Two young Nova Scotian authors are proof you don’t have to be an adult to publish a book.
Aliyah Lailson and Alice Roebotham won the ninth annual Woozles Writes Writing Competition and had their book-length, winning manuscripts published by the Halifax-based children’s bookstore.
For Lailson, the publication of her fantasy book North Wind was not only the fulfilment of a long-held goal to become a professional writer before she turned 14, but an exciting experience starting with the day she learned she won the competition.
“I felt I had just won the lottery,” said Lailson, who is 13 and homeschooled. “I just screamed with joy.”
North Wind, a 66-page book that takes readers into a magical world with Aquilo, an intelligent and determined boy whose bravery is tested when he undertakes the journey, won in the writing competition’s 11-to-15 age category. Lailson’s twin sister, Rebekah was a finalist in the writing competition for her poetry.
Roebotham’s 44-page book I Survived the Halifax Explosion was the winning entry in the six-to-10 age category.
“It felt natural to win this for my writing and at the same time I was completely surprised and happy to have won,” said Roebotham, who is 10 years old and now in Grade 5.
In her book, she imagines what life was like for a young boy named Troy after surviving the devastating explosion of 1917. Readers follow Troy through the destruction and loss and see him find a way to be resilient and helpful.
“I wanted there to be sadness with a glint of hope that comes out at the very end,” said Roebotham. “It’s like a whole lot of sun after a day of rain.”
The beautiful covers of both books were created by Kathy Kaulbach, the designer of the books.
Started as a class writing assignment, Roebotham dedicated her book to Kelly Hiltz, one of her Grade 4 teachers at Atlantic Memorial Terence Bay Elementary School in Shad Bay, just outside Halifax. The class was learning about the explosion which marked its 100th anniversary on Dec. 6, 1917.
The writing competition, which was judged by a panel of local authors, has been held annually for nine years but this was the first time Woozles published the winning manuscripts. The bookstore marked its 40th anniversary in 2018 and publishing the books helped to mark the occasion and give the stories a wider audience.
Liz Crocker, Woozles’ owner and co-founder, worked closely with Lailson and Roebotham editing their manuscripts and consulting with them throughout the publishing process.
“It improved North Wind a lot,” said Lailson, referring to the editing.
Lailson plans to translate her book, which took her 43 days to write, into Spanish. She wants her relatives in Mexico to also enjoy the book. While Spanish is her first language, she writes in English. Both Lailson and Roebotham will continue writing and say they have lots of stories left to tell. They also have encouraging words for other young aspiring authors.
“Share your stories with other people,” said Lailson. And remember: “It doesn’t take an adult to publish a book,” said Roebotham.
North Wind and I Survived the Halifax Explosion are available at Woozles. A joint book launch will be held on Feb. 20 at 6 p.m. at the bookstore.
Other books on the shelf
Some Nova Scotian poets will gather for a night of poetry in Sackville, N.B., on Feb. 19.
Thunder and Lightning Pub is opening its arms to Annick MacAskill, Geordie Miller and Nolan Natasha Pike. Pike, a Halifax-based poet, made the 2017 CBC Poetry Prize longlist.
MacAskill’s debut collection of poems No Meeting Without Body was published last year by Gaspereau Press. Miller has a collection of poetry called Re:union (Invisible Publishing). A bundle of lyrics, prose, and postcards, it is said to be an attempt to engage sincerely with a ridiculous world.
-There is no shortage of books celebrating folk artist Maud Lewis. On Nova Scotia Heritage Day, save a moment to open one of them to take in the bright, sunny scenes of idyllic rural life she painted from her tiny house in Marshalltown, Digby County. You might even get inspired to visit her restored painted house on permanent display at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotian author Lance Woolaver has published several books on Lewis, who died in 1970, including The Illuminated Life of Maud Lewis (Nimbus Publishing). The book includes photographs by Bob Brooks, as well as reproductions of her paintings, which have been described as evoking feelings of innocence and child-like exuberance.
In From Ben Loman to the Sea (Nimbus Publishing), Woolaver combines his poetry with Lewis’s artwork. In 2016, Woolaver, who was born in Digby, published Maud Lewis: The Heart on the Door (Spencer Books). The book is said to be the first complete biography of Lewis and her husband Everett Lewis.
Ray Cronin’s book Our Maud: The Life, Art and Legacy of Maud Lewis (Nimbus Publishing) not only tells the story of Lewis’s life, her poverty, and her rheumatoid arthritis, but her fame, the saving of her house, and the Nova Scotia folk art renaissance sparked by her work. Cronin, a curator and former director of the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, also explores how her story spread and was eventually made into a movie. The 2016 feature film Maudie stars Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke.
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