Edit 9/14/12 We only had seven people (and I pictured a packed room, silly me). I don't think anyone from either of the local writing groups came, which is disappointing.
It was so informative. I learned alot about publisher expectations and requirements for some types of books. Picture books stand out. Did you know they are limited to 32 pages, sixteen full page drawings with text?
Also, it is rare that the writer of the text and the illustrator are the same person. To me, a picture book is a really tight marriage of text and illustration. I can't see how the author doesn't have a set of pictures in their head to go with the text they write. You must be able to "see" the scenes you're writing, right?
Beginner reading books are another curious group. Sentences not only need to be simple, but you don't use certain things like dipthongs or silent letters in order to make it accessible for the new reader. With such concentration on form, no wonder they are generally so...torturous to read for a good reader. It is rather like Hemingway is to me, all of those short abrupt sentences.
I thought it was very valuable advice to know that when looking for an agent you should keep in mind they are working for you, and they should not require reading fees or any money from you. They make money only when they sell your work, which sounds like a decent arrangement. This explains though why it can be hard to find an agent, because they aren't going to take anyone on whose work they don't feel they can sell to anyone.