Get Your Stiletto in the Door: Chapter President Alana Albertson’s Experience

Alana Albertson, Chick Lit chapter president, first became involved with the special interest chapter through the Stiletto contest. A finalist in 2008, she’s an advocate for the chapter and the contest.

 “The Stiletto contest was an amazing experience. We train our judges and take great care to ensure that it is a fair contest. This year we have some amazing agents and editors and for the first time, all final entries will be read by an epublisher.”

Q. As a contest finalist, what advice would you offer those of us who would like to be in your shoes?

A. Find a good mentor. A fellow ballroom dancer and writer introduced me to brilliant freelance editor, Deborah Halverson, who deleted two thirds of my first draft and taught me how to revise. She has been so much more than an editor to me. She introduced me to my agent, Jill Marsal.

Q. In 2008, your manuscript DANCING UNDER THE STARS garnered a full request from Agent Michelle Grajkowski of 3 Seas Literary Agency. How did that work out?

A. I submitted my manuscript to Michelle at the same time I submitted to Jill Marsal. Jill made me an offer three days after I submitted to her so I wrote Michelle and withdrew my submission. Jill was impressed with my Stiletto final and submitted my book as “award winning” to editors so that was nice.

Q. Your Stiletto final manuscript also earned a revision request from Editor Latoya Smith of Grand Central Publishing. What’s the current status of the manuscript?

A. After a year of my agent submitting, we received some very kind rejections. An agent from the UK also submitted it and we had a few close calls but ultimately did not get a sale. The rejections were mostly along the lines of “wonderful voice, dynamic writing, not quite romance, not quite women’s fiction.”Uhm – isn’t that the definition of chick lit? I was devastated and do plan to rewrite it as a contemporary romance when I’m done with my current projects. But two days ago I heard that the team who had produced Burn the Floor, a Broadway musical, was interested in turning my novel into a Broadway musical! So that would be even better than a book deal.

Q. What was the biggest boost you got from your Stiletto final?

A. The biggest boost I got from the contest was confidence! It was the first contest I ever entered and to be the runnerup was thrilling (especially since the winner was a published best selling author of a romance anthology!). It also encouraged me to become active in the Chick Lit chapter. The following year I coordinated the Classic category, then I became VP and ultimately I became the chapter President. I’d never even heard of RWA until I found the Stiletto contest – so I’m so thankful for finding both the Chick Lit chapter and the wonderful support of the members of RWA.

Q. You describe yourself as a recovering Chick Lit writer. What made you decide to transition to another genre, and what does it take to switch genres?

A. I told my agent that I wished that my rejections had said “her writing is horrible, we don’t like the plot, her characters are bland.” The senior editor at Mira said I was a “terrific writer”, and the senior editor at Grand Central said that “Albertson is a spirited writer and her characters are so vivid. That said, I didn’t see this for 5 Spot—we’ve been tending a bit more serious on that list, and this novel, while fun, struck me as a little frothy for it. I shared it with a couple of colleagues who are great readers of all women’s fiction to see what they thought—and they agreed that it sort of fell in between romance (our Forever imprint) and 5 Spot.”

 I realized that I didn’t want to waste my time writing books that weren’t being published. I have no desire to self publish. I’m working on a YA now, with chick lit flair, and I love it. Just like I did when I started writing Chick Lit, I read every best selling YA book out there and got an idea of what was selling to get a handle on the genre.

Q. What’s next on your agenda?

A. I’m finishing The Picture of Dulce Garcia, a modern paranormal chick litish YA retelling of my favorite novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. I’m also working on an inspirational non-fiction book about a female Marine who lost both her Marine brother and her Marine fiancé (and father of her 10-month-old son) within 48 hours. Then I will rewrite Dancing as a contemporary romance.

Q. You’re a small business owner, a wife, a mom–and a fiction writer! What’s the key to balancing a full life?

A. My husband is amazing and helps out with the baby. So having a great partner is key. I also try to delegate work and RWA obligations so my workload is managable.

Alana Albertson is the President of Romance Writers of Americas’s Young Adult and Chick Lit chapters and the founder of Academe Advantage, a college admissions & test preparation company. Alana Albertson holds a Masters of Education from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Stanford University. A recovering Chick Lit author, Alana currently writes young adult fiction. She lives in San Diego, California, with her husband, nine-month old baby boy, and a menagerie of rescue pets. When she’s not spending her time needlepointing, quilting or scrapbooking, she can be found watching episodes of House Hunters, Entourage, or Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team.

Wish you were in Alana Albertson’s fabulous shoes? Enter the 2011 Get Your Stiletto in the Door contest for unpublished manuscripts. Deadline for electronic entries is Sept. 6.

5 thoughts on “Get Your Stiletto in the Door: Chapter President Alana Albertson’s Experience”

  1. Thanks Chris – it’s still tough. I switch too easily into Chick Chat. I’ll tell you what’s really hard – non fiction. You can’t just change your characters to fit the story!

  2. Hi Linda,
    Yes – it’s hard to write in between genres. That was my first book so I was just writing what I liked to read. Now I’m more savvy about the industry but it was a great experience working on it as a first novel.
    Thanks! I’m obsessed with Dorian Gray. My version is told from the point of view of a teen Disney starlet. I’m having a blast writing it.

  3. Wonderful how you had such a positive early success with contests.
    Intrigued by your take on Dorian Gray … that story has always made a big impact on me.
    And, yeah, my stories — 2 screwball romantic comedies and one comedic romance — don’t seem to fall into a neat ‘category’ either.

  4. I love these Stiletto-related posts–thank you so much for them! My writing partner Shelley and I have already entered our first novel into the Stiletto contest, but I think we fall into the same dilemma as you did, Alana. What we’ve written so far isn’t quite chick lit but it’s not quite women’s fiction or romance, either, because it’s more on the humorous side. As I told Shelley, seeing this makes me realize we have to keep that balance in mind, because, also like you, we don’t want to self-publish; we’d prefer to try the traditional route first. It’s so helpful to see other writers’ experiences.

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