March 2

Lessons from an Award-Winning Author


Imagine you’ve put your entire heart into a book that combines everything you learned in your personal and professional life. An amazing opportunity stands before you to submit your published book for a prestigious author award. You throw caution to the wind and, putting all your faith in yourself, you enter that book into that contest. 

Throughout the many stages of the contest, you promote your book and ask your readers, friends, and family to vote on your book so you can become one of the finalists for the award. And then, several months later, you attend the award show. On your best day, you don’t ever expect to hear your name called, but it happens. The announcer proudly speaks to the audience, announcing that you’ve just won the award for your category. 

And because you didn’t expect to win, you had no speech prepared, but it’s an opportunity of a lifetime. With confidence, you stand up and walk down the red carpet to accept your award. And it’s one of the most amazing experiences you’ve lived as an author.

That’s what happened for Chellie Phillips, author of When in Doubt, Delete It!: 36 Life-Changing Edits That Will Add More Clarity, Success, and Joy to Your Life. This week, Guild managing editor Tina Morlock sat down with Chellie to hear about her journey to becoming an author.

When In Doubt, Delete It!

AAE: How does writing fit in with your personal and professional life?

CP: I’m truly blessed to be able to take something I enjoy and have turned it into a career. In my day-to-day corporate job, I’m the VP of Communications and Public Relations. I tell everyone I’m a strategic storyteller. Before moving into the corporate world, I was a journalist. I loved interviewing and then telling other people’s stories. I’ve also been blessed to mentor and work with sorority women for over 14 years. I have a passion to see the next generation succeed. My book is a collection of stories. It’s like sitting on the front porch swing with your best friend, getting life advice and sharing triumphs and heartaches. I thought about the sorority women I’d worked with and thought about all the things—life, relationships, career—I wished I’d known and wrote down.

AAE: Since you dreamed of becoming a writer since you were very young, do you remember the first thing you ever wrote?

CP: I distinctly remember a friend of mine, Dawn, spending the night with me. I’d write the stories, and she’d illustrate them. Then, I remember the first time I realized, “Hey, this is something I can do.” That came in the 6th grade when Mrs. Fairweather had us enter stories into the Alabama Creative Writing Contest. I won third place for “The Case of the Missing Sneakers” and got a check for $5. I was hooked.

AAE: I remember that feeling was such an encouragement when I was younger, too! If you could go back to the younger version of you who wrote that story, what advice would you give her?

CP: Don’t wait until you think it will be perfect and keep track of all the ideas you have along the way. There’s no perfect time to start. You just have to start. 

AAE: That is so true! I wish I could go back and tell my younger self the same things. After you won that creative-writing contest, how did your love for writing build from there?

CP: I spent several years writing for a weekly and daily newspaper. So I honed my storytelling there. I’ve freelanced for several magazines, and in my corporate career, I was responsible for our local content in a magazine we sent out to our customers monthly. I’ve also blogged for several years. Then, finally, that blog turned into a book.

AAE: And what a great book it is! What inspired you to start writing your first book—and to keep going until it was finished?

CP: The idea for When In Doubt, Delete It! came while I was sitting on the couch editing a newsletter. I still use my editing marks I learned in journalism school when I edit. The idea for the book just hit me! “What if we had edits for life?” I got to thinking about the major editing marks—delete, insert, move, begin (as in paragraph), and stet. From there, the stories came pretty easily because they were things near and dear to me. I’m very goal-oriented. So finishing it wasn’t a problem for me. The hard part was making the time while working an 8–5 job, too. I used lunch hours, gave up some TV time, used my weekends. I tell folks sleep is overrated! 

AAE: How did you get connected with your publisher, Author Academy Elite?

CP: I actually found AAE because of an acquaintance. But then I started watching Kary’s webinars. I laugh now because I was a doubter. I interviewed twice with AAE before I decided to join. I just didn’t believe it could be what he said it was. Truthfully, looking back, I think it was more the fear of investing in myself that kept me from doing it initially. But I watched the success others were having and decided I wanted that for myself. So, I took the plunge. 

AAE: And now that you’ve published your first book with AAE, what advice would you give to others thinking about applying?

CP: I’m all about using a proven plan for success, and that’s what AAE is. Sure, it’s an investment, but with it, you’re getting everything you need to make sure your book gets in the hands of readers. You get the added benefit and credibility of having a publisher. You won’t find a more supportive and generous tribe to surround yourself with than that of the AAE tribe. You can get all of your questions answered almost any day of the week with all of the coaching calls. 

AAE: Let’s talk for a bit about the Author Academy Award that you won at the Igniting Souls Conference in 2019 for the self-help category. What went through your mind when that opportunity presented itself?

CP: I watched the Author Academy Awards in 2018 at the Igniting Souls Conference, and it was at that conference I made up my mind to have my book ready before the next one rolled around. That was October 2018, and my book was published on January, 10, 2019. When it came time to submit your book for consideration, I jumped at the chance. I wanted to see how my book stacked up against others, and I knew that it would make me double-down on my efforts to promote my book on social media, at book signings, etc. During the voting, my book actually hit #1 on Amazon and Kindle. I credit that to all the attention the competition gave When in Doubt, Delete It!

Author Academy Awards

AAE: What was that moment like when they named your book as the winner for the self-help category at last year’s conference?

CP: Oh gosh, it was so unexpected! I was up against some really tough competition, many of whom had become really good friends throughout the year. I truly wasn’t expecting to hear my name. I had totally forgotten the winner got to say a few words and had nothing prepared. But to be able to walk up on stage and do it in the presence of family and friends is something I’ll never forget.


Chellie Phillips

TM: How did becoming an award-winning author change your life?

It’s opened up several opportunities in the speaking arena. It’s also been a boost to my professional career as well. It’s given me the confidence to pursue my own business. I’ve been blessed to have received some very good press coverage from receiving the award, too.

AAE: What advice do you have for authors participating in the Author Academy Awards competition for 2020?

Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Ask people for their vote. Most of all, enjoy the experience. Don’t get caught up in the competition aspect. Reach out to your fellow competitors and get to know them. Take that step and apply. You never know, you could be walking across there this year and take home the award!

You can contact Chellie Phillips …

Through her website — — or on social media:

Author Academy Elite is very proud of the success Chellie has achieved so far, and we look forward to celebrating more successes with her. If you’ve been inspired by her success story, you never know—you could be the next AAA winner we celebrate here after the awards ceremony in October. If you’ve already submitted your book for the Author Academy Awards, we’d love to hear about it! Tell us what your book is about and what you’re doing to promote your entry. The voting process starts soon!


aaa, aae, author, author academy awards, author academy elite, award, chellie phillips, communications, delete it, kary oberbrunner, public relations, storyteller, success, tina morlock, when in doubt, when in doubt delete it

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  1. Great interview! I agree this opportunity has really opened up your career and your ability to reach more and more people. I especially love this: “Don’t be afraid to promote yourself. Ask people for their vote. Most of all, enjoy the experience. Don’t get caught up in the competition aspect. Reach out to your fellow competitors and get to know them.” I loev that you didn’t polarize your competition, but friended and supported them. Well done!

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