Related to: 'Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing'

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.

Hodder & Stoughton

Thinking in Numbers

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet

Hodder Paperbacks

Embracing the Wide Sky

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet
Hodder & Stoughton

Born On a Blue Day

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet

Alan Titchmarsh

Alan Titchmarsh is known to millions through the popular BBC TV programmes British Isles: A Natural History, How to be a Gardener, Ground Force and Gardeners' World. But he started out in far humbler beginnings, in a rural childhood on the edge of Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire.After a spell at Kew he became a horticultural journalist, as an Editor of gardening magazines, before becoming a freelance broadcaster and writer.He has twice been named 'Gardening Writer of the Year' and for four successive years was voted 'Television Personality of the Year' by the Garden Writers' Guild. In 2004 he received their Lifetime Achievement Award.Alan has appeared on radio and television both as a gardening expert and as an interviewer and presenter, fronting such programmes as Points of View, Pebble Mill, Songs of Praise, Titchmarsh's Travels and Ask the Family, and since 1983 has presented the BBC's annual coverage of The Chelsea Flower Show. He now has his own daytime TV show on ITV, The Alan Titchmarsh Show. Alan has written more than forty gardening books, as well as seven best-selling novels, including his 2008 success, Folly, which have all made the Sunday Times Bestsellers List. Alan has published three volumes of memoirs; Trowel and Error sold over 200,000 copies in hardback when published in 2002, and Nobbut A Lad, about his Yorkshire childhood, was published in October 2006 with similar success, and his third volume of memoir Knave of Spadeswas a Sunday Times bestseller.He was made MBE in the millennium New Year Honours list and holds the Victoria Medal of Honour, the Royal Horticultural Society's highest award. He lives with his wife and a menagerie of animals in Hampshire where he gardens organically.

Barry Johnston

Barry Johnston appeared with the vocal group Design on over fifty TV shows in the 1970s. He presented the breakfast show on KLOA-AM in California and has broadcast regularly on BBC radio. He now runs Barn Productions and has produced more than eighty audiobooks including the number one bestsellers AN EVENING WITH JOHNNERS and THE WIT OF CRICKET. He has also edited several books and is the author of biographies of Kenneth Horne and of his father, Brian Johnston.

Bobby Robson

Bobby Robson was born in 1933 in the heart of the mining community in Sacrison, County Durham. Soon afterwards, his family moved to Langley Park, where Bobby's footballing career started, and where he became an apprentice electrician in the mines at the age of fifteen. In 1950, he joined Fulham, followed by West Bromwich Albion in 1956. He won twenty caps for England before embarking on a management career with Ipswich Town, which lasted for thirteen years. He left the club in 1982 to take up the position of England manager, and then coached in Holland, Portugal and Spain before taking over at Newcastle from 1999 until 2004.Bobby Robson was born in 1933 in the heart of the mining community in Sacrison, County Durham. Soon afterwards, his family moved to Langley Park, where Bobby's footballing career started, and where he became an apprentice electrician in the mines at the age of fifteen. In 1950, he joined Fulham, followed by West Bromwich Albion in 1956. He won twenty caps for England before embarking on a management career with Ipswich Town, which lasted for thirteen years. He left the club in 1982 to take up the position of England manager, and then coached in Holland, Portugal and Spain before taking over at Newcastle from 1999 until 2004.

Constance Briscoe

Constance Briscoe practises as a barrister and in 1996 became a part-time judge - one of the first black women to sit as a judge in the UK. She lives in Clapham with her two children, Martin and Francesca. Her partner is Tony Arlidge QC.

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.

David Mitchell

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he taught English in Japan, where he wrote his first novel, Ghostwritten. Published in 1999, it was awarded the Mail on Sunday John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, Cloud Atlas, was shortlisted for six awards including the Man Booker Prize, and adapted for film in 2012. It was followed by Black Swan Green, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Both were also longlisted for the Booker. In 2013, The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida was published in a translation from the Japanese by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. It was an immediate bestseller in the UK and later in the US as well.

Don Stephens

Don Stephens is the founder and president of the international charity Mercy Ships. The charity currently operates three hospital vessels: the Anastasis, the Caribbean Mercy and the Island Mercy. These astonishing ships take relief and development to the port cities of some of the world's poorest countries. Every year, Mercy Ships' doctors perform more than a thousand complex operations that transform people's lives - including complicated maxilofacial surgery - in areas where up to half the population has no access to basic health care.

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.

Giles Coren

Giles Coren has been a restaurant critic for The Times for the last ten years. Before that, he was restaurant critic of the Independent on Sunday. Before that, he was restaurant critic for Tatler. Before that, he was a journalist. In 2005, he was named Food and Drink Writer of the Year, published his first (and last) novel, Winkler and began presenting The F-Word on Channel 4 with Gordon Ramsay. Since then, he has presented a documentary series on biotechnology in the food chain (Animal Farm), a polemical film about the obesity crisis (Tax the Fat), and three series of The Supersizers Go...with Sue Perkins, who does the funny stuff whilst Coren eats his way through 2,000 years of food history with the table manners of a pig recently released from prison. His most recent television series, Our Food, aired on BBC2 in April 2012. He lives in Kentish Town with his wife, the writer Esther Walker, and his daughter, the toddler Kitty Coren, who recently developed a taste for good dim sum and will thus be allowed to stay.

Giles Milton

Giles Milton is a writer and historian. He is the internationally bestselling author of Nathaniel's Nutmeg, Big Chief Elizabeth, The Riddle and the Knight, White Gold, Samurai William, Paradise Lost, Wolfram and Russian Roulette. He has also written three novels and three children's books. His books have been translated into twenty languages. He lives in south London.Find out more about Giles and his books on his website, www.gilesmilton.com, and Wikipedia page, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giles_Milton, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/survivehistory and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/pages/Giles-Milton-Writer/121068034610842.

Giovanna Fletcher

Giovanna grew up in Essex with her Italian dad Mario, mum Kim, big sister Giorgina and little brother Mario, and with family playing such a big part of her life it was only natural that she had always dreamed of having children of her own. Giovanna and her husband Tom Fletcher have two young sons Buzz and Buddy and share glimpses of their family life through their YouTube channels (giovannasworld) and on their social media (twitter: @mrsgifletcher, facebook: MrsGiFletcher and Instagram: mrsgifletcher). A bestselling novelist, actress, TV presenter, vlogger and blogger, Giovanna is most importantly a mum and her pledge to spread positivity wherever she goes has earned her a vast following.

Graham Mccann

Graham McCann is the most admired entertainment writer at work in the UK today. He is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of books on Dad`s Army; Frankie Howerd, Morecambe & Wise and Cary Grant. His most recent books, THE ESSENTIAL DAVE ALLEN and SPIKE & CO, are published by Hodder.

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. His current two-man show team-mate is former England off spinner, Graeme Swann.

Jasvinder Sanghera

Jasvinder Sanghera CBE was born and brought up in Derby. A survivor of a forced marriage, she is the co-founder of Karma Nirvana, a national project that supports both men and women affected by honour-based crimes and forced marriages. Jasvinder is also an international speaker and a Leading Expert Advisor to the Courts in child and criminal proceedings. Her memoir SHAME was a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller. Jasvinder has brought the issue of forced marriage into the public eye and helped the Forced Marriage bill go through Parliament. She has won numerous awards for her work including a Metropolitan Police GG2 Diversity Award in 2005. In 2007 she received one of the prestigious Women of the Year awards. Jasvinder was made an Honorary Doctor of the University of Derby in 2008. She was awarded a Pride of Britain Award in 2009 and was named a Cosmopolitan Ultimate Woman of the Year in 2010. In 2011 the Guardian listed Jasvinder amongst the top 100 inspirational women in the world.

Jeremy Kyle

Jeremy Kyle is a television and radio presenter, best known as the controversial host of The Jeremy Kyle Show, which has broadcast on ITV1 five days a week for the last five years, recently celebrating its 1000th episode. He also writes regularly for the Sun newspaper and Pick Me Up magazine, and has spent twelve years on radio where he currently hosts his own show on talkSPORT. Jeremy's first book, I'm Only Being Honest, was a Sunday Times bestseller and You Couldn't Make It Up is his second book. He lives in Berkshire with his wife Carla and has four children.

John Connolly

John Connolly is author of the Charlie Parker mysteries, The Book of Lost Things, the Samuel Johnson novels for young adults and, with his partner, Jennifer Ridyard, co-author of the Chronicles of the Invaders. John Connolly's debut - EVERY DEAD THING - introduced the character of Private Investigator Charlie Parker, and swiftly launched him right into the front rank of thriller writers. All his subsequent novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers. He was the winner of the 2016 CWA Short Story Dagger for On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier from NIGHT MUSIC: Nocturnes Vol 2.In 2007 he was awarded the Irish Post Award for Literature. He was the first non-American writer to win the US Shamus award and the first Irish writer to win an Edgar award. BOOKS TO DIE FOR, which he edited with Declan Burke, was the winner of the 2013 Anthony, Agatha and Macavity awards for Best Non-Fiction work.

John Gielgud

Sir John Gielgud spent a lifetime on the stage and in front of the camera; his first film was in 1924 when he starred as Daniel in Who Is The Man? Venerated for giving gravitas to a variety of Shakespearean roles, Gielgud made the role of respected old sage his own, and is considered by many to have been one of the greatest actors of the twentieth century. He died in May 2000.