Conference Conundrum


Decisions, decisions. I’ve never been good with them. But this spring’s conference choices are driving me nuts. How do I choose? I thought I’d lay out some pros and cons* of the three “conferences” I’m looking at, and see if it can help me decide.

*Pros and cons are particular to my situation – what’s a con to me, may well be a pro to you.

Niagara Retreat and Conference 

Held in a monastery in Niagara Falls Canada, this small conference packs a lot of punch. I went last year and had a blast. The price includes accommodation, meals (amazing, amazing meals), and a one-on-one critique. With everything happening on-site, there’s more time to meet and connect with the other writers and staff, including two nights of just hanging out. Jackie manages to attract killer speakers (last year I met Sara Zarr, Ellen Hopkins, and Kimberley Griffiths-Little!)


  • First Five Page Crit Circles (held on Friday, reconvening on Sunday to assess revisions)
  • Faculty – This year includes Jodi Meadows, Hazel Mitchell, Sarah Davies (of Greenhouse Literary), Rob Sanders, and R.J. Anderson, among others.
  • Size – As I said above, the conference is small, giving ample opportunity to make connections.
  • The Food – Seriously. It was that good.


  • Distance – Sure it’s located in my province, but since I don’t drive, I’m looking at about an 8-hour + bus ride (spread over 12 hours). It was the worst part, by far, of last year’s trip.
  • The Agent – Sarah Davies is an amazing agent, but she doesn’t rep PBs, which rules out the chance of making an agent connection (I know it’s not likely to happen, but it’s still something to think about)
  • More decisions – Do I go as a PB writer (and go to the illustrator-focused stream) or as a novelist (I brought my MG novel for crit last year, and I don’t really want to bring it again)
  • Meeting the same people – It’s great to see friends from other conferences, but I’d also like to make new connections and meet new people. I’m guessing a lot of faces will be familiar from last year and the SCBWI Canada East conferences.

New England SCBWI Conference 

A big conference held in Massachusetts, it has a list of agents and editors that goes on and on.


  • Agents – That list of agents and editors that goes on and on, includes agents I’d love a chance to get my work in front of.
  • The Workshops – There’s so many interesting-sounding ones, I don’t know how I’ll choose between them (this is a good thing).


  • The Price – It’s a decent price for a conference, but once I add in airfare, hotel, and food it’s going to cost more than Niagara (but not a ridiculous amount more).
  • Passport – Yeah, this may seem like a silly thing to worry about, but it’s one more cost and another detail to get sorted.
  • The Size – I’m a little intimidated to attend a conference this large without knowing at least one other person. Also, there’s no guarantee I’ll meet, or even see, the agents I’m drooling over.

12 x 12 

PB Author Julie Hedlund organizes an online community where the goal is to write one picture book a month for twelve months (12 x 12). There are three levels of membership, and the one I’m looking at (Gold) allows you to skip the slush pile for one participating agent a month.

Yes, I know that technically this isn’t a conference, but I choose to do it I can’t afford either of the other conferences.


  • Agent access – Skipping the slush pile for one agent a month. Yes, please!
  • Cost – Way less expensive than the other contests.
  • Networking – Still lots of chances to make connections.
  • It’s online – No need to worry about planes or buses, bad hair days, or my inability to sleep in hotel rooms.


  • It’s online – No chance to get away from it all and just focus on writing for a few days.
  • Agent access – If I get an agent some time during the next few months through my other querying, the extra money spent on the Gold level is a waste.
  • No in-person connections – Online networking is great, but it’s not the same as meeting face to face.

So, there you go. All the reasons I should or shouldn’t go to all the conferences I want to attend. Right now, the best answer I can come up with is, if the stars align and I get an offer from an agent before the end of February (what, it could happen) I will go to Niagara. But if not? I’m not sure.

What about you? How do you decide which conferences to attend?


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