There are three schools of thought on pb writing:
1) The writing should stand on its own.
2) The illustration carries the book not the writing (I hope I got that right)
3) The illustration, and writing don't stand on their own; they work together...that would be my choice probably because I am an illustrator; and they are my favorite kinds of books.
If an editor is mad on an illustrator he/she will fight for the book regardless of how much work the writing needs, and they will work with the illustrator on the writing. (I hope I got that right...that is what I took from this editor). Interesting. Still, I want my writing to be the best it can be for submission.
All writers have blind spots, strengths and weaknesses...play up your strengths. And listen to others regarding your blind spots. (I know what mine are but I can't see them. Frustrating that.)
The editors and agent were extremely forthright, truthful and businesslike...and friendly. And smart. And cool. And diplomatic. And real.
They don't know what they want till they see it. Altho, some clearly do not do certain genres and formats.
When you are put last for a critique you are so tired that your nervousness is killed, and you are relaxed, agreeable and sedated in order to listen to critique with open eyes and open ears.
Don't be afraid to say you are proud of something when you really are. That is two projects for me.
You know having lunch with editors is great when the volume in the room is at a peak and lots of laughter ensues.
When an agent compliments you...smile and when he critiques...listen.
Your group critiques are AWESOME. You give, they give and you all come away with fresh perspectives and ideas for improvement.
First pages are fascinating ways to learn about craft. And to learn about editors peeves and passions.