Related to: 'A Normal Family'

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.

Adam Hills

Adam Hills is an Australian comedian and television presenter. Alongside his stand-up, he is known in Australia for hosting the music and quiz show Spicks and Specks and the talk show Adam Hills Tonight. His combination of positive uplifting comedy and spontaneity has seen him receive a number of awards and glowing reviews along the way. In 2012, he hosted a one-off series for Channel 4 airing over 2012 London Paralympics called The Last Leg. Now in its 12th series, the show is one of the most popular shows in the UK. This is his first book.

Akala

Akala is a BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur, as well as the co-founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company. With an extensive global touring history, Akala has appeared at numerous festivals both in the UK and internationally, and has led innovative projects in the arts, education and music across South East Asia, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. Akala has also appeared on Channel 4, ITV, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC promoting his music and poetry, and speaking on wide-ranging subjects from music, race, youth engagement, British/African-Caribbean culture and the arts, with numerous online lectures and performances that have millions of views on YouTube. More recently known for his compelling lectures and journalism - he has been awarded an honorary degree from Oxford Brookes University and the University of Brighton, written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent, and spoken for the Oxford Union and TEDx - Akala has gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic and articulate talents in the UK.

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.

Alice Vinten

Alice Vinten spent ten years as an officer in the Metropolitan Police. Now in her thirties, she lives in Leigh-on-Sea with her two sons.

Charlotte Rea

Charlotte Rea is a veterinary surgeon currently working in a large London animal charity hospital. She graduated from vet school in 2008 and has since gone on to complete a post-graduate certificate in small animal medicine.She has spent several stints abroad working with various animal charities including in Nairobi for Kenya Wildlife Services and Worldwide Veterinary Service projects in Lisbon and on the Greek island of Samos. She is passionate about animal health and welfare and has spent nearly a decade of her life dedicated to the animals of London, including pampered dogs and cats, homeless and stray pets and city farm animals. Charlotte lives in north London with her husband, young daughter and eccentric, fluffy cat.

Clare Hunter

Clare Hunter has been a banner-maker, community textile artist and textile curator for over twenty years and has established the community enterprise NeedleWorks in Glasgow. She was a finalist for the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award, and had a story published in its 2017 Annual. She was also a recipient of a Creative Scotland Award in 2016. Threads of Life is her first book.

David Shimwell

David Shimwell is a botanist and a close family friend of the Durrells. He graduated from Durham University with degrees in botany and vegetation ecology and has had a lifelong career lecturing in botany, biogeography and environmental conservation at the universities of Hull and Manchester.

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.

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. 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.

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.

Ellie Kemper

Ellie Kemper is the Emmy-nominated star of the Netflix original series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. She portrayed Erin Hannon on NBC's The Office; costarred in Bridesmaids; and has also appeared in 21 Jump Street, Identity Thief, and Somewhere. Ellie voiced Katie in The Secret Life of Pets and is the voice of Crackle on Disney's Sofia the First. Her writing has appeared in GQ, Esquire, The New York Times, McSweeney's, and The Onion. Ellie currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and son, but is constantly trying to find a way to get back to St. Louis. My Squirrel Days is her first book.

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 | facebook | instagram

Helen Brown

Helen Brown is a New Zealander living in Melbourne. She wrote Cleo to tell the story of the family cat chosen by her son who was tragically killed shortly after in a road accident. Cleo lived to be 24 and was an honoured family member. Cleo was sold in numerous international territories, becoming a bestseller in the UK, US, France, Australia and New Zealand. It provoked an enormous response from readers desperate to know what happened next. Helen's follow-up book titled After Cleo is available in paperback and ebook. The film based on Cleo is currently in pre-production. Website: www.helenbrown.com.au

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.

James Frey

James Frey is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His books A Million Little Pieces, My Friend Leonard, Bright Shiny Morning and The Final Testament of the Holy Bible have all been bestsellers around the world. He is married and lives in New York.

Jayson Greene

Jayson Greene has been writing for Pitchfork since 2008. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Grantland, GQ.com, Red Bull Music Academy, and The Village Voice, among others. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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.

Lee Durrell

Lee Durrell is Honorary Director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and hasa PhD in zoology from Duke University specialising on animal vocalisations in Madagascar. She married Gerald in 1979 and worked with him on books and television series about nature and conservation over the next decade. In 2011 she was awarded the MBE for services to conservation.

Mary Jane Grant

Mary Jane Grant is an experienced writer, a professor of creative thinking, a consultant in marketing, and a student of mindfulness. She divides her time between London and Toronto.

Max Pemberton

Max Pemberton is a doctor, writer and journalist. His first book, Trust Me, I'm a (Junior) Doctor, was a Radio 4 Book of the Week, and was subsequently followed by two more books about his experiences working in the NHS, Where Does it Hurt? and The Doctor Will See You Now. He is currently a columnist for the Daily Mail and Reader's Digest, and a regular contributor to the Spectator.