Q & A: Marcella Purnama and Her Newly Published Book


On this special publication, Indonesia Mengglobal chatted with Marcella Purnama, former editor for Indonesia Mengglobal, about her newly published book.

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Hi, Marcella! A very big congratulations on your book, and thank you so much for taking the time to be interviewed by us! We are deeply honored for this opportunity. First things first, can you tell Indonesia Mengglobal a little bit about yourself?

Hi! First of all, thank you so much for having me here; it’s such a pleasure. And yes, my name’s Marcella. I grew up in Jakarta and at the age of not-quite-eighteen, I moved to Melbourne to pursue further studies. Like all Asian parents, my parents want me to do either Business or Science, but I rebelled and I took Arts instead—something that’s unheard for most Indonesians. But I loved it, and I graduated in the end of 2012.

I decided to move back home for good and I started working as a content writer. After eighteen months, I threw in the towel and moved back to Melbourne to study master’s. I graduated in mid last year, and after that I’ve just been doing bits and pieces of writing, and busy planning for my wedding.

Wow, congratulations for your wedding plans! We hope everything runs smoothly. We were very excited when we heard that you are going to launch a new book, can you tell us in brief what the content is about?

My book is actually a memoir and it’s divided into three parts. In the first part, I wrote about my experience in studying bachelor’s degree. I talked about keeping friendship, getting good and bad grades, about falling in love, and about learning English—oh, it was hard back then; it was really, really hard.

Then in the second part of the book I talked about my experience on working for the first time as a millennial. It wasn’t easy for me because I was an idealist. I thought of paycheck and work as the epitome of being an adult. Then I worked and realised it wasn’t, because… well, read the book, you’ll see.

The third part is actually about my master’s experience. As someone who has both studied and worked before, I actually look at learning with a different pair of eyes. It was quite a journey.

Very interesting! We are curious as to what actually motivated you to write this book at the very first place. Where specifically did your draw your inspiration from? Is it from your own personal experiences, or perhaps a result of your reflection about other people’s stories? 

I believe humans learn best from experience, whether it’s from our own experience or other people’s experience. That’s what I want to do—I want to share my experience; I want others to learn from them so they don’t have to make the same mistakes—that’s my motivation in writing this book.

And since humans connect with other people through stories, in this book I did exclusively that: I share my stories, in a hope that others would relate with them. For example, you might have experienced some of some of the things I’ve gone through yourselves. I wrote a chapter about group work: about having to work myself because of a classmate, who just needed to write four paragraphs and yet three of them were copied from a website, word to word. Maybe you have a friend like mine and you chimed, “Yeah, I know how that feels.”

How long did it take for you to complete the book, and what was the writing process like?

I’m a blogger. I’ve been blogging for eight, nine years, and in that blog I wrote a lot about my life. It is a personal blog, where I share stories about my own life. So I share my stories in university and work and it was probably in early 2015 where I thought, “This might actually turn into a book.” I started writing some chapter titles and a content list. Then I forgot all about it.

It was in October 2015 where I got an email from my editor at Kepustakaan Populer Gramedia (KPG), and she wrote that she was referred to me by a friend who followed my blog since 2012. The editor then asked me whether I was interested to write a book about university life and beyond. I started writing the book in the end of October and I actually finished the book in January. Can you believe it? It took three months.

But like all book editing process, the journey is always an uphill battle. There was always something happening—the editor got busy, the editing process went back and forth, and so on. At one point last year I actually thought that this book would get dropped because I haven’t heard back from my editor for months. In the end of last year she started working on the book again, and now it’s finally published.

There was about eighteen-month gap between submitting the manuscript and finally getting it published. In hindsight, it wasn’t that bad.

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What message(s) do you hope your readers can generally draw from reading your book?

Well, if all else fails I just want my readers to know two things. First is to never lose sight of the most important things in life.

As a millennial in our early twenties, we put a lot of pressure upon ourselves to grow up, to be an adult, to have a good job, to have a career, and things like that. And all those things are important and all those things are good accomplishments. But they are not the most important things. The most important things are still relationships—friends and families and quality time spent with loved ones.

The second message is for my readers to know that they’re not going through this alone.

In the early twenties phase, we go through a lot of experiences for the first time. We studied overseas or locally for the first time; we have newfound freedom; we work for the first time; we suddenly have bosses; we have many sets of responsibilities. And they all can be overwhelming. I just want my readers to know that they’re not alone in going through it. And things will get better. They will.

Do you have any specific message you wish to convey to readers of IM?

I was actually an editor of IM for a couple of years and it was such a good experience—so the IM readers do have a special place in my heart. Those who read IM are the ones who have an aptitude to learn, have big dreams. They want to study overseas; they want to get scholarship; they want to do wonderful things.

So I just want to share this: dream big. Have an even bigger dream than you have at the moment because it might come true.

I have a dream that I would write a book and publish it and it does come true. Believe me, I’m not qualified at all—I’m not living a grand life. This is my super ordinary life as a student and it got published into a book. So it’s possible to dream big and have it achieved.

And the other message is that do not be discouraged if the dream doesn’t come true. Because you probably learn more about yourself and life from the dreams that don’t come true.

This is actually a quote from one of my favourite authors, Randy Pausch. He said, “Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” It’s very true. And in the end experience is the most valuable thing you can offer.

And perhaps also a message for all those out there who might have similar dreams of becoming a writer and launching a book like you? 

Have a blog. I get a book published because I have a blog. And keep on writing and believing. It’s not all rainbows but it’s worth it. Actually, becoming a writer and launching a book are two different things. To become a writer you just need to write. It doesn’t matter if someone reads your work or doesn’t—you write because you love to; you write because you have to.

But if you want to launch a book, you have to get better in writing. Malcolm Gladwell once said about the 10,000 hours rule—you spend 10,000 hours in doing something before you can become good at it.

Keep on honing your craft and say yes to opportunities that come along, and one day, you’ll get lucky. And luck, I believe, is where preparation meets opportunity—that’s also from Randy Pausch.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview you, Marcella! Best of luck for your wedding preparation and your book launch. We are certain that your stories will inspire many people!

You’re welcome! The pleasure’s all mine.


What I Wish I Had Known is available from Gramedia bookstores throughout Indonesia, under the “Self-Improvement” category. The ebook version is available through Scoop. For more information about the book, click here.


Photos are provided by Marcella Purnama.


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