Prior to any large conference, it’s best to create a checklist. I like lists, and the sense of accomplishment that can come when crossing off the items. And that’s the trick- don’t include things that you’ve already done. Ha! Here are ten of mine:
1) Consider the days you will be gone, the tasks that are normally yours. How will they get handled? Who is responsible for keeping status quo at home? Pets? Family? Missing anyone’s birthday, nomination, divorce?
2) Confirm your reservations for flights, cars, transportation, hotel, etc. Nothing worse than arriving to find you were never booked at The Hyatt after all, or the only cars they have available at Hertz are minivans.
3) Create a daily flow chart- possible panels, events, speakers, readers. What days are best for you to hit the selling floor- it’s noisy, chaotic, and can be draining. But those bargains, and running into Roxane Gay or Extie Ex- incomparable!
4) Save time for registration morning; bring your registration code to make it go quicker. Consider doing some of your at home regimen- workouts? I remember running into Christopher Allen at some ungodly hour (like 5:30 am)- he got up every day to wander around Seattle (AWP 2014) just to take in the city. It’s what writers do best, experience a city in all of its sensory luxury.
5) Might want to make plans for that hug, or drink, or meeting prior to arriving in Minneapolis. Kathy Fish? Matt Nelson? Once there, you’ll most likely settle into what’s known as the AWP TIME WARP: Where am I? What city are we in? “Help, Meg- how did we get here?!!!”
6) Remember a sheet with all of your passwords on it- emails, blogs, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Fictionaut, Square, iTunes, Submittable, LinkedIn… (you get the picture). Also remember to pack clothes that “peel off.” A coat, gloves and one scarf don’t hurt. Sunglasses. An umbrella (although most hotels lend them). Comfortable shoes- you’ll be standing way more than sitting.
7) Pick a time to write- I have coffee with Len K, my conference bro, but prior to meeting him, because I am always up at the crack of dawn, I’ll do some stream-of-consciousness notes, or journaling, or just jot down some desires, wants, lists, or other. If it’s just not coming, then I’ll make something happen later that morning. And one thing my dear pal Karen S is great at is selecting one day, and getting to see some of the host city- a museum or a neighborhood, or just a fantastic meal at the highly recommended Italian restaurant can be a terrific memory.
8) Bring books, business cards, flyers, pens, t-shirts, booze (MJS, Bud Smith) and every other thing that will help to get the word out about your latest book, project, website, etc. You’ll be amazed by all of the creative projects around the selling floor. Bring extra money too- books, books, books. And if it’s your first AWP, buy another bag in Minneapolis for all of your purchases.
9) The off-site events are the rage- so knowing this, go to the AWP website, or when you arrive look through the immense catalogue. See where you might hear Lidia Yuknavitch or Lydia Davis read? Also pre-select a few panels, and get to them EARLY. These can be completely full, and don’t be turned away. Typically we just send our buddy MGM to attend these for us, but he is unable to come to AWP this year, so I have to change strategies.
10) Plan to be overwhelmed, anxious, hurt, sorry, sad, befuddled, wondering: WHY AM I A WRITER? Everyone and their mother/father/niece/godson is. And that’s true. But also plan on having a blast, laughing your butt off, feeling exhilarated, exhausted, and returning home planning on how you will attend Los Angeles in 2016. How do I know? This is my 5th in a row. And I wouldn’t miss it for the world.