I’ve Been There
Before the six-figure book deal, the awards, and the bestseller lists, Home Baked was a failed project. An earlier version was shopped back in 2009 and received zero offers and nearly 30 rejections. My agent dropped me. I was crushed.
That failure was a gift. I was too close to my story to see that it needed developmental editing. My central thread was buried, the plot lacked urgency, and my narrator was hiding her emotions behind stylistic flourishes. Wounded—but not defeated—I set that book aside and focused on honing my skills. I founded an MFA-style critique group in my home that has now been meeting for thirteen years and has led to published novels, story collections, memoirs, award-winning essays, and researched nonfiction. I completed a novel and became a personal essayist, landing pieces in major venues like The New York Times, Bon Appetit, and LitHub; prestigious literary journals such as Tin House, River Teeth, and New England Review; and anthologies like Best Women’s Travel Writing and Best American Essays.
By the time I returned my focus to Home Baked, I understood how to deepen and clarify my story. I developed a fresh proposal, workshopped it thoroughly with trusted editors, and only sought a new agent once my vision was crystalline on the page. This proposal earned me a substantial enough book deal to quit my day job and write full time.
The publishing world is tough. I have both failed and succeeded in the book business (with the same project!), and I’ve analyzed what led to each outcome. I know my way around memoir, fiction, general nonfiction, hybrid projects, short stories, essays, book proposals, artist statements, and query letters. Throughout our process, my focus will be on understanding your intentions for the work so I can help you find the most powerful way to render them on the page.
Clients will receive in-doc line notes, as well as a detailed editorial letter or zoom/telephone discussion. We’ll brainstorm solutions and discuss how your project might fare in the current publishing landscape, as well as strategies to carry you toward your personal vision of success.
My standard fee for editorial services is $100 per hour. I will ask for a short sample of the work and use that to create an estimate and timeline.
The first 50 pages of a memoir, novel, or nonfiction manuscript are often crucial to securing a book deal or agent representation. No matter the genre, your opening chapters must be polished, captivating, and distinctive. My detailed edits will address larger issues like voice, POV, pacing, and propulsion, as well as sentence-level finesse. May include a phone/Zoom consultation to discuss revision and publication goals. Contact me about your first 50.
This is the total package. You will receive a thorough evaluation of your manuscript, focusing on big-picture development, sentence-level choices, and plans for publication. We will likely meet once or twice via Zoom/telephone during the editorial process to discuss goals, questions, and revision strategies. Contact me to discuss your MS.
A killer proposal could land you a book deal with advance payment, while also creating a valuable blueprint for the writing ahead. For many nonfiction authors, this is the way to go—but it’s not easy. I can help you turn your proposal draft into a clear, compelling, dynamic presentation of the project, including a bio highlighting your unique assets, and the dreaded marketing section. Contact me for help with your proposal.
Essays & Short Fiction
My essays and short stories are widely published and anthologized, and have been selected for Best American Essays and Best Women’s Travel Writing. I will find places for you to push your concept farther to discover its fullest potential, while also honing and clarifying what’s already on the page. I excel at tightening text, so if you’re struggling with the constraints of a word count, I’ll help you trim the fat. Contact me to discuss essays and stories.
The work speaks for itself, but writers must also learn to highlight our uniqueness for juries and committees. I’ve been accepted to prestigious residencies like MacDowell, Ucross, Monson Arts, Jentel, and Chateau de la Napoule in Cannes, France, as well as major literary conferences and festivals. We’ll brainstorm possible angles and work together to give you the best chance at enchanting the gatekeepers. Contact me about statements and residency applications.
Make It Up As We Go & Long-Term Coaching
Have something else in mind? Email me to co-create a package tailored to your needs. Contact me about an individualized package.
I’m a writing professor, and I’m very comfortable making suggestions on other writers’ drafts, but my own works-in-progress can feel un-fixable to me. I’d been working on my novel, Army of Lovers, for a long time and needed a fresh set of eyes on the manuscript. Alia Volz read my pages quickly, carefully and thoroughly and gave me the kind of supportive, generative and critical notes that every writer craves. She helped me solve problems that had confounded me. It’s rare to find someone who understands what the story needs while protecting the core of what is already on the page. Alia knows how to strike that balance.
Author of the novels The World of Normal Boys and Army of Lovers
Alia Volz has been instrumental in helping me polish the manuscript for my historical fiction novel and land a great agent (as well as a publishing deal). From early drafts to revisions to helping with the query letter, she has been an incisive editor and a passionate champion of my book and of my career as an author.
– Sasha Vasilyuk
Journalist and author of the historical fiction novel Your Presence Is Mandatory (Bloomsbury, 2024)
Alia’s guidance has been immeasurable as I work my way through a polished draft of my memoir. Her personal investment goes beyond mere formality; she cares about “Baby Shannon,” as she affectionately calls the young me on the page. She encourages me to dig deep into what my younger self was thinking and feeling, and to express these emotions through vivid scene. My chapters are more developed thanks to both her line-by-line suggestions and her ability to zoom out to provide structural changes that result in a more seamless manuscript.
– Shannon Luders-Manuel
Author of the memoir The Black Prince: A Father-Daughter Story in Black and White (Chicago Review Press, 2023)
Alia is both an extraordinarily attentive line editor and marvelous developmental editor who leads you to ask and answer big questions about your work. Alia made key suggestions on the title flash for my award-winning flash collection The Missing Girl, numerous short story publications, and many essays, seven of them Notables in Best American Essays. Always encouraging, she has a keen eye for what can be improved and how to go about it. If you get a chance to work with Alia, don’t miss it!
— Jacqueline Doyle
Creative nonfiction editor at CRAFT
Author of the flash collection The Missing Girl
Alia is unafraid to ask the kind of hard developmental questions that help elevate work from early draft to polished manuscript. She was instrumental in providing critical feedback for my nonfiction book proposal as it advanced from an outline to a more than 100-page beast. Wrangling structure and chronology is quite difficult when undertaking archival research, and Alia provided crucial notes that helped me shape the work at the line level and beyond.
– Elizabeth Owuor
Alia Volz has an extraordinary eye and a knack for balancing candor with a special sensitivity to writers’ style and voice. I appreciated her professionalism and attention to detail that supported me through the process of finishing my first book. She delivered beyond expectation – I’m grateful for her feedback and the care she showed my work.
– Lyndsey Ellis
Author of the novel Bone Broth
Finding an editor who respects offbeat literary sensibilities can be quite a chore. While I was writing my tragicomic memoir Disasterama!, I sought out a lot of critiques – far too many of which focused on homogenizing my idiosyncratic prose style. Alia, however, offered invaluable advice on both tone and structure without ever steering me towards a more conventional path. She was a pleasure to work with and smart as a whip. I would happily recommend her to anyone seeking help with any sort of manuscript.
– Alvin Orloff
Author of the memoir Disasterama!
Alia is one of the best critical readers I’ve ever met. I learn something new from her all the time. She has an excellent eye, not only for page and line level edits, but for zooming out on bigger, structural issues. She’s the queen of fixing issues with chronology and point of view. Her input has helped me place a number of pieces that wouldn’t have been as strong without her feedback. Alia also has a lovely knack for seeing the good in an idea or an instinct, teasing that out, and then cheering you on as you go forward. I’d recommend her editorial skills to anyone.
– Caryn Cardello
Alia has a knack for solving manuscript problems big and small, for seeing not only what’s already on the page, but also–and this is much harder–what could be there, but is yet missing. Her comments are precise and culturally sensitive, informed by her voracious reading practice and her experience as a translator and interpreter from Spanish. Her attention to my work has added complexity and depth to my fiction, and has helped me to develop confidence in myself as a writer. I’m deeply grateful and proud for the chance to work with Alia.
– Olga Zilberbourg
Author of the short-fiction collection Like Water and Other Stories