When I attended my first Associated Writing Programs (AWP) conference way back in the year 2000, I had a huge grin on my face that just wouldn't go away. I couldn't believe that gathered together all in one place were writers, editors, publishers, teachers, students who all loved writing, were excited about writing, published writing, thought about writing, etc. etc. I got to meet editors who had published my work (or who I HOPED would publish my work!) and to talk with colleagues from across the nation about our work.
I attended this conference as a new Assistant Professor here at WWU, but I wish I had known about such things as a graduate student. So here I am to tell you about these things!
One great opportunity is coming right up, and right here in our neck of the woods. The annual Modern Language Association (MLA) conference will be held in Seattle the first week of January. Several of your professors will be presenting papers, and there will be sessions focused especially on graduate students and professional development. The MLA is where many interviews take place for university jobs (my first MLA, in 1998, I sweated in my ill-fitting suit as I waited outside various hotel rooms for my 12 interviews!), and I wish I had actually ATTENDED an MLA first, to get the lay of the land. Student registration fees are $45-65, depending on when you sign up.
We're looking at how the dept. might support grad students to go, but just wanted to plant the seeds now. I'll give updates as we consider the options. I see that the conference will also provide child care if enough people request it.
A little further afield will be the AWP conference, held in Chicago at the beginning of March.
And here is notice of a conference devoted to graduate students.
The university has the Ross Travel Grant to support graduate student travel to conferences, but the student must be presenting a paper. So keep an eye on conference opportunities and deadlines.