10 June 2014

Lessons Learned at the RT Booklover's Convention

If you saw the #TalkWriting Web Chat about Introverts and Extroverts in Publishing last March, then you know I’m not only a severe introvert, but I have a sometimes-paralyzing fear of people. You also probably know that I’m working to overcome the shyness by challenging myself to stretch beyond my comfort zone a little bit each day. And that I generally manage to balance my desire to meet new people with my need for alone time with a whole host of coping techniques.

May 2014 provided ample opportunities to stretch beyond my comfort zone and put my introvert-in-an-extroverted-world coping strategies to the test, as I attended the Romantic Times Booklover’s Convention in New Orleans AND Book Expo America in New York.

There’s just too much amazing to fit into one post, so I’m breaking it into two parts. Today, I’ll share the Lessons I Learned from RT, and tomorrow, I’ll give you my Introvert’s Guide to BEA.

Lesson #1: Everything is easier when you’re with friends.

Brenda Drake and I coordinated our trips so that we could fly out to New Orleans together, and the adventure began before we even left Albuquerque! While standing in line to check our bags at the airport, our phones rang with an update from the airline. The second leg of our flight (from Dallas to New Orleans) had been cancelled. And so our Planes, Trains and Automobiles journey to RT began!
A plane to Dallas …
 A train from one terminal to the other to catch our flight to Baton Rouge …

... And a rental car to get us from Baton Rouge to New Orleans.

If I’d been alone, this whole ordeal would have been scary and overwhelming. With my best friend, it became an adventure, and a fun story to tell later.

Lesson #2: You really can create lasting, real-life friendships through social media.

The best part about RT was meeting so many of my fabulous Twitter friends in real life, and discovering that they are just as fabulous in person as they are online.

Plus, meeting my super-fabulous editor, Mandy Schoen, in person was worth the trip all by itself!

 Lesson #3: You must sample the fabulous local cuisine when visiting new places.

You can’t get the true New Orleans experience without sampling crawfish, bread pudding, jambalaya, Po’ Boy sandwiches or beignets. Or at least some of the above. The same rule applies to any fabulous city you may be visiting. So much of the experience is tied up in tastes. Try something you’ve never experienced before. Your taste buds will thank you for it later.

 Lesson #4: Even if the conference is jam-packed with awesome, it pays to skip out on a few things to take in the sights.

My favorite parts of the convention happened outside of the officially-scheduled programs. A late-night ghost tour with my friends, an impromptu visit to a graveyard, and watching the fabulous street performances on every corner. How sad would it be if I’d gone all the way to New Orleans and didn’t get to see any of the fabulous things the city had to offer?

Lesson #5: Be sure to balance your schedule, so you don’t miss the officially-scheduled events you came to experience.

The official RT convention schedule was so packed with fabulousness that I could have found something amazing to do every waking moment – without even leaving the convention hotel. And although I don’t regret the time I spent away from the official activities, I’m so glad I made it to so many of the official events. 

Lesson #6: Book signings are fun! (And a little bit overwhelming)

I had my very first official signing for TWELVE STEPS at the Giant Book Fair on Saturday morning.  The Giant Book Fair is aptly named. It was massive and chaotic, and a little bit panic-inducing, for an introvert like me. Luckily, I had fabulous authors sitting beside me to talk to when I got nervous about facing the crowds, and I had the presence of mind to bring along my knitting needles and a ball of plarn. In the lulls between waves of fans, I calmed my nerves by knitting a water bottle carrier.

I’d planned to use it as a giveaway to accompany this post, but alas, I dropped it somewhere in the FANtastic Day Party that evening, and although I went back to search for it as soon as I noticed it was missing, I wasn’t able to find it again. (I only hope that whoever did find the bag loves it!)

Lesson #7: Books are awesome. Free books are even better. But books are heavy.
One of the best things about RT was learning about all of the fabulous new books! I was super-excited to win a giant stack of books at the Entangled Publishing Candy & Spoons event, and I was thrilled to get multiple goody bags full of books and swag at nearly every event I attended. But when it came time to pack for the return trip home, I realized that it was physically impossible to fit all of my fabulous new books into my suitcase. I ended up giving away more than half of my books to be sent overseas for military personnel in need of reading materials, and I still had to check an extra bag for the remaining thirty-eight books in my stash. (A lot of my friends shipped boxes of books home, but I was so busy playing with my friends that I totally missed the opportunity to ship things. Lesson #7 ½ - Pay attention to when the closest mailing facilities are actually open, unless you actually have room in your suitcase for all of your books.)

Lesson #8: Remember to sleep sometimes. And take time to recharge.

It was a crazy week, full of non-stop excitement. There was so much to do, and there were so many people to see, that I think I slept an average of 4 hours a night. It was totally worth it (I have definite plans to do it again next year), but by the time I returned home at the end of the week, I was completely drained. In all of the excitement of meeting my fabulous online writer friends and promoting my book, (and meeting this lovely lady, who stopped me in the hall to let me know she'd read and loved TWELVE STEPS!!)

I had forgotten to follow all of my rules for surviving as an introvert in an extroverted industry, and believe me, I paid the price. I spent the week between RT and BEA mostly in bed, recuperating from all of the excitement.

Except for when I had to plan and pull off my daughter’s birthday party – a spa day/sleepover with 6 of her closest friends, including a cake shaped like an eye shadow compact.

As I boarded the plane for New York a week later, I promised myself that I’d pay close attention to my own needs, so I wouldn’t burn out this time around. And I mostly managed to do it, I think. (Come back tomorrow for my Introvert’s Guide to BEA!)

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