Build­ing a fic­tional world

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - Front Page - by KYLIE WILSON

FROM earn­ing her stripes as a news­pa­per cadet over a decade ago, to pub­lish­ing her de­but novel, Stone Girl, this year, Eleni Hale has made her mark on the lit­er­ary world.

Two years of her early ca­reer were spent work­ing at North East Me­dia, with stints at the Wan­garatta Chron­i­cle and Mans­field Courier dur­ing 2007-8 be­fore she moved on to writ­ing on so­cial and con­sumer af­fairs for the Her­ald Sun and nu­mer­ous other jobs.

She said she still re­mem­bers her early days as a writer.

“I re­mem­ber want­ing to be a jour­nal­ist, and pack­ing up my dog,” she said of mak­ing her home in the North East.

She said her time as a re­gional news­pa­per cadet “taught me a lot about re­port­ing; writ­ing not just about a com­mu­nity, but for a com­mu­nity.”

But news sto­ries were not the only thing she was pen­ning at the time – Eleni was busy writ­ing what would be­come the first draft of Stone Girl in what­ever spare hours she could find.

Stone Girl tells a har­row­ing tale of sur­vival and hope with trou­bled 12 year old ward of the state, So­phie, at its cen­tre.

Eleni said the seeds of the book were first planted when she was at univer­sity, when a pro­fes­sor read one of her essays and sug­gested to her that its con­cept had the po­ten­tial to be a book of its own.

She said learn­ing her craft as a jour­nal­ist also helped in­form her writ­ing.

“Jour­nal­ism helps your writ­ing be­cause you learn to be min­i­mal,” she said.

“Writ­ing a book, there’s so many ver­sions that come into play, but even­tu­ally, the voice of the char­ac­ter came through. “I just knew I had it,” Eleni said. Eleni said the novel, while fic­tional, has roots in her own per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ence in state care, liv­ing in a group home in the early 1990s.

“I was one of the lucky ones be­cause I got out, I went back to school and strug­gled my way out of the mar­gins of so­ci­ety,” Eleni said.

“I be­came a jour­nal­ist and tried to re­search and prove all I knew was bro­ken with the sys­tem.

“I over­came it, but it stayed with me.

“But it’s some­thing I didn’t see rep­re­sented in the me­dia very of­ten.

“I’m not an ex­pert, I’m just some­one who was there.”

“They’re kind of the in­vis­i­ble peo­ple,” she said of young peo­ple liv­ing in state care, ad­ding that her brief time in the sys­tem af­fects her to this day.

“I don’t take things for granted, and am con­stantly feel­ing grate­ful for every­thing good that hap­pens,” she said.

She said that for young peo­ple in state care, “hav­ing a sense of be­long­ing and self worth” is an im­por­tant is­sue.

“No one can give this to an­other per­son, but by al­low­ing kids in care to be a part of the com­mu­nity, to have sta­ble ac­com­mo­da­tion and con­stancy in their car­ers, to be ac­cepted and not judged too harshly, and to be given mean­ing­ful op­por­tu­ni­ties to turn their lives around, that could make a huge dif­fer­ence in a young per­son’s life,” Eleni said.

Eleni still has a soft spot for re­gional Australia, say­ing of her time in the area, “it was also a great place to write”.

Eleni said she hopes to re­turn to the North East in the near fu­ture to dis­cuss her work with lo­cal read­ers, and said she has al­ready com­pleted the first draft of her sec­ond novel, which she is “re­ally ex­cited to share” in the near fu­ture.

Stone Girl, pub­lished by Pen­guin Ran­dom House Australia, is out now and more in­for­ma­tion about Eleni’s work can be found at eleni­hale.com.

NEW LIT­ER­ARY VOICE: Eleni Hale has come a long way since her days as a print jour­nal­ism cadet.

DE­BUT: Eleni Hale has just pub­lished her first novel, Stone Girl.

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