Open Question #1: What is the difference between critique groups and beta-readers? What are the pros and cons of each? Is there a graduation process? If so, at what point does one move from one to the other? Which has helped you improve your writing the most?
I've written before about critique groups. Loosely, groups work together while beta readers (or first readers) work separately. Critique from a group will have a moderated voice filtered by critiquers perception of each others' responses to the work in question, while beta readers (at least as I understand them) are only interacting directly with the author. I don't think it's a graduation or moving on so much as a shift of needs, which can move back and forth. I am a very big fan of "tennis ladder" critique groups, most especially for aspiring and early career writers. I would not have the career I have today if not for the Wordos. At the same time, given my current workload (and attention span), first readers work better for me now. I can readily envision moving back to a critique group at some point.
Open Question #2: I have a writing friend in Australia who won a fellowship to be mentored by a local pro. Evidently, and I am not at all sure about the details, she entered a contest in which the winning prize turned out to be two-weeks of tutoring by an accredited author. While I have heard of numerous authors here in the USA teaching creative writing courses (Joe Haldeman, Jim Van Pelt, Bruce Taylor, etc), and I know of a plethora of cons that offer writing workshops, I have not heard of this being done within fandom. Have I missed the boat? Should I get out of my cave more often? Or is this something not very prevalent in SF/F/H circles? Or is Clarion as good as it gets?
Not sure what an "accredited author" is. Not like we get certified. But, um, no, I've never heard of this. Maybe we're in the same cave. And for some values of "good", Clarion is as good as it gets. There are many paths. Mine didn't go through Clarion, I'll point out.
Feel free to ask other questions here.