When I attended a couple years ago I was just admitting to myself that writing was something I really wanted to do.
I had tried my hand at writing before and took some classes at the Loft and got a couple rejection letters and retreated back to my journals. Then I found running and something shifted in my self-esteem and ability to handle rejection. So it was back to the Loft.
I was remembering my conference experience from a couple years ago. I went to a break out session about revision. During the session we split up into small groups based on where we were sitting. This is how I ended up in a group with a woman who didn't like the subject of my manuscript. I ended up asking her to please give me feedback based on the story not the subject. At the end of the session I felt awful. I had to remind myself that no everyone will like my story.
At the time I didn't really know a lot of people in the writing community because I hadn't taken classes in a while. But at the end of the conference something wonderful happened. I ran into one of the ladies from the Book Club Cycle class who also happens to live one block away. I was so happy to find a familiar face. That familiar face led me to my picture book critique group and to my first published story.
I know a lot of people go to conferences to connect and network. I am always amazed that someone who I already knew, who I saw once a week, whose house I can get to via backyards ended up being the person who led me to a published story.