Self-Care for Authors at Conferences and Conventions

The biggest annual event for romance authors is the Romance Writers of America’s conference, which took place last week in New York City. I’ve been a member of RWA since 2000 and have attended 10 conferences. You’d think I’d be an expert by this time.

But last week, as a debut author, I felt like it was my first time: I was anxious, stressed out, and mildly miserable. I was taking part in so many firsts – first reading, first signing, first lunch with my editor, first publisher party, etc. – and every moment felt weighty. Every smile felt important. Every impression I made felt like the one that would make or break my career.


I didn’t take good care of myself. I drank too much, stayed up too late, didn’t have regular meals, and didn’t take enough downtime. The massive hotel didn’t help the situation: we were waiting up to 15 minutes for elevators, so you had to schedule 30 minutes for what should have been a restful 10-minute break in your room. And food was very hard to access.

Next year, when I attend the RWA conference in San Francisco with the first two books in the “Filthy Rich” series – Lush Money and Hate Crush – I want to do it different. Better. I want to be more centered and less frantic.

How do you take care of yourself at intense conventions and conferences? I asked fellow romance author and friends for their suggestions:

In-room self-care

I splurged and got room service for breakfast twice, and took a hot bath every night before bed. – Mia Hopkins

I take candles that remind me of home and light them nightly. – Aliza Mann

I stayed in my own room this year and that helped because I could decompress alone at night. – Roni Loren

I read for a few minutes before sleep. – Tara Kennedy

I tried to minimize the need to change clothes, RITAs notwithstanding. I was the queen of the denim and black dresses! – Amanda Reid

I made sure to have a refrigerator in my room. – Jordyn Kross

Managing conference chaos

I learned from last year not to try to do everything. Most of the session were recorded & it's worth the investment. If you tend to be introverted, absolutely take a break from all the people-ing. I was able to duck into the PAN lounge a few times just to recharge (saved me from having to use the elevators).- Tarina Deaton

I didn't let FOMO run me too ragged. It was a lot going on. – Lory Wendy

I left sessions that weren’t right for me, once leaving to get some quiet time in the room, so I could feel more centered. I also left the Marriott each day just to get some fresher air. – Ana Coqui

On the 1st day of the conference, I tried to live-tweet my way through every workshop I attended and very quickly realized that I was missing out on so much and exhausting myself in the process. I quit tweeting after that and just listened, and it was SO MUCH BETTER – Christine Parker

Mental self-care

I think the best thing you can do for self care is reflect before you go. What kind of person am I? What part of all this is going to take the most out of me? And then try to be aware of those needs and limitations while you're doing all the things. It's okay to say I need to not do this right now. It's okay to say, I need to meet this person, but the bar isn't going to let me focus on our conversation. Maybe I'll invite her to meet me somewhere else. It's okay to say, I didn't get everything done on my to do list, but I'm inspired and reinvigorated by what I DID get accomplished,...or at least I will be after another nap. – Eva Moore (Angelina’s note: Eva wrote more; it’s such a wise, thoughtful response that I created a separate page for it here.)

Headphones. Because you can only stress so much if you’re dancing. – Luna Joy

After spending so much time, money, and energy to get there, you feel you should be doing and seeing everything, but I've learned how important it is to prioritize what matters most, schedule down time for rest, and pick up recorded sessions for anything I've missed. That, and wear the most comfortable shoes possible to deal with all the standing and walking, even if they happen to be a pair of Skechers slip-on sneakers. – Colleen Thompson

Take time to reset. I like to go to my room and let the quiet envelope me. Appreciate the silence. An hour does wonders to help me recharge when I feel overwhelmed. – Tricia Lynne

Physical self-care

I use the meditation app Calm - it only takes 10 minutes and makes a world of difference. Also exercised (not every day, but even getting in 2 helps!). VERY important to schedule a full day of rest right after - trying to power through will just make you feel worse. – Christi Barth

I managed to stay hydrated, so there's a plus. :) – Xio Axelrod

I did my best to make sure I slept enough. Went to bed at decent hours (even if it meant missing out on some things!) and um, not TOO much booze...– Keely Thrall

I made sure to drink at least 20 oz. of water as soon as I woke up which helped a little. I also tried to go back to my room at least once a day, even for just 20 minutes. – Kelly Maher

Exercised twice, planned alone time during the conference, and took time to rest yesterday. I also had a stash of protein bars and apples in my room. – M.C. Vaughan

Taking a break

I took one half day, and one evening, off. Meaning I left the hotel and did something I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. As a recovering rule-follower this was a big step for me, and a smart one. – Geri Krotow

I didn't do as many workshops as last year. But the people got overwhelming so getting out of the hotel and city for a night helped big time. – Meka James

Food self-care

I think you need to give yourself permission to miss things and purposefully schedule two hour blocks for meals. …Next time I will make sure I have a meal plan, even if it's alone, for every regular meal and make it a priority. – Felicia Grossman

The instant oatmeal and apples I brought was helpful in the mornings to save time and money. – Veronica Forand

Damon Suede recommended this a fantastic FOLDABLE electric kettle:

I ate chocolate cake for dinner one night. Does that count? 😉- Jessica Snyder

I find that grabbing a cup of coffee or even a meal by myself can be a great re-set. Also, carrying an easy snack is great, for those moments when you realize the over-charge is actually incipient hypoglycemia -- a handful of nuts can be a lifesaver!– Mindy Klasky

I made a few Nutella sandwiches to keep my blood sugar up during the day, which sort of helped. – Margot Pierce

Fav protein bars in purse. Carry extras to share. Stock room with snacks and beverages. Always have Throat Coat tea. Have at least one meal a day outside the hotel. – Isobel Carr

Recovering post conference

And take off at least two full days after you get back! One is not enough. – Alexis Daria

One of my unbreakable rules has always been that I never leave on Sunday. I give myself that night to ease out of conference mode and prepare for the inevitable crises waiting at home. – Eileen Dreyer

Hopefully, next year, these tips will allow me to feel as cool, calm and collected as I pretend to be!

Hopefully, next year, these tips will allow me to feel as cool, calm and collected as I pretend to be!