Winding road to success

Winding road to success

Aleesah Darlison dreamed of being an author and worked hard to make it come true

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Author Aleesah Darlison (centre) talks books with French International School students Bronwen Alexander (left) and Marieke Lie.
Author Aleesah Darlison (centre) talks books with French International School students Bronwen Alexander (left) and Marieke Lie.
Photo: Nora Tam
It's not easy to be a writer and it's even tougher to be a published writer. Children's author Aleesah Darlison knows this from personal experience.

The Australian mother of three started writing when she was a teen but did not get her work published until last year, when she was 38.

"I'd always wanted to be a published author and been working on some manuscripts since I was a teenager," Darlison says.

But people didn't encourage her when she told them about her dream.

"My teacher told me it's hard to get published and to make a living as a writer. So I studied marketing at university instead," she says.

After becoming a mother and leaving her marketing job, she needed a mental challenge. "Having my kids around me as my inspiration, I decided to write for children."

It wasn't easy. She sent out her manuscripts to publishers and had 400 rejections. "It was devastating. I didn't know how to write properly."

Over the next four years, she entered every writing competition she could. She sent her stories to magazines. She took part in writing workshops and started writer's groups.

"Rejection is not nice. But it helped me to improve my writing. I thought I had submitted the perfect manuscript, without realising changes were needed. Even when my first story was accepted, the editors had to change many things."

She also found out about the practical side of being a writer. "There's a lot of paperwork involved ... It is important to check the publishers' guidelines before sending out your work. You can find the information on their websites," she says. "Some publishers may only take manuscripts from literary agencies."

Her advice to aspiring writers is one word: persevere.

"Read and write as much as you can and every day; enter competitions and send your work out. Also, make sure your work is as good as it can be before you send it off. You usually get only one chance to impress a publisher." All her hard work and effort have paid off. Since her first picture book Puggle's Problem was published last year, she has had 14 other books accepted.

"Seeing your finished book in hardcover is extremely satisfying. So is seeing it on the bookshelves and being enjoyed by readers," she says. "If you want to write, just write. In the end, if your work gets picked up by a publisher, that's icing on the cake.

"If it doesn't, you still have the satisfaction of completing something you feel passionate about."

Aleesah Darlison is in the city for this month's Hong Kong Literary Festival. Read Page 9 for our Junior Reporters' feedback on her session.

Visit www.aleesahdarlison.com to learn more about her work.

Young Post has four books by Australian writer Craig Silvey to give away. Send an e-mail to yp@scmp.com for a chance to win.

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