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Canton Author Breaks Ground With Stories For Developmentally Disabled

Anne Kelleher’s latest work may be written at a third-grade level but “How David Met Sarah” is no children’s book.

The story, the first in a series, is targeted for developmentally disabled adults and inspired by Kelleher’s own brother David, who has Down Syndrome.

And the philosophy behind the book is simple. Kelleher, more commonly known as Annie, said people like her brother might read at a lower level but have grown-up problems and pleasures like anyone else.

“Like the young man in the book, my brother works in a mail room, lives at home and has lots of friends,” she said. “He’s been in love and been laid off. He deals with the same issues we all deal with and has longed for stories with which he can identify. Up to now, there’s been nothing.”

Wendy Darasz, a reading teacher in Simsbury, said the book does indeed fill a "niche."

“She has used her craft as a writer to fill a niche where there has long been a void,” Darasz said. “She did so by writing a book containing an adult story-line at the appropriate ability level for the developmentally delayed.”

The e-book, published by West Hartford based eFitzgerald, is now available for $4.99 at Amazon for those who have a Kindle or the app. It should also soon be available for Barnes and Noble’s Nook reader.

The print rights have not been sold as of yet and Kelleher hopes to donate a portion of the profits to a non-profit. Fittingly October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month.

Kelleher, a Canton resident since 2003, feels it’s also a story that family members of developmentally disabled people will enjoy.

“It put you in their shoes; it evokes emotions,” she said. “It not just for people with down syndrome.”

Darasz said she said it’s a powerful story that gave her “goose bumps." She feels anyone that appreciates a good story will enjoy it.

“Although the text is written at the third-grade level, not once did I feel that the author was talking down to the reader or compromising the plot,” she said. “Annie has struck a delicate balance with this initial story. Readers will enjoy this book and anxiously await the next. “

The idea of books for the developmentally disabled was planted years ago.

Over the years, she knew of her brother’s triumphs and struggles, helped take care of him and knew he enjoyed writing, Irish dance music and other things she does.

And 15 years ago when Kelleher published her first novel, her mother suggested the idea of a story for David.

But more recently she was watching an episode of Glee in which people were reading fairy tales to developmentally disabled adults.

Such individuals may have below average vocabulary and communication skills but are still adults, she said.

“They’re not children,” she said. "My brother wants the same things that every other 36-year-old wants."

But the episode made it clear that it was time to write the story.

Of course writing with such simple language was a challenge for a seasoned science fiction and fantasy novelist.

Kelleher said it was almost like translating. For every sentence she wrote, she had to go and simplify it to a bare-bones structure.

She said 11 other books were almost like practice for this one. “That’s how I prepared and how I learned to write like this,” she said.

And while she knows much of her brother’s life, the story does not follow his exactly and there’s plenty of artistic license.

“The David Story did really develop organically,” she said. “There’s things in there that surprised me,” she said.

And it was liberating to write in a genre with no expectations or preconceived notions.

“There were no boundaries,” she said.

Find out more and read an excerpt at Howdavidmetsarah.blogspot.com

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