Three years ago, high school student Stephen Beirne was diagnosed with chordoma, a malignant tumor that forms on the spine and the base of the skull. During the months of surgical and chemotherapy procedures aimed at bringing the disease under control, Beirne began working on a Celtic-themed adventure story in the vein of Tolkien, one of his personal favorites. He completed a novel called November Reign in just nine months. His caregivers at the Cleveland Clinic set him up with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, which set out to help Beirne turn that manuscript into a published book. And not just your ordinary print-on-demand or self-published title, either.
You see, word of Beirne’s wish came to the Learned Owl Book Store in Hudson, Ohio, and from there to Denise Dolence, a creative director at HarperCollins. Dolence rallied the troops, with more than 20 publishing industry professionals donating their time to shepherd November Reign through every stage of publication, from copyediting to cover design to the printing of a 3,000-copy first edition. All this summer, the book has been available for sale exclusively at the Learned Owl, and Beirne is donating all the proceeds back to Make-A-Wish.
The first contribution was made at a special luncheon earlier this month, where all 800 students at Beirne’s high school were presented with copies of the novel as well. Guests who joined Beirne (center) at the celebration included Dolence (right) and Beirne’s fifth-grade English teacher, Katherine Chapman, to whom the book was dedicated. And as Beirne’s chordoma treatments continue, so too his literary ambitions: He’s already at work on a second novel.