Related to: 'Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing'

Julie Sarkissian blogs about the problems facing the protagnist of her debut novel, DEAR LUCY

Something's Wrong With Lucy - But What?

Lucy is different – that much is clear. She speaks like a child, doesn’t recognize social boundaries, flies into rages, and treasures rotten food. Her cognition is impaired, her vocabulary is very limited and she cannot read or write. But what – precisely – is wrong with her is left up to the reader. Lucy is the protagonist of my novel, DEAR LUCY, and from the first sentence of the book I ever wrote it was obvious that Lucy was cognitively different. The way Lucy describes herself is as “missing too many words.” Her mother calls her “difficult.” Readers of early drafts of the book had a few theories as to Lucy’s condition; autism, Williams Syndrome, Down Syndrome. But Lucy’s mother has kept her from going to school and Lucy has never seen a doctor. So in the fictional reality of the book there is no official diagnosis. But as the novel progressed I wondered – should I have one? I was torn. If Lucy was presenting enough symptoms to point to a real condition, was I ignoring the obvious not to fold that condition into my development of her character? Was it insensitive of me to allude to aspects of certain real, life-altering conditions but not assign a specific condition to Lucy? I worried about appropriating aspects of serious conditions without treating those conditions with proper respect and acknowledgement. And though any clinical diagnosis would probably not be explicit in the novel, I wondered if I would be ignoring an opportunity to bring attention to a real disorder when people asked me about Lucy’s condition, the way The Curious Incident of The Dog in the Night-time did for autism. On the other hand, I had concerns that if I chose a diagnosis for Lucy, I would be ascribing to her qualities that she wouldn’t have otherwise presented. Lucy had her own will over my writing and over the novel. I didn’t want to yoke Lucy’s expression by keeping her behavior and abilities consistent with a clinical condition. Accuracy would also become a critical issue if Lucy’s condition was named. Ultimately I chose not to diagnose Lucy, though I worry the artistic freedom provided by that decision comes at the price of being judged for being too liberal with my treatment of cognitive disorders. Now that publication is a few months away, I am apprehensive of how my treatment of Lucy’s cognitive limitations will be judged. I have yet to talk to a reader who has a learning different child, or works with learning different people, and that conversation is one I will be honored, and not a bit anxious, to have.

Hodder & Stoughton

Thinking in Numbers

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet
Hodder Paperbacks

Embracing the Wide Sky

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet captivated readers with his bestselling memoir, Born On A Blue Day, and its vivid depiction of a life with autistic savant syndrome. In his fascinating new book, Embracing the Wide Sky, Daniel combines the latest scientific research with insights drawn from his personal experience to shed light on the mysteries of how our minds work and the incredible feats of which each one of us is capable.A unique and brilliantly imaginative portrait of how we think, learn, remember and create, Embracing the Wide Sky is a profound and provocative book that will transform our understanding and respect for every kind of mind.

Hodder Paperbacks

Born On a Blue Day

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet

A N Wilson

A. N. Wilson was born in North Staffordshire, and taught literature for seven years at New College Oxford, where he won the Chancellor's English Essay Prize and the Ellerton Prize. He is the author of over twenty novels, and as many works of non-fiction. His biography of Tolstoy won the Whitbread Prize in 1988. His biography of Queen Victoria was published to critical acclaim. He is also the author of The Victorians and of God's Funeral, an account of how the Victorians lost their faith. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a Member of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He lives in London, and is the father of three daughters.

Alys Fowler

Alys Fowler is an award winning journalist and passionate gardener. She is the author of several books and writes a weekly column on gardening for Guardian Weekend magazine. She lives in Birmingham.

Andrew Mango

Andrew Mango was born in Istanbul. He complemented his knowledge of Turkish by studying Persian and Arabic at the School of Oriental Studies in London. From 1947 to 1986 he worked at the BBC, retiring as Head of South European and French Language Services. During his retirement he continued to study and write on Turkish affairs. He died in 2014.

Anne Sebba

Anne Sebba is a biographer, journalist and former Reuters foreign correspondent. She has written many books including the best-selling Mother Teresa: Beyond the Image, Laura Ashley, A Life by Design and That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. She lives in London.

Bonita Norris

Bonita Norris, 29, is the youngest person in the world to have reached both the summit of Mt Everest and the North Pole. She has undertaken 6 Himalayan/Karakoram expeditions, and when not on expedition, is a TV presenter and motivational speaker. She only began climbing aged 20 after a chance lecture about mountaineering inspired her to change her life.

Clover Stroud

Clover Stroud is a writer and journalist writing for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, and Conde Nast Traveller, among others. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and five children.

Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet is a writer, linguist and educator. He is the author of Thinking in Numbers, Embracing the Wide Sky and the bestselling Born on a Blue Day. Tammet is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). He lives in France.

David Mitchell

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he taught English in Japan, where he wrote his first novel, Ghostwritten. Published in 1999, it was awarded the Mail on Sunday John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, Cloud Atlas, was shortlisted for six awards including the Man Booker Prize, and adapted for film in 2012. It was followed by Black Swan Green, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Both were also longlisted for the Booker. In 2013, The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida was published in a translation from the Japanese by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. It was an immediate bestseller in the UK and later in the US as well.

Gervase Phinn

Dr Gervase Phinn is a teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet, educational consultant and visiting professor of education. For fourteen years he taught in a range of schools, then acted as General Adviser for Language Development in Rotherham before moving on to North Yorkshire, where he spent ten years as a school inspector - time that has provided much source material for his books. He has four grown up children and four grandchildren and lives near Doncaster. Visit Gervase's website, www.gervase-phinn.com.

Giles Milton

Giles Milton is a writer and historian. He is the internationally bestselling author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Big Chief Elizabeth, The Riddle and the Knight, White Gold, Samurai William, Paradise Lost, Wolfram and Russian Roulette. He has also written three novels and three children's books. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in south London.Find out more about Giles and his books on his website, www.gilesmilton.com, and Wikipedia page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giles_Milton, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/survivehistory and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/pages/Giles-Milton-Writer/121068034610842.

Gyles Brandreth

Gyles Brandreth is a writer, performer, former MP and government whip whose career has ranged from hosting Have I Got News For You to starring in his own award-winning musical revue in London's West End. Currently a reporter with The One Show on BBC1 and a regular on Radio 4's Just a Minute, his acclaimed Victorian detective stories - THE OSCAR WILDE MURDER MYSTERIES - are now being published in nineteen countries around the world and are currently in development for TV. All six books in the series, OSCAR WILDE AND THE CANDLELIGHT MURDERS, OSCAR WILDE AND THE RING OF DEATH, OSCAR WILDE AND THE DEAD MAN'S SMILE, OSCAR WILDE AND THE NEST OF VIPERS, OSCAR WILDE AND THE VATICAN MURDERS and OSCAR WILDE AND THE MURDERS AT READING GAOL are available from John Murray. You can find out more about the Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries at www.oscarwildemurdermysteries.com and about Gyles Brandreth at www.gylesbrandreth.net

J R Moehringer

J R Moehringer is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist who has written for the Los Angeles Times and many others. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

James Bowen

James Bowen is the author of the bestselling A STREET CAT NAMED BOB and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BOB. He found Bob the cat in 2007 and the pair have been inseparable ever since. They both live in north London.

Jeff Brazier

Jeff Brazier is a qualified life coach and ambassador for the children's bereavement charity Grief Encounter. He is a TV Presenter and a regular part of the ITV This Morning team. This is his first book.

John Connolly

John Connolly is author of the Charlie Parker mysteries, The Book of Lost Things, the Samuel Johnson novels for young adults and, with his partner, Jennifer Ridyard, co-author of the Chronicles of the Invaders. John Connolly's debut - EVERY DEAD THING - introduced the character of Private Investigator Charlie Parker, and swiftly launched him right into the front rank of thriller writers. All his subsequent novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers. He was the winner of the 2016 CWA Short Story Dagger for On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier from NIGHT MUSIC: Nocturnes Vol 2.In 2007 he was awarded the Irish Post Award for Literature. He was the first non-American writer to win the US Shamus award and the first Irish writer to win an Edgar award. BOOKS TO DIE FOR, which he edited with Declan Burke, was the winner of the 2013 Anthony, Agatha and Macavity awards for Best Non-Fiction work.

Juno Dawson

JUNO DAWSON is the multi-award-winning author of dark teen thrillers. Her first non-fiction book, BEING A BOY, tackled puberty, sex and relationships in a frank and funny fashion, and a follow-up for young LGBT people, THIS BOOK IS GAY, came out in 2014. Juno is a regular contributor to Attitude Magazine, GT and the Guardian and has contributed to news items concerning sexuality, identity, literature and education on BBC Woman's Hour, Front Row, This Morning and Newsnight. She writes full time and lives in Brighton.

Lesley-Ann Jones

Lesley-Ann Jones is a journalist, newspaper columnist and broadcaster. The author of eight published books, she has enjoyed more than twenty-five years in music and the media. She lives in South-East London with her young children, the eldest having grown up and gone into the music business.