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For six years in a row, I attended the SCBWI  (Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators) conference in LA. The first time I went, I didn't know a soul, but I had written a novel and found myself saying, 'Now what?" I discovered the SCBWI website, joined the group, registered for the conference,and then found a roommate online at the discussion boards. It was very scary leaving my husband and kids to do something for myself, pretending that I was a writer like the rest of the people who were attending. But I decided I needed to do this and wasn't going to back down. It was one of the best things I ever did for myself, and the payoff has been astounding.



Now, eight years later, I'm the co-leader of an SCBWI-IL group in the northwest suburbs, agented by Eric Meyers of The Spieler Agency, and we're working on selling my latest novel, a YA paranormal romance thriller called Gangster of Love. I've written five novels in that time, all either tween or young adult, and writing has become as normal to me as drinking Chai tea every morning as my muse has his way with me.

Back to the topic however...the answer is YES. It's absolutely worth it. In the beginning, you are gaining knowledge, making professional connections with agents and editors, learning the ins and outs of publishing, but probably most importantly, is building a network of other writers like yourself with whom you can learn, commiserate, and celebrate. My network of writing friends has multiplied over the years, and I'm proud and thankful to be a part of such an awesome group. Thanks, guys!



So while you might not come away with a contract in hand, each conference is another stepping stone along the path to publication. The things I've learned and the friends I've made aren't things you can gain from a craft book. So if you're still on the fence about whether you should go, take it from me…you'll be paid back exponentially in rewards far exceeding the cost of admission.

Some writing conferences to consider:

For YA paranormal, fantasy, and dystopian writers:
ttp://utopyacon.wordpress.com/tag/young-adult-paranormal-conference/

For writers of children's books, from picture books to young adult:
http://www.scbwi.org/

And a list of many writers' conferences in Canada and US (not only for children's book writers):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_writers%27_conferences

Whatever you do, good luck. And I hope to see you at a conference sometime soon.

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