I got some useful critique. But the main points I would need to address to make my story better are nearly impossible to implement due to their paradoxical nature. As I said before, I chopped my story down from almost 8000 words to a little over 5000 words. Naturally, a lot of action and dialogue was cut out. So what was the main advice I got from people who critiqued my story? They wanted to see more dialog and action in some places, showing how certain things happened, instead of just being told in one paragraph "this is what happened". But those were exactly the places where I compressed 2-3 pages into one paragraph! Ironically, they also said I should cut down the story to 5000 words and I may be able to sell it. So, expand it and cut it down. Thanks so much. :-)
To be sure, I'm not blaming the people in the critique group for contradictory advice. It is not their job to be consistent. :-) Their job is to point out the flaws they saw. They are not obligated to also figure out how to fix them. Any kind of feedback is valuable, even if it's contradictory. I have nothing but thanks to the people in my group. But... I still feel the universe is laughing at me. ;-)
The ArmadilloCon aftermath wasn't all bleak. While it's not a direct consequence of the writers' workshop, I got some metaideas on how to salvage my earlier story ideas. Some fairly good ideas from my earlier stories that were so bad they aren't worth rewriting, can be cannibalized into new stories, that will hopefully be short. (Who am I kidding? my inner voice whispers.) However, I started to approach my story ideas by calculating how many scenes it would take to tell a story. I think that to fit under 5000 words a story should have no more than 2-3 scenes. I'm sure other people's mileage would differ, but for me, this calculus is pretty accurate.
Oh -- the bat-watching after the Thursday's pre-ArmadilloCon dinner unexpectedly turned out fruitful for me! While not expecting to see anything more than an underwhelming stream of black specks flowing out from under the Congress bridge, I saw an older man in a skimpy, sparkly cheerleader's uniform, milling about in the crowd. I joined several tourists in snapping a picture of him. He obligingly posed against the Austin downtown skyline. Later I found out this was actually the elusive Leslie, the "keep Austin weird" icon! I say elusive, because for all I've heard about Leslie, I've never seen him -- and I've lived in Austin 9 years! So, now I know that unlike Santa Claus, he actually exists.