Well, last week was RT, and my contest winner -- Cari Z -- is here to report back!
So hey, I spent the last week in Las Vegas at RT! You all must be wondering how it went.
Okay, maybe not all of you, but some of you!
It went pretty fucking great, actually. Let me tell you why.
RT 2016 was my first really big conference. I've done local cons, but they came nowhere near the scale and scope of RT. Going into a big, crowded conference filled with other professionals and lots of sharp readers, especially when you've never been before and know almost no one by sight...well. I'm not saying I'd never have done it, because eventually I would have had to in order to hit another echelon in my career. But I'd probably have irritated the hell out of my fellow Colorado authors Marie Sexton and PD Singer, not to mention my long-suffering friend Tiffany, by being clingy. No one wants a clingy Cari. I'm like a spider monkey, but way less cute.
Fortunately for me, I won LA Witt's RT contest last year. The spoils included her covering my registration fee, taking care of advertising for me, getting me a spot in the book fair, covering my hotel costs, and basically being my conference sherpa. Not literally carrying me around, but rather taking away the burden of uncertainty. Which, let me tell you, is a huge fucking burden to carry around in a new situation surrounded by people you don't know. Where to go, what to do, who to talk to, how to spend down time, how to get the most out of the conference: this is what I learned from Lori, and without a doubt I got way more out of RT because I had that help.
Firstly, let me assure you that it's way easier to meet new people when someone else is introducing you to them. I felt like way less of an awkward fangirl meeting Anna Zabo, Vanessa North, Cecilia Tan, and Megan Erickson (among many others) with someone they already knew there to break the ice. Some people can do a great cold open; I’m not one of them. This part was invaluable—honestly, this aspect made the entire conference worthwhile to me in the end.
Secondly, and I didn’t think this would be such a big thing, but wow: the issue of what to do. “Oh, just go to whatever’s interesting, Cari!” Yeah, no, because there were always five or six panels going at once, and inevitably more than one of them was interesting. It was nice to get input on what was likely to be the most useful, which ones someone else would go to and I could ask about, and which ones were necessities.
Thirdly, and kind of the best part: the downtime. Yes, I would have liked to go for gangbusters the whole time, but that was impossible for several reasons. One, this casino was fucking huge. I wish I had tracked my distance walked, because getting from my room to the conference area of the hotel was a trek. I wore sneakers, and after a while I was still like, “Yeah, hey, I think I’ll just sit in this comfy chair in the coffee shop instead.”
Speaking of the coffee shop: you had to schedule downtime into your day regardless of intention in part because there were SO MANY PEOPLE vying for enormous plates of food, coffee and later on, alcohol, that if you weren’t either really patient or a very early riser, you were going to have some slack in your day at some point.
Downtime was spent talking, bullshitting, plotting, joking around, and basically having a great time. Again, this was way easier to do when I had people to hang out with.
This conference would have been useful even if I hadn’t known anyone, for the panels and the exposure and the book fair. With a guide, though, it was amazing. Worth paying for the privilege of flying on Spirit Airlines (and hey, screw you guys) to get to Las Vegas and marinate in a casino for a week, because the people I met were so fantastic (Riptide Publishing, I’m looking at you).
I came away from RT with new plans, updated goals, and the will to get shit done. I have a better idea of what it takes to be an actual part of the conference, not just a lost soul wandering from room to room, trying to find a place there.
Congrats again on winning, Cari, and it was awesome to meet you!
And hey, if y'all are curious about Cari's work, check out her website.