Sorry for my tardy response as your request caught me on vacation, up a river in Guatemala with erratic internet access.
Anyhow, Iím not sure how much I can add to my last post in the other thread, where I reported on my experiences.
ThillerFest, as I said in that post and as nikkijd has reported, was a blast. The best part was meeting other writers and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed that, because my main purpose in attending was for the craft sessions, and my secondary purpose was the agent pitch opportunity. I still have a full and a partial out from then (last July!), btw, but all the rest came back negative.
The quality of the sessions was uneven. If you go, please send another pm, and I will try to be helpful in evaluating the choices presented.
My opinion is that, the more polished and prolific a writer and the closer to Ďrealí publication the writer is (understanding the craft, knowledgeable about markets and marketing), the better able to benefit from the steep cost of these big-name conferences. Many of the craft sessions were little better than a really good book about writing, although the opportunity to ask questions is a big plus. If you dare raise your hand; if they have time to call on you . . .
People have mentioned dozens of books over time. My favorites are Stephen Kingís On Writing, Elizabeth Georgeís Write Away, and Annie Lamottís Bird by Bird. Hallie Ephronís book on mystery writing (canít think of the name and Iím terrified my connection will disappear before I get my thoughts down) is good, too, although she is really dynamic in person.
If you go to mingle and meet agents casually, if you can speak confidently about your writing, then the second half of the conference is probably more important than the first two days, the only two I attended.
Iím still glad I went, but will probably not go again next year. And if I do, I will attend the second half and not the first. Instead, I think I will try Backspace or Crime Bake. (I live in NH so I focus on east coast conferences.) I like what Iíve read about Backspace and love the lower-stress, getting-to-know-the-agent approach.
I hope this helps. Don't hesitate to contact me again if you have questions. I connect every couple of days down here.
All the best to you, gg