Wish upon a book: Foundation helps GFA teen’s dream come true
WESTPORT — The Make-A-Wish Foundation has fulfilled plenty of wishes for children with serious illnesses — trips to Disney World, sporting events, meeting a favorite celebrity.
But 18-year-old Lauren Telesz, a Greens Farms Academy student who lives in Fairfield, had a wish that foundation officials had never come across before. Telesz, now in remission after a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma two years ago, wanted to be a published author.
“It’s possible they had one nationally, but in Connecticut, I can guarantee she’s the first published author,” Michael Dominick, community and media relations manager for Make-A-Wish, said of the teen’s wish. “It was fun for everyone to do.”
Telesz’s book, “The Excursion,” is children’s storybook designed to help improve vocabulary skills and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. There are hard-cover and paperback versions, with shipment expected March 25.
“I’ve already pre-ordered one for my nephew,” Dominick said. “It’s such a great story. It’s the real deal.”
“My wish was really about the experience,” Telesz said, a senior at Greens Farm Academy, who describes herself as an avid reader, but who is sometimes hesitant to start reading after school because then she’d never get her homework done.
Her book’s subject was inspired by her little brother, Grant, 5.
Three years ago, at age 15, she was studying for the PSAT’s, going through vocabulary flash cards, Grant by her side. “I would say, ‘Sublime, Grant, do you know what that means?’ ” Then, she said, after learning a word’s meaning, he’d use it a few days later in conversation.
He would also pick up new words, she said, listening to her and their two sisters, Caroline, 15, and Allison, 13, talking together.
The characters in the book are named after members of the Telesz family, and Telesz said the illustrator, Sharee Miller, “hit it spot on.”
She said she would like to have this first book serve as the first of a series, with each taking readers on a different excursion.
“I’ve never written or published anything,” Telesz said. “I write for the literary magazine at my school, but that’s a far cry from publishing a book.”
The book, she said, “started as a Word document on my computer. To have it come to this is really amazing.”
Telesz became one of the foundation’s wish recipients after being diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 15, just before starting her sophomore year. “I was diagnosed in August and started treatment in September, three days after school started,” she said.
She didn’t however, tell her classmates “for a super long time” about her cancer diagnosis.
“She’s a very private person,” said Susan Telesz, her mother, although after Lauren was out of school for a while because of her medical treatment, they realized it was time to let others know why.
“I thought the first day I went in with my wig, they would know,” Telesz said. “People kept telling me I was having a great hair day. The first people I told were my closest friends.”
The entire GFA community, she said, turned out to be very supportive. They sent a gift basket, and brought food and cookies — a lot of cookies. “They were genuinely nice, generous, people,” Telesz said.
She’s done with her treatment and has been in remission for two years now, though she will continue to make periodic visits for monitoring to the Smilow Cancer Care Center in New Haven.
For now, though, Telesz is enjoying her new status of published author. “I really can’t believe it,” she said. “I never imagined this my sophomore year.”