Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By A. R. Vander Vegt
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Barnum teen publishes first novel


A. R. Vander Vegt

Tiffany Lonetto published her first novel, "No Ordinary Summer," released on June 15.

It's been no ordinary spring for 17-year-old Tiffany Lonetto, published author of "No Ordinary Summer." "It's something I never even would have dreamed of," she said during a recent interview.

Maybe not, but this is one of the glorious moments in life when reality takes on the stuff of dreams and makes it true. Did you notice all the adjectives in the first sentence? Seventeen years old. Published author.

On June 15, Tiffany's book "No Ordinary Summer" was released in bonafide print - lovely paperback, fraught with the delicious smells of a new book. Seeing her name in print was "so exciting," she said.

Flashback to a year ago, though, and Tiffany was not interested in writing. "I didn't like it at all." But when she needed another English credit for school, she had to choose between college level writing and creative writing. Creative writing was the obvious choice to her.

In Ms. Haasis' class at Moose Lake Community School, Tiffany's imagination was put to work, she said. Anything from poetry to short stories and wild prompts, writing became fun for her, like second nature.

Tiffany was out off school for a couple weeks, though, when her dad was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in November 2017. When she came back to school, it was time for the class to begin work on their final project - a 20-page novel.

They say write what you know, and Tiffany did just that. Her 20-page novel for the creative writing class would become "No Ordinary Summer." It tells the tale of a girl, Carly, whose younger brother, Carson, is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. The story follows Carson's journey through Carly's eyes and the journey of the family.

While the plot does not follow the events of Tiffany's life exactly, the premise of the novel was definitely inspired by the course of her own life. Carly, she said, takes on a lot of personality from her author.

Ms. Haasis believed what Tiffany had written was worth sharing. She gave Tiffany information about Sigma's Bookshelf, a publishing house dedicated to publishing teen authors.

Tiffany took a chance and submitted her 20-page manuscript to the publishing group. Tricia, Tiffany's mom, recalled how nervous Tiffany was when she initially sent it off. "She kept saying, 'Mom, I don't think they'll accept it, I don't think they'll accept it.'"

Two weeks later, when Tiffany had an email in her inbox that said, "We love this, we want to make this happen," the Lonettos were nothing short of thrilled.

Sigma's Bookshelf was started by Justin Anderson in 2016, himself a teenager. With his parents' help and by the inspiration of mentor-like relationship, Justin wanted to see other teenagers be published authors. Sigma exclusively publishes authors 18 and under.

Rachel Anderson, Justin's mother and co-founder of Sigma's Bookshelf, shared, "All of our services are 100 percent free to the teens whose books are selected for publication ..." Support comes from volunteers and donor, including the Wayzata and Minnetonka Roatries; Sigma's Bookshelf is also a project of Springboard for the Arts, which is a nonprofit arts services organization, Rachel added. In addition, published authors receive 60 percent of all royalties that come through online book sales, in stores and at events.

"No Ordinary Summer" is Sigma's 10th book to be published. "Initially what attracted us to Tiffany's book was the great storyline ... ," Rachel wrote in an email. "A family torn apart because of the illness of one of its members. That is something that affects a lot of people! Plus, the story was well-written and it had a strong beginning, middle and end before we even got into the editing process."

Rachel works as the proofreader and editor who works directly with the author. Her husband, Jamie, helps to design the book. Justin is also learning to do book design. He also helps review submitted books, appears at book events and currently assists Rachel with teaching a class about novel writing for teens for Minnetonka Community Education. Sigma is in many ways a family affair, Rachel said.

After Tiffany agreed to proceed with Sigma's Bookshelf to publish her story, the team at Sigma had plenty of suggestions and edits for "No Ordinary Summer." Over the course of two to three months, Tiffany worked and reworked her story. "I had to do a lot of research," she said. What she originally submitted for a grade in creative writing expanded into a 60-some page novel.

Not only that, but she had to write out the back cover summary, something that was an unexpected, albeit small, challenge. "It's just not something I thought about really." Tiffany also was involved with developing the cover design. Jamie "designed the cover based on a drawing Tiffany had submitted to us," Rachel shared.

Photo provided

"No Ordinary Summer" was released on June 15. Tiffany shared she's already begun a sequel, though it's still very much in the beginning stages. "I just started writing. Literally like last week."

This upcoming school year, the Barnum resident will be a senior at Moose Lake. Her dad is cancer-free, she said. Similar to her protagonist in "No Ordinary Summer," Tiffany wants to attend college in Florida and train as a marine biologist. That's her main career goal - but she hopes to continue writing on the side.

You can order "No Ordinary Summer" on or To learn more about Sigma's Bookshelf, check out There, you can learn more about the group, as well as how to submit your own story for publication.


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