I'm back from the amazing DFW Conference, exhausted and inspired by so many writers dedicated to the craft of writing.
DFWCon on your list. These folks know how to put on an event. I honestly don't know how the attendees picked which sessions to attend with so many amazing choices. And the main session speakers (Jonathan Maberry and Donald Maass) were no slouches either.
Conferences are a wealth of information and I can see where it can be easy for attendees to get hung up on the official events, such as the classes and pitch sessions.
My best advice, don't forget how important the off-schedule time can be. Take this opportunity to network with the other writers there. Share stories, swap ideas and support each other. Writing can be such a solitary experience. At conferences, you get the opportunity to step into the literary community. A community that, as a writer, you are a key part of.
And don't limit those social interactions to just your other writers. At many conferences you can find yourself sharing lunch with an agent or dinner with an editor. Now, I'm not suggesting you pitch your novel over chicken salad. But that doesn't mean you can't ask questions or talk shop. If you aren't sure how to get the conversation started, ask an agent or editor what books they have coming out soon. We like gushing about our clients as much as grandmas love showing off baby pictures.
In short, be social. I realize that can be a large task for the most introverted among us, but the benefits of learning from your peers and others in the industry is well worth the momentary discomfort. Go to conferences, attend classes and learn all you can, but don't stop the education when the class ends.