I usually avoid book/writing festivals, but I did once attend one. I was in school at the time and got roped into introducing an author (weirdly enough, the author was none other than Randall Wallace, the guy who wrote the screenplay for "Braveheart"). But I high-tailed it out of there as fast as possible afterwards.
Because I've never completely understood writer's conferences.
Let me back up. I do understand their essential function: to bring lots of authors and agents and book readers together to network. The same way scientists hold conventions in their fields of specialty, etc. I get it. But what I've always resented is how people portray them as ESSENTIAL to becoming a published author.
Don't get me wrong. Most writers I've met are nice people. Actually, they're usually more nice than the average person. I enjoy their company usually. Where I have a problem with my fellow writers is that I'm an ultra-competitive writer, and I assume that any other writer worth his salt is the same way. So it doesn't exactly make me want to jaunt off to my local convention center and hang out with a thousand of them.
It's like the Hemingway character says in Woody Allen's masterpiece "Midnight in Paris" when he refuses to read Gil's novel manuscript, saying that he hates it before he's even read it:
If it's bad, I'll hate it because I hate bad writing. If it's good, then I'll be envious and hate it all the more. You don't want the opinion of another writer.
It's like this: I've read 16.3 billion books. I've written a few unpublished novels, short stories, and screenplays. I've edited a billion reams of other people's writing. I know, probably better than most agents, what good writing is. Ok, maybe I don't know what the hottest thing on the market is, I don't know how to sell a million copies of a book. But I know what good writing is, and that should be the most important job of any writer.
All that hooey about workshopping your writing? The supposedly conventional wisdom that says you have to fork out hundreds of dollars to get people to look at your work? Not necessary. It's like Cormac McCarthy says about teaching writing (and I'm paraphrasing):
Instead of talking about writing, we should use that time to write.
This is why, in my opinion, self-publishing is such a revelation. No more schlepping across the country dreaming of a chance encounter with an agent at a drinking fountain or whatever. No more pushing your stuff onto other people who won't give you the time of day.
No more desperation.
Instead, you can start working your tail off for yourself, and whether you succeed or fail, you'll have no one, and I mean no one, to blame but yourself. To me, that's the best luck a writer could ask for.