Sultana's Dream

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Sultana's Dream
November 2013


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Wannabe to Author

As a child I used to write before I learnt the alphabet, filling lined pages of notebooks with neat circles. When I graduated from high school I knew I wanted to be a writer and I also knew that I wanted to go to university, but both these goals seemed unattainable. I come from a migrant background and no one in my family had graduated from high school, let alone attempted university. 

I felt like I had a choice to make. Either learn to be a writer via study, or gain life experience that would fuel my writing. In this second scenario I imagined that there would be this magical moment when I would sit down and produce a literary masterpiece. Instead my life took many twists and turns, each one bringing me closer to my dream.

Like my peers at high school I put down my uni preferences, even though it seemed impossible I could enter this strange world of academia that I knew nothing about. When we had the opportunity to change our preferences I put down only one option. I thought Ďif it is fate then I will get into university, if not, then I will go on to gain life experiences.í

I did no research about the course that I was changing my preferences to and, of course, missed the prerequisite criteria. A few weeks later I found out I didnít get into university, and I started feeling scared. What was I going to do with myself? After 12 years of knowing what every day would bring, I had nowhere to go and nothing to do.

A few days later I received a phone call from my high school guidance counsellor. He asked if I had any plans for the future, if not there was an administration course I could undergo at TAFE. I agreed. At least I would be able to postpone making a decision about my future. I didnít know it at the time, but this phone call would change my life. Completing this administration course would set me on the path to achieving my dream to be a novelist.

Iím sure this seems strange. How could an administration course change my life and lead to me becoming a novelist? But this is the wonder of life. Sometimes you do things you donít like, to make you realise what you want to do. By completing the administration course I gained skills that meant I always had a job, I never had to worry about unemployment, and the jobs I did along the way were all part of the journey to becoming a writer.

In the years after leaving high school I hadnít written much and my dream seemed further away than ever before. Being naturally ambitious I wanted to get a better job, so I did another TAFE course called Certificate in Shorthand. 

I worked full time so Iíd go to work during the day and go to TAFE at night. I soon found I hated this course and completing it was a test in endurance. When I passed I felt so proud of myself and my confidence grew. I thought Ďif I could study something I hated and do it well, what would happen if I studied something I liked?í

I undertook some research and found a course called Diploma of Arts in Professional Writing and Editing. Again I worked during the day and studied at night. I was a newlywed and the combined challenge of full time work, home life, and night school was a hard slog, but I was revitalised. I was doing what I loved.

Through this course I learnt the skills needed to be a professional writer. I wrote short stories and had them published. Some of them even won prizes in competitions. I started believing that it was possible to achieve my dream of being a novelist. 

And I was right. Over the next ten years I kept writing, kept submitting and slowly built up my portfolio of publications. With each success my confidence grew and I knew I was on the right path. 

After completing the TAFE Diploma I finally had the courage to apply to university and when I was 25 years old I started my degree. When I graduated I started working on what would be my debut novel. 

With the completed manuscript I signed with a literary agent, was shortlisted in the Victorian Premierís Awards for an Unpublished Manuscript, and received two offers to have my novel published. My childhood dream came true and I am an author. Now I have many more dreams that I want to accomplish. More importantly I have the self confidence to attempt them.

Amra Pajalic