Related to: 'A Beginner's Guide to Losing Your Mind'

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.

Chris Sykes

Chris Sykes is a playwright, writer and poet who has written for the BBC and has had his plays performed in the West End. He also teaches creative writing at the University of Sussex and was Deputy Chair of The Writers Guild of Great Britain.

David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a broadcaster and naturalist whose television career is now in its seventh decade. After studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge and a brief stint in publishing, he joined the BBC in 1952 and spent ten years making documentary programmes of all kinds, including the Zoo Quest series. In 1965, he was appointed Controller of a new network, BBC2, and then, after four years became editorially responsible for both BBC1 and BBC2.After eight years of administration, he returned to programme-making to write and present a thirteen-part series, Life on Earth, which surveyed the evolutionary history of animals and plants. This was followed by many other series which, between them, surveyed almost every aspect of life on earth.

Denis Avey

Denis Avey was born in Essex in 1919. He fought in the desert during the Second World War and was captured and held as a Prisoner of War in a camp near Auschwitz III. In 2010 he received a British Hero of the Holocaust award. Denis lives in Derbyshire.

Duncan Hamilton

Duncan Hamilton is a journalist who has won two William Hill Sports Book of the Year Prizes. He has been nominated on a further four occasions. He has also claimed two British Sports Book Awards and is the only writer to have won the Wisden Cricket Book of the Year on three occasions. His biography of the Chariots of Fire runner Eric Liddell, For the Glory, was a New York Times bestseller. He most recently collaborated with Jonny Bairstow on the cricketer's autobiography, A Clear Blue Sky. He lives at the foot of the Yorkshire Dales.

Eleanor Thom

Eleanor Thom was born in Sheffield, England. She graduated from Manchester University with a BA in Film and Theatre. On graduation she created the award winning, all female sketch group Lady Garden who toured the UK circuit extensively, appearing on TV and Radio and were Edinburgh Fringe Festival favourites. In 2013 she wrote and performed the critically acclaimed character stand-up show I am Bev. As an actor she has she has appeared in Absolutely Fabulous (BBC), Live At The Electric (BBC) and Drifters (Channel 4). Eleanor has written for Standard Issue Magazine and for other comedians' on their live and TV work. This is her first book. She lives in London.

Gelong Thubten

Gelong Thubten is a Buddhist monk, meditation trainer and author. In 1993, at the age of 21, he ordained as a Tibetan Buddhist monk at Samye Ling Monastery in Scotland. He has spent over six years in intensive meditation retreats, the longest of which was 4 years.Thubten is a world pioneer in mindfulness meditation teaching, with over 20 years experience working with businesses, hospitals, schools, universities, prisons and addiction counselling centres. He works with major clients such as Google and LinkedIn and he teaches mindfulness to medical students. Thubten and a neuroscientist collaborated with Ruby Wax on How to be Human. He has also created a meditation app called 'Samten'.

Graham Norton

Graham Norton is one of the UK's best loved broadcasters. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2, and writes a column for the Telegraph. He is the winner of nine BAFTA awards. Born in Dublin and raised in West Cork, Norton now lives in London. His debut novel Holding was a commercial and critical success, winning Norton the Irish Independent Popular Fiction award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards in 2016.

Jen Sincero

Jen Sincero is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, success coach and motivational cattle prod who's helped countless people transform their personal and professional lives via her products, speaking engagements, newsletters, seminars and books. Her #1 New York Times bestseller, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, has sold well over two million copies, is available in twenty-plus languages, and continues to grow in popularity around the globe. Her follow-up, You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, also a New York Times bestseller, is written with the same inimitable sass, down-to-earth humor and blunt practicality that made You Are a Badass an indomitable bestseller and Jen a celebrated voice in the world of self development.

Jon Day

Jon Day is a writer, academic and keen fisherman. He is a lecturer in English Literature at King's College London, and his essays and reviews have appeared in the London Review of Books, n+1, the Times Literary Supplement, the Guardian and the White Review. He is also a regular book critic for the Financial Times and the Telegraph, and is a contributing editor for the Junket, an online literary quarterly. His first book, Cyclogeography: Journeys of a London Bicycle Courier, was published in 2015.

Ken Honda

Ken Honda is a bestselling author of self-development books in Japan. His expertise comes from owning and managing several businesses, including an accounting company, management consulting firm, and a venture capital corporation. His writings bridge the topics of finance and self-help, focusing on creating and generating personal wealth and happiness through deeper self-honesty. Ken's much-sought-after advice has been the impetus for thousands of people to take action toward self-realization, allowing them to work and live from a position of strength and solvency. Ken also provides ongoing support through mentoring programs, business seminars, therapeutic workshops, and correspondence courses.To date, Ken has published more than 110 books, has recorded weekly podcasts for 4 years, and has held seminars and conferences all over Japan for the last 12 years. He is the highest paid professional speaker in Japan. His seminars attract up to 1,000 people and sell out within an hour, and his Japanese website receives more than 250 testimonials and reader comments every day. He is the first person from Japan to be voted into the Transformational Leadership Council, a group of personal and professional development leaders. He is fluent in Japanese and English. He has focused on the Japanese market for 12 years, but is turning his attention to the rest of the world. He currently lives in Tokyo.

Levison Wood

Levison Wood is an award-winning author, explorer and photographer who specialises in documenting people and cultures in remote regions and post-conflict zones. His work has taken him around the world leading expeditions on five continents and he is an elected fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club.Levison's second book, Walking the Himalayas, was voted Adventure Travel Book of the Year at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards and his other books, Walking the Nile and Walking the Americas, were both Sunday Times bestsellers. He has presented several critically acclaimed documentaries including From Russia to Iran: Crossing the Wild Frontier where he re-traced part of his Silk Road adventures in a four-part series for Channel 4.

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Positive Psychology Network, gave the Centennial address to the British Psychological Society in 2002 and is an Honorary Professor at the University of Cardiff. A former President of the American Psychological Association, he has written over 20 books including the bestselling Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness and in 2009 was awarded the British Academy's Wiley Prize in Psychology. He is widely considered the pre-eminent expert on applied psychology in the world.

Mike Gayle

Mike Gayle was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from Salford University with a degree in Sociology, he moved to London to pursue a career in journalism and worked as a Features Editor and agony uncle. He has written for a variety of publications including The Sunday Times, the Guardian and Cosmopolitan.Mike became a full time novelist in 1997 following the publication of his Sunday Times top ten bestseller My Legendary Girlfriend, which was hailed by the Independent as 'full of belly laughs and painfully acute observations,' and by The Times as 'a funny, frank account of a hopeless romantic'. Since then he has written thirteen novels including Mr Commitment, Turning Thirty and Wish You Were Here. His books have been translated into more than thirty languages.You can find him online at mikegayle.co.uk and on Twitter @mikegayle.

Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart made her mark appearing in shows including Smack the Pony, Absolutely Fabulous and Not Going Out. But when her sitcom Miranda burst on to our screens in 2009, her popularity rocketed. Miranda has since been crowned the Queen of Comedy at the British Comedy Awards and won Best new TV comedy, as well as winning best actress in 2010 and 2011. She has also won three RTS comedy awards and has been nominated for four BAFTAs. Her book Is It Just Me? was the number one best-selling memoir of 2012 and to date it has sold over 580,000 copies. Her stand up show - My, What I Call, Live Show - was a sell-out in 2013. Follow Miranda on Twitter www.twitter.com/mermhart or vist her website www.mirandahart.com

Paul Ferris

Paul Ferris was a teenage prodigy, becoming Newcastle United's youngest-ever player in 1982, only for injury to ensure his promise went unfulfilled. He later returned to the club as a physiotherapist before earning a Master's degree and beginning a successful quest to qualify as a barrister. But the lure of football was always strong and he went back for a third spell at Newcastle, as Head of the Medical Department, again working closely with a host of big-name players and managers. Paul also became a novelist and now runs a successful health and fitness business.

Phil Craig

Phil Craig, the creator of the Finest Hour TV series, is a distinguished independent producer of political and historical documentaries.

Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £14 million for charity. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.

Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard

Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard lives in Copenhagen with her family. She is co-founder of Graphicure, a start-up company developing software solutions that empower patients to better understand their disease and manage treatment, and the Danish Science Club, a mentorship network for students and young adults.

Rob Yeung

Dr Rob Yeung is a chartered psychologist and author of over a dozen books including the bestseller Confidence (for Pearson's Prentice Hall imprint) and two books for Capstone; How To Win and How To Stand Out.Since gaining his PhD in 1996, Rob has been working as an organisational psychologist and a director at Talentspace leadership consulting, helping individuals and organisations to improve their effectiveness. His clients include organisations ranging from HSBC, KPMG and British Airways to SMEs. Much of his coaching and training work centres around the beliefs that people have about themselves. Rob has a huge database of fascinating research which he has curated, and hence backs up everything he recommends with examples based on studies conducted by the top scientists, psychologists, neuroscientists and economists in the world.

Sally Kirkman

Sally Kirkman has been practicing astrology for over 25 years and during that time has written for numerous publications around the world. Sally now runs a successful online astrology business where she brings astrology to life with specific predictions, advice and inspiration for what's relevant today.