If you give a writer mom alone time and some cash, she will NOT spend it on practical things like massages and clothes shopping. No, most likely she will waste it on conferences and workshops.
Saturday I attended a SCBWI workshop, which experience I highly recommend. I've been to one other workshop, as well as the 2009 conference. I enjoyed them all, but I enjoyed only spending $20 on the workshops. For a fraction of the conference-price you are still getting a WHOLE day of writing advice (which rhymes with price) from a real-life author.
There is also the bonus of meeting real-life writer friends, although whenever someone spoke I thought, "Why are you talking? I didn't click on you." I'm not quite as sociable with strangers as I am on my very own electronic stage. Yet we shouldn't underestimate the power of networking in the flesh. (Hence my title. You thought it was a zombie post, didn't you?)
And, having someone look at me and TELL me how plot and characterization works clicked in a different way than reading it...which I've done one million times. I didn't feel like the information I received was necessarily new information, but I learned it in a whole new way. I think it stuck this time.
If you haven't already, check out your SCBWI chapter online information. It seems mine has a workshop every quarter. Once I get permission from the author, I'll post a few tips that I found really helpful.
Now go and win some books or something.