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.

Andrew Michael Hurley

Andrew Michael Hurley has lived in Manchester and London, and is now based in Lancashire. His first novel, The Loney, was originally published by Tartarus Press, a tiny independent publisher based in Yorkshire, as a 300-copy limited-edition, before being republished by John Murray and going on to win the Costa Best First Novel Award and Book of the Year at the British Book Industry Awards in 2016.

Anne Buist

Anne Buist is chair of Women's Mental Health at the University of Melbourne and author of the psychological thrillers, Medea's Curse, Dangerous to Know and This I Would Kill For. annebuist.comfacebook.com/anneebuist@anneebuist

Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman is the author of Red Hook Road, Love and Treasure and the New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was made into a film starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays have been published in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including the New York Times, Vogue, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.She and her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, live in Berkeley, California, with their four children.ayeletwaldman.comtwitter.com/ayeletwfacebook.com/ayeletwaldman

Beth Redman

Beth Redman is a writer and teacher who heads up Soul Sista, a unique ministry affiliated to Soul Survivor that encourages teenage girls in their walk with God. Author of SOUL SISTA: HOW TO BE A GIRL OF GOD, she is married to singer/songwriter Matt Redman.

Clarissa Dickson Wright

Clarissa Dickson Wright found fame alongside Jennifer Paterson as one half of the much-loved TV cooking partnership Two Fat Ladies. She is the author of the bestselling memoir Spilling the Beans as well as many cookery books including The Game Cookbook and, most recently, Potty - her one-pot cookbook. She is also a passionate supporter of the Countryside Alliance and of rural life. She lives a little in London but mostly in Scotland.

Diccon Bewes

Diccon Bewes is a travel writer. A world trip set him up for a career in travel writing, via the scenic route of bookselling. After ten years at Lonely Planet and Holiday Which? Magazine, he decamped to Switzerland, where he managed the Stauffacher English Bookshop in Bern. In addition to grappling with German, re-learning to cross the road properly, and overcoming his desires to form an orderly line, he has spent years exploring Switzerland. Following the incredible success of Swiss Watching he is now a full time writer. See his website at www.dicconbewes.com

Eugene Peterson

Eugene Peterson is a pastor, author, scholar and poet. He grew up in Montana and earned his B.A. in philosophy from Seattle Pacific University, his S.T.B. from New York Theological Seminary, and his M.A. in Semitic languages from Johns Hopkins University. He served as a pastor for 29 years and then became Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, retiring in 2006.Eugene Peterson is perhaps best known for his book THE MESSAGE: THE BIBLE IN CONTEMPORARY LANGUAGE and is also known for his involvement in the Renovaré spiritual formation movement. The books in his spiritual theology series, including THE JESUS WAY and PRACTISE RESURRECTION, are widely acclaimed.Now retired from full-time teaching, Eugene and his wife Jan live in the Big Sky Country of rural Montana.

Graeme Simsion

Graeme Simsion is the internationally bestselling author of The Rosie Project, The Rosie Effect and The Best of Adam Sharp. graemesimsion.comfacebook.com/GraemeSimsionAuthor@GraemeSimsion

Helen Brown

Helen Brown is a New Zealander living in Melbourne, where she's a multi-award winning columnist with a huge following. Helen wrote Cleo, the story of the family cat chosen by her son who was 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 is titled Cats and Daughters (in hardback) and After Cleo in paperback and ebook. The film based on Cleo is currently in pre-production. Website: www.helenbrown.com.au

J R Moehringer

J R Moehringer is a Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist who has written for the Los Angeles Times and many others. He lives in Denver, Colorado.

Jo Saxton

Born and raised in London, Jo Saxton worked at St Thomas' Church, Sheffield before moving to southern California, where she lives with her pastor husband Chris and two daughters. She works as a church consultant and leadership coach, and is a regular speaker at the Soul Survivor and Momentum summer festivals.

Jo Swinney

Jo Swinney is an author and speaker and a regular contributor to the website Christian Today. She works as the Director of Church Communications for CPO, working on developing partnerships and resources for church outreach. She lives in southwest London with her husband, an Anglican clergyman, and their two children.

Jonathan Sacks

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks is a global religious leader, philosopher, the author of more than twenty-five books, and a moral voice for our time. Described by H.R.H The Prince of Wales as 'a light unto this nation', he is a frequent and respected contributor to radio, television and the press both in Britian and around the world.Admired by non-Jews as much as Jews, by secular as well as religious thinkers, and equally at home in the university and the yeshiva, Rabbi Sacks served as Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth from 1991 until 2013. He read Philosophy at Cambridge before pursuing postgraduate studies at New College, Oxford and King's College, London.

Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort was born in Queens, New York. He hustled ices to put himself through college, showing early entrepreneurial flair. His first business sent him bankrupt at twenty-four so he went down to Wall St with $100 in his pocket and ended up building one of the largest brokerages in America - the now infamous Stratton Oakmont. A hard partying lifestyle ended in crash and burn. Ultimately indicted by the federal government, Belfort served twenty-two months in prison, and time in rehab. He's now a highly successful motivational speaker.His story has been made into a Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.He is currently living in Los Angeles.

Joyce Meyer

Joyce Meyer is the bestselling author of more than 100 inspirational books, including The Power of Simple Prayer, Approval Addiction, Power Thoughts and Battlefield of the Mind. Joyce's 'Enjoying Everyday Life' radio and television programmes are broadcast around the world, and she travels extensively conducting conferences.

Justin Butcher

Justin Butcher read Classics Greats at Oxford, trained subsequently at Drama Studio London, and has worked all over the world as actor, writer, director and musician in a vast range of roles and productions in theatre, television, radio and film. He has worked extensively as creative consultant in the business, government and voluntary sectors, across the UK and Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Africa.

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.

Laura Jane Williams

Laura Jane Williams has written about love, lust, and her feelings everywhere from The Guardian to Buzzfeed to RED, to the Telegraph, Stylist and more, and from September 2016 - February 2017 was Grazia's single girl dating columnist. She is the author of heartbreak memoir BECOMING, Marie Claire's #BREAKFREE from Fear ambassador, and blogs about being 'messily human' at www.superlativelyrude.com

Maggi Dawn

After spending a number of years working as a singer, writer and musician in the field of contemporary music, Maggi Dawn was ordained into the Anglican Church in 1999. Having been Chaplain and Fellow at Robinson College, Cambridge, she is now Dean of Marquand Chapel and Associate Professor at Yale Divinity School. An occasional broadcaster for BBC Radio 4 Religion, she is a regular speaker at Greenbelt Festival and a wide range of venues around the world. Her books include Beginnings, Giving it up and THE WRITING ON THE WALL.

New International Version

The New International Version is the world's most popular modern English Bible translation. Developed by Biblica, formerly the International Bible Society, the New International Version is the result of years of work by the Committee on Bible Translation, overseeing the efforts of many contributing scholars. The translators are drawn from a wide range of denominations and from various countries and they continually review new research in order to ensure the NIV remains at the forefront of accessibility, relevance and authority.www.hodderbibles.co.uk www.facebook.com/NIVBibles