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.

Aaron Gillies

Aaron Gillies, aka @TechnicallyRon on twitter, is a comedian and writer. He has been featured in and written for The Poke, Buzzfeed, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, amongst many others, and has produced viral tweets from 'My wife cries at absolutely anything' to 'The simple guide to washing machine symbols' (and coined the popular Donald Trump nickname 'Wotsit Hitler').

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.

Andy Cope

Andy describes himself as an author, happiness expert, qualified teacher and learning junkie. He has spent 10 years researching 'positive psychology' culminating in a 'PhD in Happiness' from Loughborough University. He has developed a series of keynotes and courses centring on themes of happiness and flourishing, which he delivers in business and schools across the world. Andy has written several best-selling personal development books, including 'The Art of Being Brilliant', and is also a best-selling children's author. His 'Spy Dog' series has enjoyed huge global success.

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.

Brian Wilson

Brian Wilson, best known for his work with the Beach Boys, is one of popular music's most revered figures. The main creative force behind some of the most cherished recordings in rock history and one of the most influential composers of the last century, Wilson became a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2007. A father of seven, he lives with his wife in Beverly Hills, California.

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 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. Since the launch of his famous Zoo Quest series in 1954 he has surveyed almost every aspect of life on earth and brought it to the viewing public. His latest programme, Planet Earth II, was the most-watched nature documentary of all time.

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.

Fredrik Backman

Fredrik Backman is a Swedish blogger, columnist and author. His debut novel A MAN CALLED OVE was a number 1 bestseller across Scandinavia, has sold over one million copies worldwide, was a Richard & Judy summer read in the UK and an instant New York Times paperback bestseller, and has been made into an acclaimed film. Fredrik's subsequent novels, MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES and BRITT-MARIE WAS HERE, also went straight to number 1 in Sweden on publication.

Gavin Extence

Gavin Extence lives in Sheffield with his wife and children. He has written two previous novels, the Richard and Judy bestseller, THE UNIVERSE VERSUS ALEX WOODS and THE MIRROR WORLD OF MELODY BLACK, which was described as 'a cross between Bridget Jones' Diary and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by a Simon Mayo Book Club reviewer.

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

Harry Judd

Harry Judd is a member of the hugely successful bands McFly and McBusted who have headlined Hyde Park, notched up 19 hit singles - of which 7 went to number one - and 2 number one albums. He is a much-loved former Strictly Come Dancing champion.

Iain Maitland

Iain Maitland has been a professional writer since 1987. He has written over 50 books, mainly on business, and been published as far away as Russia, India, Japan, USA and Australia. He has also written for the Sunday Times, Which? and the Financial Times amongst many others.

James Arthur

In December 2012, Middlesbrough born James Arthur won the X Factor and his debut single Impossible became the biggest winner's song of all time. After a two year break, in 2016 James made a triumphant return with his single Say You Won't Let Go which went on to become a smash hit around the world, reaching No. 1 on the Official UK Singles Chart, No. 1 on the Radio Airplay Chart in the USA, and picking up over 1.5 billion sales and streams globally. The album Back From The Edge followed, topping the Official Albums Chart in the UK, with global sales of over 1 million. Earlier this year, James was nominated for two awards at the prestigious BRIT Awards 2017 and went on to sell out multiple tours worldwide. Back to the Boy is James' first book. For more info on James, check out www.jamesarthurofficial.com.

Jennifer Rees Larcombe

Jennifer Rees Larcombe - daughter of world-famous preacher Tom Rees and brought up in the grand surroundings of Hildenborough Hall, one of Britain's influential Christian conference centres - has long lived in the public eye. She made national headlines when miraculously healed from encephalitis, has since written many best-selling books and now runs Beauty From Ashes a retreat centre for broken lives. She is still much in demand as a speaker to Christian groups and continues to touch lives through publication of her daily Bible reading notes.

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 Kirby

My name is Katie and I live with my husband and two young sons by the sea In Brighton. I started blogging on a whim one night, probably under the influence of gin after a bad day. Through 'Hurrah For Gin' I try to give a real and humorous account of parenting young children - the happy, the sad, the good and the bad. You can visit my site www.hurrahforgin.com, like me on facebook www.facebook.com/hurrahforgin and follow me on on twitter @hurrahforgin

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

Laura Jane Williams

Laura Jane Williams has written about love, lust, and her feelings everywhere from The Guardian to Buzzfeed to RED, to the Telegraph, Stylist and more, and from September 2016 - February 2017 was Grazia's single girl dating columnist. She is the author of heartbreak memoir BECOMING, Marie Claire's #BREAKFREE from Fear ambassador, and blogs about being 'messily human' at www.superlativelyrude.com