Surviving Your Next Conference: How to Prepare, What to Do, and How to Unwind

In lieu of my usual #5forFriday, I'm taking a quick moment to talk about something near and dear to my heart: conference season. Every July I pack up my suitcase and head somewhere in the U.S. for the Romance Writers of America national conference to take meetings, see friends, and learn a bunch of stuff about the business of writing romance. It's a huge, fun, exhausting five days, and the first time I went it was totally overwhelming.

Because we all remember being paralyzed at some point during our first conference, the founders at HBIC Nation and I put together a handy Conference Survival Guide to help you navigate any professional conference you're headed to. This digital magazine breaks down goals planning, packing, tackling your schedule, in-conference self care, and decompression once you head home. Whether you're a veteran or a newbie, there's something helpful in there for everyone!

Drinking at RWA

RWA NYCIt's no big secret that a lot of the social life at RWA Nationals centers around the hotel bar (even if you aren't a drinker, come hang out with a soda). As great as the hotel bar can be, sometimes you want to get out of the conference hotel and experience something a little different. Since RWA 15 is in New York City and I'm a New Yorker, I thought I'd throw together some recommendations for bars really close to the Marriott Marquis. Anything with a star is a personal recommendation. *Pony Bar - 45th & 10th (craft beer)

*Beer Culture - 45th & 8th (craft beer)
The Jolly Monk - 48th & 9th (beer, waffle sliders <--I don't know what that is but my friend says they're amazing)
Gaf West - 48th & 9th (dive)
Valhalla - 54th & 9th (beer & food)
*Lillie's - 49th & 8th (Victorian cocktail bar)
The Rum House - 47th & 8th (cocktail bar)
Casellula - 52nd & 9th (wine bar)
Briciola - 51st & 9th (wine bar)
*St. Andrews - 46th & 7th (scotch)
If I have enough time before the conference, I'll try to throw together a list of some restaurants in the Hells Kitchen area that you might want to try.

#RWA15: Getting to the Hotel

After the great #RWA1st conversation on Twitter yesterday, I realized that a lot of people have questions about getting to the RWA 15 conference hotel. The good news is that the hotel is in the middle of Times Square which means pretty much every subway line heads there and every cab driver will know exactly where you're headed.

Here's some information to help get you around NYC and to the Marriott Marquis in July. Please remember that all of this information should be checked and double checked. I'm writing this purely base on experience or memory, so if any New Yorkers have easier ways of getting to and from locations, feel free to contact me for an update or leave a comment below.

Getting a Cab

If you're hailing on the street or are not using a reservation service like Uber or Dial 7, stick to yellow cabs.* All you have to do is give the cabbie your cross streets (we don't operate in addresses in NYC) which for the RWA conference hotel is 45th and Broadway.** You can also tell the driver that you're headed to the Marriott Marquis in Times Square and they should know where you're going.

From LaGuardia and JFK, the cabs will charge you a flat rate plus tolls and tip. It is common to tip 15-20% for most rides. Yellow cabs have credit card machines in the back of them now.

There are taxi stands at all airports and train stations. If you're at Penn Station or Grand Central Station, you can also hail off the street. Cabs that have their central light lit up are free. If there's no light on, it means they are engaged and will not stop for you. Know that shift changes and rush hour can be tricky for hailing a cab (around 4:30-5 PM). Also, it's not a lie that there's never a free cab when it's raining.

Cabs aren't cheap, but they're your easiest option. They are what I use when I fly because I'd rather suck it up, pay the flat rate, and know that I'm not relying on the MTA. Splitting cabs can make them much more affordable.

* You'll also see green cabs that look like yellow cabs. Those are outer borough taxis and are not supposed to pick up on the streets in most of Manhattan.

**New Yorkers give address street first and then avenue. For instance, if you're heading to 45th Street and 7th Avenue, you would say, "45th and 7th." Broadway is considered an avenue, hence "45th and Broadway" for the Marriott Marquis.


Uber, private car service, and shuttles are also possibilities from the airport. My experience is that shuttles are a little less expensive than taking a cab but takes you longer. Uber's rates are variable, so you might want to double check before you order one. There are booking desks at the airports for shuttles, but you probably want to reserve in advance.

Public Transportation

LaGuardia Airport

LaGuardia is the closest airport geographically to Manhattan. It's also arguably the biggest pain to get to and from on public transportation. There is no train. Don't look for one. Instead, you're going to want to take the M60 SBS Bus headed to 125th Street. There should be signage directing you to pick up the bus. I believe that the bus is now a select bus which means that there may be vending machines where you pay before you board and then pick up a receipt rather than pay with change or a MetroCard on board.

Get off at the Hoyt Ave/31st St subway station and take the N/Q Train headed for Manhattan. Get off at the 49th Street station. Then it's a short walk to the conference hotel.

JFK International Airport

For public transit from JFK, you're going to want to hop on the AirTrain. The train will take you to the Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue Station where you can pick up the E train heading into Manhattan. You would take the E all the way to 42nd St-Port Authority station and then walk to the conference hotel.

Newark International Airport

I'm going to be totally honest here. I've never taken public transportation to Newark because I don't fly out of Newark. Here's a link to the Port Authority of NY-NJ's recommendation. If someone is a Newark public transit authority, please leave a comment if you have any other advice.

Penn Station

You can easily hail a cab at Penn Station, just make your way outside. The main entrance on 7th Ave. has a proper yellow cab stand. You can also hail a cab on the street (8th Avenue is a good spot too since you'll be heading uptown in the right direction).
If you want to take the subway (which I would recommend unless it's during rush hour and you're carrying lots of luggage), you can hop on the train inside Penn Station.* You'll want to take the 1/2/3 or the A/C/E uptown. The stop you're looking for on the 1/2/3 is Times Sq-42nd St and on the A/C/E it's called 42nd St-Port Authority.
Trains run local and express sometimes. This shouldn't matter for you as Times Square is a major hub and all of the trains will stop there no matter if they're running local or express.
*You'll need to buy a single-ride Metrocard at the vending machines in the subway area of the station. I believe it's $2.50.  

Grand Central Station

This one is really easy, guys. Just take the shuttle (which is part of the subway system and is noted by a grey S on signs). All this train does is go from Grand Central to Times Square and back, so you can't mess it up.


MTA subway maps & transit updates:


Upcoming Workshop

Boston Conference LogoJust a quick invitation for those you going to the New England Chapter RWA Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference. Audra North and I will be teaching a workshop about the ins and outs of building indie box sets and anthologies. What: How to Publish a Boxed Set or Anthology: A Practical Workshop

When: Friday, April 24, 2:30 PM

Where: NECRWA Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference, Boston Marriott in Burlington, MA

There are some fantastic speakers at this conference like Loretta Chase, Sabrina Jeffries, Lauren Dane, and Megan Frampton. Check out the full schedule online now. We can't wait to see you Friday!

Boston Romance Workshop

Boston Conference LogoI'm thrilled to announce that I will be presenting at the Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference hosted by the New England Chapter of Romance Writers of America! Audra North and I will be presenting "How to Publish a Boxed Set or Anthology: A Practical Workshop." We'll teach you everything you need to know about idea creation, organization, preorders, marketing, royalty distribution, and taxes. This workshop will also be a great guide for anyone who wants a down and dirty overview of what it takes to put together a self-published book.

What: 2015 Let Your Imagination Take Flight Conference

When: Friday, April 24 - Saturday, April 25

Where: Boston Marriott in Burlington, MA

And don't forget, the best way to keep up to date on updates, release dates, and exclusive excerpts is by signing up for my newsletter!

Greetings from RWA!

As thousands of romance writers begin to congregate in San Antonio, RWA's annual conference is set to kick off. I've been in Texas since Tuesday, and I've already had some great time with friends. You can follow my RWA experience on Facebook and Twitter. If you're at the conference, don't be afraid to say hi! Hello from the Alamo with Alexis Anne, Mary Chris Escobar, TJ Kline, and A.L. Parks!

VIDEO: Getting Ready for RWA

The countdown is officially on! In less than a week I'm going to be at RWA in San Antonio, so I'm starting to make all sorts of lists. Yesterday First Draught ran you through what to expect at the conference and answered some common questions about the RITAs, workshops, registration, and meals.

A few helpful links we mentioned in yesterday's chat....

Also don't forget that you can always reach out to us on Twitter, and let us know if you're heading to San Antonio!

VIDEO: So You're Going to RWA 2014!

RWA is less than two weeks away (at least for those of us arriving on Tuesday), and I couldn't be more excited. At this point last year I was pretty deep into a month-long freak out about what to wear, who I would meet, and whether anyone would eat dinner with me. Turns out my clothing was fine, I met some women who have become my closest friends, and I never had to eat alone if I didn't want to. First Draught is doing a couple videos to get you ready for RWA. Right before the 4th of July we tackled our first about why you would even want to pony up all this cash for a conference. I also hope we put some newcomers at ease, letting them know that people will be friendly and want to talk to them. If anything, you can all come and talk to us!

This is the video of that first chat:

Next Tuesday, July 15th, we're talking about the practical side to RWA14. We'll go over what you should pack, how to handle your schedule, and why you should definitely hit up the hotel bar after dinner. You can RSVP to the live video chat by clicking on this link (and that's where you'll find the archive video too).

We hope to see you Tuesday, and if you're new and going to RWA know that it's going to be a great, overwhelming, inspiring experience.

Ready for RWA?

20130716-144823.jpgI'm not a terribly impatient person, but travel gods willing I will be at my very first Romance Writers of America conference in less than 24 hours. 24 very long hours. You see, Atlanta will be my very first RWA. I'm a little nervous, but the thought of meeting other romance writers and becoming part of this community is really exciting. Writing can be a very solitary thing. Hopefully after this weekend can help make it a little less lonely when the words just won't flow.

When I'm not writing I work as a TV news producer. This means I'm hardwired to love lists. I'm prone to backtime every event in my life so I know exactly where I should be when. I also research everything. It makes sense then that when I was feeling a little overwhelmed by the idea of going to RWA for the first time I turned to the internet for info.

I will, of course, be writing about RWA after I come back home to NYC, but I thought I would touch on a few things I was told I should know before heading to Atlanta:

1) Pack like a pro

Erin Knightley seems to be the reigning queen of conference packing. I've traveled all my life so I'm pretty efficient, but Erin's videos take it to the next level. One of the most helpful things about her posts, however, weren't the tips about making your clothes fit into that tiny TSA-approved bag. She gave me some perspective about what to wear. I've packed for a business casual dress code along with something pretty for the RITAs. And shoes. I love my stilettos (and yes, in case you were wondering, I can wear them 12 hours non-stop).

2) Prep for the swag

Books. This conference is all about books. Wonderful, romantic books. From what I can tell you're also given plenty of books to dive into when you get home. I thought I was a good little romance reader before I started to seriously get involved in the community on Twitter. Some of these ladies put me to shame. I can't wait to learn about authors I've never heard of before and read across subgenres when I get home.

Someone very clever told me I should pack a couple of USPS flat rate boxes with pre-printed postage into my suitcase. Those boxes are lining the top of my luggage and keeping me from bringing my entire wardrobe. There is a post office right near the conference hotel, so I hope to be able to just drop those boxes off and go along my merry way.

3) Pull my reporter cap on

Once upon a time a long time ago, I thought I wanted to be a reporter. Turns out I really didn't care about being on TV, and I wanted to be in charge of the newscast behind the scenes. I became a producer but not before putting some time in reporting for print, radio and TV. RWA is going to mean dusting off my old "Reporter Julia" personality.

When you're a reporter you're forced to walk up to total strangers, strike up a conversation and figure out if there's a story there. From what I've been told RWA is similar. I'm a newbie, and I know so few people that I'm going to have to be my friendliest. The good news? Everyone attending loves romance. Instant icebreaker.

So look for me. I'll be the blonde first-timer rocking the ridiculous high heels all conference long. I'd love to say hi!