Seventeen-year-old Aliya Blake is learning the book business well. At 15, Blake published her first book, Cliffhangers, and has been working ever since to promote her self-published work.
When Blake was writing the Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) she avidly practised writing her stories. She filled two books with more than 50 short stories, many of which were thrillers or mysteries that ended in cliffhangers.
Blake recently won a free exhibitor booth for the Trade and Investment Convention (TIC) where she will promote her book. She placed second on an Instagram competition TIC had for small and micro enterprises (SME).
TIC is an annual international business convention which will happen at the Centre of Excellence, Macoya from July 4 to 7 that brings together people in the manufacturing sector allowing them to network with each other and connecting them to potential buyers.
"My mom introduced me to the idea of TIC. We filmed the video for TIC in Lopinot and it was very nice. I was nervous to film the video, but we sent it to TIC and they put it on their page and we asked people to vote for us. A lot of people were very supportive," she said.
This will be her third stint at TIC. The first two times she had paid for a booth, which she said was beneficial as it increased sales and led to new potential leads. "Putting purely monetary gains aside, the experience at TIC was really good. The love for the liberal arts and sharing that love to others was amazing."
Blake attended St Xavier's Primary School, St Joseph, when she was writing SEA her teachers complimented her stories and encouraged her to publish the work. She wrote 57 stories longhand in notebooks — 50 in one and seven in another. Sadly, Blake lost the book with 50 stories. The book of seven short stories became Cliffhangers.
"I started writing it when I was 12. I was in the creative writing class. The teacher would give us prompts. My lessons teacher said it was really nice so I should publish it into a book," she said. The book is primarily intended to be a
textbook to show SEA students how they could write stories for the creative writing component of the exam.
"Geared towards nine-12 year-olds who are writing SEA, the book can be used as a teaching tool. It gets the child to think about how they want their story to end. Younger children would enjoy it as well, but their parents would have to read to them," she said.
Cliffhangers has become a full enterprise for Blake who sells her work online and in select stores in TT. The book can be found online at Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, eBay, in Paper Based Book store, Hotel Normandie, St Ann's, Caboodle Gifts, Shoppes of Maraval and in National Library and Information Systems Authority (Nalis) Port of Spain.
She translated Cliffhangers into Mandarin Chinese to get a wider demographic. It is available in an e-book format and has sold ten copies so far. She also has puzzles, e-books and audiobooks online. The book is being used in a couple of primary school in the east by SEA students, and Blake hopes other schools will decide to introduce it into their classroom. She frequently reads it to younger children either at church events, primary schools or at book expos.
"We went to different schools to read to students. The children are enthusiastic. In the way I inspired them, they inspired me," she said.
Blake has a deep love for reading. When she was younger she read coming-of-age books like Dork Diaries by Rachel Renee Russell, A to Z Mysteries by Ron Roy, Diary of Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney, You're Invited to a Creepover Series by PJ Night and RL Stine's Goosebumps. Those books, particularly Goosebumps and the Creepover books inspired her to write cliffhanging thrillers.
She also loves books by Stephen King. She is currently reading The Chalk Man by CJ Tudor and is attempting to write a full horror and thriller novel about a mentally-ill woman who hears demons voices in her head and is tormented because she thought she killed her son.
"People have been asking me where is Cliffhangers Two coming out? Hopefully there is a Cliffhangers Two, but I'm in the process of writing my own book. It is a
. I'm getting there and it is really fun. The book I am writing now is mostly horror, mystery and thriller. I wrote the prologue and showed my friends and they were disturbed. I love to write mystery, sometimes horror, or comedy. I love horror," she said.
The Holy Name Convent, Port of Spain student still isn't sure what career field she wants to go into, as she is curious about a lot of different work areas. However, she knows for sure she does not want to stop writing.
"I don't have a clear idea of what I want to be...I just know I want to continue writing in the future," she said.