I had the great opportunity to attend the opening workshop for the SCBWI Western WA. It was a hands-on writing workshop with Henry Holt editor, Noa Wheeler.
First, a little about the workshop. The theme for the day was : Things are not always what they seem.
Our first activity was to brainstorm around ten plots where this theme was present. Next, we did free writing for 30 mins. using one of the plots we liked best. It was very interesting to see the diversity of what people picked. Out of an entire room of people, no one chose the same thing. It just goes to show you that even thought every "theme" has already been used, different people will still find a new take on it.
The last activity involved writing the same scene from an entirely different perspective. Throughout the workshops we met in small little groups and critiqued each others work.
Now on to Noa. She is a wonderful and friendly person. We were given a little time for Q & A at the end. Here's what I learned.
*She accepts query up to 6 months after a workshop/conference. However, she asks that you wait at least a month before sending it.
*She is involved mostly with YA and Middle Grade and handles very few picture books.
*She is not into Chick Lit or Gross out books.
*She is into fantasy, sci-fi and historical fiction.
I asked her the question, "When you read first pages or a query what are some of the big mistakes you see?"
Silly things like grammar and typo's. If she sees those things she thinks you just don't care.
Crazy cover letters that involve personal information about your cats or family.
People sometimes address her as Mr. (big no no!)
Too much back story up front. She wants her attention caught and held.
In general, she just wants to see the writing, so make sure it's polished.
Here is the general website addy: http://us.macmillan.com/henryholt.aspx