First Time Attendee FAQs

First Time Attendee Frequently Asked Question List

Gems Program FAQ with Tips List at the Bottom

The Emerald City Writer’s Conference has an excellent reputation for taking extra good care of our first timers. This FAQ is geared toward those attendees who have never been to ECWC before and those who have not attended in some time and may wish to refresh their memories.

Do I really need to book the hotel early?

Yes. The Westin Bellevue is a beautiful hotel and sells out every year, typically by mid-summer. Regular rooms in the Westin are several hundred dollars a night, as are the rooms in most of the surrounding hotels within walking distance. By the time conference rolls around, the closest vacant rooms for less than two hundred dollars a night will most likely be miles away from the Westin. We highly encourage everyone to book their room as early as possible. It is much easier to cancel a room you don’t end up needing than to try to find one that hasn’t been available for months.

What and where is the Westin Pre-Function area I keep seeing on things?

The Westin Grand Ballroom is on the third floor of the hotel. There is a large atrium/open area outside the main doors of the ballroom. That is where registration and some other major events take place. If you ask for the “lobby” most attendees and hotel staff will send you to the first floor Westin lobby.

When do I find out who I am pitching to?

When you register you will get your appointment cards in your registration packet. You can see if you can swap if you are not happy with the times or people at the appointment change sessions (after dinner Friday night and Saturday morning before pitching begins). Appointment change sessions are held in the Westin pre-function area.

Is there a grocery store within walking distance?

Yes. If you exit the Westin lobby through the doors in front of the Cypress Lounge, turn right, then left at the light (don’t cross the street) and walk down approximately one block there is a Safeway UNDER the building. You will see the sign at ground level and a set of double doors. It is hard to see if you don’t know to look for it.

Why should I stock up on snacks and breakfast food?

We mention the Safeway above for a reason other than just regular snack acquisition. We recommend attendees go get snacks, drinks, water and breakfast stuff in particular. The hotel is SUPER nice but it is hard to get food or drinks quickly. There is no restaurant open inside the hotel throughout the day. You can get room service but it takes time. For drinks and snacks between classes if you don’t want to miss anything go get your own.  Most of the class rooms have water stations but that’s it and everyone will want to go for coffee. By day two most people are in serious need of a caffeine detox so water is good.

Where’s the best place for breakfast?

There aren’t many places that serve breakfast nearby, and only a few of those that are open by seven am on Saturday and Sunday. Bellevue Square and the area around the hotel is mostly geared to evening entertainment. That said there are some options for the most important meal of the day.

Room Service is exceptional but a bit pricey, (though not much more than the hotel restaurant). Speaking of the hotel restaurant, the daily breakfast buffet in Cypress is excellent ($22.00 per person). Rooms at the Westin have a coffee machine (and offer tea as well). There is a Safeway down the street (one block) that is open in the mornings. It has a Starbucks, full deli, bakery and plenty of drinks.

Should I bring my EReader?

You will meet lots of authors and if you want to buy their books and have your EReader with you it is much easier. If you have books you are selling already you can also show other attendees how to find your books or point out other authors you want to recommend. You will also hear of all sorts of great reference books in the workshops and sometimes it is easier to log in and buy them on the spot that try to jot them down for later.

Should I bring business cards?

YES. Bring business cards. Over the years we have seen some very savvy gals come with some very smart takes on business cards for conference. So with that in mind, my recommendation is go to one of the inexpensive internet sites like Vistaprint and run a the smallest run you can and put your picture on it if you use that and your info on the front. Contrary to normal business cards, leave the back blank and light enough you can write on it. Have them done in a matte finish, again so you can write on it. A few years back I saw a gal do that and she would write any additional info on the back and (here is the brilliant part) where they two people met and what the conversation was about. She was also able to give her pals her room number, and all the while as she was helping people with directions to coffee shops, restaurants, etc. and still giving out her info and websites and all that time and every interaction she was handing out her info. She made a TON of connections doing that, it was obvious and super smart. Regular cards are good too but I loved that idea and always pass it on.

Additional general guidance on business cards:

Splashy graphics are nice but a readable, clear card is best. If you can combine the two, and it suits your brand, that’s great.

Make it professional, even if that means going simpler than you normally might. Conference is meant to be fun, social and will have a definite party feel to it. However, it is an industry conference and the business conducted there is just that. In the past, most cards are professional and clean for folks just starting out and anyone who has started building a marketing platform (unpublished or published) normally have tie ins to that.

Cards need to contain you name and a way to follow or contact you at a minimum. There is no set standard for “professional linkage” or all your contact info but the current trend from what I have seen is a facebook, twitter and website contact. Some folks are active on instagram or tumbler and those pop up occasionally as well. Use whatever you want folks to have, there is no specific have to or must not in this regard. People just need to be able to find you.

What kind of shoes should I wear? (What should I wear is it’s own question)

The Westin has commercial carpet EVERYWHERE, I would forego spike/stiletto heel heels unless you wear them often enough to have professional status on them, they tend to catch on the heavy traction carpet. Chunky heels seem to be fine for those who chose to wear them. Most people wear some sort of leather business causal or heavier duty nice shoe. It is October in Seattle and will be breezy, chilly, very likely wet and rainy. Many of the attendees wear black or brown walking/tennis shoes that pass for dress shoes at a glance. 

The class rooms are all on a single floor and you don’t have to go outside for any conference activities, so dress or dress casual are fine. However, if you want to go to some of the amazing restaurants/wine bars/bars/coffee shops across the street or within a block of the hotel, you are looking at sidewalk or a sky bridge connecting to a parking garage to get there. The Safeway is a block away on city sidewalk. If you stay in another hotel nearby you are looking at city sidewalk as well. However, it is Bellevue so the sidewalks are well maintained 😀

There is a mall next door that is worth hitting if you are a shopper type so keep that in mind.

What should I wear?

Business casual or your flavor of quirky attire as you feel appropriate. There is no specific dress code so I can only tell you what we see the most of with the caveat why to wear layers below. Suits are fine but with the possibility of inclement weather most people go for business casual.

However, there are some really nice bars and restaurants within a few hundred feet of the front door of the hotel and nearly three dozen withing a block. I would throw in a dressy top or something similar in the event you and your new friends want to go have a cocktail or late dinner.

Why layers?

The Westin is a beautiful hotel. Half of the breakout or “lake” classrooms (as the rooms the workshops are conducted in are called) are located on the outer wall with big windows floor to ceiling. The other half are on the interior of the building with no windows. In the mornings, all the class rooms are cool, very cool in the early morning actually. However, in the afternoon when the sun comes out and hits those large windows in the breakout rooms and they have been full of talking breathing humans all day they start to heat up. Not uncomfortably so but the difference between your first workshop of the day if it is in an inner lake room and the last one of the day if it is in a window room could be quite dramatic. So layers have proven to be the best way to keep comfortable for most attendees.

How late do things go, I want to schedule some meet ups with my pals?

Friday night dinner runs until 9pm with Pitchfest and appointment changes after until 10pm. Saturday night classes wrap up (mostly) by 4pm or a little earlier with the reader event at 6pm, ending at 8pm. If you are planning to go swing through the reader event and then go eat MAKE A RESERVATION at one of the local restaurants. You can check out what Bellevue Square (the mall across the street) has by clicking here. Bellevue square is really nice, swanky in places even and is PACKED on weekends. If you want you can meet during the day in the writer’s lounge also.

What is the writer’s lounge?

The Lake Chelan room is at the end of the hallway that contains the other class rooms we use. We set it up as a lounge with WiFi. It has large round meeting tables, couches, comfy seating and plenty of room to meet your friends for a quick coffee site down or whatever suits you. People often go in there and log in to do social media updates, check email, etc. We use also use the room for people to swap swag they don’t want or can’t fit in their luggage to take home (along the window sills NOT the tables, if you put your stuff in the middle of the tables it will be moved to the sills. Yes, the committee checks a few times a day.).

Why do people look at me funky when I take pictures?

Some people at our conference write anonymously and wish for that to remain the case. If you are going to take photos please try to keep them to your group, people you know or large enough groups that picking someone out would be difficult. The board will take pictures of the conference and we ask each time if the people in the shot mind, if they do we don’t take the photo. Those will be posted on our social media and you may share to your hearts content. Please give people their space if they don’t want to be photographed. We don’t have a rule or anything but we ask you be courteous of your fellow attendees and respect their privacy and wishes if they ask you NOT to take a photo with them in it. Especially if you are in the elevator or walking along and see a writer you just love. Go ahead, ask, that’s fine, fan moments are great, but please respect author’s wishes if they decline. Some of them will have just gotten off long flights, may be jet lagged, etc. My experience has been most will say yes, but if not, accept gracefully.

A backpack really?

We encourage all our first timers to carry a back pack or bag large enough to hold more than just a pocket book and your phone. It sounds a bit nerdy but you will have handouts to carry, the program (it has the schedule in it), your water, your snacks, your pens and pencils, your notebook, your wallet and then while you are juggling all that someone will want to shake your hand or hug you.  It can take a while to get up and down to the rooms to due to elevator congestion so I would consider a bag that will hold all that stuff for a few hours worth you doing your thing. Hobo bag, messenger bag, something along those lines are most common. I also recommend people pick something with a pocket on the outside and a card case of some sort to keep business cards, a small notebook, and a pen handy at a minimum. Everyone does it differently but you will likely need more than just a purse.

What do you mean no internet on the workshop floor?

Workshops take place on the third floor. The Westin has WiFi in the lobby (first floor) and you can get the daily password from the front desk. The Writer’s Lounge on the third floor has it and the password will be posted on the tables each day. However, those are the only two places on the third floor you will have Wi-Fi. If you are a speaker, you will not have access to cloud presentations in the lake classrooms. Some attendees will set their smart phones up as a Wi-Fi hotspot and that seems to work fine. If you don’t use this function on your phone normally it often incurs increased fees for data so it might be worth a call to your cell phone provider before you come to see what it costs and if it is something you wish to do (and to have them walk you through how to turn it on if you don’t know how).

Can I take notes on my laptop?

Sure, if you want to bring it. If you want/need a plug in I would be quick to be one of the first ones in the room. Each room only has four to eight plug ins accessible to attendees (that’s plugs not pairs of plugs). You may also wish to bring your own extension cord and use courtesy and common sense when you plug it in so no one trips and gets hurt.

This FAQ is brand new and will be fully populated over the summer.

Pro Tips

  1. Plan to Keep Your Phone Charged. If your phone allows for you to change batteries bring an extra. Plug in’s are few and far between except in the rooms and the days are LONG. If your phone is vital have a plan to keep your charge full. There are also mobile charging battery packs (they normally take AA batteries and small enough to fit easily in a clutch or purse. You can find them at places like Best Buy or online for $10-$30.
  2. Signature Bag. Something fun a few gals did a few years ago that I like to pass on is that they brought tow bags to the book fair (not it would be reader event). One was a regular bag to hold their stuff but the other was a canvas bag with a Sharpie. They brought the regular bag to hold the swag and free books but they had every author they stopped and visited with sign the canvas bag with the sharpie so they left with a bag autographed by almost all the authors present. It was pretty neat.
  3. Fabric EReader Cover. I have seen attendees and readers bring fabric ereader covers and cover them in autographs as well. This is fun for fans but also could be a fun swag idea for those signing at the reader event.
  4. Bring a Bigger Cup. The hotel provides great coffee and little tiny cups. If you want to have a cup to get you through the first few hours of workshops bring a travel mug. The closest coffee place is Tully’s and it is a five minute walk and normal line time is ten to fifteen minutes (more at breakfast and lunch rush). There is a Starbucks in the mall across the street (ten minute walk, ten minute or more line time, no outside walking), a Starbucks in the B&N behind the hotel (ten minute walk, one to two minute line time, outside walking if it is raining) and there is a third in Safeway down the street (ten minute walk, one to two minute line time, also with outside walking if it is raining).
  5. Don’t Forget Swimsuits and Workout Clothes. The Westin has a fabulous pool, HOT TUB, and work out facility. Don’t miss out because you didn’t throw in a suit or comfy work out clothes. The hotel does offer workout clothes if you forget yours but I prefer my own.
  6. Bring Address Labels if You Plan To Buy Raffle Tickets. Get the tiny ones, the half inch by one inch and bring a page of them. Put your name and address on them. Raffle tickets are $1 each and 12 for $10, cash only. You will need to put your name and address on the back of each ticket you buy. Itty bitty address labels will save you several minutes of filling out tickets when you would rather be conversing with your new pals.