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An Interview with Maya Ameyaw upon receiving an offer of representation.

07/29/2021

Maya Ameyaw (mayaameyaw on QT) has signed with agent Lesley Sabga of The Seymour Agency.

Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
It's a YA contemporary romance about a Black ballerina struggling with discrimination getting in the way of her dance career. Dance is a passion of mine as a personal hobby and I love watching all professional forms. While watching the documentary First Position about young pre-professional dancers, I was struck by their incredible drive and the extremely high competition stakes the dancers have to navigate at such young ages. That's where the basis of the story came from.
How long have you been writing?
I've been writing since I was very young. I grew up in a big reading family and as a kid I had a ton of fun creating my own little worlds.
How long have you been working on this book?
I first drafted the book I got my agents with a decade ago. Life and work got in the way of me revising it for a long time, but last year I put a lot of energy into a big rewrite before I started to pursue querying.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Definitely there were many times that I felt very burnt out and discouraged by rejections and harsh feedback. Maintaining a community of writers to commiserate with was really helpful.
Is this your first book?
I previously wrote a YA Urban Fantasy that I shelved without querying.
How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
In total I did 3 major revisions/rewrites of my book.
Did you have beta readers for your book?
I had a couple of incredible beta readers who had experience with professional dance. Working with them really helped me amp of the realism of the dance aspect of the story.
Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
The first draft I completely pantsed, but I started outlining after that to keep better track of pacing and character development.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried my book for 8 months before I received my first offer of representation.
About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
I sent out batches of around 10 queries every month for 8 months so it ended up being 75 total.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
I selected agents to query based on their agency site bios, Manuscript Wishlist and Publisher's Marketplace pages, #mswl on Twitter and online interviews with agents.
Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
Unless it was a pitch contest request, I would personalize my queries. I would carefully research what agents were looking for and briefly mention the things that lined up with my story. My agent Lesley had the TV show Euphoria on her #mswl and since that was one of my comp titles I decided to query her via Pitch Perfect, a live virtual pitch event hosted by The Seymour Agency.
What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Save your dream agents for a little later in your querying journey. Usually first queries are not the best quality, so it's helpful not to send to the agents at the top of your list right off the bat.

Also try to separate any difficult feedback you get from your worth as a writer. It's a difficult task, but putting distance between the work and a sense of self is really important.
Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear (Agent Name)

As an agent looking for (personalization line) I hope you will find WHEN IT ALL SYNCHS UP, a 65,000 word contemporary YA novel to be a good fit for your list. WHEN IT ALL SYNCHS UP would appeal to fans of TINY PRETTY THINGS by Dhonielle Clayton and Sona Charaipotra and LITTLE AND LION by Brandy Colbert.

When 17-year-old Aisha begins to feel increasingly numb and isolated at a racially exclusionary ballet boarding school, her mental health suffers leading to her first episode of dissociation. Shaken from the experience, she returns to her hometown of Toronto to visit her BFF/ex-dance partner, Neil. She discovers he's in hospital with alcohol poisoning.

Aisha resolves to stay with Neil to look out for his sobriety. She auditions and scores a spot at the diverse modern dance program at the public performing arts school that Neil attends. When keeping an eye on his drinking becomes difficult, she enlists the help of Neil's cute musician friend, Ollie.

Spending more time with Ollie, she's inspired by how he's so open about his past trauma through his music, allowing Aisha to let down her guard. This, along with creating her own choreography at school, become ways for her to process her abusive upbringing.

But when Aisha's estranged mom finds out she quit ballet, she starts a battle of mind games and manipulation that threatens to push Aisha back into the unhealthy mindset that she's been fighting to heal from. When this begins to have dangerous effects on her mental and physical health, Aisha must break free of her mom and find her inner power to claim her independence.

Working in the mental health field, I am focused on showcasing nuanced representations of mental health issues and the related intersections of misogyny, racial discrimination and colorism. (Writing history/credentials ending line.)

Thank you for your consideration,

Maya Ameyaw