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Autistic Preston author publishes young adult book

Posted on - 17th July, 2022 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - Arts, Penwortham, People, Preston News, Proud Preston, South Ribble News
Richard Haslam

An autistic Preston author has released a revised edition of a young adult book, complete with his own illustrations.

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With the support of the Autism Initiatives team at Braid Close in Penwortham, Richard Haslam’s quality of life has transformed as they worked alongside him to realise and fulfil his artistic vision for ‘Kiona the Gardenian’, part of the ‘Now.Here’ series.

‘Kiona the Gardenian’ is a young adult book that can be enjoyed by older children and teenagers, depicting the story of heroine Kiona and her friends, following their adventures in the post-apocalyptic past during an alternate 18th century.

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Richard Haslam

Richard’s mum, Christine Haslam, said: “The move did Richard a favour in a lot of respects, as he received everything he needed to work through his anxieties through his writing and to throw himself into gardening, a new hobby that he loves.

“The team at Braid Close have been amazing and so supportive of Richard. I’m glad that he is now in a safe environment.

“They really helped us as a family too, which we are really grateful for.”

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Richard released the pilot of the book during lockdown, but when his publisher closed, he decided to find a new one in the form of Amazon Kindle, updating and re-releasing his book as a revised version.

Before lockdown in March 2020, Richard had been struggling and was in a dark place. He found it difficult to engage with others and was closed off and nervous.

He struggled with anxieties around death and was not motivated or supported to try new activities.

Richard had a poor diet and was becoming influenced by things he read online.

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Braid Close Manager Tiah Houghton said: “Before the move, Richard struggled to understand choices in life.

“The team worked with him to help him understand that everyone has a choice about what they do or believe. Now he writes about fighting labels.

“We all had an impact in our own way. Richard’s writing had different themes and needed input from others.

“I was the editor throughout the process, but Richard would approach us at certain times on topics.

“The staff here go above and beyond on a daily basis. Richard’s progress is phenomenal. He’s like a new person now.”

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Lockdown could have added to these worries, but Richard’s family contacted Autism Initiatives through Lancashire Council and received support in helping him move to Braid Close.

When Richard shared his goal to update and re-release the revised version of his book with the team at Braid Close, they helped Richard edit his writing and hone his illustrations from the first pilot edition.

They helped him develop his understanding of subjects like life after death, religion and same-sex marriage.

They also helped ensure that the writing was socially valid and not regurgitated or masked language.

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Nikita, a support worker at Braid Close, has enjoyed every moment of the experience.

She said: “Working with Richard has been brilliant. There’s no limit to his creativity. He always considers readers and how they will feel when they read his writing.

“He wants the best for his readers. I’ve learned things from him, like how to use his illustration software. It’s always so positive working with Richard.”

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Since lockdown, Richard has written six stories intended to be six separate books.

After the publisher closed, and with Amazon Kindle’s page count, he decided to merge the first story with the second near completion.

The last four stories will become the next two instalments within this ongoing series.

He plans to release the second book, ‘The Maid of the Heart’, later this year and the third book, ‘Rubecula and Nascha’, at the end of the year or early 2023.

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Richard’s dad, Martin Haslam, said: “Richard is a happy soul now. He’s talented and knowledgeable, and what he’s achieved with his book, his drive and his ‘get up and go’ attitude is truly amazing.

“He’s a credit to the team at Braid Close and the decision-makers behind the scenes like Lancashire Council.

“We’re so glad that something positive has come out of something negative. There are plenty of unsung heroes out there that do a great job.

“It’s been amazing for us to see what he has achieved with the right support!”

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Preston is known for being the birthplace of Nick Park, creator of Wallace and Gromit, and now a new creative face is added to the city.

‘Kiona the Gardenian’ draws inspiration from places Richard has visited, such as the town of Shenandoah in the book, inspired by Anglezarke and Formby.

To buy the book, visit – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Kiona-Gardenian

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