I’ve attended three SCBWI conferences in my years as a member. My first one was in New York when I had just joined. I had an agent, no book deal, and no clue about anything. The conference gave me confidence, and invaluable information. The second one I attended was also in New York after my first book was published. The same year, I attended the super-awesome L.A. conference. That was in 2005. Since then, I have not attended any others.
1) SCBWI doesn’t have any mentor programs where a more established author strokes your hair and says soothing things like: “It’ll be OK, some books never earn out their advances.” Or “You’ll get another contract soon. Your writing is lovely!”
2) With two young kids, my time is not my own. I was pregnant with my 2nd when I went to the L.A. conference (although I didn’t know it at the time, so the drinking was probably not the best idea).
3) After the birth of my 2nd, I quit my job to stay home with the kids and write freelance (when I can find work), so parting with any amount of money is painful.
4) My agent has been in the business for a long time, so I have her to rely on regarding where to send my manuscripts.
5) As a newbie midlist author who still hasn’t produced a second book, I feel that my time is better spent getting that second book out.
But there are a lot of reasons to go to the conference.
1) The faculty. Jules Feiffer, Lois Lowry, Jane Yolen and many esteemed others.
2) Getting information. You can learn a lot if you just sit back and absorb, but if you ask questions, it’s even better. Getting clarity on anything immediately pushes you miles ahead in your work.
3) Writing is lonely. The camaraderie of peers is invaluable. At the L.A. conference I made a lot of connections. Two of whom became New York Times bestselling authors. It’s nice to be part of community where success is real.
4) Find your muse. If you’re like me and find yourself inspired by everything around you, then it’s like a super-charged visit from the inspiration fairy.
5) Much of the writing business now is building relationships. You do it on Facebook and Twitter, and at a conference you can do it in person. Those relationships will enhance your career, even if it’s just to have a buddy to email when you’re stuck.