Related to: 'Growing Pains'

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.

Alice Judge-Talbot

Alice Judge-Talbot is a blogger, writer and entrepreneur from Buckinghamshire, a quiet place she found herself in when she became a single mum to two under two at the age of twenty-seven. She started her blog in 2009 when she found herself pregnant in a group of friends where 'Mum' was a word used for the woman you called when you broke up with your boyfriend, knowing nobody in her real life had even an inkling of a baby on the horizon. Since then, Alice has written frankly, funnily and emotively on the subjects that affect mums the world over: from pregnancy and childbirth to post-natal depression, divorce and life as a single mother. She is now the thriving and proud mother of a five and seven year-old, writing a successful blog called More Than Toast as well as a column for the Telegraph, and she has thankfully worked out what day the bins go out.

Brendan Cox

Brendan Cox was Jo's husband and is dad to their two children. Brendan's royalties for this book will go to the Jo Cox Foundation.jocoxfoundation.org

Carolyn Parkhurst

Carolyn Parkhurst is the author of three novels: Lorelei's Secret (published in the US as The Dogs of Babel) and Lost and Found, which were both New York Times bestsellers, and The Nobodies Album. In 2010, she published her first children's book, Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino. Born in New Hampshire, she attended Wesleyan University in Connecticut, where she met her husband, Evan Rosser. She also received an MFA in creative writing from American University. She lives in Washington, DC with her husband and their two children.

Chris Hughes

Chris Hughes starred in 2017's ratings winning Love Island. With 1.9 million followers on Instagram, a hit single, a bestselling fitness DVD, his own reality TV series and a massive bill boardcampaign for a mental health charity under his belt, he has been on the celebrity fast-track. He grew up on a farm in Gloucestershire in a family offive children.

Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet is an essayist, novelist and translator. He is the author of Thinking in Numbers, Embracing the Wide Sky, and the Sunday Times bestseller Born On A Blue Day. Tammet is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). He lives in Paris.

Derek Pringle

Derek Pringle was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, where he first learnt to play cricket on matting pitches. He attended St Mary's School, Nairobi, then Felsted School in Essex, before reading Geography and Land Economy at Cambridge, where he captained the university at cricket and won three blues. While still an undergraduate he was selected to play Test cricket for England in 1982, a feat achieved previously by Ted Dexter, 24 years earlier. He also appeared, briefly, in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, as Cambridge's vice-captain of athletics.He played 30 Tests and 44 one-day internationals for England, appearing in two World Cups, one as a losing finalist in 1992. His cricket career at Essex, which spanned 15 years, included five County Championship titles, three John Player League titles, a NatWest Trophy and countless friendships. He retired from the game in 1993.A second career, as a journalist, saw him appointed cricket correspondent for the Independent, then the Daily Telegraph, a role he fulfilled until 2014. He now works as a freelance writer. His hobbies include photography and collecting vinyl records, of which he has several thousand - the latter perhaps explaining why he has never married. He has a son whose musical tastes he is trying to shape. He lives in Cambridge.

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.

Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand grew up in Pennsylvania and is a graduate of the University of Iowa's Writers' Workshop, where she was a teaching/writing fellow. She now lives with her husband and their three children on Nantucket, Massachusetts, where her novels are set.You can follow Elin on Twitter @elinhilderbrand or find out more on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/ElinHilderbrand.

Emily Phillips

Emily Phillips' two main life goals have always been: to write a book and to have a baby. As Grazia's Features Director, she's helped change the law to close the pay gap, written on everything from over-committing to egg donation, and interviewed the likes of Amy Poehler and Jane Birkin. Her career highlight was when Jamie Dornan told her (while taking his top off) that his murderous character in The Fall would've found her 'right up his street'. She lives in London with her husband and two cats.Her first novel, TRYING, is a hugely funny and searingly honest comedy about what to expect when you're not expecting.

Emma Henderson

Emma Henderson was educated at Godolphin and Latymer School, London, Somerville College, Oxford and Yale University, Connecticut. She wrote blurbs for Penguin books for two years, then spent a decade teaching English in comprehensive schools and further education colleges, before moving to the French Alps where, for six years, she ran a ski and snowboard lodge. She now lives in Derbyshire and is a lecturer in English and Creative Writing at Keele University. GRACE WILLIAMS SAYS IT LOUD was her first novel. The Valentine House is her second novel.

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.

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.

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.

Henry Blofeld

Henry began writing about cricket, for The Times, in May 1962 and in 1972 he started his long career as a commentator with the BBC's Test Match Special. During his career he has written for numerous papers and broadcast for both radio and television for many networks around the world especially in Australia and New Zealand. Between 1991 and 1993 he joined Sky Television before returning to Test Match Special after the death of Brian Johnston early in 1994. Since 2002 Henry Blofeld has performed in his humorous one-man show in theatres all round the country, and later he teamed up with his former TMS producer, Peter Baxter, for more than 250 two-man shows. He also had a successful partnership with England Spin Bowler, Graeme Swann. Henry now tours the country with his one man show.

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.

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 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. The Grief Survival Guide is his first book.

Jenny Meldrum

Jenny Meldrum lives in Sussex with her husband, three children and Isla, her greedy black Labrador. She paints from her studio (posh word for shed) in her garden, eternally distracted by wild rabbits, moorhens, deerand a particularly pesky heron. Despite her love of art since childhood, Jenny had no formal training and began her career as an actress, only returning to painting when her own children were at school. She has since privately exhibited seascapes and views of the South Downs. In 2016 she illustrated Miranda Hart's book Peggy and Me.

Joanne Lipman

Joanne Lipman was founding Editor-in-Chief of Condé Nast Portfolio magazine, and is a former deputy managing editor of The Wall Street Journal, where she supervised coverage that earned three Pulitzer prizes and earned the epithet 'Innovator in Chief' from the late David Carr. She is a frequent television commentator and has appeared on CNN, NBC, CNBC, and CBS, among others. She also co-authored the critically acclaimed Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations.

Katie Marsh

Katie lives in London with her family. Before being published she worked in healthcare, and her novels are inspired by the bravery of the people she met in hospitals and clinics across the country. Her first novel My Everything is a 2018 World Book Night pick, and her second A Life Without You was a huge e-book bestseller. Her fourth novel The Rest of Me is out this summer in e-book, audio and paperback. She loves strong coffee, the promise of a blank page and stealing her husband's toast. When not writing, she spends her time fruitlessly pursuing her children in various local parks. You can contact Katie on Twitter (@marshisms) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/katiemarshauthor), or via her website (www.katie-marsh.com).