Nova Scotia

2 N.S. girls become published authors thanks to Halifax bookstore

Woozles Children's Bookstore in Halifax has held a writing competition for the last nine years. But in honour of their 40th year in business, they decided to turn the winning stories into actual books.

'It was a really big boost to her confidence,' says mom of 10-year-old author

From left, Aliyah Lailson, 13, Woozles' store manager Suzy MacLean and Alice Roebotham, 10. Lailson and Roebotham had their winning stories for Woozles Writes Writing Competition published. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Alice Roebotham and Aliyah Lailson were ecstatic to find out they'd each won a writing competition for young authors.

But to find out their books would be published? That was much more of a surprise.

"I was shocked, baffled, bewildered," said 13-year-old Lailson. "It was amazing and I just couldn't wait to see what happened next."

Aliyah Lailson, 13, holds a copy of her published book, North Wind. (Jeorge Sadi/CBC)

Woozles Children's Bookstore in Halifax has held a writing competition for the last nine years.

But in honour of 40 years in business, it decided to turn the winning stories into actual books.

"The judges were floored by the submissions that we received and the stories that were being told," said store manager Suzy MacLean.

"If we can help foster these wonderful voices and help them go out into the world, that's definitely what we want to be doing."

'I'm publishing a book!'

Roebotham, who is 10, said her book was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the Halifax Explosion.

I Survived the Halifax Explosion is about a young boy and his family in the aftermath of the devastation.

"I like expressing my feelings into other characters," she said. "I like telling stories, making things that might not exist happen in some writing."

When the store asked her about publishing: "I was like, 'Oh my god, it's actually going out there into the world. I'm publishing a book!'"

Alice Roebotham, 10, holds a copy of her story, I Survived The Halifax Explosion. She asked her friend Finley Baker, 11, to illustrate the book. (Emma Davie/CBC)

Eventually, the team at Woozles decided her book would include illustrations. Roebotham had someone in mind — her friend 11-year-old Finley Baker.

"It makes me feel accomplished," he said. "It's really cool. When Alice asked me if I wanted to illustrate the book, I was like, 'Heck yeah.'"

But Roebotham's mom said her daughter was initially shy about entering the writing contest and refused to submit anything the year before.

"It was a really big boost to her confidence," Julie Roebotham said. "And she's been writing like mad ever since."

Lailson's mom said the feedback from the judges helped three of her children who entered the competition.

"It's been an amazing encouragement for the kids to keep writing," Catharine Lailson said. 

"It was a lot of work, but it was really rewarding to see at the end that a lot of hard work makes your dreams come true."

North Wind and I Survived The Halifax Explosion were the winners of the 2018 Woozles Writes Writing Competition. (Emma Davie/CBC)

She and her daughter have been researching young black authors and think that, at 13, Aliyah might be the youngest black author published in Canada.

But Aliyah said she just wanted to publish a book before turning 14.

"It was a lot of fun. I just let my imagination out and what was in my mind," she said.

Her story, North Wind, is about "a 13-year-old boy who goes on a journey in a land full of magic."

​Her advice to other young, aspiring authors is "to keep writing, to read a lot and to practise what you love."

Upcoming book launch

MacLean said she can't say for sure whether the store will publish more books, but it's on the table.

"These are wonderful young voices who I think have bright futures," she said.

"The books are wonderful, the stories are great, they have great value here in the store."

Both books are available now at Woozles. The store will host a book launch to celebrate the publication on Feb. 20.


Emma Davie


Emma Davie is a reporter, producer and videojournalist in Halifax. She loves listening to, and telling stories from people in the Maritimes. You can reach her at