The Christian Fiction Readers Retreat is exactly one week away and the excitement is overflowing! On August 12th, authors and readers will be gathering together in Cincinnati, Ohio for an exciting event filled with author panels, book signings, and a lot of #FOAFA (Freaking Out and Flailing About–a hasthag I coined last year). For those of you who are attending and are looking for some preparation tips, I have your back!
#1. Bring an extra bag or suitcase
This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Before I left, I told myself I would buy 2-3 books at most.
Yeah, that didn’t happen.
I walked into a room lined with book tables and I was doing fine while I had the distraction of talking to people I had been dying to meet. Then I sat down to listen to the first panel of authors, and following that I lost all hope. After every panel, I had to go buy at least one more book. On top of that, our swag bags included free books as well.
I left that weekend with fifteen books.
That’s five times more than I said I’d bring back.
But the story doesn’t end there . . . Let’s just say that TSA wasn’t fond of me after this incident. I only brought a carry-on with me that weekend, which means I had to fit my clothes, the swag from the event, in addition to fifteen books in one small suitcase. When I went through security, I was wearing a sweater with my university’s name on it and the TSA woman there asked if I was going back to school as she lifted my bag. I figured she asked because of my shirt, but as she moved the clothes that had covered up the books lining the bottom of my bag, I was given a look that came close to a glare and she said, “Oh, I thought these were school books. How are you even going to lift this?” Whoops. 😉
Not only that, but I had to wheel that bag across three airports. Thankfully enough, they checked it for me since the airplane was so small and I didn’t have to lift it.
So, with all that said, pack an extra bag just in case.
#2. Pack bookplates
Especially if you’re flying, save the room in your bags for books you buy or win instead of bringing a stack along to be signed.
Last year, I went to the store and found a package of white shipping labels that I had authors sign. You could also invest in nice bookplates, but this was the most convenient option for me. I had more room in my suitcase and was able to get more autographs this way!
#3. Warn your spouse/family to not check your bank account
When I came home after CFRR last year, I told my mom not to even bother looking at my bank account because I knew she’d probably be terrified by what she saw. If you make the same decisions I did (like leaving with a stack of fifteen books), then it may be best to warn whomever it may concern not to even bother with the horror movie your bank/credit card statement will turn into. . . for them, of course. You’re getting books out of the deal!
#4. Consume a lot of coffee beforehand
Honestly, there’s a chance that you won’t be getting much sleep and you’re going to need the energy to keep you on your feet all day. Plus, if you’re staying at the hotel, there will be a gathering of authors and readers galore in the lobby at all hours. There’s Starbucks nearby and I’m sure the hotel will have coffee, so bring that IV or vat full of coffee along because you don’t want to miss a thing for something as pointless as sleep.
#5. Sleeping is optional
When you’re surrounded by people you have been dying to meet or rarely see, sleep is not a priority. Make the most of every second, even if it means looking like a zombie the next day. Just be sure to fuel yourself up with a lot of caffeine and fangirl-geared adrenaline and you will be good to go!
#6. Invest in tea and honey . . . and smelling salts
Expect squealing, chattering, and fangirling all day long. The moment you walk in those doors, you will be swept away in a whirlwind of excitement and chaos. There will be so many authors to meet, books to buy, and people to talk to, you may not have a voice by the end of the day and may need to sit down a time or two. Also, be sure to remember to *inhale-exhale-inhale-exhale* because you’re going to be doing a lot of #FOAFA!
#7. Bring a fully charged phone or camera
This is the experience of a lifetime. You will be in a room filled with authors and memories you will not want to forget! Keep that phone/camera ready at all times to capture it all. Also, be sure to make sure you have enough space on your device to hold all of your photos because you don’t want to have to pause your photo op to delete photos.
#8. Pack business cards or a pad of paper
I met some amazing new friends last year and was so glad I brought a stack of business cards along to hand out so that we could stay connected. I even wrote names and email addresses down in a notebook so that I could find people online after the retreat. I’m terrible with names so this helped me out monumentally. You’re going to be meeting some fantastic people and you don’t want to leave without staying connected.
#9. Prepare for ALL THE HUGS!
I identify as an ambivert or an outgoing introvert. When I’m in my element, the outgoing/extroverted side of my comes out and I get really excited! This seems to be a common occurrence at CFRR so be ready to be giving and receiving hugs from your favorite authors, fellow readers, and especially me! Seriously, if you introduce yourself and we’ve interacted online before, I may explode with excitement and give you a hug. I just really adore my blog followers!
#10. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and intimidated by everything going on and all the people around, but try to step out of your comfort zone because that’s where some of the best memories happen. Introduce yourself to authors and readers. Tell authors how their books impacted your life. Take crazy pictures despite any odd looks you receive. Make the most out of this fabulous experience!
#11. Invest in a fan
This is a must. Not only will you be in the same room as some of your favorite authors EVER but the panels can be incredibly swoon worthy. I just discovered that we will have a panel talking about book boyfriends. If it’s anything like the “Pucker Up” panel from last year (above), then you’re going to make good use of that fan!
#12. Be ready to make lifelong friends
This is a huge one, y’all! I have met some of my closest friends online and was able to meet them in person for the first time at CFRR. Not only this, but I was also introduced to some awesome people while there and it has helped build such strong friendships. This event gave me the opportunity to connect with people across the country and that’s one of the greatest things about it! I hope you walk away feeling the same!