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Young authors publish books through Halifax bookstore

Alice Roebotham, Aliyah Lailson wrote about Halifax history and a fantasy world

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caption Alice Roebotham, 10, holds her book I Survived the Halifax Explosion.
Kathleen Jones

Two young authors are seeing their books hit the shelves at Woozles this winter.

Alice Roebotham, 10, and Aliyah Lailson, 13, were the winners of the ninth annual Woozles Writes! competition. Along with winning, their books I Survived the Halifax Explosion and North Wind were published by the children’s bookstore.

Seeing her book for the first time was an emotional experience for North Wind author Aliyah.

“It made me feel so proud and so happy and thankful about it,” she said.

Aliyah’s North Wind takes place in a magical world where a boy named Aquilo needs to be brave as he undertakes the Journey. It’s 66 pages long.

I Survived follows a young boy trying to pick up the pieces after the Halifax Explosion of 1917. The 44-page book also features the drawings of 11-year-old Finley Baker, Alice’s neighbour.

The official launch event for the books isn’t until Feb. 20, but the authors came into the store on Jan. 7 to see the first copies.

Kids writing for kids

Alice couldn’t believe when she heard the news, but then it “hit” her, she said. She first wrote her story in her Grade 4 class at Atlantic Memorial Elementary, and the book is dedicated to the teacher who helped her work on it.

Aliyah said she couldn’t contain her excitement when she won, and started jumping up and down. Unlike Alice, Aliyah is homeschooled, which means her writing mentors were her family and friends.

She always considered herself a writer and reads articles about writing.

Aliyah wrote North Wind because she wanted to read a story like it, but one didn’t exist.

After winning, both writers had to go through an editing process, which they found tough, but worth it.

“It was long and hard, but what kept me going was the thought that I was doing this like other authors before me had done,” said Aliyah.

caption Alice’s favourite drawing from I Survived the Halifax Explosion. Photo by Kathleen Jones.

Fostering creativity in kids

Woozles co-manager Suzy MacLean said publishing the stories lines up with Woozles’ goal of being “a place for and about children.”

The decision to publish the stories was made partially to mark Woozles’ 40th anniversary in 2018. The staff had been kicking around the idea of publishing the winners for several years. After owner Liz Crocker received an award and a cheque at the Atlantic Book Awards, MacLean said they finally made it happen. Crocker put the money towards publishing the books.

Every year, the writing competition is judged by three local authors who have a new book out or have contacted Woozles about taking part.

Daphne Greer, one of the 2018 judges, has published several books for young adults. She thought Alice’s and Aliyah’s stories stood out from the group.

“There were neat things about all the stories that were written, but at their young age it was quite exceptional how they wrote,” she said.

Greer said writing contests help children foster their talent while they’re young.

“To be able to find what you love in life is really the key, and if you can tap into that when they’re younger, it’s a really great thing,” she said.

A future in publishing

As of now, it’s uncertain whether Woozles will publish more books, but MacLean said they would consider publishing subsequent Woozles Writes! winners.

“We’re open and we’re going to see how this goes,” she said.

For now, she hopes they can get the books into other bookstores.

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    Evelina Dunlap

    Fantastic Story and such a great opportunity for the young authors. I know one of them personally, Alice Roebotham. She is the granddaughter of a wonderful friend of mine! Alice has a strong creative side and I expect she will continue writing all her life. Wishing Alice and Aliyah much future success in their creative side, whether it be writing or other creative abilities! Evelina Dunlap
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