Writer Interview: Mary Elizabeth Summer

Today’s interview, friends, is a testament to the Query Contest.  I met Mary through Cupid’s Literary Connection’s Agent Invasion and some great things came of it…namely my friendship with SO many great writers, but more importantly, Mary found her agent, Laura Bradford, there!  Read her story and find invaluable tips!

AG:  Tell us about your current project.

MES: My current novel, Catch My Grift, is a YA contemporary/mystery about a girl on the grift. Her dad goes missing while running a con, and she has to find him before his mark finds her.

AG:  Is it your first book?

MES: In the literal sense, no. I’ve written and drawered four other novels before writing this one. In the biblical sense, yes. I’ve never had a book of mine published before. I queried my last one, but it became clear pretty quickly that it still wasn’t quite there. It broke my heart to abandon those other projects, so I keep telling myself I’ll resurrect them someday. But even if I don’t, they were a necessary part of my growth as a writer.

AG:  How did you tackle the revision process before you queried?  Did you use Critique Partners?

MES: YES. As many as I could get. All of my family members. Any of my friends who showed even a remote interest in writing or YA or books of any kind. And of course, my Hawthorne homies (a.k.a., critique group) have read most of my chapters so many times that they’re now allergic. Also, I entered (and won) a couple of manuscript critique contests and attended an eight-week workshop to try and wrangle my plotlines into submission. Oh, and I just had a feedback meeting with a class of high school seniors who read and critiqued my first three chapters as a class project.
As for how I tackled the revision process, I broke it up into manageable chunks and set goals for myself. It helped that I kept hearing rumors that publishers were on the lookout for YA contemporary. I was highly motivated to finish quickly.

AG:  What was the querying process like for you?  Any tips?

MES: I actually didn’t query. I entered a query contest at Cupid’s Literary Connection blog and won a coveted spot among the 51 extraordinary entries that were posted for literary agents to peruse. Several agents requested my full manuscript during the contest, and three of them offered me representation within a couple of weeks.

AG:  Tell us how you ended up with your agent.
MES: I agonized over picking my agent. All three agents who offered were agents I’ve been stalking online for months. I would have been blissfully happy with any of them, so choosing between them was almost impossible. I finally settled on one, though, because I felt that she had strength in areas I was particularly weak in and that she would push me to keep improving my novel and my craft overall.

AG:  What is that relationship like?  What is doing agent revisions like?
MES: I’m not really qualified to answer this yet as I’m so new to being agented. But what I’ve figured out so far is that a good agent is like a sensei. She guides you through the learning curve, but ultimately you’re the one who goes into battle. My agent sent me an email with a list of three major things she suggests I revise but without much direction as to how to revise them. The how part is up to me.

AG:  Tell us about the editor submission process from your experience.
MES: Again, not much experience in this department as yet, but my agent did give me a rundown of how she generally approaches submission. She calls editors she thinks might have a particular interest in a certain project and gets them excited about reading it. Then if an editor expresses interest, she sends her the manuscript. At that point, it’s a waiting game to see if an editor bites. I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck when Catch My Grift goes on submission, but I will try to practice the zen art of moving onto another project while I wait.

AG:  Do you blog?  Where can we find you on Twitter and the internet?

MES: Here are my virtual hangouts:
Twitter: @mesummerbooks
Pinterest: MaryElizabeth Summer

AG:  What online resources have you used to help your writing and querying and revision process?

MES: TWITTER. I cannot say enough about Twitter. More than any other resource, Twitter has been the hub of all things happening in the online writing community. Follow hashtags #amwriting #askagent #pubtip #querytip etc. Follow @elizabethscraig @inkyelbows @saramegibow and any agent who tweets.
There are also a lot of a fabulous blogs and websites. Check out Writer’s Knowledge Base, Query Shark, Novel Publicity, Publisher’s Marketplace, Agent Query,, and websites for associations such as Romance Writers of America, Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, etc. Plus any writer’s blog who blogs about writing.

AG:  Any extra info you’d like to add or discuss?.

MES: Thanks for the opportunity to share! I love meeting other writers and dissecting every aspect of the industry, so anyone feel free to drop me a line on Twitter, Facebook, or my blog. I’m very friendly. I can’t vouch for my characters, but I definitely do not bite. ;-)

AG:  I concur—please follow and friend Mary!  The writing community is a big one, but knowing some really awesome people makes it feel so much more accessible.  Thanks for reading!


  1. Love this success story! I saw Mary's pitch on Cupid's site and thought it sounded fantastic. How great that the contest made a match! Congrats, Mary!

    1. Thank you! It's been an awesome, overwhelming, and intense ride so far, and I've only just gotten my foot in the door. But I'm living the dream, man. Living the dream.

    2. Anonymous10:20 PM

      Thanks for sharing your story, Mary! You are such an inspiration and I love the ways you share your knowledge and experiences in order to help fellow writers. I'm so excited about your book and can't wait till it hits the shelves!