Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Alison Delaine

It is my great pleasure to introduce Alison Delaine, Golden Heart® finalist in Historical Romance for her novel NOTORIOUS.

Sometime this fall it will be 20 years since Alison brought home that first ream of typing paper and sat down to write a romance. It’s been a long journey—hills of commitment followed by valleys of inaction—but giving up has never been an option. Alison is a teacher-turned-attorney and a two-time Golden Heart finalist who knows a few things about perseverance and hanging on to the dream. You can find out more about Alison at


Three Ways to Take Your Power Back—Now!

 As a writer, I think I’ve counted about a hundred ways I’ve given my power away over the years. (Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration. It’s really more like 95 ways.) When I say I’ve “given my power away,” I am using that phrase in its full, airy-fairy, therapist’s-couch meaning: placing responsibility for my feelings (or more accurately, my writing) on someone or something else.

Here’s a sampling of people to whom I have served my power on a silver platter:

  • The industry insider whose help I thought I could never make it without.
  • The freelance editor whose feedback I decided I needed to have before I could work on anything new—even though there were many weeks between each draft.
  • The agent who requested my material and whose response I awaited for months without working on my next project.
  • The editor whose comment about my pacing left me doubting my entire ability to craft a novel instead of educating myself about pacing.
  • The first agent I worked with, who I assumed would do everything for me so I took no steps of my own toward publication.

One common denominator marks all of these episodes: I stopped doing what I could do and instead put my hope in what someone else might be able to do for me. Ever been there? Published or unpublished, I’m betting most of us have. In fact, I bet you can think of someone right now who has your hopes pinned all over them. Is it an agent? An editor? Readers? Publicist?

Now, sometimes we do need other people. Books don’t publish themselves. (Disclaimer: This post is not about self-publishing.) Many publishing houses don’t accept unagented manuscripts. A busy author may not have time to keep up with promotions, correspondence, and social media. But if you catch yourself feeling helpless, as if everything is out of your control, ask yourself: “Am I giving my power away? To whom?”

It might not even be a person. A few non-human recipients of my power have included

  • The day job that left me resentful and angry because it took time away from my writing.
  • The beliefs that made me absolutely sure I could only write at certain times of day and under certain conditions.
  • The market, that summer at National when I was sure I could never get published if I didn’t write about shapeshifters.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s time to take your power back. Here are three ways to do it:

1)   Write. I’ve noticed a pattern: When I write, I feel powerful. When I write, I feel like I am moving forward. When I write, I feel like my destiny is in my hands. The act of writing improves your craft, gets the ideas flowing, and gives you some mud to fling against the wall. You have control over when, if, and how much you write. No agent, editor, or one-star critic on earth can stop you.

2)   Ask the Tough Questions. Are there things you could be doing to be a better writer that you’re not doing? Yes, there are. What are they? Ask the hard questions: “If I’m totally honest, what part of my craft do I know I need to work on?” Work on that thing. “If I’m totally honest, what do I know this story needs but I haven’t wanted to tackle?” Tackle it and change the story. I’ve found that being honest with myself about areas for improvement and taking responsibility for becoming a better writer helps me feel like I’m back in the driver’s seat.

3)   Take an Action—Any Action. As a writer, there is always something to do. Make a list of agents to query. Actually send the queries. Enter a contest. Study a book about craft. Put a new technique into practice. Jot down a new story idea. Set a goal for this week, this month, this year—or even just for today. Make a small change to your writing schedule. Try a new motivational technique and see if it works. Committing to an action and following through always gives me a sense of forward momentum—probably because when I take action, I am moving forward.

What about you? Have you ever given your power away as a writer, and if so, what steps made you feel back in control? Any big epiphanies?

75 Responses to “Meet 2012 Golden Heart Finalist Alison Delaine”

  1. Alison – this was an excellent post.

    “When I write, I feel powerful.”

    Love this, and it’s something I’ve noticed too. So many publishing experts recommend you start your next project as soon as you’ve finished the current one, and I think it’s excellent advice. When I’m immersed in a new story, I’ve noticed the everyday fears of rejection fade into the background, because while I’m in the middle of a story, hope lives that it will be bigger and better than the one before.

    Hope to meet you in Anaheim!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Lorenda, I’ve heard that advice too, and it really has proven true for me. Early on, I would wait and wait before starting something new. But jumping into the next project gives me a sense that if the last one didn’t hit, I can do this again… and again, if necessary… until something sticks. And you make such a great point that when you’re in the middle of the story, that story has a bigger life than all the fears.

      Can’t wait to meet you, too! :)

  2. I guess everyone is sleeping in this morning! Congratulations, my dear Unsinkable Sister! May this be the year for you.

    This was a great post, Alison. I loved it because for the last few years I was giving away so much power. Then last fall, I realized after 7 Golden Heart nominations and 2 wins, it was time to stop waiting for NY to fit one of my fence-sitters into their publishing program. I took my power back and decided to join the ranks of the indie published and discovered that a LOT of people LOVE my fence-sitters. I now have three books out and three more to be released this year, and in three months have made more than I ever could have if I’d published traditionally.

    I don’t think this career path is for everyone. My 7 GH nominations told me a lot of readers love my voice and stories, and my two Golden Heart wins gave me a sturdy platform to build a career on.

    So I had two of the three P’s necessary for a book to be successful. A strong PLATFORM and top-notch PRODUCT. However, in PROMOTION I was weak and had to learn a lot.

    So in your TAKE AN ACTION list, which is mostly all about creating great product, I would like to add, build your platform and begin to promote yourself so you don’t have to play catch-up like I had to. Learn how to use all of the social media avenues and become active. Get that website and blog built and gather followers. Create a reader e-mail list. Let people know who you are as a writer.

    I’m rooting for you, and hope to see you in Anaheim!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Those are a GREAT additions, Laurie. Thank you. What a wonderful story that you found such success for your books through indie publishing! Everyone can learn from what you’ve been through, which I know is a lot. I’m definitely weak in the platform area, but the baby steps I’ve taken have felt empowering. I’m sure they are for others, too.

      It will be fun to see you again!

    • Laurie, it’s been wonderful seeing your enthusiasm as you get your books out there. So empowering.

      And yes, good point about getting a platform out there. I think one of the best things about becoming a GH finalist years ago is I was forced to get headshots and a website going. Thank goodness I haven’t had to worry about that again. LOL

    • Magdalen says:

      Laurie, I love your twist on Alison’s advice. Yes, we writers can give The Industry too much power. Better to give our power to readers…who can buy our books or not, their choice. When they love our work (HOW many GH finals & wins did you say?!?) why should we let The Industry say that readers don’t want what we’re writing? I’d rather hear that from the readers themselves!

      Alison, I am so glad you’re taking your power back. You go!


  3. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Alison!!!

    “When I write, I feel powerful”–that line really resonated with me too!

    It’s so darn hard to keep hold of the reins when the rest of life is so demanding and complicated and when so much feels out of our hands. Thanks for the reminders to plow through anyway.

    See you in Anaheim!!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Thanks, Elisa. It definitely is hard. But look how we all manage to do it anyway! We should all be very proud of the fact that we manage to plow through despite the demands and complications.

  4. Hope Ramsay says:

    Hey Allison, fellow Unsinkable. Congratulations on your Golden Heart final. May this be your year.

    This is a wonderful post. I have already emailed several writer friends who need to read it right now. :)

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Thank you, Hope! Congratulations on all your successes over the past few years. You’ve been very inspiring.

  5. Hi, Alison. Welcome to the Rubies blog and congrats on your second final.

    This was an awesome post! And like Hope, I’m emailing a few friends and telling them to get over here now.

    I do feel powerful when I write, and I find if I take those twenty minutes in the morning to start, I get so much done during the day, if only in spurts. Books don’t get written in day, but they can get written in spurts. Atleast that’s my motto.

    Have a great time is CA. I wish I was going and meeting all of you.

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Autumn, what you point out is so true. My GH-finaling manuscript was written by taking a little time every morning, and slowly but surely a novel took shape. So often I’ve felt like I needed to have big swaths of time in order to get anything done, but the fact is, few of us ever have big swaths of time. And then when I do get one, it’s often too intimidating to get any writing done! It sounds like you’ve got a great system down in the mornings. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with spurts.

      I wish you were going to CA, too! We’ll miss you.

      • “but the fact is, few of us ever have big swaths of time”

        AMEN, sister! :) That was a hard lesson for me to learn, too.

      • Elise Hayes says:

        Yup, waiting for big blocks of time has been one of my biggest downfalls. I’ve gotten better at that over the last few years and it’s amazing how much I can get done in 20 minute chunks!

  6. Tamara Hogan says:

    Hi Alison – this is such a wise and self-aware post. Sometimes – heck, MOST of the time – we are our own worst enemy.

    This might be an unpopular opinion (what else is new!), but I have never put much stock in “The Muse.” Talk about the very personification of giving your power to someone else. Wait for inspiration to visit, like a goddess from on high? Hell, no. I have books to write! ;-)

    Congratulations on your GH final!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Agreed! While there’s a lot to be said for unexpected inspiration, I really think we set the wheels in motion for inspiration to strike by sitting down and getting to work. Thanks, Tamara!

    • LOL, Tamara – I never believed in the muse, either. In fact, I named my computer “Muse” because that’s the only one I ever need to get my work done. :P

  7. Rita Henuber says:

    Congrats on your final. Love your post.
    I am convinced I am all that stands in my way. Writing my stories the way I want them makes me feel powerful and in control.

    • Alison Delaine says:

      So true, Rita. Now if I could just figure out how to get out of my own way sometimes… Thanks!

  8. Kay Hudson says:

    Excellent post, Alison. Reminds me that I need to stop messing around with my last manuscript, get some queries out there, and get back to work on my new one.

    I’m not sure I ever really feel in control–there are just too many variables. But I am doing my best not to let expectations and variables control me, and to remember that it’s the writing itself that matters.

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Kay, you are so right about the variables. I never really feel in control, either – I just feel *more* in control when I’m taking care of what I can control than when I’m not. Doing our best is all we can do. I’m sure you are doing great!

  9. Alison, what an excellent post! I am SO guilty of letting outside influence control me, whether it’s a review, feedback from an agent or editor, or even just life ‘junk’ that wants to step in and demotivate me. I wish I could say I’ve found a way to overcome, but it’s still something I struggle with on a daily basis. Realistically I know the only thing I CAN control is the writing, but sometimes it’s hard to put myself in a bubble and ignore everything else. :)

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Getting in that bubble is so hard, Cynthia, especially when something specific happens like a rejection or a bad review or negative feedback. I’ve found that it is during those times when it is even more important for me to do something that makes me feel empowered, but it sure isn’t easy!

  10. As many have already posted, your “When I write, I feel powerful” is great and so true. And I’d also add: “When I write, I feel happy.” Maybe powerful leads to happy, or vice versa. So now it’s time to write for a few hours before work. Looking forward to seeing you in July at Nationals!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Thanks, Jacqui! Great point about writing and being happy. I’m sure there is a direct correlation for most of us. (And conversely, when I don’t write I get cranky and grumpy!) Can’t wait to see you, too!

  11. Oberon Wonch says:

    Alison, wonderful post! Insightful. Love your three things to do to take back power. Especially, write. I, too feel most powerful when I’m actually writing.

    And certainly in all aspects of life, doing something, anything about a problem is way better than worrying about it.

    Can’t wait to meet you in Anaheim!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      I think that’s just it, Oberon – doing something always feels better than not doing something. Although I think sometimes we have to take action even while we’re still worrying! :-) It will be so fun to finally meet you.

  12. Hi, Alison and everyone!

    Sorry I’m late checking in…first week kids are out of school, so mornings are starting a wee bit later than normal. ;)

    I’m so thrilled to host my good friend and chapter mate here today. I am excited to see what this year brings for her.

  13. Terri Osburn says:

    I read this blog nodding my head and then said a big AMEN at the end. I’ve been working for the last six months to take back my power and I feel better than ever about my writing. I’ve pushed myself and found I’m capable of more than I ever considered. No waiting to “feel” like writing. No waiting to hear back from this reader or that one.

    Charging through, putting in the work, honestly digging to identify where I need the most work. These things have made all the difference and I have more confidence than ever that they’ll eventually pay off.

    • AMEN, Terri! :) With that attitude, I’m confident it WILL pay off.

    • Alison Delaine says:

      What a great thought about being capable of more than we ever considered. Our own expectations can be so limiting sometimes, can’t they? Love the imagery of “charging through!” Thanks, Terri.

  14. Great post, Alison! Count me among those who love the line, “When I write, I feel powerful.” This is so true for me. There have been way too many times I’ve waited for someone else.

    Looking forward to meeting you in Anaheim!

  15. Hi Allison, Great blog and I think your statement, “When I write I feel powerful,” is going to be repeated time and again. After a bit of an accident with my eye, I slacked off, hard to see on a stark white computer screen. Soon, I wondered if I had any talent at all. I gave my power away to that injury! I found I could type looking out the window and within the hour I was feeling empowered again!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Wow, Kathleen, giving power away to an injury is something I hadn’t even thought of. It makes total sense! There are always times when we legitimately can’t write because of a physical problem, but I know for me there have been plenty of times when I didn’t feel great but I still could have done *something.* Thank you so much for sharing that. What an empowering story of learning to adapt!

  16. Kathleen, such a good point about giving our power away to our health/injuries. Kudos to you for overcoming it! It’s so easy to let the writing habit go by the wayside when we’re not feeling well.

  17. Faye Hughes says:

    Hi, Alison,

    Great post, and love reading all the insightful comments. I’m so proud of you, my friend, and I know it’s just a matter of time before your dream becomes a reality.



  18. Wow, what a fantastic post, Alison! It’s weird because we kind of give away our power to different people at different stages in the game. For a while there, I was all about the bloggers. I was certain that if I didn’t accept every singe invitation, I would never make it, so I spent all of my time blogging instead of writing. I’m pickier now. I still accept almost all invitations, but I do it on my timeline, not theirs. There is only so much one can do in a day and writing must come first.

    GREAT points! Congrats on the final!!!!! ~D~

    • Saying “no” or putting people off has always been difficult for me. Glad to hear I’m not the only one!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      That makes really good sense, Darynda. I think we all learn along the way through different stages of writing: The things we give our power to when we’re first starting out, we become savvy about later (until the backsliding starts, of course… LOL). The writing must, must, MUST come first – that’s the reason people keep asking you to blog in the first place, right?? :-)

      Thanks for the congrats!!

  19. Beth Langston says:

    If I finaled in contests and received feedback from an Editor Judge, I used to treat that like gospel.

    In Fall 2008, one editor was horribly cruel about my entry. I was crushed. Ready to give up. My teen gave me the proverbial shake and said, “Editors are just readers too. Don’t let this one get to you.”

    Well, I sucked it up and sent the ms into the Golden Heart. It finaled in 2009–netting me the best set of sisters you could ever hope for. And—it’s the manuscript that reeled in my agent (who has since sold my next ms.)

    So don’t let anyone drain your power–not even a publishing professional. They are just people too.

    • “they are just people too” – oh, that thought helped me SO much when I was doing face-to-face pitches. It always helps to remember that. Thanks for stopping by, Beth, and congratulations on the sale!!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Getting back on the horse is something to be really proud of, Beth. And what an insightful teen you have! It can be so painful to get negative editor feedback, and it really is hard to remember that one editor’s opinion isn’t the last word about your writing. I’ve been there too. Thank you for sharing, and yes – congratulations!!

  20. Wonderful post, Alison! I know I’ve done a lot of the things you’ve listed regarding giving away my power–most without thinking twice about it.

    “When I write, I feel powerful.” It seems that sentence resonates with a lot of us.

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Thank you, Deborah. Amazing how easy it is to fall into some of these traps, isn’t it? I’m so glad you stopped by!

  21. Vivi Andrews says:

    Fabulous post, Alison, and congrats on your new final!

    I’m trying to get better about guarding my power, i.e. my writing time – so it doesn’t turn into email-answering time or random-promo-junk time. Sometimes it’s good to remember that the books are what make you a writer, not how many emails about them you answer in a day.

  22. Jean says:

    Alison! You said what every writer thinks but is afraid to voice! Bravo! We’ve all given our power away at some point and getting it back means mentally rolling back your sleeves and diving in.
    You’re an Unsinkable!! We paddle on. We’ll soon have another name and a group of supporting writers who understand the ups and downs of this industry.
    The biggest point I constantly have to remember– It’s a business. Once my creative baby crossed the line into the world of publishing…it’s a business.
    “When I write, I feel powerful” may be the new logo for 2010.
    See you in Anaheim!! I registered today..yeah!


    • Oh, that would be a great logo! Have the finalists this year found a “name” yet?

      Hope to meet you in Anaheim!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Yay for registering, Jean!! I’m sure everyone will be thrilled that you’re able to attend! (I know I am.) Excellent point about publishing being a business. That is so easy to forget. I get so close to my material, and my identity gets so caught up with my writing, that everything feels incredibly personal. Thank you!

  23. Jean says:

    Ah..typo alert… so I’ve lost a few years. That should be “new logo for 2012!” :)

  24. Terri Bolyard says:

    Oh wow, Allison. What a great post. It is so true that we as writers have done all of these at some point. (If someone hasn’t, can I please touch you as I’d love to know what perfection feels like. :) ) Thank you for helping everyone realize that you can only be a victim if you want to be. :)

    • Alison Delaine says:

      LOL about the perfection, Terri. But that is a great point about only being a victim if we want to be. I hadn’t thought of it that way, but how often over the years have I felt “victimized” by the business? All part of it feeling so personal, I suppose. Thanks for the comment!

  25. robena grant says:

    Thanks Alison, great post and wise advice. Congrats! again on your GH final.

  26. I couldn’t miss the chance to stop by and say hello to a fellow NARWAn! Great post.

    I’m right there with you on being resentful of the day job because it takes away writing time. (I should be working right now, as a matter of fact.) I try to spend at least two hours with my writing every day before I have to go to the day job … it helps that I don’t work until 3 p.m.

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Hi Arlene! Yep, those pesky day jobs can really get the resentment flowing. The only solution for me is to do exactly what you’re doing: carve out a couple of hours beforehand. For me, that means getting up at 4 a.m.! Knowing I made time for my writing despite everything is really empowering — plus, day by day I see my book taking shape. Yay for getting your writing done!

    • I, for one, am very glad you have the work schedule you have, Arlene. Gives me a chance to carve out that block of time with you. :)

  27. Jan Nash says:

    Great post, Alison. I love the idea of tossing excuses to the curb and being disciplined! Writing is so much more than words on a page. I’m doing Camp Nano right now! Pushing myself to the next level.
    Thanks for the pep talk!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Yep—the curb is exactly where those excuses belong! I hope you’re having a great time at “camp.” :-) Thanks, Jan!

  28. Anna Stewart says:

    LOVE this blog, Alison. And you’re so right…when I write, I feel powerful. New inspiration quote to put on my bulletin board. See you in Anaheim!

  29. Alison Delaine says:

    Who knew that quote would catch fire? :-) Thank you so much, Anna!

  30. Karen says:


    Great post. All your points are ones that I need to apply when “life” gets in the way of my writing.

    Best of luck to you. I love historicals. See you at Nationals.

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Thanks, Karen! If you’re anything like me, “life” gets in the way almost every day. I look forward to meeting you!

  31. Alison, find me at Anaheim, ply me with Harvey’s, and I’ll tell you all the times I gave my power away. All I’ll say right now is AMEN, SISTER! Fabulous post.

    Oh, and yes. Writing is the cure. Always and forever.

  32. Tammy Baumann says:

    “Take an Action—Any Action”

    I find this to be so true. If I’m stuck, or feeling overwhelmed, hitting the problem head first always proves a result, good or bad. That’s better than sitting on my hands and getting no result at all. ;0)

    Great post!

    Thanks for sharing. I look forward to meeting you this summer in LA!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      I agree, Tammy. Sitting on my hands only produces frustration, in my experience. But taking action when you are stuck or overwhelmed is sometimes easier said than done. Thanks for your comment, and can’t wait to meet you!

  33. Meg Kassel says:

    Hi Alison, What an empowering post! I’ve given my power away many times. It’s easy to! New writers are often so vulnerable (I’m speaking for myself, here), it’s not hard to knock us down. But you’re so right! We ARE in charge of our writing, and no one else.

    Thank you for sharing your insights!

    • Alison Delaine says:

      Good for you for taking charge of your writing, Meg! Even as a new writer, you don’t have to let yourself get knocked down (or at least, you can pick yourself back up quick!). Great thoughts — thanks!

  34. Wonderful and empowering post. Thank you sooooo much!

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