Sunday, March 13, 2011

HKILF: I Want to Be a Writer with Aleesah Darlison

Saturday was a big day for the Hong Kong International Literary Festival. There were five events, all being held at the Racing Museum near the Happy Valley Racecourse. I collected tickets, fetched water, and performed general volunteering duties all day. I watched four of the five events, and only missed the fifth for a really good reason (a quick dim sum with a couple of the authors!). I'll write up each event over the next day or so, so please come back for more.

The first event was designed for young writers who want to learn more about the process of becoming an author. Australian writer Aleesah Darlison shared her experiences as the author of children's books about animals and the Totally Twins series for 8-12 year old girls. There were lots of high school students in the audience, in addition to aspiring writers of all ages.

Darlison emphasized the importance of networking as you learn to write. She suggested joining writer's groups, attending workshops, looking for opportunities through writing centers and libraries, and searching for online resources. She said it is absolutely vital to read your work aloud and ask other people to read your work as you develop your skills as a writer. She also recommended creating business cards and giving them to as many people as you can.

Darlison also said that writers must develop a range of skills in order to be successful. She worked in marketing for ten years before she started to write, and the skills she learned have been invaluable as she sells her books. Authors need to know about design, sales, public speaking, marketing, and websites in addition to writing. She also suggested that new authors think about the image they want to cultivate as they try to create a name for themselves in the industry.

Darlison reminded the audience that becoming a writer, like any other business, requires an investment. Among the potential costs are writer's association fees, course tuition, postage and stationary, and entry fees for writing competitions. She mentioned the importance of building a writer's CV by entering competitions, having shorter pieces published, and contributing to anthologies and book reviews.

The audience had many questions about how Darlison (a mother of two) makes time to write, how to deal with writer's block, and how much publicity she needs to do on her own. Darlison said she makes time to write while her kids are at school and daycare, and that is also when she does her publicity and visits schools. Others asked how long it takes to start making money as a writer, and she answered 3-5 years. She said most of her income usually comes from public appearances and speaker's fees. At the end of the event she recommended that people compile their contact information so that they could get some writer's groups started.

For the writers out there, do you have any advice to add for aspiring authors?

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