I know this is late, but there's still enough time. The NPPA (National Press Photographers Association) annual Flying Short Course starts tomorrow. It's in a different city every other day for a week. One of the stops is within driving distance or a cheap air fare for just about everyone in the U.S.
If you've never been to one, go. This year would be a particularly good year because I work with two of the lecturers (David Leeson and Cheryl Diaz Meyer). Nonetheless, it's a great way to do a little networking and get motivated about the profession. BTW, college professors and high school teachers will normally give students the day off to attend without punishment. They may require a report, but it's worth it.
If you go, try to arrive the night before the FSC. Take your portfolio and two pieces of Canon or Nikon equipment (for example, a body and a lens) for a clean and service.
Senior PJs set up in the lobby with light tables, laptops and cocktails to give critiques the evening before the FSC. They're not going to coddle anyone, so brace yourself. Each critiquee (if there is such a word) gets about 15 minutes of torture and horror with each of several experienced PJs. Theres always a line of masochists, so be patient. You'll walk away knowing your useless and never should have gotten into this profession soon enough. ;-}
The two camera companies provide techs to clean and service operable equipment (they don't perform miracles, but will make minor repairs if they can). This alone can equal the entry fees. Arrive early to turn in equipment because they only accept equipment during a very short time window and have a limit to the amount they'll accept.
After the PJs turn in equipment, they can hear lectures from old-timers, new-comers and get a laugh or two at other PJs' experiences. PJs can also tinker with and get information about the newest professional toys. Sponsors and vendors also have a few lottery giveaways throughout the day (I've won a photo vest one year and a nice shirt a different year). I've been to several FSCs across the state and was never disappointed.
Enough for now,