Eh, I didn’t mean to write this. I just ended up writing in the comments of someone’s FB post anyway:
Carry a small notebook for book recommendations and a to-do-when-you-get-home list that you can take, unobtrusively, to meals. Wear the comfortable shoes unless you’re pitching, because this isn’t ACTUALLY a corporate job interview and the pros get that. Find the backup toilet over by the Aspen Room. Remember that you are an introvert and take a few sessions off to hide, and leave the mass of bar partiers when you feel like it, not when you’re about to burst into tears from all the extroversion floating around. Eat to prevent constipation (sorry, but it’s true). Be able to politely and briefly answer the question, “What do you write?” (name your genre(s); don’t necessarily pitch your book laboriously) and then remember to return the favor. Don’t get into arguments–just treat disagreements as character studies–put them in your next story. There will be people there who think they’re better than you are based on some arbitrary BS (published more, awards, where they went to school, etc. etc.)–again with the character study (everyone bootstraps). When you hear criticism of a) your work or b) anything that sounds like your work, especially from agents or editors, ignore it (again with the bootstrapping–you don’t know what you don’t know, and the Little Miss Sarcastic of the bunch can shove her attitude problem about poorly written manuscripts up her @##). Try the water with the floaty fruit bits; the kind over by the front desk is usually the best, and they fill that more often than they do the ones by the con areas. Go outside, especially if it’s snowing: there’s usually crabapple blossoms about con time, and the ones out front are gorgeous. If possible, drive past the front entrance and park by the back door. If you want a book signed, buy it right away in case they run out by Saturday; you can bring in already-purchased books and get a sticker on them to show they’re paid for. Always go see the forensics/CSI talks: Tom Adair rocks, but I haven’t seen a single one of them that wasn’t mindboggling. If you’re worried about asking a stupid question, ask it at mealtimes. You can always stop at someone’s breakfast table and say, “I have a quick question that I wanted to ask but was too shy to at your XXX session,” even if you don’t feel comfortable sitting at their table. Some people will have their “professional” faces on all the time. Some people will be excessively cliquey. Mostly people are cool, even the pros. The only people who’ve ever been outright snippy to me were agents (although the great majority of them have been perfectly wonderful, and the snippy ones generally don’t come back). Volunteer to help out in the Green Room if it ever comes up. Even just an hour of making sure nobody needs something is worth it. You probably won’t need the handouts IN the sessions; you can always write, “See the handouts” in your notes. Travel light and use a backpack rather than a crossbody bag if possible. I don’t recommend bringing a laptop unless you have a room: you just keep worrying about the damn thing, and paper notes are fine. If you tweet, use the hashtag (which I can’t remember at the moment UPDATE: #PPWC2014), so you can see what else is going on–often times juicy stuff gets passed around on Twitter that nobody else finds out about until days later, if at all. When in doubt, trivia is a good conversation starter. Most writers collect stupid facts the way a magpie collects shiny things. If you haven’t seen Firefly, don’t admit it in public unless you want to start a 15-minute “ohyoushouldseefireflywhatswrongwithyou” guilt fest. You will probably stutter/blather when it’s vital that you don’t; everyone gets that and will probably be going, “OMG THEY THINK I’M WORTH STUTTERING FOR SO CUUUUUUTE.” Don’t try out new tech at conference. Don’t bring it if you must run it off a power cord. Don’t be the person whose question starts off with a rambling description of your book, even if your question is about your book. If the person giving a session interrupts you, just let it go. Promise yourself that you won’t even consider any criticism until after conference; just smile and nod and write it down. Schedule it for later. Recommend your favorite books. Nobody’s read everything. Smuggle in some good chocolate. Don’t try to work unless by work you mean that you are going to get some wordcount in: in fact, try to get some wordcount in if at all possible. It’ll make you feel 1000 times more confident. You’re not going to have the focus you need to answer emails or handle other people’s drama: if at all possible, get everybody from the rest of your life agree to leave you the hell alone for the weekend unless they’re part of your recharge from all those writers. I have to go home at night; otherwise I make myself sick. When you’re around a group of writers, especially pro or semi-pro writers, be prepared for this weird pushing sensation to come out of them. They’re (we’re?) ambitious, and a lot of sanity gets pushed out the window. In some ways that’s good; in other ways, it’s extremely hollowing: “Buy my crap.” “Did you buy my crap?” Etc. Conference is good, but…real life is the truly satisfying part. Although you may feel like you want to run away and join the writer-fairies after you leave on Sunday. Eh, it’s a lie. Nobody lives like they do at conference all the time.