Wednesday, July 19, 2006

RWA National Converence and the Big Clothes Debate

It's a beautiful, steamy morning in Dallas, Texas, and I'm spending a lot of time thinking about RWA National next week. For those of you who've never gone, it's an experience that can't really be described with words. Imagine 2000-2500 writers in one hotel, all mixing and mingling, teaching and learning, making connections and friends. The energy alone makes you want to hurry home and start writing. So it goes without saying, that I'm READY to go.

There is this one issue, however, that comes up every year that drives me crazy - clothes!

Every year well-meaning newbies ask the old-timers "what do I wear." It's a valid question. No one wants to show up anywhere underdressed and when you're new to writing, you are more paranoid than most about making a good impression. It's not the question that bothers me at all - the question shows intelligence and generally giving a damn about your writing career. It's the answer I sometimes hear that drives me insane.

"Nice slacks with a blouse or sweater, a suit or dress, comfortable shoes."

Huh?! Okay, I'll give you the comfortable shoes part - sometimes you have to walk miles from room to room and there's really not that much time in between. Do this for a couple of days in high heels and you'll be attending the RITA's barefoot. But business clothes????? I beg to differ.

Depending on the workshop you're attending, the room may contain 100+ women and not the best of cooling systems since conference is always in July and no one has figured out the benefit yet of holding one in Alaska. So it's a room of hormonal women, with low air ciruclation and sometimes not even enough chairs for attending. So you either stand or you sit on the floor if you were planning on taking notes. Does this sound remotely like an instance you want to have on slacks, a silk blouse or a dress? And can someone please explain to me how, in the laws of nature OR style, that dressy clothes would ever look good with what most people consider "comfortable shoes?" 'Cause the mental image of a power suit and loafers isn't getting it for me.

My advice - dress comfortably and neatly. If you are hot natured, wear capris and a matching top with cute, low-heeled sandals or Keds. If you're cold natured, wear longer pants/neat jeans & top and bring a sweater. It's that simple, folks. Trust me, I would bet my publishing contract that an editor has NEVER, EVER taken a look at someone in a conference room wearing a casual outfit and said "I'll never buy a book from her - she's underdressed."

Now, if you have an editor/agent appointment, this is where to haul out a more professional look. And I say this only because at least their first impression of you is of someone treating writing as a business and not a hobby. You should dress equal to or above the person to whom you're pitching, so slacks and a nice blouse are great for this instance. However, I want to be quite clear on this - if you have a high concept idea in a genre that is hot, hot and you have writing ability, you could probably show up in a bathrobe and still get a request.

Never forget that writing is a business. The main goal of the publisher is to make money. Hopefully, that's not the main goal of the writer or they've got big issues (but that's another blog). I think learning is best done when one is comfortable and relaxed enough to take in the information.

So please, please spend your time worrying over which workshop to take and how to apply all the wonderful information you will gain to your own work. Don't sweat your clothes. No one else will.


Colleen Gleason said...

Hear, hear Jana!!! I know the first year I attended conference, I probably dressed more business-casual than I do now.

I think the bottom line is, as long as you're neatly put together and aren't wearing something you look like you'd clean the bathroom in, you'll be all right. Dressy jeans and a nice shirt or blouse are fine for these workshops; slacks, capris, or comfy, full skirts, sandals...all of that is fine. Really.

Save the dressy stuff for Saturday night, and the business attire (and I don't mean a suit; a skirt or nice slacks and a professional blouse is FINE) for the editor or agent appt.

Jana DeLeon said...

I am soooooo about comfort and COOL, now. I'm hot-natured and couldn't even bear the thought of straight business dress. I'd end up not attending workshops because I was uncomfortable. How effective would that be?

Can't wait to see you there!!!!!

Kelly Parra said...

lol! So true, Jana! Last year, I was like what to bring? What to wear? But I never even looked what others were wearing! I was all about matching faces. I loved my experience and sorry to miss this year, but be sure to tell us all about it!

Jana DeLeon said...

Hi Kelly - I'm sorry you're not going this year, too! So many people have opted out of the Atlanta experience. Hopefully I'll catch everyone next year in Dallas - all wearing our comfy clothes. :)

Tempest Knight said...

I can't go to the Nationals. *sighs* Too expensive for me to go from Puerto Rico over there. Especially now with the high prices of gas.

Shah of Blah said...

True ! True!

Jana DeLeon said...

Hi tempest & shah - It's truly a bummer that it's so expensive. I have several friends in the US that can't afford it either. Technically speaking, with my new house buying and delay in house selling, and changing jobs for less pay - I really ought not to go either. But I'd already paid for everything but the hotel, so I figured I'd just suck it up.

Maybe one year you can plan far in advance and get some good airline rates early. That's what my cp and I did.

I'm taking my laptop with me (even though they only have wireless in public areas - sigh) and will try to blog every day about what is going on.

Hope to see you there some year!

Jaye Wells said...

Hi Jana,

Thanks for the great advice. This will be my first year going, but I already decided I'd try to be comfortable.

See you there!

Jana DeLeon said...

Hi Jaye - Cindy and I are already here (it's Monday). Look for us at the pool, we'll be around. :)

Anonymous said...

From someone who will be spending most of the evening packing--and trying to figure out what to wear--look forward to seeing you!

Jana DeLeon said...

Oh, look, my lovely and fabulous editor, Leah Hultenschmidt, has paid a visit to my blog! See, you never know who's reading. :)

Hi Leah - can't wait to meet with you in Atlanta.

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