Related to: 'How Britain Really Works'

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.

Akala

Akala is a MOBO-award winning musician, poet, activist and the founder of The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, He has spoken and written about politics and race on Newsnight, This Week, and Frankie Boyle's Political Autopsy and in the Guardian, as well as doing TEDx and Oxford Union lectures that have clocked up over a million views on Youtube.

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 centreing on themes of happiness and flourishing, which he delivers in businesses 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.

Anthony Riches

Anthony Riches began his lifelong interest in war and soldiers when he first heard his father's stories about World War II. This led to a degree in Military Studies at Manchester University. He began writing the story that would become Wounds of Honour after a visit to Housesteads in 1996. He lives in Hertfordshire with his wife and three children.www.anthonyriches.comwww.twitter.com/AnthonyRiches

Ben Okri

Ben Okri is a Vice-President of the English Centre of International PEN, a member of the board of the Royal National Theatre, and was awarded an OBE in 2001. He is the author of Booker prize-winning novel, The Famished Road. He lives in London.

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

Brett Westwood

Brett Westwood is an award-winning producer, presenter and naturalist. He presented the radio series of Natural Histories. His other acclaimed radio series range from Tweet of the Day (winner of Best Radio Series 2014) to Brett Westwood's Diaries. He is also a consultant for Springwatch and Autumnwatch.

Chris Ryan

Former SAS corporal and the only man to escape death or capture during the Bravo Two Zero operation in the 1991 Gulf War, Chris Ryan turned to writing thrillers to tell the stories the Official Secrets Act stops him putting in his non-fiction. His novels have gone on to inspire the Sky One series Strike Back. Born near Newcastle in 1961, Chris Ryan joined the SAS in 1984. During his ten years there he was involved in overt and covert operations and was also sniper team commander of the anti-terrorist team. During the Gulf War, Chris Ryan was the only member of an eight-man unit to escape from Iraq, where three colleagues were killed and four captured. It was the longest escape and evasion in the history of the SAS. For this he was awarded the Military Medal. He wrote about his experiences in the bestseller The One That Got Away, which was adapted for screen, and since then has written three other works of non-fiction, over twenty bestselling novels and a series of childrens' books.

Dominique Antiglio

Dominique Antiglio is a Sophrologist specialising in stress-management, self-development and birth preparation. Born in Switzerland, Dominique started Sophrology at 15 years old, learning early on ways to positively connect with herself and embrace a new way of living. At 25, she graduated from the renowed European School of Osteopathy in Kent obtaining her Bsc(Hons) Ost. She came back to her native hometown and ran a successful osteopathic clinic for a decade, as well as specialising in treating children and pregnant women in France and the US. At the same time, she continued her personal development journey with Sophrology and trained as a Sophrologist. Dominique gained her Masters in Caycedian Sophrology (2006), notably training with Professor Caycedo, the founder of the method. Passionate about the mind-body connection,she also explored the power of sound and obtained her Holistic Voice Diploma in 2013 in the UK.In 2011, having witnessed so many positive changes through the power of Sophrology for herself and her clients, she moved to London and founded BeSophro, a leading Sophrology clinic in Mayfair with an online platform. Through BeSophro she supports and inspires a wide variety of clients, individually and in groups, and working with schools and in the corporate environment, enthusiastically promoting the benefits of Sophrology in the UK and beyond. Her work has notably been featured in the Guardian, the Telegraph and Psychologies magazine. In 2015, Dominique also became a mum.To find out more about BeSophro classes, workshops andSophrology's latest development, please visit www.be-sophro.co.uk.

Fern Riddell

Dr Fern Riddell is a historian specialising in sex, suffrage and culture in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. She appears regularly on TV and radio, and writes for the Guardian, Huffington Post, Telegraph and Times Higher Education among others, and is a columnist for BBC History Magazine.

Fran Cooper

Fran Cooper grew up in London before reading English at Cambridge and Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She spent three years in Paris writing a PhD about travelling eighteenth-century artists, and currently works in the curatorial department of a London museum. These Dividing Walls is her first novel.

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.

Gordon Ramsay

Scottish by birth, Gordon was brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. With an injury prematurely putting an end to any hopes of a promising career in football, he went back to college to complete a course in hotel management and his dedication and natural talent led him to train with some of world's leading chefs.In 1993 Gordon became chef of Aubergine in London and within three years was awarded two Michelin stars. In 1998, at the age of 31, Gordon set up his own restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, which quickly received the most prestigious accolade in the culinary world - three Michelin stars. One of only four chefs in the UK to maintain three stars, Gordon was awarded an OBE in 2006 for services to the industry.Now internationally renowned, Gordon has opened a string of successful restaurants across the globe, from Italy to LA. 2011 has proved to be another exciting year and saw the opening of Bread Street Kitchen in London's City district, as well as a venture across the pond in Montreal, Canada.Gordon has become a star of the small screen both in the UK and internationally, with two top rated shows in the US. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Hell's Kitchen are both into their third and ninth series respectively, whilst his latest show, Masterchef US, is now in its second series and is proving to be another massive hit with viewers. Gordon has also published a number of books, many of which have become best sellers across the world, notably his autobiography, Roasting in Hell's Kitchen.Gordon lives with his wife and four children in South London, along with their two bulldogs Rumpole and Romeo.

Jennifer Palmieri

Jennifer Palmieri was the director of communications for Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. Prior to that, she served as the White House communications director for President Barack Obama. She was t he national press secretary for the 2004 John Edwards presidential campaign and also for the Democratic Party in 2002. She is currently president of the Center for American Progress Action Fund and frequently appears on television and radio.

Jeremy Howick

An Oxford researcher with over 75 publications and a classic textbook, Jeremy Howick is well qualified to write Doctor You. A world-renowned placebo researcher and his work has been featured in The Times and The Washington Post, as well as on Sky News, and the BBC.

John Betjeman

John Betjeman was born in London on 28 August 1906. He was educated at Marlborough and Magdalen College, Oxford. In 1931 his first book of poems, 'Mount Zion', was published by an old Oxford friend, Edward James. His second book was 'Ghastly Good Taste', a commentary on architecture, published in 1934. He was knighted in 1969 and was appointed Poet Laureate in 1972. John Betjeman died on 19 May 1984 at his home in Trebetherick, Cornwall and was buried at the nearby church of St Enodoc.

Josh Ireland

Josh Ireland was born in 1981 and lives in London. After leaving York University with a masters in history he worked in publishing for eight years and is now a freelance editor and writer. The Traitors is his first book.

Kingsley Donaldson

KINGSLEY DONALDSON is a retired Army officer. He has served on operations in a number of European and Middle Eastern countries in various roles that span from countering weapons of mass destruction through to negotiating with armed groups in Iraq. His last appointments at the Ministry of Defence were concerned with national defence and security strategy. He now advises a number of governments in his role as Director of the Causeway Institute for Peace-building Conflict Resolution International.

Krish Kandiah

Krish Kandiah is Founder and Director of the adoption and fostering charity Home for Good and an Ambassador for the relief charity Tearfund. He is in demand as a speaker, consultant and social entrepreneur. He lives with his wife and seven children, including fostered and adopted children, in Oxfordshire, UK.

Leo McKinstry

Leo McKinstry is a first-class historian of the Second World War and author of bestselling Spitfire and Hurricane. He writes regularly for the Daily Mail, Sunday Telegraph and Spectator. Born in Belfast he was educated in Ireland and at Cambridge University.

Louise Welsh

Louise Welsh is the author of eight novels including The Cutting Room, A Lovely Way to Burn and Death is a Welcome Guest. She has received numerous awards and international fellowships, including an Honorary Doctor of Arts from Edinburgh Napier University and an honorary fellowship from the University of Iowa's International Writing Program. Louise Welsh is Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Glasgow.