http://www.scbwiflorida.com/ I'm not a big fan of conferences. But if you're trying to get published, there's no better way to learn the ropes. You can take a creative writing class in college...and you'll rarely hear the nitty-gritty business side of the publishing industry---How do I write a query letter? What are agents looking for? How do I market myself after I've sold my novel?
The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators throws one hell of a conference. The biggest events are held in Los Angeles and New York each summer and winter. Each regional chapter does their own thing---hooking you up with manuscript critique groups, workshops, etc.
Florida is getting ready for their yearly conference--January 13-15 at the Miccosukee resort and casino. Keynote speakers include the ever-so-charming Libba Bray, author of A Great And Terrible Beauty.
You'll have the chance to meet agents and editors (don't bug them...just be polite and listen to what they say...When you submit to them, you can write "SCBWI conference" on your envelope. This might move you up the dreaded slush pile).
You can buy books, grab a few autographs, and party at the banquet with your fellow geeky writers. Sign up for a one-on-one critique of your manuscript, attend open mic sessions and laid-back workshops such as: "Writing Cover Letters That Sell" or "The Truth About Nonfiction."
If you want to make it in this business, you must network. I know...it sucks. But you never know who you'll meet...or what will happen at these events. So why not try? You will learn so much.