Little necessities to make life easier at Conference

I said I'd talk about the things that make my life easier at conference, and so I shall. There is no rhyme or reason to this, just a list of things I've found indispensable. You know to pack things like your phone charger and all that, so I won't waste time talking about it.

No, what I mean to talk about are the things I really, really can't travel without.

1. Hand sanitizer. Really, I can't say it enough. I must have my bottle of sanitizer so I'm prepared at all times. Like when I shake hands with someone right before sitting down at the luncheon table. It's not personal, but germs are evil and the sickest I've ever been was after the conference in San Francisco in 2008. OMG. If you shake my hand and whip out your hand sanitizer, I won't be offended.

2. Moisturizer. The good stuff. Hotels can be havoc on the skin, what with the forced air all day. I use Clinique Night Surge Youth, or some such combination of those words. And no, I don't typically have dry skin.

3. My mom showed me a thing I might not be able to do without. It's Clinique All About Eyes Serum. It's a roll on and claims to de-puff instantly. Which, trust me, you might want at conference. (Another related item is Visine, for the redness you might get when you aren't sleeping as much as usual.)

4. My new must-have: Smashbox Photo Finish Foundation Primer. I get the one with SPF. This stuff keeps your makeup from melting and running. It's amazing! Whether you wear liquid makeup or mineral powder, it works wonders.

5. Redken 05 Touch Control mousse. I have limp hair. This stuff gives me body.

6. Redken Hot Sets 22. Spray this on after blow-drying moussed hair. Use hot curling iron. The curls stay and don't fall out the way they usually do! (Though if you are one of those people with great hair that is naturally full of body, doesn't need washed except once a week, and holds any style effortlessly, I may just have to hate you. Or your hair anyway.) πŸ˜‰

7. Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold hairspray by L'Oreal. Never, ever stiff. Combs right out. Holds style. I believe you can only get this at Target.

8. Band-Aid Friction Block Stick. It looks like deodorant, but it's for your feet to keep your shoes from rubbing. I carry this like I carry the hand sanitizer.

9. Courtesy of my friend Marilyn Puett, the Playground Monitor, I have discovered Miss Oops. This is a dry sponge that gets deodorant marks off the lovely black dress you just pulled over your head.

10. Gel inserts for high heels by Dr. Scholls. I get the ones with arch support.

11. Ear plugs (or cotton balls in a pinch). Because hotels sound different than home. And because your neighbors can party late into the night when you're trying to sleep. (If they make it through your earplugs, don't be afraid to call the front desk and complain. Provided it's truly late, of course.)

I'm probably forgetting something, but that's most of it. The necessities that make my life easier while traveling. With the exception of the roll-on eye de-puffer, since I've never used it before — though I'm about to go get a tube.

My number one tip, however, is to stay hydrated. For me, this means drinking plenty of water. Staying hydrated keeps your skin nice too. Moisturizer isn't only a cream you rub on the outside. πŸ™‚

What are your travel necessities?

What to Wear at Conference

I'm seeing lots of tips about what to pack for the RWA National Conference in Orlando. There are some good suggestions out there, and some that have me blinking and wondering why someone would suggest such a thing. So I decided to offer my suggestions on wardrobe, which is based solely on me being a prissy, girly, shoe-loving, wanna-be fashionista. I say wanna-be because I know I don't have “Sex and the City” fashion sense. I want it desperately, but I lack the SJP teeny tiny body and the pocketbook to go with those clothes, handbag, and shoe choices.

(If you want packing and other tips, visit my friends at The Writing Playground. They've been talking conference all last week, and I think they're doing so this week as well.)

Okay, so what's a wanna-be fashionista going to wear all week? Dresses and sky-high heels, y'all. (The flip flops travel in the totebag I carry, just in case the feet can't hack it anymore.)

Why would anybody be so crazy as to do this? Because I want to a) project a professional image, and b) when I dress up, I feel good — and this is important for an introvert who's venturing into conference land. Oh, and c) I already wear baggy, comfy clothes all the time because I stay home and write — this is my chance to get out and dress up a bit!

Yes, I am likely to bring 5 to 8 pairs of shoes, not counting the flip-flops. Yes, I know I have to make it all fit in one bag and one carry-on because I prefer not to pay for a second bag (unless flying Southwest, at which point all bets are off!).

The way you fit 5 to 8 pairs of shoes in a suitcase is this: make the clothes less bulky. Pack underwear and Spanx (gotta have those!) in the shoes. High heels take up less room than loafers, especially if they're strappy (or mine do anyway! Guess it depends on your shoe size). Bring microfiber. This year, I'm doing less microfiber than usual, but it all still fits. This is what I will bring:

Outfit for Tuesday night dinner with other authors
Dress for Wednesday.
Dress for Wednesday night Literacy signing.
Casual clothes for after party.
Dress for Thursday.
Dress for Thursday night event.
Dress for Friday.
Dress for Friday night event.
Dress for Saturday.
RITA/GH dress, which is bulky and which friends are sticking in their garment bag for me.
Sunday go-home wear. Casual.

I will also bring one or two extra dresses, just in case. Naturally, there's underwear to go with all that. Jewelry goes in the carry on. Toiletries, of which I bring many, are in a zipped case that hangs on the back of the bathroom door. I zip the case and stick it inside a giant Ziploc so nothing leaks on the clothes. If I have room, I also pack a few wire hangers that I can leave behind if I want. Why? Because there are never enough hangers in hotel closets when you have 2 women in a room together.

I also bring two sweaters, one in white and one in black (I wear one on the plane), because conference hotels are notoriously cold. I do not bring workout gear. I know I won't find the time to do it. I also don't bring a bathing suit. I have yet to have a spare moment to hit the pool, so I just don't bother packing one. I used to bring one, and the workout gear, and it was nothing but a joke. You may be more disciplined than I with your workouts, and you may make time for the pool, so plan accordingly.

Yes, you can bring Capri pants, slacks, microfiber tops and one pair of sensible shoes that go with everything. No one says you have to wear dresses, not even to the parties. But that's what I like to wear, and I've told you why. I feel professional, pretty, and confident. Dress the way you want to be known; project the image you think of when you picture a professional writer (and your picture might be different than mine; just know what that image is and dress accordingly). Don't be afraid to trot out some color either. I see lots of suggestions to build a wardrobe around black. It's a good suggestion, and I'll have my fair share of black, but I also have some colorful dresses too. Sometimes, adding colorful jewelry, scarves, or even shoes to that black outfit can really make it pop.

Ultimately, these are just my suggestions about what works for me. You may have other ideas about what makes you feel confident and professional. I dress like I'm going to a job interview — which means I'm ready for anything, including that impromptu on-camera interview I had at RT in Ohio. πŸ™‚

(Notice there was no mention of clothes for touring the parks. That's because I'm not. If you're doing that, I'd definitely bring sensible shoes, some shorts or Capris, and some cotton shirts. No microfiber because it doesn't breathe — and you'll want the fabric to breathe in that heat, believe me.)

Later this week, I'll talk about some of the little necessities that I find very helpful. One week to go, y'all! πŸ™‚

The Conference Dream

For some reason, in the weeks leading up to conference, I always have conference dreams. Last night, for the third time, I dreamt that I'd gone to conference and forgotten to print out the schedule I'd made that has all my events on it. I don't know why I keep dreaming about forgetting my schedule! But I do. In last night's dream, I actually missed an event because of it. In a previous dream, I left the RITA/GH ceremony to go to the powder room — and couldn't find my way back. And I really wanted to get back because they were serving dinner and I hadn't eaten yet!

(And, unlike in most quest type dreams, I actually made it back with assistance from a hotel worker.)

In last night's dream, I was rooming with Kimberly Lang (which I am not really doing this year) and we had both brought so many of our shoes that we had piles and piles of shoes in our room and couldn't find our clothes.

Then I kept wanting my picture taken with famous authors and the person taking the picture always messed it up. I didn't get one shot of me and Nora. Then there was Michael Jackson — don't ask how or why he showed up in a conference dream. I still don't know.

So those are my silly conference dreams — and I'm sure they aren't over yet with only a few days left until I depart for Orlando. Do you have conference dreams? What's the silliest thing in your dream? Can you top Michael Jackson? 😯

RWA Day Five

We're up to the final day. I'm exhausted telling you about it, so imagine the exhaustion of being there. πŸ™‚ I slept in, thankfully, then made it downstairs in time to meet some of my Southern Magic chapter mates for lunch. We went to Murphy's Pub, where several of us regaled Christy Reece with tales of Twitter and finally convinced her to join. By afternoon, she'd done so and I became one of her first followers.

Here's Marie Campbell and Christy Reece:


We had a great time at lunch, but then it was back to the hotel. I ran into several friends and spent time catching up, then finally ended up in the bar with Janette Kenny, Sandra Marton, and Michelle Willingham. And that, dear readers, is where I stayed until time to get ready for the RITAs. My feet were tired of walking, and I was having too much fun talking.

The RITA/GH ceremony was a lot of fun, as usual, and two of my chapter mates, Danniele Worsham and Kim Law, were up for the Golden Heart award. Kim won, and we're very proud of her in Heart of Dixie.

And now the pictures….

First, here's me with fellow M&B author Kimberly Lang


Now our shoes (we're kind of known for this in HOD)


And now all the members of our chapter who went to conference


The whole week was great fun. It went by too fast, wore me out, and I can't wait until next year! At least it's only a drive to Nashville. This means I can take more shoes since I won't have an airline-imposed weight restriction. Don't tell my hubby…..

Be sure to come back on Monday when I'll be telling my First Sale story over at Dear Author!!

RWA Day Four

We're up to Friday now. My brain was beginning to be fried, and I was certainly exhausted, but there were more fun things to do. First, I had a presentation to give with Crystal Jordan, Maria Geraci, Melissa Francis, and Kate Pearce. Our workshop was called “I Sold to New York…Now What?” and we talked about what a new author can expect in that first year after selling. It was well-attended, and people asked lots of great questions. My initial nerves went away when I realized how interested people were, and how cool my fellow presenters were (I had only just met them!). I realized that I actually like giving workshops; now I need a great idea for next year. πŸ˜‰

After the workshop, I attended a Mills & Boon Meet and Greet. It was great fun to talk to the authors and editors, but nothing was more fun than meeting Jeannie Lin who sold on Wednesday and won the Golden Heart on Saturday. She was understandably quite happy when I met her; I can only imagine what she felt like Saturday night. πŸ™‚ After the meet and greet, we went to the Awards Luncheon where Eloisa James inspired and made people cry all at once. She is a fabulous speaker, and I was certainly moved.

Later that afternoon, I attended the Harlequin Spotlight where the editors from all the lines talked about what they were looking for. The best surprise of the day: my cover emblazoned across the screen for all to see — and the cheer that went up in the audience when Executive Editor Tessa Shapcott said how they'd bought me from their contest. Not sure if it was a friend who started it, but I'm grateful for the enthusiasm. I felt very humbled by it.


At 6:30, I met Tessa and fellow author Kate Hewitt for dinner. We had a lovely meal at a place called Pesto. I'm afraid I gushed over the food — we can't get real Italian food in my part of Alabama. This was the real deal, just like I've eaten in Italy, and I was in culinary heaven. Then we went to the Harlequin party at the Ritz-Carlton. I wish I could show you pictures, but I forgot my camera. *sigh*

The party was loud, fun, and fabulous. Most requested song? “It's Raining Men.” Biggest group dance? “Thriller.” The bar was open, the desserts were flowing, and the DJ was the same guy from San Francisco (and he will be in Nashville too!). It was totally, totally fab. I talked and danced so much, and didn't get to bed until about 1AM. The next morning, my thighs and calves were sore. (Note to self: get into dance shape by next year.)

Tomorrow, the RITAs.

RWA Day Three

Um, Thursday. Yes, that's right. I'm tired just trying to remember! Okay, so Day 3 (officially Day 1 of conference) dawned bright and early when someone had a hair-brained idea to have breakfast at 7:30am. Bear in mind this is really an hour earlier for me. And I had to get up even earlier than that to be there.

So, breakfast with the HMB newbie loop! What fun! Fiona Harper and Donna Alward are officially on the list of people who make me giggle. Especially Donna. Good gracious. But do you think I managed to take even one picture of any of the lovely women present? No, it was too early.

After breakfast is a bit of a blur. There was Janet Evanovich and a great Q&A about her writing life, and then at noon it was time to meet the other Presents authors and editors in the lobby for drinks before adjourning to the Lebanese Taverna for lunch at 1:00. Here's a pic of me and Janette Kenny, who just debuted with the fabulous Pirate Tycoon, Forbidden Baby:

Jan Kenny and me

And Kate Walker and Jennie Lucas, looking all cool and elegant:

Kate Walker and Jennie Lucas

Lunch was fabulous; we talked quite a lot, ate Lebanese food, and discussed our favorite books: Harlequin Presents.

Probably the biggest highlight of my day, aside from spending time with such wonderful people, was my tour of the Washington Post. This was a special tour for HMB authors and editors. We walked around the very quiet newsroom, saw Bob Woodward's office, met a Pulitzer-winning journalist, and peeked into the offices of the late Katharine Graham and her son, Don Graham.

HMB authors and editors at Washington Post

Best of all, we sat in on Story Hour, which is when the various editors of each section get together and discuss the stories for the next day, what will appear on the front page and why, etc. In fact, they made a change while we listened in and a story about President Obama speaking to the NAACP moved to the front page while a story about the Maryland GOP's financial woes moved to the Metro section. The reasoning was fabulous and it was a fascinating discussion to be allowed to listen in on. I'll never look at the WP the same way now that I've sat in that room and watched the paper come together on screen.

The day finally ended with The Golden Network Dessert reception where I was booted to alumni status for having sold a book in 2008. (We won't discuss my brief appearance at the Harlequin Pajama Party or the trek across the lobby in leopard print pajamas that preceded it. The shame, the shame.)

Now do you see why there's so little sleep happening at conference? It's non-stop activity. But I wouldn't trade it!

Tomorrow, the Harlequin Party…..

Duh, just when I said I didn't have any pictures of the ladies from breakfast, three of them are in this photo with me. Donna Alward is beside me (I'm in the yellow Hawaiian dress), Fiona Harper is all the way at the other end, and Barbara Wallace is all the way at the back, half hidden by Shirley Jump and editor Kim Young. For a much better explanation of who is in this photo, see Donna's post at The Pink Heart Society.