I have time for just a quick post on my way to the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English) Conference/Convention in Orlando, FL to present a roundtable discussion along with fellow authors from the Class of 2K9 on the topic of "The Other Happily Ever After: A Retooling of the Female Hero's Journey." It has only been in the last few years that I have become a presenter at some conferences, rather than an attendee, and even more recently I've become an organizer of conferences now that I am Regional Advisor for the MD/DE/WV chapter of SCBWI. The last two roles present a lot more stress and advance preparation, but my main focus and hope remains the same: to make and renew connections with fellow writers and to give and receive inspiration to keep writing.
Probably my favorite and most productive conference that I attended was during the summer of 2006 when I submitted 10 pages of my manuscript in progress for a 15 minute one-on-one critique with an editor. That 15 minutes with Michelle Poploff, VP and Executive Editor of Delacorte Press, eventually led to the contract for my middle grade novel, ROAD TO TATER HILL. And at a conference during the summer of 2010, Michelle Poploff and I gave a joint presentation on our author/editor revision process.
Attending conferences is expensive during these difficult economic times. I suggest first researching topics and speakers and looking for some "hands-on" craft-oriented sessions, before registering. Go to the conference with an open mind, not expecting a miracle, but definitely expecting to make new connections with other writers and illustrators, to gain some practical advice, and to go home inspired to persevere. If you're lucky, you may even have one of those "aha" moments that will provide a breakthrough in your career!