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.

Adrian Plass

Adrian Plass is one of the most-loved Christian writers in the UK. He is the bestselling author of The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾ - which with its various sequels has sold millions of copies around the world. A somewhat bemused Anglican, Adrian and his wife Bridget live in the north of England travel widely to speak in churches, prisons, schools, and at festivals and literary events in the UK and around the world.

Alex Loyd

Dr Alexander Loyd, PhD, ND, is the international bestselling author of The Love Code (hardcover title Beyond Willpower, Harmony, 2015) and The Healing Code (Grand Central Life & Style, 2011). He has been featured live on NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox, and PBS news programs as an expert in healing the source issues underlying illness and disease. Dr Alex lectures all over the world in person and on radio, Internet, and television, with approximately 150 speaking engagements a year. With little money and no advertising, he built the largest practice of its kind in the world, with hundreds of thousands of clients in 50 states and 167 countries (and counting). He lives in Leipers Fork, Tennessee, with his wife Hope and sons Harry and George.

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 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.

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.

Caitlín Matthews

Caitlín and John Matthews are the co-authors of the Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom and Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Legend. Caitlín is acknowledged as a world authority on Celtic wisdom and the ancestral traditions of Britain, while John has produced nearly 100 books on Arthurian legend. They live in Oxford.

Calgary Avansino

Calgary Avansino is a journalist and healthy living advocate. Born in California, Calgary now lives and works in London and writes a wellness column for Vogue, where she is a contributing editor. She also writes a healthy living column for The Sunday Times Style magazine. A mum of three, Calgary has a big social media following and is well-known for being at the cutting edge of health, well-being and lifestyle trends. Her own website, www.calgaryavansino.com has become a mecca for anyone interested in reading about and learning about enhancing their health.

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.

Christine Wilding

Christine Wilding's (Kent, England) books on CBT have sold over 50,000 copies. She holds a postgraduate diploma in CBT from the University of London, is an accredited member of the British Association of Counselling, is a member of the steering committee set up to develop guidelines for the treatment of depression within the NHS, and is in-demand as a leader of CBT-based training courses.

Clover Stroud

Clover Stroud is a writer and journalist writing for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, and Conde Nast Traveller, among others. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and five children.

Donal Skehan

Donal Skehan has been cooking since age four when he flipped his first pancake! Inspired by a family of passionate foodies, cooking and eating hearty home cooked food has always been a way of life. Donal is the author of seven cookbooks; Fresh was named as one of Good Food magazine's Top 10 cookbooks of the year. He's the host of Saturday Kitchen, star of cookery shows on RTE and The Food Network, and has his own hit YouTube channel. Donal was born and raised in Dublin and is currently living in LA.

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.

Fiona Mitchell

Fiona Mitchell is an award-winning writer and has worked as a journalist for many years. She spent almost three years living in Singapore and now lives in London with her husband and daughter. The Maid's Room is her first novel.

Gavin Extence

Gavin Extence lives in Sheffield with his wife and children. He has written two previous novels, the Richard and Judy bestseller, THE UNIVERSE VERSUS ALEX WOODS and THE MIRROR WORLD OF MELODY BLACK, which was described as 'a cross between Bridget Jones' Diary and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by a Simon Mayo Book Club reviewer.

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.

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.

Hazel Wallace

Dr Hazel Wallace is the girl behind The Food Medic, a blog she set up in 2013 as a platform to show people that eating healthy and staying fit can be enjoyable, uncomplicated and easy to incorporate into an everyday busy lifestyle.Hazel is a UK based health and fitness blogger, social media influencer, qualified personal trainer and Junior Doctor. She graduated in 2012 with a first class degree in Medical Sciences, going on to gain a graduate degree in Medicine (MBBCH) in 2016. She now works as a Junior Doctor in London and The Food Medic is her first book.@thefoodmedicwww.hazelwallace.co.uk

Iain Maitland

Iain Maitland has been a professional writer since 1987. He has written over 50 books, mainly on business, and been published as far away as Russia, India, Japan, USA and Australia. He has also written for the Sunday Times, Which? and the Financial Times amongst many others.

Ian McGeechan

Sir Ian McGeechan has excelled at every level of the modern rugby game. One of the best centres ever to put on a Scottish shirt, he won 32 caps for his country, and 8 for the Lions - he was a core element of Willie John McBride's all-conquering 1974 Lions tour in South Africa. Turning his hand to coaching, he coached Headingley from 1980-83 and was involved in coaching Scotland U21s and Scotland Bs before taking over as head coach of his national team in 1985. He quickly adapted their playing style to their free-running strengths. Against all odds, they prized the Grand-Slam from England in 1990. Moving back to the club game Ian coached Northampton Saints from 1994-99 and Wasps from 2000-05 The true highlight of 'Geech's' coaching career has to be the sensational 1997 Lions tour to South Africa, where a 2-1 victory was won against arguably the toughest team in the world on their home turf. He has been head coach on four separate occasions, most recently 2009 and coached the mid-week side in 2005. In 2010 he was knighted for services to Rugby.

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.