm a conference virgin this year, so this is really helpful!

Jane Holland said...

My big issue, being a non-make-up wearer most days, is whether or not to bother with the stuff. Though I'll probably bring lippy and mascara at least for the dinners.

Had to laugh at the 'don't bring anything to read' comment. If only it were possible. I just crazily accepted an emergency invitation to review 14 books of poetry by July 14th, so am unlikely to come entirely bookless, even if I only crack them out at bedtime!

Jane, who is a sucker for punishment!

Saskia Walker said...

Wonderful tips from a wonderful lady who made my first ever (scary!) conference experience so much more manageable.

Julie Cohen said...

Plastic tumblers. Yes. Never thought of that one before.

I knew I forgot to buy comfy shoes...

Kate Walker said...

Hi Talli
Glad to help. And don't worry about being a virgin - we'll have you 'deflowered'. Everyone is very friendly and just a little crazy (well we are writers!)

Kate Walker said...

Jane there usually isn't much time between the other conference events and the dinner, so a bit of lipstick and mascara is probably all you'll need. Plus if it should actually be summer-warm then the lighter the better.
I know about the 'no books' advice. I have to have one for the train journey anyway. And my DH will probably chat with you about the poetry - if you get to read any . . .

Kate Walker said...

Oh Saskia, you helped me that time too - two lost Yorkshire girls in the middle of the huge RWA book signing. It was so good to have someone to talk to.

Kate Walker said...

The plastic tumblers advice was of course Anna's, Julie - trust her to think of the need to have something to drink out of in the kitchens late in the night. She's
very . . . is practical the word? Or do I mean that she likes a little wine .. .

And comfy shoes, yes - for the walking about the campus bit - so that you can then wear the glam shoes without collapsing in agony at the dinner.

Nell Dixon said...

As a coffeeaholic I always take my own mug so I can make a drink in my room. Cups aren't quite the same. And, if like me you don't have the kind of feet that can do glam shoes it's no problem - just find a comfy pair.

Chris Stovell said...

Hmm, I'm breaking myself in to the conference with one day's attendance on Saturday... how many hangover cures will I need??

Seriously, I'm really looking forwards to meeting people there even if I am slightly nervous!

Kat Black said...

Another virgin here, eager for de-flowering. I have to ask, though, will you all still respect me in the morning... or will the hangover be too bad for me to care?

Kate Walker said...

Hi Nell - so looking forward to seeing one of my original 'virgins' again. I agree, coffee just isn't the same in a cup. And I don't exactly have 'glam shoes feet' myself but I do try to find interesting footwear for the dinner at least. After that I shall be mostly wearing fit flops!

Kate Walker said...

Chris - I think you'll wish you'd signed up for the whole weekend. If you're just staying for the Saturday then you won't need the hangover cures - but you might bring some along for those of us who will have been there for two nights already!

See you there - and don't be nervous. Everyone is quite human (er - well, sort of)