Be prepared!

A couple of years back at a RWNZ conference, I walked onto the mezzanine floor to check out the Barbara’s Books stall, and walked into an improptu radio interview. And after being pummelled with questions and praying I didn’t slip up and sound like a complete dork, I resolved to always be prepared for anything at writers’ conference.

So what happened this year?

Soooo not prepared!

First mistake:

Was asked to pick up our guest agent from the airport. Her flight was coming in at 8.10 am, so I allowed an hour to get there through traffic, and planned to leave around 7.10am.

Woke up on time and grabbed a shower before checking the airport international flight arrivals. Turned out the flight was 20 minutes early…. EEEK! And I had to drive through rush-hour traffic…. Not a great way to start the day, in a rush to get somewhere in Auckland rush-hour traffic. (Made it, BTW. Phew.)

Moral: wake up and jump on the computer first thing to check flight arrivals. You never know when that plane is gonna have a tail-wind all the way from the US to NZ and get in earlier than scheduled, so you just might have to throw on some clothes and rush out the door.

Second mistake:

Picked up our guest agent from the airport and automatically took the exit toward home, instead of into the city. Realized my error — OMG! — and took the first exit that said Northern Motorway. Drove for about five minutes and saw a sign that didn’t look right…. and realized I was still so not headed into the city. Had to exit the motorway, negotiate an overpass, and get back on the motorway heading in the other direction. Then, a slight detour to get back to somewhere I recognized before I felt confident I knew where I was going. Phew!

Me being me, I confessed my error to my probably oblivious passenger, who was forgiving and utterly charming, and not at all fazed by the fact I’d gotten a wee bit lost. “No problem,” she said. “If we get to the hotel too early, my room probably won’t be ready anyway.” (Thank you, Laura!)

Moral: don’t ever presume you’ll be able to figure out where you’re going! Map out the route before you leave home, when you’ve got plenty of time and aren’t stressed. Especially if, like me, after the drama it occurs to you that you’ve never actually picked someone up from the airport and driven straight  into the city — I’ve always driven my guests back to my place, or somewhere local that I know like the back of my hand. Doh.

Third mistake:

Woke up Friday morning, wandered into my fancy hotel bathroom and turned on the shower….

Full frontal cold water shock — a real head to toe drenching. Talk about a helluva wake-up call! The cleaner had left the shower head directed straight outward, and I didn’t think to check it before I turned on the water. Yikes. I’m shivering just thinking about it.

Moral: Don’t make that mistake again. EVAH!

Fourth mistake:

For various reasons, I didn’t think I’d be pitching to an agent or editor on the first day of the conference, so once I recovered from the icy cold drenching, I donned my favorite jeans, a black top and comfy shoes. And, as per usualy, I had NO makeup on. Think vampire-pale, without the stunning good looks (more like nightmarish screamfest), and you’d be right on the money. The no-makeup thing is not a choice, mind. It’s because I have these weird allergies and I can’t wear makeup because my eyes swell up and I get all blotchy. Scary stuff, I assure you.

So I headed downstairs to register for the conference, and I checked the pitch sheets (that whole “being prepared” thing), and realized there were pitches scheduled for Friday, but mine was scheduled for Saturday. Phew!

Except…. later on I checked again — yanno, being all paranoid like I am — and I realized I’d been given two pitches: one on Saturday and one on Friday. Like, today. Eeeek!

Fifth mistake:

Decided I’d go with what I was already wearing, and not rush upstairs and change into my nice professional-looking pitch outfit because I needed it for Saturday’s pitch. And besides, the agent I was pitching to had already seen me do casual, because I picked her up from the airport. So I hoped she would forgive the jeans. I did the pitch and it went pretty well because I had a request for 100 pages etc (woot!), and I walked out the door and….

I walked right into a TV interview.

I couldn’t get to the elevator, because the TV crew were blocking it. So I stood there, waiting for them to finish up so I could slink off and disappear back into the Chris Vogler workshop I was missing. And when the camera crew finished up, I got to chat to Trudy (who was being filmed) and tell her how my pitch went, and hug her, and wish her all the best for her pitch. All good stuff — we writers like to share! And then….

The camera crew, who’d been listening in, enquired whether they could ask me a few questions.

Moral: fergodssakes, you moron, if there are camera crews lurking, change into your nice clothes at the first opportunity!

Sixth Mistake:

I said to the camera crew, “A few questions? Er, oookay?” Doh!

There I was, sooo not dressed in my nice professional pitch clothes, sooo not wearing makeup, sooo looking like something the cat dragged in, being interviewed for national television. Some ambassador for RWNZ I am! And despite Trudy assuring me that I came across really well — eloquent, even — I prayed that they wouldn’t  use any of my segment.

But they did.

And typically, they didn’t use the bit where I’d actually relaxed and might even have sounded like I know what I’m talking about. Nope. They used the bit at the beginning where my heart was thumping fit to burst and I was wishing I was anywhere but there. The bit where I was rolling my eyes and scrunching up my face and looking like an insane person.

How do I know this? Because they ran the piece last night. And everyone else who was interviewed looked lovely, and put-together, and calm, and professional. But me? I’m that pale-faced nut-job blabbering about cue-cards and having a complete blank when it comes to remembering what you want to say.

Moral: when you attend an RWNZ conference, always dress like you’re going to be filmed. And if, like me, you’re apparently incapable of saying “No, thanks, I need to be somewhere else, but here‘s someone you can talk to!”  while you grab the next nervous person waiting in line to pitch and thrust them toward the camera crew, then be prepared for anything.

So after watching the clip again, and wincing — again — I’m gonna do what I always do when I need a pickmeup: Go immerse myself in a good book and forget about reality for a while.



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3 Responses to “Be prepared!”

  1. Goodness Maree – were we separated at birth? My life can be a comedy of errors at times. At least you can laugh about it- and I’m sure you did fantastic in the pitches and the interview. My big mistake at my first RWAus conference was dressing really casual as in my good trackies type casual. LOL. Live and learn :D

    • Maree says:

      I’ve always wanted a sister, Eleni! And yes, I’m laughing about it. What else can you do, right? Gotta admit, I was tempted by my trackies this year, too. Mmm. I think I need to go buy a pair of innocuous black pants to bolster my sadly depleted wardrobe. That’s the trouble with working from home — trackies and jeans are quite acceptable…. As are pjs ;-)