Autistic author Richard Haslam is a regular visitor to Anglezarke, and he has recently released the revised edition of his book to the “Now.Here” series, “Kiona the Gardenian”. With the full support of the Autism Initiatives team at Braid Close in Penwortham. Richard’s quality of life completely transformed as they worked alongside him to realise and fulfil his artistic vision for the novel, which he both wrote and illustrated.
“Kiona the Gardenian” is a Young Adult novel that can be enjoyed by older children and teenagers alike. It depicts the story of the heroine Kiona and her friends, following their adventures in the post-apocalyptic past, during an alternate 18th century.
Richard wrote and released the first version pilot of the book during lockdown, but, after the publisher he was using closed, Richard decided to find a new publisher in the form of Amazon Kindle, updating and re-releasing his book as a revised version from the pilot.
Prior to lockdown in March 2020, Richard had been struggling and was in a dark place. He found it difficult to engage with others and had isolated himself. He struggled with anxieties around death, and was not motivated or supported to try new activities. Richard had a poor diet and was becoming worryingly influenced by things that he was reading online.
Lockdown could easily have added to these worries, but luckily Richard’s family were put in touch with Autism Initiatives through Lancashire Council, and were supported in helping him make the move to Braid Close.
Christine Haslam, Richard’s mum, said:
“The move did Richard a favour in a lot of respects, as he was given everything he needed to work through his anxieties through his writing, and to throw himself into gardening; a new hobby which 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.”
When Richard shared his goal to update and re-release the revised version of his book with the team at Braid Close, they supported Richard to edit his writing and hone his illustrations from the first pilot edition. They helped him to develop his understanding of difficult subjects like life after death, religion and same-sex marriage. They also helped to make sure that the writing was socially valid, and not regurgitated or masked language.
Braid Close Manager, Tiah Houghton said:
“Before the move, Richard struggled to understand people’s 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 different input from different people. I was the main editor throughout the process, but Richard would approach us at certain times on certain topics. The staff here go above and beyond on a daily basis. Richard’s progress is phenomenal. He’s like a new person now”
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.”
Prior to the move to Braid Close, Richard had the freedom to design his new home from scratch; a task he really enjoyed. Service Manager Tiah explained that Richard was able to use Minecraft to completely map out how he wanted his new space to look. The software proved useful as Richard thinks in images and videos. The team worked alongside him him try out new lots of activities. Richard said:
“I have a proper garden here and more freedom. The atmosphere is a lot calmer in terms of the other tenants. Over lockdown, I started landscaping and became an amazing cook. Here, I make everything from scratch. I really love baking and trying out new recipes… It turns out that I like trying new things. I didn’t have the confidence or support to try them before… I recently cycled the 21-mile Guild Wheel around Preston on my own, and travelled to Spain with Tiah and another tenant. I have lots of plans for this year, like going to Warwick and Stratford Upon Avon for a weekend break before travelling to Dresden, Germany to explore the Christmas Markets.”
Since lockdown, Richard has written 6 stories which were originally intended to be 6 separate books. After the publisher closed, and with Amazon Kindle’s page count, he decided, when making the revised version, to merge the first story with the second book, which has now also been published as “Kiona the Gardenian”. The last 4 stories will become the next 2 instalments within this ongoing series. Richard’s second book, “The Maid of the Heart” was released in September 2022, and he plans to release the third book, “Rubecula & Nascha” in time for Christmas 2022.
Martin Haslam, Richard’s dad, said:
“Richard is a happy soul now. He’s talented, 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 to 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 can be achieved with the right support!”
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” takes inspiration from the places where Richard has spent a lot of time, like the town of Shenandoah in the book is inspired from Anglezarke and Formby.
Move over Wallace and Gromit, there’s a new heroine in town!
“Now.Here: Kiona the Gardenian” and “Now.Here: The Maid of the Heart” can be purchased on Amazon, in paperback and kindle.