Wednesday, July 23, 2008

It Bites

by Guest Blogger Nancy Haddock

No, I’m not talking about vampires. Not even about werewolves, or the hickey fiend I dated in college a bazillion years ago.

I’m referring to something else entirely. Something I loathe. Something I despise. Something I abhor.

What could Nancy with-the-laughing-face-Pollyanna-Positive-Spin Haddock hate that much?

Packing.

Yes, I said packing. And I must do it soon in order to attend the annual RWA conference. (Cue the creepy music and see me shudder.)

My packing issues have nothing to do with the new airline rules (though those bite, too). It’s not even that I don’t know how to pack, or know how to make packing easier. I do know how. I’ve read and followed the advice of every how-to-pack article that’s come to my notice for - lo! - these many years of attending conferences. In fact, I read yet another fabulous article by Marcia James on the subject just recently.

Nope, knowing how to pack efficiently isn’t the problem. The trouble is, I hate packing at all.

Oh, I start with the best of intentions. I even begin the task armed with lists and some measure of confidence. I assemble items, check them off my lists, and then, knee deep in clothing and toiletries, I panic. Am I bringing too much, too little, clothing too warm, clothing too hot?

For years I’ve fantasized about packing only my favorite hairbrush and flying off with nary a carryon in hand. At my destination, I’d go shopping for shampoo, makeup, clothing and accessories. Then, before leaving to return home, I give everything but my favorite brush and the clothes on my back to charity. Let me tell you, I’ve got this fantasy embellished to Disney proportions complete with cute wildlife as my singing and dancing backup.

My alternate fantasy is that I’m Samantha Stevens, and with a twitch of my nose, I either (1) conjure outfits from the ethers, or (2) teleport home to change.

But, alas, the fantasies dissolve when I remember two things. I’m not Samantha, and I hate to clothes shop even more than I hate to pack.

Can I be the only woman in RWA who thinks schlepping from store to store, from tiny cubicle to tiny cubicle, undressing and re-dressing for hours at a time is a drag? Say it isn’t so!

Now that you’d listened to me grouse about shopping and packing, you might ask why I put myself through the angst. Is attending the RWA or any conference worth the effort?

Well, yes. Seeing friends, attending fabulous workshops, networking, doing the whole writer-bonding thing is a high. This year will be even more special for me because I’ll be signing my debut book, La Vida Vampire, at the "Readers for Life" Literacy Autographing, and at the Berkley signing event. Wow, my first time to be on the author side of those long rows of tables! That alone is worth facing the dreaded suitcase.

I think.

So tell, me, do you dread packing? Hate to shop? Suffer from suitcase stress? Share your stories – and dish on how you deal with your travel issues! All tips are welcome!

And, if you want to travel to the beach without ever packing, come visit my web site and click on the Beach Party page for a little virtual fun in the sun!

My sincere thanks to Annette for inviting me to guest blog with the fab Working Stiffs. Y’all rock, and I’m honored to have been a temp here!

Nancy Haddock’s debut book, La Vida Vampire, launched a new series from Berkley, and was released in April 2008 to rave reviews, including a 4 1/2 star Top Pick from Romantic Times BookReviews magazine. Though this book is her first published work, Nancy has written articles, comedy sketches, screenplays, children’s picture books, poetry, and has tried her hand in a number of genres.

For this tale of paranormal romantic mystery, Nancy drew on her long experience with things-that-go-bump by day and night, and on the historic wealth of St. Augustine, Florida, the Nation’s Oldest City. She lives with her husband a blissful block from the beach, and is a dedicated resident-tourist who never gets tired of exploring the sights of her new hometown.

51 comments:

Gina said...

Welcome, Nancy. I detest shopping, too, but I like to pack, in part because my cats have made it quite a challenge. You see, Dusty and Taffy hate it when I go away. If they notice a suitcase, they pee on it -- this is not just a smelly, hostile act. It is a sophisticated trip-halting strategy. I've actually been pulled out of line at the airport and searched because a screening machine detected nitrates on my carry-on! I therefore have to pack in secret -- cramming things into suitcases while the cats are out outside, then hiding the evidence on the top shelves of closets where the cats are less likely to notice anything unusual. [As all cat owners know, there is no place in a house that a determined cat can't get to. A friend's cat even learned to open his refrigerator, but that's another story . . .]

Annette said...

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Nancy. I'm so glad you agreed to visit us today.

I don't really HATE packing. Maybe because I don't travel all that much. (I did have a kitty who made every effort to pack herself--"you can't go without me!"--but as always, Gina, your story tops all)

I do, however, detest shopping. Except for that one time I got into a cosmic "zone" at the 75 percent off rack at Macy's. But any other time, I'd rather go to the dentist. And THAT is saying something.

Annette said...

And by the way, you all should read this book. La Vida Vampire is wonderful fun! I loved it! Congratulations, Nancy!

Tory said...

Packing improved for me after I got a case with my toiletries that I keep always packed. I find clothes picking much less hard to deal with than being afraid I'm going to forget some personal item.

And my cats usually run and hide when they see the suitcases coming out. Thora may pee on rugs, but so far, no suitcases! (I'll keep my finger's crossed.)

Thanks for joining us, Nancy! Your book looks like great fun.

Joyce said...

I don't mind packing--and I'm really good at it. I can pack clothes for the entire family and get them all in one suitcase. That's all we ever take--one suitcase and one bag with all the toiletries and my hair dryer that I can't do without.

I like to shop, too, but I'm one of those people who can spend an entire afternoon in stores, but not buy anything. I like to browse, which is probably better for the budget.

Welcome to Working Stiffs, Nancy!

Irene said...

Instead of SF, we rented a house on the Jersey shore for one week.
My husband is so excited, he started packing the hour after we signed the lease online! He's been making lists and dragging up plastic containers and filling them for the past nine days.
My guess is he loves to pack. He loves being prepared.
I only need a day to get things together for myself, but we're practically moving house...dishes, pots and pans, blankets and sheets, towels....
Oh, how I WISH I could afford to just bring my toothbrush. Wait, if I can afford to go that way, I can buy a new toothbrush when I get there!
Irene Peterson
http://peachette48.livejournal.com

Edie said...

Waving hi again, Nancy! Packing isn't a big deal for me, but the cat comments reminded me of packing last year for a conference. I put my slacks on my bed, my black ones on the bottom, before putting them in the suitcase. When I was ready to wear the black slacks at the conference, I discovered they were covered in cat hair.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Hey Nancy. You're talking about my specialty here. Packing. For someone who sometimes moves his clothes from the suitcase, to the washer and back to the suitcase, I've got it down to a science.

It's all about mixing and matching and taking half of what you think you need. OH, and only 2 pair of shoes.

I went to China once for a three week trip and took 2 pair of slacks and three shirts. I knew, if the flights worked out, I'd have about 5 hours to kill in Beijing. I ran to the Silk Market (a monstrous market with every knock-off item you can think of) and $60 US later I had enough designer clothing to last the trip. OH I also bought a suitcase to put it all in for $5.

JennieB said...

Welcome, Nancy. You live in St. Augustine? I'm so envious! We were there last year, and wanted to go back this year, but couldn't work it out. We've been talking about moving, actually. And the book's set in St. Augustine, too? I'll definitely have to find it. I've been looking for books set there - there aren't many - and have been thinking of writing some myself, since it seems like an underused area. I don't do vampires, though.

Anyway... like Will, I've got packing down to a science. The kids and I went to Europe for two weeks the beginning of the summer with two suitcases, and we did quite well. The trick is to mix and match; don't pack outfits, pack separates that all go together. That way you can get a week's worth of outfits out of a pair of pants, a skirt, and three tops.

Of course, I don't have cats, so that may make it easier.

Diana Cosby said...

Hi Nancy,
I'm not a fan of packing either, but I tend to use the Erma Bombeck rule. Lay everything you are going to take on the bed, then pack only 1/2. Yes, I do this. It works. It forces you to take only what you really want. We all know that we never wear everything we'd normally take. :) Not sure if it helps, but whenever I see the name Erma Bombeck, I smile. Hope it made you do the same.

Diana Cosby
www.dianacosby.com

Diana Cosby said...

Nancy,
Enjoy National! I'm still picking out house stuff. :)

Diana
www.dianacosby.com

Donnell said...

Good morning, Nancy; good morning, Working Stiffs! I'm afraid in the packing arena, Nancy and I are twins. On shopping, she and I are clones. I always carry too much *stuff* or forget something critical like my left shoe to my favorite pumps that match my DBC gown, which forces me into the mall. It's a vicious cycle. I wonder if there's some sort of therapy for ... recovering packers? Nice post, Nancy, have a ball at National, sell lots of books and I'll see you next year.

Nancy said...

Good morning, Working Stiffs!

Gina, your story takes the cake so far! Like Annette, I had a cat who tried to pack herself, and like Edie, I've arrived with hair all over my clothes, but neither of my cats marked my suitcases or clothes. Bet that one threw the TSA!

Thanks for sharing your stories! And, Annette, thank you for the compliment on La Vida Vampire!

Light,
Nancy

Annette said...

Packing tip for all of us crazy cat people: carry one of those sticky roller things. I never see the cat hair on my clothes until it's too late. So I keep those sticky rollers stashed everywhere. And they make little purse-sized ones, too.

I don't have any tips at all for the cats peeing on the luggage, though. Sorry, Gina.

Nancy said...

Tory, I keep a toiletries bag packed, too, and I've managed to pare it down. I just have a thing about being without a drug store near enough to snag anything I forgot. :)

Will and Jennie, you are packing gods in my book! I can hardly conceive of taking so little, especially overseas! Do you hire out? I'd be happy to run to Starbucks while you pack for me.

But have you ever taken the bare minimum and been stuck without enough changes of clothes?

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Joyce, hi!

You can pack one suitcase for the entire family plus one small bag? Is this suitcase roughly the size of Shamu?

AND you like to shop?

Okay, you join the rank of packing gods and goddesses. I may have to retreat to a quiet place to process how on earth you manage this feat of magic!

Light,
Nancy

Annette said...

I have to share a packing story. Several years ago, hubby and I went on vacation to Clarion PA with my best friend and her significant other at the time. Well, BF's SO forgot to pack his underwear, so we girls left the guys and went shopping. We found a lovely little sale and spend $$$$ on stuff in addition to the undies. When we returned to the hotel, we hid the "other stuff" and delivered the Fruit of the Looms to BF's SO who wanted to know what they cost. We told him $30.

So now the joke is, don't forget to pack your underwear because it is very expensive to have to buy new stuff in a strange town.

Nancy said...

Hi, Irene!

I'm grinning about your hubby packing before the ink was dry on the lease ... so to speak. Think he's excited much?

Have a fantastic time at the Jersey shore ... and all the best packing up the house!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Diana, dear heart!

I imagine your packing hands ARE still full, but I hope you're enjoying Texas so far. And you're so right. Erma Bombeck makes me smile - thank you!

Happy Mid-Week, and hope your new home is being built in record time!

Light,
Nancy

Joyce said...

Nancy, it probably helps that I'm the only female in the family. Packing for summer vacations only requires a couple pair of shorts and a few t-shirts for everyone, plus socks and underwear. The guys would wear the same outfit all week if I'd let them. The cooler we usually take along is bigger than the suitcase.

Cheryl Norman said...

Nancy,
we're kindred souls! First, because I hate packing, too, so much so that I rarely do it. It's the primary reason dh and I travel in our RV, in which we keep a supply of clothes, toiletries, etc.

Second, we LOVE St. Augustine, Floria! In fact, we were there this weekend, camped at Anastasia State Park on the island. In fact, I currently serve as president of the Ancient City Romance Authors. One of our activities is taking the ghost tour. This year (right before Halloween) we're planning a group Ghost Train on the trolley.

Great blog. I won't see you at RWA this year. I didn't pack. :D

Cheryl Norman
author of RUNNING SCARED
Medallion Press--September, 2008

Nancy said...

Hi Donnell!

I'm going to miss you in SF, but the bright side is that you don't have to pack!

I haven't forgotten one shoe yet, but I've had my feet swell to epic proportions and not been able to wear any of the shoes I'd packed. One of the many reasons I'm freaky about being prepared.

It's good to have a clone/ twin, Donnell. Thank you for letting me feel more normal for a moment, and thank you for your good wishes on the SF trip!

Light,
Nancy

Donnell said...

Nancy, I have to pack (sobbbb) I'm going to Seattle to visit my eldest ;) Your feet may have swelled, I broke my toe at National LOL, on the night of Death by Chocolate when I had to hobble on stage :) Do good, girlfriend! Say hi to everyone. Off to get my suitcase out of mothballs .... groan ;)

Nancy said...

My dear Working Stiffs, I'm loving being here, and will be answering more posts in a bit.

Right now I have to get to the post office and run other errands NOT related to packing. :)

Please keep the comments coming! I appreciate the tips and will use them. And, come on, folks. Someone has to have a nightmare story of packing or shopping! Dish, and I'll see you in a bit!

Light,
Nancy

JennieB said...

I'll pack for you, Nancy. If it gets me a trip to St. Augustine, I'll be there in a jiffy. In fact, I'll live above the garage, and then I'll always be there when you need me. A block from the ocean, you said? Uh-huh!

Carolyn Matkowsky said...

HI, Nancy,

Good interview. Like you, I've always wanted to pack just one bag, but that hasn't happened. Before the airline restrictions, I carried on a large bag filled with my hair care products. I took the same products whether the trip was weeks long or overnight. What a challenge to get my products into small containers in a quart bag! But I found a way. I can't go anywhere without my special products.

Two packing tips I found helpful: wrap your clothes in tissue paper in your suitcase and if you take a garment bag, wrap each item in a separate plastic dry cleaner bag. I do this and my clothes don't wrinkle. No wrinkles on my trips to Australia and Europe.

Enjoy National. Wish I were going. I'll be at National next year. DC is a two-hour drive from my home.

I love La Vida Vampire. I can't wait for the sequel. Have fun at your signing at National.

Carolyn Matkowsky/Cara Marsi
www.caramarsi.com

Wendy Watson said...

Hi Nancy!

I'm with you, sister. I hate packing, and I hate shopping ... and in my life the two are inextricably bound together.

For some reason, when I travel, I discover that I hate everything I own. I'm going to wear the black pants at the conference, but suddenly the shoes I *always* wear with the black pants are beyond horrible and must be replaced. Or I decide I must wear pantyhose (which I never wear at home). Or I can't imagine being seen in public without eyeshadow, which I don't own. Or I discover that my black pants, which fit the week before, are now two sizes too small.

So before I can pack, I have to shop.

And for some reason, when I'm looking for pants-appropriate black shoes the day before traveling to the most important conference *ever* (because aren't they all?), there isn't a single store in all of North Texas with pants-appropriate black shoes. Or pantyhose in my particular shade of fish-belly white. Or eyeshadow that isn't neon green. Or pants larger than a size 2.

Too much stress. I prefer to stay home, make-up free, in my jammies and bare feet.

TracyG said...

Hi Nancy! I think I landed in the right place today. I don't like shopping and packing is never fun. I do like your Samantha fantasy, though. Since I hate shopping, the idea of buying what I need when I arrive gives me hives. :D

Tracy G.
www.tracygarrett.com

Rae Ann Parker said...

Hi Nancy:

I hate shopping, too. Glad to know I'm not the only one. This is the first year that I am not shopping at the last minute for RWA. Thank goodness. It leaves more time for polishing the latest manuscript.
Hope to see you in SF.

Misty Evans said...

Hi Nancy dear!

I don't mind packing so much as UNpacking. Returning home from a trip usually makes me depressed and then all the laundry and catching up...

Packing means I'm going on an adventure and I LOVE adventures. I pack light and leave plenty of room for souvenirs.

Enjoy the adventure!
Misty
OPERATION SHEBA - 9/08
Heart-stopping danger...undercover intrigue.
www.readmistyevans.com

EllenDye said...

Hi Nancy!
I'm totally with you on all packing issues---grab that brush the passport and go. Unfortunately I've never tried out the fantasy. But, when it comes to the actual packing I'm of the "Throw it in the suitcase" school now. Oh, and once I've tossed in what I figure is enough I don't think about what's in there until I arrive. Cuts out that whole pesky business of worrying over what I've forgotten!
Great blog and thanks again for the warm welcome to Elements! Ellen

Nancy said...

Joyce, you've made me feel better to know you're the sole female in the family. Boys/ men ARE easier to pack for. My hubby was a whiz at packing himself when he was a consultant.

Annette, I'm still laughing about the $30 underwear shopping trip!

If I have my own transportation, or I'm familiar with the city/ area, I' more likely to "under" pack. Going where I don't know how to find the drug, dollar and, ahem, inexpensive clothing stores, that's a whole different issue!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Gentle Readers, we have a severe storm coming in fast. If I lose power, I'll be back ASAP!

Nancy

Nancy said...

Hi Cheryl!

Oh, I wish I'd known you were in town! I'd have taken you out for coffee or ice cream or something!

I just recommended ACRA to someone today, and I need to join. I'm so behind on some things!

I could handle the alwas-being-packed for an RV trip. I'll bet ya'll have been to some wonderful places!

May the road be smooth, and maybe I'll get to see you in town soon!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Donnell, have fun in Seattle! What a great place to get to go - and you don't have to pack dress-up-and-look-like-a-writer clothes. (Or do you?) And, hey, your son can run you to the store. That's what children with licenses are for! :)

Have a great time ... even if it does mean packing!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Jennie, you don't even have to live over the garage. The guest room is waiting!

And, yet, walk to the beach in about three minutes. Shall I put on fresh sheets now?

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Hi Carolyn/ Cara!

Thank you for the compliment on La Vida Vampire, and for the packing tips, too. Those may be two I haven't tried.

I may miss you in SF, but I'll see you in DC next year, Ms. Two Hour Drive. Take good care, and enjoy the rest of your summer!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Wendy! I about broke something laughing over your post. I don't necessarily hate everything I have before a trip, but everything does seem to be those sizes smaller. And, though calling on shopping angels has helped, I'm with you on not finding the shoes to go with whatever.

And, okay. When did anyone last see navy blue loafers. I can't find them here. Is it a fashion thing or a St. Aug thing?

Have fun staying put in your bare feet and natural beauty while you can, Wendy. I know sales will be changing that for you! :))

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Tracy, I just knew we had yet another connection! Thank you for the courage to speak your truths about shopping and packing!

If we find enough of us, we can share personal shoppers and packers. Sound good?

Take good care, and thank you for visiting!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Rae Ann, hi!

Mega congrats on not having to do last minute shopping this year! That rocks!!

Hope your manuscript polishing is going easily and effortlessly, and I'll look forward to seeing you in SF. Where we can shop only for a place to eat! :)

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Helllooo, Adventure Girl, Misty!

I can see how the unpacking would be the bummer for you, but the sooner you do the laundry, the sooner you're ready to go again, right?

I'll miss seeing you in SF, but hope to see you in DC. Or at RT in Orlando next spring.

Light,
Nancy

JennieB said...

I can be there by tomorrow morning!

Nancy said...

Hi Ellen!

You may have come up with the definitive solution to tack onto all the other tips. Pack half of what I get out, toss it in, and be surprised by what I find when I arrive. I might have some wrinklage, but I won't worry about what I fogot if I don't remember what I packed.

I acutally did pack so carefully and deliberately - and early! - one time, that I had forgotten what I packed. I muddled through then. I could do it again. I like it!

I'm tickled you're in Elements, and I'll hope to meet you in person soon!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Jennie, you can be here tomorrow morning? Don't torment me if it isn't so!! (big grin)

Seems you could teach a class in how to pack phobic-free - with ready-made students right here!

Hmmm. Something to think on!

Light,
Nancy

Anonymous said...

Hi Nancy, that nasty storm hit me too, but it's gone now. hope to hit the beach in a bit. Cat? black clothes are a fur magnet. I hide my suitcase in the locked -down family room :) A past conference roomie taught me to roll up clothes to make them fit better in the suitcase. RWA really makes us work.. too many dressy events... unless we're brave enought to wear the same thing to every semi-dressy event :) and super smelly hotel soap kills my allergic nose :) So I bring my own. But I always pack my fave breakfast! A few bags of Milano cookies--- paired with diet coke and it's the conference breakfast of champions. back to packing... Girls love sparklies--- I always have to pack something sparkly for awards deal. and if I dared only pack one pair of black pants, I'm sure something would get on them that would bleach out the color and REEK. :) And I need to have choices---what if something suddenly feels too tight to wear. ARRgh. We should have the conference in a lodge in the woods and only allow jeans for the entire 5 days. simple :)

Ellen

LaDonna said...

Nancy, I'm laughing here! As you know, we just got back from our FL vacation. I over-packed, and my son-in-law and hubby teased me about my bulky, heavy suitcase they had to lift. I'm a terrible packer, and I don't like it at all. Never know exactly what I'll need, so I take too much. Next year, I'm just packing bathing suits and beach shorts. It's all I needed this year, and I've learned my lesson. LOL.

Nancy said...

Ellen, you have nailed one of the issues in packing for RWA. The special events! Aaarrrggghhh!

Special event clothes, shoes, and your wonderful word, sparklies. Perhaps it's my shopping hang up, but there are only so many ways I can make a dress, pants, or skirt look different.

Then again, I seldom remember what people wear. Perhaps it's high time I stop being so conscious of what I wear. :)

Yep, the storm was a good one, with enough soaking rain to delay watering another few days. And only a power flicker here and there. Hope you had a nice rain, too!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

LaDonna, big grins! I'm so glad you had a good time in Florida, and beach/ casual wear is about all you need here.

If I'm packing to go see kids or just hang out on vacation, packing is only a challenge in terms of anticipating the weather. It's the professional trip packing that trips me up!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

Before it gets too late, I want to sincerely thank Annette and all the members of and contributors to Working Stiffs for having me here.

This has been great fun, and I'll look forward to seeing those of you who will be in San Fran. I hope to meet others of you another time!

I may not be over the packing phobia, but it's been liberating to share and hear yours own challenges and tips. I WILL keep them in mind as I take up the packing banner.

Oh, and Jennie, your room is ready. :))

Have a wonderful rest of the week, everyone, and I thank each of you for stopping by to visit!

Light,
Nancy

Nancy said...

YIKES! It's come to my attention that it was most likely Shelley Munro who wrote the packing article I mentioned, not Marcia James. (Thank you for contacting me, Marcia, and for helping with the detective work!)

Please check our Shelley's blog at

http://www.shelleymunro.com/blog/2008/07/17/packing-for-travel/#more-317

Mega apologies again to Shelley, Marcia, and the Working Stiffs and readers!

Light,
Nancy

Shelley Munro said...

Hi Nancy. I'm glad my article helped :)

You'd think experience would make packing less stressful, but packing for long holidays takes a lot of thought and discussion with hubby. I'm sending happy packing thoughts to everyone. I hope you enjoy the conference. I know I will, even if I leave something important at home. ;)