Related to: 'Boys Don't Cry'

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.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.He has been featured widely in international press, appearing in Vogue, NYT, FT, Entrepreneur, Men's Health and Esquire, to name but a few. He also makes regular appearances on TV and online, having been featured on BBC, Dr Oz, Netflix and TED.Andy currently lives in Venice, California, with his wife Lucinda.

Brendan Cox

Brendan Cox was Jo's husband and is dad to their two children.For the last eighteen months he has been working to combat growing xenophobia and intolerance across Europe.Brendan's royalties for this book will go to the Jo Cox Foundation.jocoxfoundation.org

Christine Wilding

Christine Wilding's (Kent, England) books on CBT have sold over 50,000 copies. She holds a postgraduate diploma in CBT from the University of London, is an accredited member of the British Association of Counselling, is a member of the steering committee set up to develop guidelines for the treatment of depression within the NHS, and is in-demand as a leader of CBT-based training courses.

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.

David Perlmutter

Dr David Perlmutter is president of the Perlmutter Health Centre in Naples, Florida, and the co-founder and president of The Perlmutter Brain Foundation. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American College of Nutrition and the Linus Pauling Award. A frequent lecturer, he writes a blog at VanguardNeurologist.com and is a contributor to The Huffington Post. His previous books include Grain Brain and The Grain Brain Cookbook.

Dr Mike Shooter

Dr Mike Shooter CBE is a former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and was the first child psychiatrist to hold that post. He is now an honorary fellow of six Royal Colleges and has spoken from public and professional platforms, written and advised governments in many parts of the world. He is currently President of The British Association for Counselling. An ex-journalist, Mike is a passionate believer in the power of stories and the need to share them - those of his patients and his own. He still lives in the Welsh Valleys, amidst a large family, many animals, and the community with whom he worked for more than 40 years.

Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a journalist specialising in mental health, technology, science and feminism, writing for WIRED, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, and VICE among others. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her early twenties, and since then has been raising awareness and supporting other young people with mental health issues. She also co-founded the Words by Women Awards in 2016.

Glen David Gold

Glen David Gold was born in Los Angeles and from the age of ten grew up in San Francisco. His first novel, CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL was published in 2001, when it was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and has been translated into 14 languages. His second novel, SUNNYSIDE, was published in 2009. His short stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Playboy and McSweeney's. He lives in San Francisco.

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She's the author of many books, including the New York Times bestsellers, Better Than Before and The Happiness Project. A member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, in more than 35 languages; and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. She also has an award-winning podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.gretchenrubin.com | twitter.com/gretchenrubin | facebook.com/GretchenRubin | instagram.com/gretchenrubin

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

Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne is a bestselling author. She is passionate about gender equality and mental health. How Do You Like Me Now? is her debut adult novel.

Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort was born in Queens, New York. He hustled ices to put himself through college, showing early entrepreneurial flair. His first business sent him bankrupt at twenty-four so he went down to Wall St with $100 in his pocket and ended up building one of the largest brokerages in America - the now infamous Stratton Oakmont. A hard partying lifestyle ended in crash and burn. Ultimately indicted by the federal government, Belfort served twenty-two months in prison, and time in rehab. He's now a highly successful motivational speaker.His story has been made into a Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.He is currently living in Los Angeles.

Katie Marsh

Katie Marsh lives in south-west London with her family. Before being published she worked in healthcare, and her books are inspired by the bravery of the people she has met in hospitals and clinics around the country. Katie loves strong coffee, the feel of a blank page and stealing her husband's toast. Her debut novel, My Everything, was chosen by the Evening Standard as one of the hottest summer debuts of 2015. Her second novel, A Life Without You, was a smash-hit ebook bestseller. This Beautiful Life is her third novel. You can follow her on Twitter @marshismsVisit her website www.katie-marsh.comOr find her on Facebook /KatieMarshAuthor

Mac Bride

Mac Bride is a successful computer author who brings over 20 years of teaching experience to his writing.

Mikael Lindnord

Mikael Lindnord is an adventure racer and race planner. As a boy he wanted to be an ice hockey player, but failing to make a professional team at the age of 17 set him on a different path. After doing military service he became an adventure racer and has been travelling the world and racing in the AR World Series ever since. When not racing he lives with his wife, children and, of course, his dog Arthur. Arthur is a mongrel from somewhere in Ecuador. He likes meatballs, long runs with Mikael and relaxing with his family in Sweden. As an editor of non-fiction at major publishing houses, Val Hudson published many ground-breaking bestsellers. Now a full-time writer, she is the author of a wide range of non-fiction and, as Chloe Bennet, the 'Boywatching' series of novels for young teens..

Monty Don

MONTY DON is a well-known gardening writer and broadcaster. He lives with his family, garden and dogs in Herefordshire. @TheMontyDon

Paul Jenner

Paul Jenner is a writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle subjects. He lives with his partner, three horses, two dogs and two sheep, in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees, where, when he's not working, he enjoys hiking, riding, cycling, sailing, swimming, diving and snowboarding. His other books include Teach Yourself Living Longer, Living Well and Teach Yourself Happiness.

Rae Earl

Rae Earl was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1971. She went to Hull University and following a brief stint at Parcel Force in Peterborough she joined one of Britain's biggest commercial radio groups as a copywriter in 1995. After six years of writing adverts that started with the line 'ATTENTION CARPET BUYERS!' Rae moved to broadcasting and now presents a breakfast show in the East Midlands together with her husband Kevin, for which she has been named British Midlands Radio Presenter of the Year.Rae Earl was born in Stamford in Lincolnshire in 1971. She went to Hull University and following a brief stint at Parcel Force in Peterborough she joined one of Britain's biggest commercial radio groups as a copywriter in 1995. After six years of writing adverts that started with the line 'ATTENTION CARPET BUYERS!' Rae moved to broadcasting and now presents a breakfast show in the East Midlands together with her husband Kevin, for which she has been named British Midlands Radio Presenter of the Year.

Richard Carlson

The late Richard Carlson, PhD, was the author of the internationally bestselling Don't Sweat the Small Stuff series. He lived with his wife and two children in northern California until his tragic death in December 2006.

Sally Magnusson

Broadcaster and journalist Sally Magnusson has written 10 books, most famously, her Sunday Times bestseller, Where Memories Go (2014) about her mother's dementia. Half-Icelandic, half Scottish, Sally has inherited a rich storytelling tradition. The Sealwoman's Gift is her first novel.