Related to: 'Walking to Jerusalem'

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.

Ben Coates

Ben Coates was born in Britain in 1982, lives in Rotterdam with his Dutch wife, and now works for an international charity. During his career he has been a political advisor, corporate speechwriter, lobbyist and aid worker. He has written articles for numerous publications including the Guardian, Financial Times and Huffington Post. ben-coates.com

Henry Hemming

Henry Hemming lives in London, UK.

John Mole

John Mole has been at home in Greece for thirty years. "Like Odysseus making his legendary way home to his birthplace Ithaca, the island of Evia was the goal of my life's journey. It was better than Birmingham." He has had a varied international career, from banking in the USA and Athens to jacket potato restaurants in Russia. Meanwhile, he published comic novels and management books, including the perennial bestseller 'Mind Your Manners'.

Juliane Koepcke

Juliane Koepcke whose married name is Diller was born in 1954 and grew up in Lima and the rain forest, where her parents founded the Panguana research station. She earned a doctoral degree in biology and works for the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology in Munich. She returns to Peru every year. Her incredible story was documented in the film Wings of Hope, directed by Werner Herzog.

Levison Wood

Levison Wood is an award-winning author, explorer and photographer who specialises in documenting people and cultures in remote regions and post-conflict zones. His work has taken him around the world leading expeditions on five continents and he is an elected fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and the Explorers Club.Levison's second book, Walking the Himalayas, was voted Adventure Travel Book of the Year at the Edward Stanford Travel Writing Awards and his other books, Walking the Nile and Walking the Americas, were both Sunday Times bestsellers. He has presented several critically acclaimed documentaries including From Russia to Iran: Crossing the Wild Frontier where he re-traced part of his Silk Road adventures in a four-part series for Channel 4.

Lucy Neville

Lucy Neville was born in 1983. After completing school she worked as a volunteer on an indigenous reserve in Costa Rica. Returning to Australia she did an Arts Degree in Politics and Latin American Studies before travelling to Spain to study teaching English as a foreign language. From there she continued to Mexico City where she has been living, teaching English, exploring and performing in a minor role in one of Mexico s biggest soap operas, Tequila Loving.

Monisha Rajesh

Monisha Rajesh is a British journalist at The Week UK. After graduating with a postgraduate diploma from City University's journalism school she has worked as an arts and travel writer.In 2006 she was nominated for the PTC New Consumer Monthly Journalist of the Year and has written for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The New York Times and TIME magazine.

Nicholas Jubber

Nicholas Jubber moved to Jerusalem after graduating from Oxford University. He'd been working two weeks when the intifada broke out and he started planning to travel the Middle East and East Africa. He has written two previous books, The Prester Quest (winner of the Dolman Prize) and Drinking Arak Off an Ayatollah's Beard (shortlisted for the Dolman Prize). He has written for the Guardian, Observer, and the Globe and Mail.

Nick Hunt

Nick Hunt has walked and written across much of Europe. His articles have appeared in the Economist, the Guardian and other publications, and he also works as a storyteller and co-editor for the Dark Mountain Project. His first book, Walking the Woods and the Water (Nicholas Brealey, 2014), was a finalist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year. He currently lives in Bristol.

Oliver Tearle

Oliver Tearle is a lecturer in English at Loughborough University and the founder of the popular blog Interesting Literature: A Library of Literary Interestingness. He is the author of two academic books, Bewilderments of Vision: Hallucination and Literature, 1880-1914 and T. E. Hulme and Modernism, as well as the co-editor of Crrritic!. His proudest achievement is coining the word 'bibliosmia' to describe the smell of old books, although his suggested neologism for writer's block, 'colygraphia', is yet to take the world by storm.

Patrick Leigh Fermor

In December 1933, at the age of eighteen, Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011) walked across Europe, reaching Constantinople in early 1935. He travelled on into Greece, where in Athens he met Balasha Cantacuzene, with whom he lived - mostly in Rumania - until the outbreak of war. Serving in occupied Crete, he led a successful operation to kidnap a German general, for which he won the DSO and was once described by the BBC as 'a cross between Indiana Jones, James Bond and Graham Greene'. After the war he began writing, and travelled extensively round Greece with Joan Eyres Monsell whom he later married. Towards the end of his life he wrote the first two books about his early trans-European odyssey, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. He planned a third, unfinished at the time of his death in 2011, which has since been edited by Colin Thubron and Artemis Cooper and published as The Broken Road.

Paul Carter

Paul Carter was born in England in 1969. His father's military career had the family moving all over the world, relocating every few years. Paul has worked in the oil industry now for fifteen years, relocating every few years (old habits). Paul has lived, worked, gotten into trouble and been given a serious talking to in England, Scotland, Germany, France, Holland, Norway, Portugal, Tunisia, Australia, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, Malaysia, Borneo, Columbia, Vietnam, Thailand, Papua New Guinea, Sumatra, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, China, USA and Saudi Arabia. Today he lives in Perth with his wife, baby daughter and two motorbikes. But who knows where he'll be tomorrow . . .

Peter Allison

Only 19 when he left Australia, Peter Allison arrived in Africa thinking he'd have a short holiday before going home to a 'proper job'. But Peter ended up falling in love with the continent and its wildlife, and after a few years was hired by Southern Africa's largest safari operator to train all their experts; over a decade later, his short holiday in Africa still isn't over.

Sally Howard

Sally Howard is a travel and human-interest journalist who writes regularly on India for some of the world s most prestigious media, including The Sunday Times, the Telegraph, and Forbes. She spends at least six months of the year on the road, primarily in South and East Asia from where she has reported on such diverse issues as the re-emergence of concubines in booming Beijing to the rise of the Indian love marriage.

Sarah Outen

Sarah Outen is a British adventurer, motivational speaker and author. In November 2015 Sarah completed her London2London: Via the World expedition, which saw her attempt to kayak, cycle and row 25,000 miles around the Northern Hemisphere. The journey took 4.5 years and was all the richer for not turning out exactly as had been planned.www.sarahouten.com@SarahOuten

Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty-one novels since. They include Schindler's Ark, which won the Booker Prize in 1982 and was subsequently made into the film Schindler's List, and The Chant Of Jimmie Blacksmith, Confederates and Gossip From The Forest, each of which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. His most recent novels are The Daughters Of Mars, which was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize in 2013, Shame and the Captives and Crimes of the Father. He has also written several works of non-fiction, including his memoir Homebush Boy, Searching for Schindler and Australians. He is married with two daughters and lives in Sydney.

Tom Chesshyre

Tom Chesshyre is a staff travel writer for The Times and regularly travelled around the world to glamorous locations. Then he wrote this book.

Tom Parry

Tom Parry is a journalist on the Daily Mirror. He has written travel essays for Traveller, France and Global Adventure. He first hitchhiked around Australia at the age of 18.

Tristan Gooley

Tristan Gooley is a writer, navigator and explorer. Through his journeys, teaching and writing, he has pioneered a renaissance in the rare art of natural navigation.Tristan has led expeditions in five continents and is the only living person to have both flown solo and sailed singlehanded across the Atlantic. He has explored close to home and walked with and studied the methods of tribal peoples in some of the remotest regions on Earth.

Vanessa Able

Vanessa Able began her travel writing career as a correspondent for an English-language weekly in post-Saddam Iraq. She then settled in Turkey where she became Editor in Chief of Time Out Istanbul, and she has also written for The Observer, National Geographic Traveler, Esquire and The New York Times. Her love affair with travel and driving continued as she drove a Yugo through Serbia, a Chevy through the American deserts to the Pacific coast and a pimped-out Jeep Grand Cherokee in the abysmal traffic of Mexico City. Vanessa now lives between Rome and Jersey with her husband (Thor!). Follow her on Twitter: @vanessable