Eleni Hale worked as a journalist for over a decade before turning to media relations and opinion writing. Now, her first novel - Stone Girl - is due in early 2018.
Interview with Eleni Hale
Can you tell us about your time at Deakin? Is there anything you especially remember?
I was in my mid-twenties when I started university. My experience told me that forging a career without an education was challenging and I was excited and enthusiastic to be there – something I noticed was common in older students.
I was fortunate to have some extraordinary lecturers and tutors and who were skilled at encouraging dynamic conversation. This would often spill over into the café where we would argue about politics (particularly refugees) over coffee.
The world around me, its issues and my role as a citizen became clearer.
What has been your journey since finishing your course? Briefly outline your career path prior to your current role.
Like many other want-to-be writers, I wanted to be an author. I turned to journalism as a starting point.
I worked for about a decade as a journalist including at a major newspaper. Then I crossed to the ‘other side’ and did media relations and opinion writing for the union movement.
Author. My first novel, Stone Girl, will be published by Penguin Teens May 2018.
You can find out more at elenihale.com
I am currently writing book two.
What has been the biggest influence on your career?
Journalism taught me storytelling, structure and minimalist language. I had editors along the way who patiently explained the craft and over time and with much practice this transformed my writing from personal prose to professional text. Most importantly, journalism taught me not to take criticism of my work personally. Constructive criticism is a gift.
Have you always wanted to pursue the kind of career you have embarked on? If so, when and how did you realise?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. While others wondered what they’d do for a job, I was never in doubt. However, it wasn’t until Deakin that I realised my ambition to write novels.
My lecturer at the time, the late Peter Davis, was one of those teachers who understood the power of his profession to open the doors of possibility in a student’s mind. I’d leave his lectures bursting with ideas. I’d jot them down in a notepad as I rushed to my car and drove home to write. He pointed out that one of my essays would make an interesting book. The seed was planted. It took me over a decade but I followed his advice and that essay became Stone Girl.
What advice would you give graduates wanting to pursue a similar profession?
Write almost every day. Read as often as possible. Watch people and truly see your environment. Being observant is critical to good writing.
Get a job where you are out of your depth and the learning curve is steep and then paddle like hell until you’re up to speed. Learn from your mistakes.
A good way to do this is by writing for others not just for yourself. Journalism or communications work is a great way to become disciplined.
What do you believe Deakin University has shown you/given you as a person?
My time at Deakin was formative. It taught me critical thinking. It was the first step in building the confidence I required to achieve my career goals.
What are your passions outside your work?
Hanging with my kids, good books, food, ‘fun writing’ and an insatiable appetite for documentaries.
How would someone describe you?
I try not to think about it.
Is there any advice you would give to a person who is starting out in your career?
When I decided to become a journalist I applied for a position at the Leader Newspapers, and a cadetship at News Limited and The Age. All unsuccessful.
My prospects were looking bleak so I moved to the country to gain experience.
When I returned to Melbourne I started searching for stories. I made contact with people who would become valuable sources and I found out about a couple of big stories. I contacted the Herald Sun and sold them the articles. I did this a few times and was soon offered a full time position.
The best advice I can give is don’t let rejection put you off resubmitting your work or applying for jobs. Find another way. As a writer there will be many rejections. And they hurt.
Unless you’re extremely lucky or supremely talented chances are you will be on the receiving end of a large number of cold shoulders.
Take the rejection and keep trying until you figure it out.
What’s your favourite website?
What’s your least favourite word?
What is something that amazes you?
The night sky. My kids. People generally.