It’s all about planning.
Getting ready for a writers’ conference shouldn’t be difficult. Take your materials for whatever workshops you have, query letter (just in case), overview (just in case), first ten pages (just in case), smelling salts (just in case).
Then you toss a few clothes in a bag; grab the laptop and go.
Yes, it should be that simple.
Kari Lynn Dell probably said it best, “We need to be more like men. Where’s the free food? Where’s the beer?”
Unfortunately, more than a dozen women trying to coordinate for a writer’s conference turns into a major strategic strike force.
Meals. Breakfast and dinners are included on Friday and Saturday. Breakfast and lunch on Sunday. Sunday night those going on to the retreat will have dinner with Kerry who has graciously offered to cook for us. Monday and Tuesday we’ll either have to cook at the house or go out to eat. Wednesday, everyone leaves at various times so light eating so we can clean house.
Me. “We’ll have to send someone for groceries.”
Beth. “Not the same crew that went last time.”
Me. “The seagulls enjoyed the leftovers.”
Tara. “Little bastards. You shouldn’t encourage them. I’m telling you, they’ll turn on you.”
Me. “Well, there aren’t any seagulls in Denver anyway.”
Tara. “You’ll have to drink the 20-pack without me.”
Me, in my best martyr voice. “All right.”
JB. “Dy’s a chef.”
Everyone. “Yee haw!” Well, it wasn’t really a yee haw, since I haven’t gotten everyone properly yee haw trained yet, but it was close.
Dy. “I make cream puffs!”
JB. “Oh, yeah. Her cream puffs are to die for, plus she’s a belly dancer.”
Everyone. “Yee haw (kind of). We can learn how to belly dance.”
Me. “Cookie exchange! Hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we all made some kind of treat and brought to the conference? We can exchange cookies and recipes.”
Almost everyone. “Yee haw (kind of, they haven’t quite got the hang of it).
S. “I don’t bake. I’ll bring Oreos.”
“We need to get the classes figured out.”
Five weeks later—
Kari. “I’m winging it.” Kari’s a cowgirl. She’s used to living on the edge.
JH. “I’m thinking about these, but if the critique workshop is really bad I may just spend the rest of the day in my room.”
Lisa. “If the critique session is that bad, someone’s going to have to look under the desk for me. I’ll be hiding.”
Me, lying through my teeth (and who else’s teeth would I lie through, pray tell?). “The critique workshops are going to be great!”
Days later tentative schedules are posted with superior note takers posted in strategic locations.
JH. “What if they change the schedule again?”
“We’ll just have to reconnoiter.”
“How’s the cookie exchange doing?”
JB. “I’m making rootbeer cookies.”
Everyone. Yee haw (kind of, still working on it.)
Me. “Kari, we still need to figure out what to do for Operation Dessert Storm.”
Kari. “Janet Reid was talking about cupcakes on twitter yesterday. We should find a good bakery with cupcakes.”
The next day, she has scouted out the best cupcake emporium in Denver.
Me. “All right everyone, figure out what flavors you want.”
Beth. “Good grief. How many are there? We’re supposed to choose?”
Me. “Let’s not get the wedding cupcakes or the ones with habanero peppers. Also, the bakery closes at 3:00 so we’ll need someone to pick them up before then.”
Kari. “I can do that.”
Me. “I called the hotel. They said we could have cookie exchange in the bar. I promised we’d share with them. We can probably do cupcakes there also.”
Me. “Called the hotel back. Desk clerk talked to lounge manager (Apparently it’s a lounge when it’s in a nice hotel. My bad.) and they said it was ok. I promised the bartender (or is it lounge tender?) we’d save a cupcake for them.
I love it when a plan comes together. Operation Dessert Storm well underway.
Lisa. “We should invite M.”
JB. “We should invite everyone!”
Me. “I’m not sure everyone likes cupcakes, but it won’t hurt to invite them. They’re certainly welcome.”
Lisa. “We just have to convince everyone no manuscripts have been baked in the cupcakes.”
Me. “Phffft Tag lines only, no manuscripts in the cupcakes. It’ll be like fortune cookies only better.”
9-8-09 “Cupcakes ordered. Bakery assures us they will try to have all 19 flavors ready, but Kari can just pick out whatever looks good if they are out of some. PLUS! They have a special, buy three and get one free!”
I love it when a plan comes together.
“Is Saturday night formal?”
Me. “Hope not. I don’t do formal.”
Lisa. “I learned from Julie last year. I’m just going to be comfortable. I’m going for the not-nekkid look.”
Everyone. “Yee haw! (kind of, still haven’t got it down.) Not nekkid sounds good.”
Probably a little more not nekkid than this, though.
Me. “I need to buy a new bra. I hate shopping, but the girls feel neglected. They’re just kind of hanging around and moping.”
“I’m not wearing anything that requires shaving.”
Me. “Me neither, but I may get my ears waxed. I couldn’t find any clothes I liked this year. Rhinestones, sequins and crystals. I’m going to look like an old ho with a hat.”
“Where are we going to eat Thursday night?”
JB. “I have Coke coupons. Here’s the link to Denver restaurants that take them.”
We decided, after two days and multiple searches of six pages of restaurants.
Beth. “Reservations made. Everyone meet in the lobby a 6.”
JB. “We’ll be in town a day early because I found a coupon for a free night with three nights. We can pick up anything people need and can’t pack.”
JB is apparently the coupon queen and ultimate finder of good deals. Kind of like Radar on MASH.
Me. “Unless I figure out a way to put wheels on this garment bag, I’m going to need starch to re-iron my shirts. Packing them in a suitcase is going to wrinkle the heck out of them.”
Beth. “Starch? Seriously?”
Me. “It’s the cowboy way. Pant creases should be so sharp he can shave his girlfriend’s legs while they’re dancing. I’m having laundry done, but the shirts will be wrinkled when I get there.”
“We need arrival times so we can coordinate pickups or shuttles.”
Arrival times posted and rides coordinated.
This is working just like a well-oiled machine.
“How are the queries coming?”
Me. “Crap. I knew I forgot something.”
Some parts of the well-oiled machine are working better than others.