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An Interview with Mary Ann Scott upon receiving an offer of representation.

Mary Ann Scott (GhostGirl on QT) has signed with agent Elana Roth Parker of Laura Dail Literary Agency, Inc..

How long have you been writing?
I started writing with a real purpose in 2001.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Oh, many! I follow the traditional pattern of rejection and dejection that most writers face. But there was this ache inside me that just could not let go of writing, no matter how frustrated and down I got. There was always a story that just that screamed to be written. And I always had a project in the works. By the time I was ready to submit one manuscript, I was working on another.
Is this your first book?
This is my second book.
How long have you been working on this book?
I spent about 2 1/2 years on this book.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I have a masters in English and I have taught writing and literature for several years, but I don't have a writing degree. Just a passion.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
I try to follow a schedule, but with two young kids, it has been difficult. I'm lucky to have a supportive spouse who even gives up his office on the weekends so I can get away from the house to write. I also try to take a retreat weekend at least once a year, solely for the purpose of writing, often when I'm ready for revisions. With the kids finally in school, now, I try to write every morning for a few hours--usually from 8:30 - 12:00. It doesn't always happen that way, but I try! And I give myself one day a week for tea with a friend or other urgent errands.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
Every time I sat down to work on the next chapter, I usually went back and read/revised what came before. Then I gave the whole thing at least a couple of revision sessions before I sent it out.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
Yes.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
I've done both. For this book, I definitely relied on an outline, though it changed a lot as I worked and the story evolved.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I did not query for my first book. For this novel, I started the process of looking for an agent at the end of July. And I chose just a couple of agents at a time. No mass mailings.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
First, I wanted to see if they represented my genre/age level and what books they had on their list. I also tried to find as much information as I could about the personality of the agency/agent by reading their blogs as well as other writers' blogs, Publishers Market Place profiles, and Agent Query. For me, I wanted someone with a good editorial sense and a real love for YA literature. A thing for ghost stories was a big plus, too!
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Definitely. I read interviews and the agent's own web profile and incorporated those elements that attracted me in the first place. If we had a common interest or had met at a conference or something, I remarked on it. Mostly, I tried to see them as people I was talking to. Individuals. Not just an address at a literary agency. The tone of the letter says a lot about your voice as a writer.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Consider your work and your personality and try to find an agent who will serve that. Don't try to bend yourself like a pretzel just to win over an agent, because odds are if you do land an agent that way, it won't be the relationship you were hoping for. You want someone who will see you through the long haul, build your career. At least that's what I was hoping for, and I believe that's what I found. Don't be afraid to really share a piece of your personality in your query, let them hear your voice as they read that letter. And when it comes to summing up your book, a good hook and a strong narrative voice will catch an agent's eye.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear Ms. Roth,

It began even before I ran away to Ireland, this predilection for historical spook stories. Since I was old enough to read, I have loved to wander through old cemeteries in search of a good story, reading each headstone as a cultural/historical love letter, not just a numerical notation of someone's lifespan. In 1984, my penchant for all things Irish led me to Maynooth, about 18 miles west of Dublin, where university life and the Irish culture fed my storyteller's soul. A year later, I reluctantly boarded a plane back to the States, and I've never quite gotten over it. Like all proper Anglo-Irish fanatics, I love a good ghost story, and these days, I love writing them for young adults.

Rich with historical detail and authentic Native American ritual, The Well of Spirits begins in the fall of 1850, as abolitionists and suffragists wage a cultural and social revolution and the growing phenomenon of Spiritualism seeks to awaken a whole new American consciousness. But who could know that the world's salvation rests in the hands of a 15-year-old clairvoyant named Jeremiah Miller?

Stalked by scattered visions and jumbled messages from beyond the grave since he was a toddler, 14-year-old Jeremiah Miller has always struggled to make sense of his life in Rochester. But nonetheless, it is his home. When his father is suddenly killed in a railway accident, Jeremiah's mother moves the family to Spiritual Springs, a community 50 miles west of Rochester run by a former Unitarian minister and self-professed medium named Josiah Barclay. To Jeremiah's mother, Spiritual Springs seems like a haven for the most fashionable causes of the age and a new start for her son, but the moment Jeremiah sets foot on the steps of Unity Hall, he knows better. It will be up to Jeremiah and his friends--his 12-year-old, aura-reading cousin, Lily, and a former slave named Ephraim--to release the ghosts of two Seneca Shamans and stop Barclay from completing his spirit-guided "god-machine" and loosing the darkest evil upon the earth.

The Well of Spirits is a 79,000-word YA historical fantasy. Most recently, the opening chapter garnered me the Dorothy Markinko Scholarship Award to the 2008 Rutgers One-on-One Conference. In 2006, the initial chapters earned me a full scholarship to the Chautauqua Writers Workshop where Philomel's P___ mentored me as I worked to complete the manuscript. P___ expressed interest in the then unfinished manuscript, and subsequently requested the full finished novel. K___, her assistant editor, recently read it and has recommended it to P___ for final consideration. With Mr. S___'s excellent feedback, I am now seeking agent representation in anticipation of a possible contract. Below, I have pasted the first few pages of The Well of Spirits for your consideration.

Thank you for posting your news on Verla Kay's Blue Boards, and congratulations on your move. I will definitely look for you at the Rutgers One-on-One conference in October.

Best regards,

Mary Ann Scott