Medical Conferences vs Writing Conferences

photo rwa conf logo

I’ve just returned from my very first writing conference – the RWA Nationals in New York City – what a blast! Over 2000 romance authors and industry professionals get together once a year for a week to network, share their craft and marketing strategies, and most of all – make new friends! I’ve been to quite a few medical conferences in my career and I have to say there are some very subtle but noticeable differences.

First off – the prep. There was a lot of prep for a writing conference. We were given a link to a video showing how and what to pack (colour coordination and rolling all your clothes is key), on how to use the elevator at the hotel (no buttons inside the elevator – you had to punch your floor in the box before you got on AND wait for it – remember which elevator you were assigned – because you know, no buttons in the elevator) and were given advice for socializing for introverts (say hi, ask where they’re from and what they write. Yes, we were given icebreaker question suggestions – these are my people). We were told to set goals and plan – but no worries we were also given an app for that! I think if doctors were told they had to plan this much for a conference, they would give up. Writers are a hardy lot.


photo rwa carsSecond off – the parking. Here in Kingston, at the conference centre, we park outdoors on a paved lot. Occasionally if it’s really busy, there might be overflow onto the adjacent grass. THIS is what the parking looked like in NYC. It’s like a vending machine for cars. I’ll take F5 – a new black Porsche. (And maybe if I bang on the machine, 2 cars might fall out?)


Third – the workshops. No signing up, feel free to change your mind, the presenters don’t mind if you walk out, workshops. Golden. This isn’t very common at medical conferences. We tend to stay put – physically anyway. I’ve plotted some very interesting novels at medical conferences 🙂


Fourth – the pitch sessions. What a great idea! At the Nationals, authors have a chance to pitch their ideas to editors and agents to see if they’re interested in publishing the story or representing the author to the publishing houses. I think this could really catch on in the medical world. One big room filled with scientists and those people who have the grant money. It’d be like speed dating. Before the researcher spends countless hours preparing a cumbersome proposal, they could take 10 minutes to pitch their ideas and see if there is any interest. Wouldn’t that be such a time saver? Writers know what they’re doing.


Despite the differences, I did notice one very striking similarity. The coffee consumption! 🙂 Stay tuned – I met some awesome Soul Mate authors and I’ll share the pics!


Sharing the Awesome – Vlad Kratky in Czech Republic!

My life is filled with love and laughter thanks to the amazing people I get to hang out with. As well as being awesome, they’re creative, talented, generous, and fun! I thought you might like to meet them so I’ve asked them to come and give us a behind-the-scenes look at what they’re passionate about.  

My guest today is my husband, Vlad Kratky. He definitely has a travel bug and is an expert about all things Czech! We once had a relative from Czech Republic stay with us, and they said Vlad was the most patriotic Czech they knew! He loves to travel to Czech Republic so I’ve asked him to share his invaluable insider travel tips.

First, when you arrive, look for a newspaper called Prague Post – which is an English weekly that will get you up to speed on the local scene pretty quickly. (They usually sell it at the newspaper shops as you walk to get your luggage at the airport.)

I don’t know how many days you’ll be in Prague, but absolute minimum 2-3 days is recommended since there is so much to see. The top sights are:

Karluv Most


Charles bridge (Karluv Most)





Old Town Square (Stare Namesti) with the astronomical clock on the Old City Hall (a must see for ‘on-the-hour’ show)

Prague castle (Hradcany) (overlooking the city that you see in all photos.


Wenceles square


Wenceslas square (Vaclavske Namesti)  – (which is the main square in “new town”)  – go to Jalta Hotel cafe for some Zatec beer!!




Municipal house (Obecni Dum) – an art deco building just west of old town square (my favourite); go and have a snack and cappuccino in the cafe!!



old town squareWhen you first head out sightseeing, go to the Old Town Square where there are a couple of great tourist information offices with lots of info…one is near the Parisian Street (great for shopping) and the other near the famous astronomical clock. There is also a little sightseeing mini-train (right near the statue in the old square), which is great way to start and get a feel for the layout of town and the major attractions.




Photo CZ 1 red roof and church copyWhen you visit the Prague Castle (which is the largest castle by area in the world!) plan at least a few hours…there is lots to see including the St. Vitus Cathedral and the Golden Lane, etc. Before you leave the castle hill, check out the Strahov Monastery just west of it. You’ll get some amazing sights of the city below. The easiest way to get to the castle is to take a street car (#22) or cab up the hill…you can walk up but it’s quite a hike 🙂 It’s better to return to the city by walking down from the castle…follow the crowds down Nerudova Street and check out the old houses with the ‘pictorial’ house numbers…when you come down from the castle you are in Mala Strana (lesser quarter) with lots of neat shops and an impressive St. Nicholas church…follow the crowds and you will be back on the Charles bridge which connects you with old town.

Language is not a problem as everyone under 45 years old speaks English, especially in tourist areas.

Prague is a walking city, especially the Old Town so don’t bother with a car or leave it at the hotel. The public transport especially the Metro (subway) is also a very efficient way of getting around.

Hotels:  There are many to choose from, but I would again make sure you’re within walking distance to the old town. Some really nice ones are Hotel ParisImperial Hotel or Intercontinental Hotel – check them out on the web; bit pricey for this part of Europe, but on par with Toronto and other big cities in N. America (and cheaper than London, Paris!). The first two have definite turn of the century flavour (i.e. 1900’s) and the last one is on the bank of Vltava river, which is the main river that bisects the city.

For night-time culture, it is worthwhile seeing something at the National Theatre, which is an amazing historical building in itself. It is on the banks of the river just west of old town/new town junction. Your hotel will help you with tickets. The “Black Light” Theatre is a Czech invention and also very worthwhile – there are several venues, but I liked the one on Parisian right north of the Old Town Square.

For shopping try Parisian street or the Palladium Mall which is just east of the old square.

For metro or street car…buy tickets at your hotel (the machines at the metro are too hard to figure out);  buy one that’s good for 1 or 2 days.

Cash…I don’t bother with airport exchange, just use an ATM when you see one. Czech currency (crowns or korunas) is still most widely used, so just get that. Officially, Euros are accepted, but only big businesses take them and most Czechs dislike them. 1 Can $ is about 20 Crowns (or “korunas”). Credit cards are accepted by hotels and big restaurants but smaller places love cash…and tipping is minimal!

Safety – no violent crime but pickpockets may prey on unwitting tourists, as in other big European cities…keep your wallet on an inside pocket.


Photo CZ 1 Vltava River copyRestaurants…there are lots!! and most are good even in the tourist areas; eating on the old town square is a great experience; otherwise try “Kampa Park Restaurant” which over looks the river and the Charles Bridge…the main beers are Pilsner Urquell and Budvar (Czech Budweiser, which has nothing to do with the US one!);  for local ‘beer hall’ experience try “U Fleku” or “U Medvidku“. Also try some pub food, which is heavy but good.  For a typical Czech meal have either “svickova” or “knedlo-vepro-zelo” or a schnitzel. For after dinner shot, go for Becherovka (a herbal bitter) or if brave, a Slivovice (plum brandy but very strong). The local wines can also be surprisingly good, especially from South Moravia.


Karlstein castleFor a great day trip, go to probably the most scenic medieval town in Europe: Cesky Krumlov about 2 hours south;  or the famous Karlstejn castle 1 hr south-west…hotels can help you with tour bus excursions; both worth it.



I could go on and on but a small guidebook would be more organized…It’s probably best to pick one up here in Canada and look it over on the plane over (such as the Pocket Prague by Lonely Planet guides). In addition to being concise, it comes with walking tour maps you can do yourself…here are also a couple useful websites:

Vlad, thank you very much for sharing this information and all your amazing photos too!! Happy travels everyone!

Celebrating Canada Day!

fireworksOn July 1st, we had an awesome Canada Day celebration hosting friends and neighbours (not that our neighbours aren’t our friends)! This was our 14th annual party. We invite friends to wear red and white and share a potluck dish. It’s a family celebration – the kids are in the pool or playing games in the basement. Ping-pong, air hockey, Lego, and toys I saved from when my kids were little are a big hit.

I make two types of salmon – one with lemon and pepper and one with a teriyaki marinade – and along with the guests, an array of salads. And holy cow – what a feast! We had spicy cherry tomatoes, quinoa salad, Waldorf salad, spinach and blackberry salad, pasta with dried tomato pesto and artichokes, pulled pork, a three bean salad, potato salad, even old fashioned deviled eggs!

Canada Day cakeWe buy a plain white cake from Sydenham Sweet Bakery (who are awesome) and my son decorates it with the Canadian flag. (I’ve seen it done with strawberries, but we use Swedish berry candy :D) And we had mango mousse, chocolate Skor trifle, decadent flourless chocolate cake, GF raspberry cheesecake, and homemade cookies! Needless to say, nobody went home hungry!

Between dinner and dessert, our tradition is to gather in the kitchen and sing Happy Birthday and Oh Canada! I have such a sense of pride when our voices, young and old, ring out with our national anthem – it sends shivers down my spine. I love getting together with our friends each year and sharing our pride for Canada!