A publisher who has mentored more than 200 authors hopes to publish her own book with a neurodivergent protagonist after being diagnosed with autism.
Daniella Blechner began writing the children’s fantasy novel Sadie The Great Album Cover Heartist in 2009. It follows an undiagnosed 11-year-old autistic girl from West Norwood named Sadie Thompson who is called upon to save mankind’s dreams despite struggling with the loss of her father.
After 14 years of work and having helped hundreds become published authors with her company Conscious Dreams Publishing, the 43-year-old from Croydon, south London, is raising funds to publish the first book she has written and to help young people who are “feel”. “excluded” to “feeling seen”.
“My main character is of mixed race and she’s neurodivergent, just like me,” she told the PA news agency.
“I want young people who feel left out or don’t fit in, like Sadie, to be seen and loved and to believe they can be heroes in their own world.
“I want them to feel visible and discover their untapped gifts and talents and begin to see their greatest challenges as what could ultimately become their greatest superpower.”
Ms Blechner was diagnosed last year with autism and traits of other neurodivergent disorders, including ADHD and dyspraxia, which she says is a “huge sigh of relief”.
“It was a sense of validation and self-affirmation. I was able to put a name to all of these different strands that existed within me and, more importantly, allow myself to have a greater sense of self-compassion instead of beating myself up,” she said.
“Growing up I’ve had to work extra hard at hiding some of my traits and finding strategies to deal with them, to the point where people who don’t know me well have a hard time believing that I’m ‘on’ The Spectrum’.
“As a child, I was often labeled as disorganized and forgetful.
“I was constantly losing things, struggling with spatial awareness, having repetitive habits (stims) … but I was able to remember strings of numbers, finding patterns and sequences, and my escapism, and I felt like I could really express myself through writing.” .”
Ms. Blechner founded her publishing company in 2015 and has mentored more than 200 authors to publish their own books, but felt it was finally time to pursue her passion project.
After re-editing her book, More Times Than She Can Count, her diagnosis inspired her to recreate her main character, Sadie, as neurodivergent.
“I think I wrote to Sadie when I was and only realized after the diagnosis that the neurodivergent traits were there,” she said.
Ms Blechner hopes that the book will “bring some magic back to young people’s imaginations”.
Every day this month, Ms. Blechner has been visited by a white dove — she has named it Piper — who squeezes through her window, or sometimes just keeps flying in.
She said the pigeon – who has her own Instagram account, “pipersnowthepigeon” – helped her get the book published.
“White doves represent messages from loved ones who have passed and a message to reignite past passions,” she said.
“Since it came through the window, I figured now was the time to take action and get the book published, so I started a crowdfunder.”
In addition to funding the book, money raised through the fundraiser will also be used to run storytelling workshops in nursing homes, prisons and schools to “preserve their stories and put them on paper.”
She said the crowdfunder’s support “meant a lot to me,” as did her partner Neville’s support.
“I’m very behind the scenes of other people’s work, so it’s so heartwarming to put myself in the spotlight and see the appreciation,” she added.
Her father, Ron Blechner, died in 2020 at the age of 74 after a sudden heart attack, and she said she poured her feelings of sadness and gratitude into the book as she reread it after his death.
“I have a chapter called ‘Daddy,’ dedicated to my dad,” she said.
“He had his own company, Big City, in the ’70s and ran bands like Racing Cars and Osibisa, and he was full of stories.
“Sadie’s dad runs a record store – they’re very different characters, but they share the same warmth and love of music, and many of the stories my dad shared with me are woven into this chapter.
“Every time Piper manages to come into my house, he just happily hops onto my dad’s tribute table in my office.
“There’s a stack of letters that my dad got when he was in college, in a little red box, and he usually lands on it and coos and dances, so I took that as a sign to start reading and it got me.” brought comfort.”
Ms Blechner’s crowdfunder can be found at www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/bringing-middle-grade-fantasy-novel-to-life-1