It seems to me you could meet the same people at a SF convention, have a lot more fun for a lot less money.
I've always found the writers at cons to very approachable - you could get a one-on-one discussion about writing with pretty much anyone of them if you wanted. Invite 'em to lunch - that almost always works!
Lots of good cons on the East Coast- Boskone is less than two weeks away, for example.
Wow! I just looked up the writing conference you're attending - you could go to 10 cons for that price and have money left over for a really cool costume!