What is the Slush Pile?

Since my email is open, I can't help but pop in everytime something new comes up... bad habit, but there it is. So I took a break from writing and skimmed over the Nelson Agency Newsletter. I found myself surprised by a comment from Agent Sara Megibow. The feature is called, Tips from the Slush Pile, and I know that, so I'm not sure why this didn't occur to me sooner. What the heck is the slush pile?

For me, the slush pile is that stack of manuscripts in an editors office that may or may not get looked at, depending on how busy the editor is at the time. The pile that a good editor might shift through, or randomly select out of once a week to read through in hopes of finding the next Bestseller. These are the manuscripts that really don't belong in the process. It's the shot in the dark for that desperate writer who either doesn't know what they're doing or has been rejected by every agent on the block.

The comment Sara made says, Allison emailed us a query at the end of 2009 – yup, she was a slush pile find!

Whoa! What do you mean a slush pile find? Has the agency changed their submission guidelines and now only accepts solicited manuscripts? Do we have to meet you at a conference or be referred to you by another author? Must an author have credentials of some sort to query you?

If not, I wouldn't consider Allison a slush pile find. I would consider her a working find.
What about you? What's your take on the "slush pile"? If you send out a query to someone who is ASKING for queries, do you consider yourself lucky to be pulled from the slush pile?

Again, for me, if I query an agency who is asking for queries, I expect that they'll read it. I wouldn't consider it lucky... more hard work, dedication, determination, and perseverance. I don't think Sara was implying otherwise, but I do wonder why she would call it a slush pile.