Ly Dara is a young Khmer writer who publishes books in English. He was born in Prek Tanong commune of Koh Sotin district in Kampong Cham province, to a teacher father and a vendor mother.
After graduating from high school in 2011, he earned a Bachelor of Arts in English at the University of Puthisastra, graduating in 2015.
“Unexpectedly, I discovered a love for teaching English. I started a book club at school and have been teaching the language since 2016. When I started my book club, I thought about how I could attract readers. I thought if I wrote a book which gave them some tips, it would be helpful. This was how I came to write my first book, Reading Standard,” he said.
“I was accustomed to reading books in English – by the time I had finished my studies, I had read 779 of them in three years, nearly all in English. This helped me develop a writing style that was very easy to understand, so I have continued to write in English ever since,” he added.
Dara focuses on attracting new readers, saying many people are reluctant to read, or have not encountered books that seem relevant to their lives.
“I focus on those who do not like to read books and those who used to read but have stopped, for whatever reason. I want to encourage more people to spend some quality time with a book. For this reason, I try to write about topics that will appeal to young people. I want them to continue learning. Sometimes reading for schoolwork feels boring, so I try to make my stories entertaining, with jokes that will hold their attention,” he told the Post.
Dara published his first work in 2016, and has produced 16 books to date. His work can be divided into three categories –educational, motivational and entertaining.
One of his most notable works is titled 2AM.
The main purpose of this book is to encourage people with romantic relationship problems. Almost half of the content encourages readers to reflect on the problems that their partners may be facing, while the remainder encourages people to feel better about themselves.
Another popular title is Who Is She, an empowering book aimed at young women. The book has four major parts, the first of which deals with some of the issues that girls and women face.
The second part is about problems that women may experience in their relationships, including friendship, work, family and love. The third serves to motivate them, with the final chapter sharing some messages that the author believes they need to hear.
His 16th work, which was released this year, is autobiographical. Titled Before 30 Years Old, it was a chance for Dara to reflect on his own life.
It begins by describing his childhood in the countryside, and his consequent move to Phnom Penh for university. Finally, he delves into the tale of how he became an author and teacher.
At each stage, he examines his own circumstances, and contrasts them against the context of the time.
Dara had a few tips for budding authors.
“You have to have self-confidence, while being prepared to keep learning to use your talents effectively. People who wish to become authors should read as much as they can, and make sure that reading – whether books or online articles – is part of their daily routine. As for myself, I try to read 100 books each year. As of December 22, I had reached 94 – I hope there is time to reach my goal,” he said.
“It is also crucial that they try to listen to the opinions of the people around them, especially potential readers. They have their own preferences, and it is important that we give them what they are interested in. This helps a writer to make sure that his work will be relevant to his or her audience. We should also try to share useful information or strategies that will help the reader in their daily lives,” he added.