At 41, librarian realises a literary dream
Lee-Ann Liles's first book might be 11 years behind schedule, but she's okay with that.
Better late than never.
The 41-year-old librarian has just released Aerie Short Stories , a compilation of non-fiction work she's written over the last 15 years.
Many of her stories are based on life in Bermuda — being a Somerset girl, riding a scooter through a blinding rainstorm.
“I always intended to publish by 30,” she said. “But that didn't happen. In my 30s, I went through a lot of hardship getting my master's in library science and having a second child.”
At 40 she decided it was “time to grow up”.
“It wasn't a midlife crisis,” she said. “I don't believe in those. I can't explain it other than like some sort of epiphany. I decided at 40 that everything I had been working towards was now in place. I went through a holistic transformation where everything was just happening in a positive way. I was carrying a lot of tasks and I somehow found a way to get through everything. All fell into place after that and it just gets easier. I just try not to sweat the small stuff.”
Part of that involved finally tackling her book. Some of her stories had appeared in various literary magazines but the publishers she approached weren't interested in releasing them as a collection.
“I got tired of trying to fall into the criteria of certain publishers,” she said. “Eventually, I decided I was going to do it my way.”
She self-published Aerie Short Stories , through Amazon.com's CreateSpace.
“I am so excited to finally have my book out,” she said. “It's been a long time coming.”
The former Bermuda High School student left the island at 14 to go to high school in Atlanta, Georgia. She found her new school completely unchallenging.
“They barely looked at your homework,” she said. “They'd give you an A just for turning it in. My English class was at the end of the day and I usually skipped it. I'd already learnt what they were teaching.
“One day I handed the English teacher something I had written. She accused me of plagiarism.”
Ms Liles produced more of her work. The teacher was so impressed she entered it into a state competition which Ms Liles won.
She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2004 with a bachelor's degree in art and English. She never intended writing to be a full-time career.
“I always had a desire to study information science. Writing is a hobby,” said Ms Liles, who works at the Bermuda College.
“I submitted my work to about 500 publications. I had about 15 pieces published in total. At one point I was keeping all the rejection slips. Then a friend said to me, ‘Why are you keeping those slips of paper that say rejection and failure? The best thing I ever did was throw those away. There were 60 or 70 of them.
“One thing, once you've got some publication credits under your belt, it does get a bit easier.”
She likes to write at her desk during her lunch hour. Her colleagues call her a perfectionist.
“I will go through 12 drafts of a piece before I decide that it is ready to be submitted somewhere,” she said. “I get obsessive. With this book, I went through six proofs. Then I decided I wasn't looking at it anymore. It was ready.”
She's considering pursuing a master of fine arts degree in creative writing and would like to publish a second book.
•Aerie Short Stories is available on Amazon.com