Samoan author wins N.Z. award

If you ask the New Zealand-based Samoan author, Dahlia Malaeulu, what business she is in the Teine Samoa author will say “stories.”

Ms. Malaeulu has been doing so well in her writing that she was honoured with a Wellington Pasifika Women in Business Award by the Wellington Pasifika Business Network for her outstanding work and commitment to New Zealand.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer, Ms. Malaeulu said the stories in her books as well as the name of her publishing business are all personally-inspired.

“I am more widely known as an author, but from the beginning it has always been more than books for me,” she said.

“As the vision grew for Mila's Books, so did the need to have a guiding hand in the major decisions and direction of our books to ensure that our stories were accessible and were being created by us and for us.

“I've also been blessed to be a traditionally published author and all the stories we create are quite personal, for instance, I am a mother of two boys and our business name Mila is the name that I wanted to call my daughter if I ever had one. 

“So these stories represent everything I would want for her and all our tamaiti.”

What people may not be aware of is that with Mila's Books Malaeulu played a huge part in the planning, illustrations, marketing, promoting and selling of Mila's My Gagana Series 1 and now the publishing of Teine Samoa.

She said that is on top of writing online articles, writing for different projects, author visits, student writing workshops and culturally responsive workshops for teachers, which all help to fund the books.

Winning the business award was surreal, according to the writer.

“It was quite surreal. I was just excited to be acknowledged as a finalist. Once the shock and excitement settled, I realised the award was a good indicator that we are on the right track in creating stories to help better support our tamaiti in succeeding as themselves.”

She then shared her top five business tips for aspiring book authors: Plan, Product, Publish, Protect and Promote.

“Plan: What is your intention, vision and mission for your books as a business and what do you need to do to achieve this? Product: Write your story and get it done! Then refine your product by getting feedback and getting it proof-read, edited and formatted,” Ms Malaeulu wrote via email.

“Publish, Protect and Promote: decide what's best for you – submit your manuscript to traditional publishing houses (but be aware only a handful actually publish and support new Pasifika books) or own your story by having full control and self-publish.”

Writers must also protect their work, she added.

“Protect by ensuring you are part of the process, learning and reflecting on what can be done better the next time. Then promote online and in-person, share with anyone and everyone!

“Most importantly promote other Pasifika creatives and initiatives because we need to be supportive of each other so that all our stories and who we are as Pasifika can be shared and valued everywhere and across all levels because when one wins we all win.”

At the awards ceremony, she said “I’m in the business of stories.”

“Whether you realise it or not everyday we tell ourselves a story. And for a long time many of our people and especially our tamaiti have been telling themselves a story that has been on repeat. 

“One that society and the long lasting legacy of colonisation has taught and told us across generations to believe— that we, as ourselves, as Pasifika, are not enough.

“So this is why at Mila’s books it has become our mission – To create stories that help us and our tamaiti to be seen, heard and valued as who we are, so that together we can succeed as Pasifika, because we know and many of us here in this room have consistently proven, that we are more than enough.”

She then shared a quote from Brene Brown that serves as an inspiration in her writing journey: “When we deny our story it defines us, but when we own our story, we can write a brave new ending.”

Ms Malaeulu said they are still with Teine Samoa as it is now internationally available on 

And the feedback she has received for Teine Samoa has been “amazing,” she added.

Nonetheless libraries, schools, students, families and teachers across New Zealand have been keeping Ms Malaeulu quite busy.

“We have also been working with Te Papa Press (Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa) on an exciting new project and are finalising our second Mila's My Gagana Series. So 2021 will be a big year for us with creating, launching and publishing more stories for our Mila's Books Collection,” she added.

“But in the future we can definitely see Mila's Books supporting and publishing other aspiring and emerging Pasifika authors, especially as we firmly believe that only we can see the world we do as Pasifika so we should be the ones to tell our stories.”

Ms Malaeulu dedicated her award to her mother, Lagimauga Gray, and the women in her life “who raised and inspired me to be just as strong, resilient and determined as yourselves.”

“I thank you because you’ve taught me the importance of leading by doing, leading through service, and the importance of helping to build and support each other, as we are definitely stronger together.”

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