Not many 12-year-olds can say they are published authors. For two Wayzata Central Middle School students, it’s still hard to believe.

“I never thought I’d be an author,” said seventh-grader Aashna Kshirsagar.

“Just the thought that others can read it and be inspired – it’s an amazing feeling,” said classmate Ellie Abood.

The two began writing “Throne Spirits,” a story about two royal sisters who don’t get along until a ghost – a relative from their past – comes to haunt them. That’s when the sisters find themselves working together to eliminate a threat to the future of their kingdom.

The book began as one-page short story Abood wrote for a class in fifth grade.

The two friends – and Harry Potter fans – took it from there, turning it into a book worthy of being published.

“It had a nice plot, and we kept adding and editing,” Abood said.

Last February, as part of I Love to Read Month, the two aspiring authors learned about Sigma’s Bookshelf, a Minnetonka-based publishing company that provides free book publishing to teens.

Its co-founders, Rachel Anderson and her son, Justin, a Wayzata High School student and author, launched the publishing company in October 2016 and have sold more than 1,000 books.

The idea for a publishing company for young writers stemmed from Justin’s desire for other teens to have an opportunity to become published authors after writing and publishing his own books, “Saving Stripes: A Kitty’s Story” and “Nothing But Trouble.”

The company is grant-supported by Springboard for the Arts, a nonprofit arts service organization; and all services are free for teens, who are also paid royalties for books that sell online, at stores and at events.

The girls submitted “Throne Spirits” to Sigma. It was “very developed” when Anderson got the manuscript, she recalled.

“I loved the storyline,” Anderson said, noting it’s important that a book has a beginning, middle and an end. “It met all the criteria,” she said, noting it had a sound plot and “really good action dialogue.”

Since the book was published in April, 163 copies have been sold (available to purchase through Barnes and Noble), and the two young authors are encouraged by how well their book is being received by their peers. They are already planning a second novel.

They are also finding out they are inspiring other teens to write and are being asked for advice and assistance by classmates going through the writing process.

“It’s a great feeling to know you’ve inspired other people,” Abood said.

“Writing and publishing a book was a great experience for us,” said Kshirsagar. “We learned a lot and it was a lot of fun.”

Their passion for writing stems from their love of reading, both enjoy fantasy and mystery, such as the Harry Potter series and Percy Jackson.

“I feel like reading can teach you many things,” Kshirsagar said, adding that books allow the reader to go into a different world and explore different perspectives.

“I like any book that has to do with fantasy, but also sends a powerful message,” Abood said, noting one of her all-time favorite books is “Sticks and Stones,” by Plymouth native Abby Cooper.

This year, during I Love to Read Month, Abood and Kshirsagar are sharing their story to underclassmen, in hopes of inspiring other young writers to not only read, but write, as well.

Writing workshop for teens

Sigma Bookshelf’s co-founder, Rachel Anderson, will teach a two-day novel writing workshop for teens as part of I Love to Read Month, Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 23-24, at the Hopkins Center for the Arts.

“We decided to offer novel writing workshops for teens in reaction to the common problems in the more than 50 manuscripts we have turned down,” said Anderson. “Some of the books were filled with grammar and spelling mistakes so bad we couldn’t determine exactly what the writers were trying to communicate. Others had good stories, but didn’t develop their characters or scenes very well.”

Anderson also noted that a lot of the writers seemed to confuse television series with books, thinking they needed to end on a cliff-hanger, and never ending their stories.

“It is our hope that through a little education, we can help kids throughout the Twin Cities, and beyond, become better writers,” Anderson said.

Funded in part by a grant from the Minnesota Regional Arts Council, the cost is $50 per student, with scholarships are available upon request.

More information can be found at the bottom of the front page of SigmasBookshelf.com or at EventBrite.

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Kristen Miller is the community editor for the Sun Sailor, covering the communities of Plymouth, Hopkins and Minnetonka. Email story ideas to kristen.miller@ecm-inc.com

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