by Sharon Lathan
My first conference, EVER!!! Yep, I am very excited. Naturally it has been a big thought in my mind for the past few, well, months…. But especially now since D-Day is literally around the corner. I am typing this while sitting in my trailer in the California Gold Country foothills on our family vacation, trying to enjoy our togetherness and NOT think about Nationals too much! It isn’t too hard as we are having a great time, but I am a planner at heart, so naturally I can’t stop plotting just a bit. And of course the fact that I am ultra organized and one of those Type-A personality people who wants to have everything detailed to the tiniest degree, I am struggling to find the “happy medium.” LOL!
I’m not all that fond of surprises and being out of my element, so I have been chatting with previous conference attendees to get a handle on what to expect and what to bring. Best advice: bring an extra empty suitcase for the goodies and books picked up and purchased, have a sturdy tote to carry conference materials in, bring a light sweater for the A/C cooled rooms, not all workshops are taped so be sure to figure that out in case of overlapping must-sees, it is okay to slip in and out of workshops, and scope out the bathrooms and Starbucks! Sure, some of this is obvious, but when so much is going through your mind it is the obvious that gets forgotten.
Next I have given a great deal of thought to what my specific goals are. The fact is, there are so many fabulous workshops and special events, and then the sheer fun of socializing and making connections, that one just cannot do it all. Again, obvious, but I am one of those want-to-do-it-all kind of gals. Just ask my family about how vacations go! So I had to seriously look at what is most important to me. It was a toss up between spending quality time with my Casa Sisters, other Sourcebooks folks, and fellow authors, and getting educated! As to the former, I know we will all be up to our eyeballs in fun and mingling so I have to keep that expectation loose. Plus I have to fight my own tendency to be shy and retiring. Chatty Sharon must emerge!
As to the latter, deciding what I want most to learn was step one. Career and research-related workshops appealed to me and seemed the most beneficial to where I am. I have poured over the various topic offerings to prioritize what I HAVE TO listen to live and star the alternatives. Thursday workshops high on my list include - How to File Returns and Survive an Audit (I am thinking rationally here!); How to Live in Another Century or Just Sound Like You Did; and Emotion: the Heart of the Novel. Friday must-sees - The Serendipitous Spark; Online Promotion: B(u)y The Book with Sourcebooks’ own Danielle Jackson; Why We Love Mr. Darcy: Insiders Tips on the Historical Market with Julia Quinn (just because I HAVE to!); and Sex Throughout History. Saturday workshop highlights - Lessons of Firefly: Learning from the Works of Joss Whedon (because I am a totally geeky fan and am still hoping Nathan Fillion will pop in!); Prioritizing Life, Setting Goals and Time Management (boy do I need this one); Making the Most of Online Marketing; and High-Octane Heroes.
In between all that is the Literacy book signing, the luncheons with big-time speakers, the Romance Banditas Bash, Spotlight on Sourcebooks, chatting with Danielle, the Sourcebooks dinner, Moonlight Madness, Goody Rooms, the formal awards banquet, and the Sourcebooks’ book signing. I am SO looking forward to sitting with my Casablanca sisters, signing Mr. and Mrs. Fitzwilliam Darcy for (she prays) many interested people, and having a blast! Truly, this is the big event for me. Whew! Don’t think I’ll be doing any sightseeing on this trip.
So on Tuesday, July 14 – 2 days hence - I will be leaving on a jet plane, traveling to Washington DC for four crazy days of workshops and adventure. Naturally I will be taking my trusty laptop with me and I do hope to find time here and there to share tidbits of what is happening on my blog. On pre-conference Wednesday I’ll get registered and plan to do a fair amount of wandering about. Time to get the lay of the land and discover where those bathrooms and Starbucks are located! Hopefully I will run into a few of you wandering about as well. I wish all of you were attending. Perhaps next year we can ALL be in Nashville.
OK, that is what is on my mind. It isn’t too late for suggestions or advice – bring it on! Share your past conference adventures or current thoughts. What workshops are on your must-see list? What events are the biggies for you?