What Do You Need for a Writers’ Conference?

Fresh from another Romantic Novelists’ Association conference, I’m not sure I remember every single thing I gleaned from three hugely busy days. However, I’m perfectly placed for sharing my definitive list of all the things no conference-goer should be without.  It goes without saying you’ll need phone-charging equipment, and something to take photos. Here are a few items that you may have overlooked.

Hairdryer

Many conferences are in colleges and universities. Nowadays student accommodation often has en suite facilities (what a pampered lot today’s student body is) but hairdryers are rarely part of the deal, so bring your own if you want freshly coiffed hair day after day.

Comfortable shoes

By all means dress up to the nines with eight-inch heels for the gala dinner, but by day your toes may appreciate some wiggle-room. You may even want to venture out of the conference building for occasional fresh air.

Converse trainers

Yes, I’ve mentioned ‘fresh’ three times. Last weekend’s RNA conference was at Harper Adams University. There’s something very special about rural Shropshire, especially when they’re spreading pig manure. For those of you that think this smells like horse or cow manure, let me assure you it doesn’t. It’s roughly the difference between the nappy contents of a milk-fed baby and those of a baby who’s weaned onto solid foods.

Shorthand pad and pencils

Make sure you can jot down the pearls of wisdom gleaned from speakers, from colleagues, or just from propping up the bar. There may be a notebook in your conference pack. On the other hand, it may only contain books and chocolate hearts. 

Business cards

A must for everyone who’s got them, whether you’re a speaker or just attending the conference.

Cushioning for the bed

The condition of the mattress may leave something to be desired. Like sleep. I never regret bringing along an old duvet to use as a mattress pad.

Corkscrew

 Essential kit for the nightly kitchen parties, unless you stick to Prosecco. Consider supplies of tea and coffee too. Then again, I suppose there’s always Prosecco.

ibuprofen

Disposable glasses

All veteran attendees bring these – see above. Why is it ‘attendee’, anyway? Logic suggests it should be ‘attender’.

Earplugs

For when you’re a party-pooper and absolutely have to get in some zeds before dawn.

earplugs

A smile

A great conference always sends attendees home with a smile, but why not bring one on arrival? It makes all the difference when meeting people.

Over to you. What’s on your conference list? I’d love to hear.

 

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10 Vital Signs That Show the Hot Weather Has Got to You

The heat is of nostalgic magnitude. This is London, but for me there are echoes of summers long past in Washington DC, where pavements glued to your feet, or perhaps vice versa.

By TheAgency (CJStumpf) 20:34, 9 February 2007 (UTC) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I got my DC driver’s license on just such a day, with my mini-skirted backside welded to the plastic seat of the VW Beetle and a dozen or so empty Coke cans rattling around in the back, a testament to the hours of practice I had put in for the test. The official Department of Motor Vehicles photo taken just afterwards shows sweat dripping off a victorious 16-year old face.

There was no respite by day, but sundown would bring honeysuckle-drenched evenings and the sweet sound of soul.

But, as I say, this is London 2015.  The UK Government has already put out advice on dealing with the blistering heat wave (known in other countries as ‘summer’).

Grantchester

I find it very bearable at first, especially by the river.  It’s also rather lovely to water plants in the early mornings, though I note there is no dew.  Then the symptoms begin, building up until there is only one conclusion: the heat is winning.

Vital sign 1: People are saying, “Hot enough for you?” For those who don’t know, this is the customary British response to a hot spell, as traditional as Pimm’s and pith helmets. Considering we’re alleged to talk about the weather non-stop, our meteorological remarks are strikingly unoriginal (see also “Nice weather for ducks” and “Brass monkey weather”).

Vital sign 2: Shops have run out of fans and paddling pools. You can’t buy a desk fan for love or money, says a friend who has tried both. The middle classes are wilting because Prosecco is in short supply I expect pith helmets will sell out soon. 

Vital sign 3: Office workers strip off in the park as usual, but now they avoid the sun. They walk on the shady side of the street and even slink home via dark alleyways, the kind you normally avoid for fear of being knifed for your wallet and PIN.

Vital sign 4: People jump into rivers and canals, risking life and limb.

Pushkin

Vital sign 5: The cat refuses to step outside. I can’t hold my hand on the pavement for five seconds, which is a sure sign that the cat made the right choice.

Vital sign 6: I have an ice cream. The heat must have got to my brain, because I never eat ice cream. I even make gazpacho, ignoring the fact that it always leads to gaz.

Vital sign 7: Sleep becomes impossible without air con or heavy duty pharmaceuticals. Eight hours’ involuntary aquaplaning really isn’t as refreshing as getting in some zeds.

Dyson hot+cool

Vital sign 8: Even Mr Dyson’s magnificent machine fails to save the day. On day two of the heatwave, I rest my head in the freezer atop a packet of broccoli florets.

Vital sign 9: Now commuter trains are cancelled because it’s the wrong sort of heat. Only in Britain. 

Vital sign 10: I’m longing for it to be nice weather for ducks.

nice weather for ducks