Welcome newbies and seasoned travel veterans to Authors Dish. With only thirteen days until Romance Writers of America 2019 I’m curious what authors and industry professionals always include in their suitcases, what they stash in their conference bag to avoid hunger pains and the things they forget once and hopefully never again.

While some of the authors contributing are not attending, we love they want to hang out and play. We hope their words of wisdom help to ease any anxiety you might have getting all the things in your suitcase.  

May these posts inspire you to shop early, make your lists, and triple check so you are prepared for just about anything. If you’re heading to #RWA19 soon comment below so we can meet up in NYC.

Thank you to all who have dished and those who are still sharing their wisdom.  Stay tuned for more comments and follow the blog so you don’t miss these posts.

Today in the cafe are USA Today Bestselling Author  and 2019 RITA Finalist Tawna Fenske, USA Today Bestselling Author Robin Bielman and Author Lori Ann Bailey.

Rae: What five things do you have to pack when attending a conference? 


Tawna Fenske:

  • A mini electric skillet. Food is expensive at conferences, so being able to cook my own meals saves me a bundle. It fits neatly in my carry-on (I NEVER check luggage!), so all I have to do is find a nearby grocery store as soon as I arrive to stock up on things like eggs and fresh veggies.
  • A Tide stain stick. I spill food CONSTANTLY, so this helps keep me stain-free.
  • A cardigan. For some reason they air condition the conference rooms to sub-zero temps, so this keeps me from freezing.
  • Comfy shoes. You spend a lot of time on your feet getting from place to place, so leave the toe-pinching heels at home.
  • My HydroFlask reusable water bottle. I keep it in my purse and chug water all day to stay hydrated.



Robyn Bielman: A sweater (because I’m always cold inside the hotel and conference rooms), my laptop, comfortable shoes, a cute notepad for taking notes, and my glasses.                                                 🤓




Lori Ann Bailey:

1. I keep a spreadsheet of everything I need for conference. It’s super easy to print out and I update it as needed so I don’t have to start over each time I pack. Here are my top five must haves.

2. My twisty towel – shower towels are too big to wrap my hair in, plus if you have roommates, you don’t want to hog all them.

3. A water bottle – sure, you can take a cute one like a Swell, but a used plastic one works too. There is usually water provided at the back of meeting rooms where you can refill it. Trust me on this one – the last NY conference was my first and I was so desperate for a drink that I purchased the $6 bottle in the gift shop. I will never do that again.

4. Female sanitary items – even if it’s not “that time of the month” – I was so nervous at my first conference that my friend came to visit me early and I was not prepared.

5. Band-Aids – and keep them in the bag you have with you! – As you can see, my first conference was filled with rookie mistakes – the worst being that I wore uncomfortable shoes. They were so bad that the day of pitch appointments, my feet were bleeding, so I sat in the pitch room waiting for my time. I was so nervous I missed the appointment with the agent I wanted to pitch to even though I was sitting in the room waiting. Still shaking my head over that. But good news, I was able to pitch to her later and she is now my agent, despite my poor choice in footwear.

Which leaves me with probably the best thing to take with you – A positive attitude – sometimes things happen for a reason. (my manuscript was not where it should have been that first year) Please enjoy conference and make the most of your time there. Remember that all workshops are being recorded this year, so don’t stress if you can’t make it to everything. Have a great time enjoying your journey 



Rae: What is your snack attack must haves in your day bag?


  • Nuts, dried fruit, protein bars, jerky, and tons of water.

Robin: Usually some type of granola bar or small bag of almonds.

Lori Ann: Beef jerky, peanuts, trail mix, and breath mints. 




Rae:What’s the one thing you forget to pack and swear to remember next time?


  • Last year I forgot my eyeglass cleaning cloth, which is ridiculous for someone who wears glasses and constantly smudges them. Fortunately, there were a number of authors handing them out as schwag.

Robin Bielman: Hmm…I can’t think of anything I forget. Usually I overpack and bring way more than I need/wear! 

Lori Ann: A corkscrew for opening wine bottles. 😉 Adding this to my spreadsheet now.

Rae: Thank you so much authors! Readers, what’s the ONE thing you always forget and swear to include next time when you travel? How do you make sure that you remember ;).

I’ll be keeping a running list and will post it a week before #RWA19 so that hopefully no one needs to make a quick run to the lobby market or drug store around the corner. I’ll see you soon for new authors and more ideas!

For more packing ideas if you’re at RWA be sure to check out the following session for more tips and tricks. I know I will!

20/20 Sessions

(Sessions repeated 3 times in an hour: 3:15 – 3:35 p.m., 3:35 – 3:55 p.m., 3:55 – 4:15 p.m.)

Cheapskates Unite! How to Do RWA Nationals on a Budget
 Tawna Fenske

We’re all on a budget. Learn how to save money on flights to the RWA Annual Conference (or any conference or convention) using rewards programs and comparison websites like Kayak. You’ll discover how not to go broke buying conference clothing, as well as how to save on meals. As a bonus, you’ll learn how to never pay baggage fees again by using only a carry-on or two, no matter the length of your trip.

About Tawna Fenske:

When Tawna Fenske finished her English lit degree at 22, she celebrated by filling a giant trash bag full of romance novels and dragging it everywhere until she’d read them all. Now she’s a RITA Award finalist, USA Today bestselling author who writes humorous fiction, risqué romance, and heartwarming love stories with a quirky twist. Publishers Weekly has praised Tawna’s offbeat romances with multiple starred reviews and noted, “There’s something wonderfully relaxing about being immersed in a story filled with over-the-top characters in undeniably relatable situations. Heartache and humor go hand in hand.”

Tawna lives in Bend, Oregon, with her husband, step-kids, and a menagerie of ill-behaved pets. She loves hiking, snowshoeing, standup paddleboarding, and inventing excuses to sip wine on her back porch. She can peel a banana with her toes and loses an average of twenty pairs of eyeglasses per year. To find out more about Tawna and her books, visit www.tawnafenske.com.

About Robin Bielman:

Robin Bielman is the USA Today bestselling author of over fifteen novels. When not attached to her laptop, she loves to read, go to the beach, frequent coffee shops (and by frequent she means daily but she’s trying to break the habit), and spend time with her high school sweetheart husband and two sons. 

Her fondness for swoon-worthy heroes who flirt and stumble upon the girl they can’t live without jumpstarts most of her story ideas. She writes with a steady stream of caffeine nearby (see above) and the best dog on the planet, Harry, by her side. She also dreams of traveling to faraway places and loves to connect with readers. Keep in touch on social! xoxo

About Lori Ann Bailey:

Lori Ann Bailey is a wife and stay-at-home mother who realized overindulging in wine was a bad idea. She started reading romance as an escape from everyday stresses only to discover she’d always had her own reality and stories dancing in her head. Winner of the National Readers’ Choice Award and Holt Medallion for Best First Book and Best Historical, she writes hunky highland heroes and strong-willed independent lasses finding their perfect matches in the Highlands of 17th century Scotland.

She has served two years as the Washington DC Romance Writers Program Director and is currently on her second stint of service to Romance Writers of America as a member of the National Workshop Committee.

After growing up and attending college in Mississippi, she lived in Ohio, Manhattan, and London, but chose to settle in Vienna, VA with her husband and four children. And while she loves her life, most days, she’s behind the computer writing or at the sink washing everyone else’s dirty dishes, dreaming of being in Scotland or New York City.


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