Related to: 'Great British Bake Off – Bake it Better (No.6): Chocolate'

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.

Ann Louise Gittleman

Ann Louise Gittleman holds an MS in NutritionEducation from Columbia University, the titleof Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS) fromthe American College of Nutrition, and a PhDin Holistic Nutrition. The bestselling authorof more than thirty books, Gittleman has alsoserved as the Chief Nutritionist of the PediatricClinic at Bellevue Hospital and is the formerDirector of Nutrition at the Pritikin LongevityCenter in Santa Monica, California. She currentlysits on the Advisory Board for the InternationalInstitute for Building-Biology & Ecology, theNutritional Therapy Association, Inc., and ClearPassage, Inc.

Chrissie Manby

Chrissie Manby is the author of twenty five romantic comedies including A PROPER FAMILY HOLIDAY, THE MATCHBREAKER and SEVEN SUNNY DAYS. She has had several Sunday Times bestsellers and her novel about behaving badly after a break-up, GETTING OVER MR RIGHT, was nominated for the 2011 Melissa Nathan Award. Chrissie was raised in Gloucester, in the west of England, and now lives in London. Contrary to the popular conception of chick-lit writers, she is such a bad home-baker that her own father threatened to put her last creation on www.cakewrecks.com. She is, however, partial to white wine and shoes she can't walk in. You can follow her on Twitter @chrissiemanby, or visit her website www.chrissiemanby.co.uk to find out more.

Delia Smith

Delia Smith CBE is the UK's best-selling cookery author, having published over 21 million copies since her first book, How to Cheat at Cooking, was published in 1973. Her cookery books, including Delia's Frugal Food, Delia Smith's Cookery Course and Delia's Complete How to Cook have become instant classics and are firm favourites of cooks around the world, making Delia a household name. Awarded both an OBE and a CBE in recognition of her "contribution to television cooking and recipe writing," Delia's signature, no-nonsense approach to cooking has inspired millions of home cooks to master the culinary basics and prepare classic, delicious meals with minimum fuss.

Donal Skehan

Donal Skehan has been cooking since age four when he flipped his first pancake! Inspired by a family of passionate foodies, cooking and eating hearty home cooked food has always been a way of life. Donal is the author of seven cookbooks; Fresh was named as one of Good Food magazine's Top 10 cookbooks of the year. He's the host of Saturday Kitchen, star of cookery shows on RTE and The Food Network, and has his own hit YouTube channel. Donal was born and raised in Dublin and is currently living in LA.

Ella Mills (Woodward)

Ella Woodward is the author of must-read food blog www.deliciouslyella.com. She has created a hugely successful app to accompany the blog, opened her own deli in central London and launched her own line of energy balls. Ella's debut book Deliciously Ella was a number 1 bestseller when it was first published in January 2015, becoming the fastest selling debut cookery book since records began. It was also named as Amazon's biggest selling book of 2015. She was awarded a prestigious Observer Food Monthly award for Best Food Blog 2015. Her follow-up book, Deliciously Ella Every Day has been another hit bestseller. Ella discovered her passion for plant-based recipes after being diagnosed with a rare illness called Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (PoTS). She couldn't walk down the street, slept for 16 hours a day and was in chronic pain most of the time. Conventional medicine failed to help her, so she decided to completely overhaul her diet and overnight the self-confessed 'sugar-monster' gave up meat, gluten, dairy, sugar and all processed food. The results were incredible. Though initially far from confident in the kitchen, Ella started blogging about her new approach to food and posting recipes, and quickly amassed a huge online following.

Gino D'Acampo

Gino was born in Napoli in the south of Italy into a large family. The food they ate was very traditional - simple recipes based on fresh and healthy fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.'My grandfather said that a good recipe doesn't need many ingredients because if the ingredients are good quality and full of flavour, why do you have to cover up or change their taste'. This is a philosophy Gino has stuck to since he first started in the kitchen. After training at the Luigi de Medici Catering College, Gino came to London at 19 and worked at The Orchard Restaurant in Hampstead and then at the Cambio restaurant in Surrey.Gino is the author of several best-selling books including Gino's Healthy Italian for Less, Gino's Italian Coastal Escape, Gino's Italian Escape and Gino's Italian Adriatic Escape.He is married to Jessica and they have three children, Luciano, Rocco and Mia.

Gordon Ramsay

Scottish by birth, Gordon was brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. With an injury prematurely putting an end to any hopes of a promising career in football, he went back to college to complete a course in hotel management and his dedication and natural talent led him to train with some of the world's leading chefs.In 1993, Gordon became chef of Aubergine in London and within three years was awarded two Michelin stars. In 1998, at the age of 31, Gordon set up his own restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, which quickly received the most prestigious accolade in the culinary world - three Michelin stars. One of only four chefs in the UK to maintain three stars, Gordon was awarded an OBE in 2006 for services to the industry.Now internationally renowned, Gordon has opened a string of successful restaurants across the globe, from Italy to LA. Gordon has become a star of the small screen in the UK, US and around the world. Gordon has also published a number of best-selling books, including the acclaimed Ultimate Cookery Course, Ultimate Home Cooking and Ultimate Fit Food. Gordon lives with his wife and four children in South London, along with their two bulldogs Rumpole and Romeo.

Harold Mcgee

Harold McGee writes about the chemistry of food and cooking, and the science of everyday life. He has worked alongside some of world's most innovative chefs, including Thomas Keller and Heston Blumenthal. He lives with his family in California.

Kirstie Allsopp

Kirstie Allsopp has starred in Channel 4's Kirstie's Vintage Home, Kirstie's Handmade Britain, and Kirstie's Homemade Home and is the co-presenter, with Phil Spencer, of Location, Location, Location and Relocation, Relocation. She got her first job with interior decorator Nikki Haslam, worked for Country Living magazine before setting up a property buying business with a friend. Kirstie lives in Devon and West London with her partner Ben Anderson and their two sons and two stepsons.

Liam Charles

Liam Charles was the youngest contestant on 2017's Great British Bake Off at 19 years old. He was the breakout star, winning over the public with his deliciously sweet baking creations and charisma. Liam Charles, from Hackney, London, is a student currently studying Drama at Goldsmiths, University of London. He is the co-presenter on the new series of Bake Off The Professionals and he is the star of his own Channel 4 baking show called Liam Bakes. His debut cookbook was published in July 2018.

Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman, MD, is the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, and founder and director of The Ultra-Wellness Center. He is the bestselling author of numerous books, including Eat Fat, Get Thin, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, and The Blood Sugar Solution.

Mary Stewart

Mary Stewart was one of the 20th century's bestselling and best-loved novelists. She was born in Sunderland, County Durham in 1916, but lived for most of her life in Scotland, a source of much inspiration for her writing. Her first novel, Madam, Will You Talk? was published in 1955 and marked the beginning of a long and acclaimed writing career. In 1971 she was awarded the International PEN Association's Frederick Niven Prize for The Crystal Cave, and in 1974 the Scottish Arts Council Award for one of her children's books, Ludo and the Star Horse. She was married to the Scottish geologist Frederick Stewart, and died in 2014.

Melrose and Morgan

Melrose & Morgan are two grocery shops based in Hampstead and Primrose Hill. Nick and Ian are two foodies who gave up other careers to open their shop 10 years ago, and now have a well-established food brand with a reputation second to none. In 2014 they opened up a pop-up shop in Selfridges. Follow them on Twitter @Melrose_Morgan

Monty Don

MONTY DON is a well-known gardening writer and broadcaster. He lives with his family, garden and dogs in Herefordshire. His previous books include the Sunday Times best-seller Nigel, The Jewel Garden and Paradise Gardens.@TheMontyDon/themontydon

Nick Coffer

Nick Coffer has been eating fresh, tasty meals all his life, but his real love affair with food began when he lived in France in his twenties. Nick was a stay-at-home dad when he launched MyDaddyCooks.com, the hugely successful video blog, which shows Nick, son Archie and daughter Matilda cooking together in their kitchen. Nick is the author of My Daddy Cooks and The After School Cookbook, and presents a daily BBC radio show. Nick is one of the food heroes in Sainsbury's Make Your Roast Go Further campaign.

Russell Brand

Russell Brand is a comedian, journalist, TV and radio presenter and actor. He has won numerous awards including Time Out's Comedian of the Year, Best Newcomer at the British Comedy Awards, Best TV Performer at the Broadcasting Press Guild Awards, Most Stylish Man at GQ's Men of the Year Awards and the Sun's Shagger of the Year.

Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan read English at Oxford and went on to become a journalist. After eleven years at the Guardian working as a news reporter, health correspondent and political correspondent, she started freelancing. Sarah lives near Cambridge with her husband and two small children.

Sean Wilson

Sean Wilson played Martin Platt on Coronation Street for over twenty years. After a year working in a Michelin-starred kitchen, Sean set up The Saddleworth Cheese Co (www.saddleworthcheese.co.uk) and was soon winning awards for his cheese.

Signe Johansen

Signe is a young English-speaking Norwegian food anthropologist and cook, blogging from Bloomsbury. She trained as a chef stagiere at Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck Experimental Kitchen and at Leiths School of Food & Wine (Diploma 2006-2007), as well as working stages at Rick Stein's Seafood restaurant in Padstow, Racine and Ottolenghi and providing private catering for clients such as Democrats Abroad and corporate clients. Signe is a co-author of The Ultimate Student Cookbook (Absolute Press 2009) and contributor to The Big Bumper Book of Marmite (Absolute Press 2009), a regular recipe writer for the Beyond Baked Beans budget cookery website and co-founder of the Students Can Cook Campaign. She is also an experienced recipe tester, having worked on The Ultimate Student Cookbook, The Big Bumper Book of Marmite and as assistant to Fiona Beckett in The Frugal Cook. Signe's blog, Scandilicious, specialises in modern Scandinavian cooking. She is active in social media both on twitter as @scandilicious and on the facebook page of Beyond Baked Beans, participating in live events such as the GoodFood TV channel re-launch, matching food and wine competions and as head chef of the Blaggers' Banquet in aid of Action Against Hunger (November 2009). Signe graduated with a BA in Social Anthropology at Cambridge in 2003 and gained her MA in Antropology of Food at the University of London (SOAS) in 2009. She will be taking up a post as part-time lecturer at the School of Artisan Food on food science, umami and terroir as of September 2010 when she starts a PhD in the anthropology of fermentation, specialising in artisan bread. She teaches a monthly 1 day Introduction to Scandinavian cooking course at Leith's School of Food and Wine, and somehow also finds time to bake cakes for The Scandinavian Kitchen in Great Titchfield Street, London W1. She speaks Norwegian, English, German, Japanese and Spanish.

Simon Majumdar

Simon Majumdar lives in London. He is the author of EAT MY GLOBE and EATING FOR BRITAIN and the co-founder of 'Dos Hermanos' - one of the UK's most widely read food blogs. He is a regular contributor to The Times Online and was voted one of London's most influential people by the Evening Standard.