Dahlia Malaeulu (1983 – ) is a Wellington-born Samoan author and educator based in Wainuiomata. In May 2019, she released the first books in her Mila’s My Gagana Series for pre-schoolers and junior primary aged children. She created the series with the goals of providing accessible books that support tamaiti, fanau and faiā'oga in the development of basic Samoan language within the home, schools and communities.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and the stories you write?
I am a Samoan New Zealander, currently living in Wainuiomata. I have connections to the villages of Sinamoga and Vaivase tai in Samoa. I am a passionate educator at heart and I have two sons, Mason and Isaia, who inspired me to become an author.
I am also the creator of Mila’s Books, and the Pasifika children’s stories I write aim to help us to be seen, heard and valued as Pasifika by developing cultural understanding and confidence amongst our tamaiti (children), ‘āiga (families) and faiā‘oga (educators).
Your book “Going to Te Papa” will be out in May, congratulations!
Can you tell us about it?
Faafetai tele lava – it is very exciting to be part of creating a book that I wish I had as a child, parent and educator. Going to Te Papa / Asiasiga ‘i le Falemata‘aga i Te Papa is a beautiful Samoan board book that showcases our everyday measina (treasures) from Te Papa, while promoting the learning of our Samoan language.
What other books do you have coming out this year?
I also have the second set of Mila’s My Gagana Series being released with my publisher, One Tree House, as well as our brand new Mila’s My Aganu‘u Series which includes two children’s picture books that I am self-publishing, and has been made possible through the support of the Ministry of Pacific Peoples and Copyright NZ. All will be released in May – so we are very busy at the moment!
Then in the second half of the year, we will be releasing our second MG/YA book, Tama Samoa. So we will have a total of 6 books and 8 stories (two are dual story books) to share with our tamaiti, ‘āiga and faiā‘oga this year.
How did you become a writer?
Accidentally – I created the first Mila’s My Gagana Series as a mother and educator who was in search of books that reflected my sons, our Samoan language and culture. My journey as an author has been developing and growing ever since – crafting stories for different organisations, online platforms and our own Mila’s books and series which are the first of their kind to cater to pre-school, primary and high school students.
What did/does writing teach you about yourself?
Writing has taught me that I have a story worth telling. That I have a voice that is strengthened each time I write, create and publish something. It has also taught me that my lived experiences, ideas and perspective as a Samoan women born in New Zealand matter and help to enable others to tell their stories.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you go from an idea to a
finished manuscript, in a few words?
My writing process varies. Sometimes my ideas come from an experience, need or reflection. Then I automatically do a mental mind map of the possible perspectives, writing style, direction and intention for the piece. If I feel quite strong about my story idea(s) I just start writing and I usually can’t stop! But if I’m still trying to connect the dots, I further flesh out my ideas and sometimes I have to leave it and revisit the piece another time. Editing, recrafting, research, feedback all goes into my drafts before it becomes a finalised manuscript.
What advice do you have for aspiring Pasifika, Asian, and marginalized writers in general?
Ultimately, as Pasifika, Asian and marginalized writers, only we can see the world the way that we do, so we need to be the ones to tell our stories. We need more of our stories to help us all to be seen, heard and valued as who we are. So please keep writing and sharing your stories.