Related to: 'Get Fit and Get Happy'

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.

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.

Barbara Mariposa

Trained at the Royal Free Hospital, London, Dr Barbara has worked internationally, in general practice, psychiatry and public health. Whilst at medical school, she obtained a B.Sc in psychology and began a life-long enquiry into the interdependence of mind, emotion, and wellbeing. She is a thought leader in the field connecting health, emotional intelligence, mindfulness and the underlying science of it all.Bringing together her extensive knowledge, training skills and background in meditation, Dr Barbara created the powerful and pioneering Mind Mood Mastery programme, firmly rooted in scientific evidence.With a passion for helping people live healthy, fulfilling lives that fit who they are, Dr. Barbara, in addition to running the MMM programme, offers one-to-one sessions where clients can benefit from her thirty-plus years' experience in counselling, coaching, Five Elements acupuncture and personal development.

Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson was born in the village of Queensferry in south-east Scotland in 1965 and educated at Edinburgh University. She left with a PhD in Linguistics and spent a few years as a university lecturer before beginning to write fiction. The first Dandy Gilver novel was short-listed for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger 2005 and the second was long-listed for the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year Award 2007. In 2012 DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS was nominated for a Historical Macavity Award. Catriona writes full-time and divides her time between southern Scotland and northern California.www.dandygilver.comwww.catrionamcpherson.comwww.twitter.com/CatrionaMcP

Clive Woodward

Clive Woodward was born in 1954. He was educated at HMS Conway in Anglesey and Loughborough University. He played rugby for Leicester, England and the Lions, and Manley in Australia. During his impressive business career Clive Woodward successfully coached Henley RFC, London Irish and Bath before being appointed the first National England coach. He memorably led the England rugby team to World Cup victory in 2003. He lives in Berkshire with his wife and three children.

David Perlmutter

Dr David Perlmutter is president of the Perlmutter Health Centre in Naples, Florida, and the co-founder and president of The Perlmutter Brain Foundation. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American College of Nutrition and the Linus Pauling Award. A frequent lecturer, he writes a blog at VanguardNeurologist.com and is a contributor to The Huffington Post. His previous books include Grain Brain and The Grain Brain Cookbook.

Jack Hudson

Meet Jack, Calum and Robbie Hudson, three brothers born and raised exploring the wild outdoors. When they moved to Cumbria from Yorkshire they discovered the idyllic Lake District was within cycling distance. There they learned the simple joy of whiling away their summers jumping off stacks and wild swimming with friends. Eventually, as they grew older, the brothers started to notice that folk, including themselves, were growing increasingly more detached from the natural world. Working in cities, they began to feel the weight of life in the urban grind - the common monotony of nine-to-five, during which the only wildlife around is the occasional pigeon. At the same time they noticed a sad cycle of anxiety, fatigue and desperation. It seemed like everything they'd done as kids was fading behind the tinted glass of nostalgia. So, they decided to get together and change their course. Suddenly the Wild Swimming Brothers was born.

James Haskell

James Haskell is an internationally renowned athlete and professional rugby player, with extensive experience of playing at the highest level all around the world. Well known for his performances on the pitch, it is James's elite athleticism and commanding physique that has seen him become one of the most recognisable sportsmen of his generation.James's rugby career has seen him play for leading teams in London, Paris, Japan and New Zealand, and to date he has earned 70 (and counting!) international caps for his country. His globetrotting endeavours have seen him work closely with some of the world's best coaches, trainers and nutritionists, allowing him to amass a wealth of knowledge that enables him to remain at the very top of his game. James's passion for nutrition and training has held the key to his continued success; and it is this burning passion that has seen the development of one of the most cutting-edge, dynamic fitness brands in the world today - James Haskell Health and Fitness.

Joe Cross

Joe Cross' personal story of transformation was chronicled in the documentary Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead, which has been seen by more than 20 million people worldwide. The incredible response to screenings of the film inspired Joe to create Reboot with Joe, making the tools, information and support available to enable anyone to reclaim their wellbeing. His second film Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 charts the next stage of Joe's journey of health. He is the author of The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet and The Reboot with Joe Juice Diet Recipe Book, and spends time between Australia and the US, always with a juice in hand.

Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and brought up in London. A journalist and writer, she worked for the Independent until 2001. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and three children.Jojo has twice won the Romantic Novelists' Association Novel of the Year Award: in 2011 for The Last Letter From Your Lover and in 2003 for Foreign Fruit. The Ship of Brides and Silver Bay were shortlisted for the 2005 and 2007 RNA award and Silver Bay was shortlisted for the inaugural Good Housekeeping 2007 Book of the Year award. You can read Jojo's blog or find out more from her website, www.jojomoyes.com, follow her on Twitter @jojomoyes or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jojo.moyes.

Jonathan Hoban

Jonathan Hoban is an Integrative Psychotherapist and Founding Director of central London practice Creative Counselling London Ltd. Born in Wimbledon in 1975, Jonathan spent his formative years walking with family and friends in the green spaces of Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park. Jonathan trained to be a counsellor after he received personal therapy and reaped the benefits from it. His gratitude arising from the process led him to want to help others in the same way mental health professionals had guided and helped him. He has since developed techniques, philosophies and methods to help clients reconnect with their sense of power, confidence and intuition.Jonathan developed the concept of what he and others refer to as 'Walking Therapy' as an alternative method of therapy, and then went on to launch his 'Walking Therapy London' practice in 2014. His work has been featured in print, digital, and broadcast media in outlets including the BBC London News, The Telegraph, The Independent, Readers' Digest, Stylist Magazine, Stella Magazine, You Magazine, The Daily Mail, Women's Health, BACP Therapy Today Magazine, and Contemporary Psychotherapy.

Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman, MD, is the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, and founder and director of The Ultra-Wellness Center. He is the bestselling author of numerous books, including Eat Fat, Get Thin, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, and The Blood Sugar Solution.

Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart made her mark appearing in shows including Smack the Pony, Absolutely Fabulous and Not Going Out. But when her sitcom Miranda burst on to our screens in 2009, her popularity rocketed. Miranda has since been crowned the Queen of Comedy at the British Comedy Awards and won Best new TV comedy, as well as winning best actress in 2010 and 2011. She has also won three RTS comedy awards and has been nominated for four BAFTAs. Her book Is It Just Me? was the number one best-selling memoir of 2012 and to date it has sold over 580,000 copies. Her stand up show - My, What I Call, Live Show - was a sell-out in 2013. Follow Miranda on Twitter www.twitter.com/mermhart or vist her website www.mirandahart.com

Mithu Storoni

As Mithu Storoni became a doctor, dabbled in neuroscientific research, trained in ophthalmic surgery, taught yoga, and earned a PhD in neuro-ophthalmology, she studied "illness" through different angles, all of which led to the brain. The deeper she ventured into the study of "illness" the more aware she became of the vital role played by chronic stress in the transformation from "wellness" to "illness." Moving from fast-paced London to the breakneck Asian business hub of Hong Kong heightened this awareness as Mithu watched her thriving friends and colleagues reluctantly abandon their passion, energy, and mental agility and surrender their flourishing careers, because of chronic, unbridled stress. This prompted Mithu to write this book. Mithu received her medical degree from the University of Cambridge and conducted her research in neuro-ophthalmology at the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery in London, where she was a Clinical Research Fellow until recently moving to Hong Kong with her husband.

Persia Lawson

Persia Lawson and Joey Bradford are the founders of Addictive Daughter, a website and initiative created to help young women suffering from the quarter-life crisis. Having been caught in a cycle of self-destructive behaviour, and come out the other side they set up AD in an effort to help others in a similar situation.From working face-to-face with clients to sharing weekly Life Nuggets over their social media platforms their sole goal is to lovingly guide those in need & inspire them to create a better life for themselves.Previously, both Persia & Joey trained in Classical Acting at the prestigious Drama Centre London, where they met. They have since re-trained in Life-Coaching and Addiction Studies.

Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £14 million for charity. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.

Simon Hooper

For 40% of the day, Simon works as a management consultant. For 100% of the day, Simon is a father to his 4 daughters. 40% and 100% don't quite add up, because being a parent isn't something you can turn off. Even when you're at work there are emails about gymnastic classes, paying lunch fees, providing instructions on how to work the overly complicated smart TV and other various parent life admin. Now, Simon has committed another 40% of the day to social media and engaging with his hundreds of thousands of followers about real life parenting challenges. He still works 40% of the day as a management consultant too. He also spends 20% of the time clearing up and doing DIY jobs, while being a dad 100% of the time - yes, that's 200% of the time he's doing something which goes some way to explain why he hasn't slept for 10 years and has a forehead covered in so many lines, you could mistake it for a ploughed field. With the small sliver of remaining time Simon does find, he likes to spend time on 'secret projects' in the shed (no one is yet to actually see any results from these projects) and cycles - basically things that give him time on his own, a brief reprieve from a life surrounded and outnumbered by girls.

Siri Hustvedt

Siri Hustvedt's first novel, The Blindfold, was published by Sceptre in 1993. Since then she has published The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, What I Loved, The Sorrows of an American, The Summer Without Men and The Blazing World, which was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2014 and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction. She is also the author of the poetry collection Reading To You, and four collections of essays -Yonder, Mysteries of the Rectangle: Essays on Painting, A Plea for Eros and Living, Thinking, Looking, as well as the memoir The Shaking Woman or A History of My Nerves. Born in Minnesota, Siri Hustvedt now lives in Brooklyn, New York. She has a PhD in English from Columbia University and in 2012 was awarded the International Gabarron Prize for Thought and Humanities. She delivered the Schelling Lecture in Aesthetics in Munich in 2010, the Freud Lecture in Vienna in 2011 and the opening keynote at the conference to mark Kierkegaard's 200th anniversary in Copenhagen in 2013, while her latest honorary doctorate is from the University of Gutenburg in Germany. She is also Lecturer in Psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College and has written on art for the New York Times, the Daily Telegraph and several exhibition catalogues.

Sophie Sabbage

Sophie Sabbage is an author, speaker, facilitator and patient activist. She has worked in the field of human development and esoteric psychology since 1994, both as a senior trainer with the More To Life educational charity and as the leader of her own business consultancy for twenty years. She has been teaching people to learn from their lifeshocks in diverse contexts for most of her adult life.Following an incurable cancer diagnosis in 2014, Sophie became a passionate patient activist, helping cancer patients around the world to navigate the emotional challenges of the disease and to take charge of their own treatment. Sophie's academic background is primarily in English Literature, having fallen in love with books at an early age. She is an agent of change who measures leadership not by how many followers someone has, but by how many other leaders they create.She is happily married to John Sabbage and is the proud mother of their daughter, Gabriella.

Susan Calman

Born in Glasgow, Susan Calman escaped corporate law to become a stand-up comedian. She's a regular on radio and television panel shows like QI and The News Quiz and has presented the BAFTA-award winning Armchair Detectives, the recent travel series, Secret Scotland and the podcast Mrs Brightside. She recently appeared on Strictly Come Dancing where she made it all the way to Week Ten. Even more excitingly she won the Glitterball on the Strictly Live tour. An advocate for LGBTQ+ and mental health issues, she lives with her wife and cats in Glasgow. susancalman.com@susancalman Insta: officialsusancalman