It's a great conference and chance to experience NY and be on the publishers' home turf--a huge piece I love about it.That said, I don't think the local conference should be missed, but if you can add this one in, it's a great experience. And, if writers have submission work, I highly suggest the writers intensive.
The SCBWI Int'l NY Winter Conference is great for illustrators. There's a new format the last couple of years: you have to be enrolled in the Friday intensive to have your portfolio in the Private Portfolio Exhibition. But I've gotten more notice (emails from editors who liked my work) from the NY art shows than from any other conference. Or from trying to do portfolio drop offs while I was in NY. So that is worth the price of admission to me. Ask Jesse Joshua Watson about this, too!
The NY buzz is always fun, but I don't think I'd recommend this conference for first-time conference attendees. It's VERY large and overwhelming; the opportunities for networking with editors and agents are somewhat less than elsewhere, since they can just go home when their sessions are done; and the marketing focus of the conference is best suited for those getting close to submission. If you're nearly ready to submit, though, and you need to figure out to whom, this one can be a good choice. And the author/illustrator speakers are usually TERRIFIC!
Yeah, if you are locked and loaded, this is the place to go give it a shot. If you are just peeking in, maybe start with the local, then the LA, then when you have your portfolio or manuscript ship shape, go kill it at the NY. The best part of the NY conference for me (aside, of course, from hanging out with my Western Wash peeps in the awesomeness that is NYC) is that you are there. This is where just about everyone in the industry lives and works and so, like the lovely Cocoa J said, you are able to get meetings, drop off portfolios and just shmooooze it up with these people. Well worth the ticket. (and HELLO! flights are so cheap right now.)
I went in 2007 and loved it. I recommend the Writers' Intensive as well. I think our regional conference is incredible, but there is something magical about going to New York for a conference! And I agree with Jesse--the price is right when it comes to flights right now. I also think it's a good idea when you're ready or almost ready to submit your work.
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