I did learn quite a lot from the two guest speaker NY agents. Such as:
The whole process of how an agent picks you from the 1000 other submissions that week.
How two agents can be completely different but equally good at what they do.
And that I don't need to get all sweaty and tongue-tied if I find myself next to one.
I especially had an eye-opening experience at the Canadian-Idol-like anonymous query crit session. The agents sat like two mean judges and dissected the query letters that were read aloud. When that session began I was so hoping to have mine read. By the third one, I was wishing I could rescue my tender, virginal query and run far away with it. But there wasn't time for everyone's and so mine remained pure. Which is too bad.
But the main thing I took away from the day was NETWORKING. I met so many other writers. Published, unpublished, agented, un-agented, all working at their craft.
It reminded me of going to a Dogsled Race. One room full of other fanatical lovers of your chosen passion.
Where else could you have someone nod in silent understanding when you explain how your main character woke you up in the middle of the night and insisted you re-write the last chapter. Or see the recognition in someone's eyes of your gut-rot dismay when the book contract you thought you had was cancelled.
It was a very good place to be. Such energy and warmth. And if you think about it, we're all in competition with each other to gain the attention of the two lonely agents that were there. But there was nothing but encouragement in the air.
Let me see...how much does a plane ticket to NY cost for the SCBWI conference in January...