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.

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.

Allan Hall

Allan Hall was formerly a New York correspondent for 10 years, first for The Sun and later the Daily Mirror. He then co-founded the Big Apple News media agency and has covered German-speaking Europe for the last eight years for newspapers including The Times, and the Mail on Sunday. He has written a number of books including serveral encyclopedias of crime. He lives and works in Berlin. Michael Leidig has been covering Austrian affairs for the Daily Telegraph as a foreign correspondent since 1995. He is founder of the Vienna-based news agency, Central European News, and founder and editor of three Austrian newspapers including the newly launched Austrian Times. Allan Hall was formerly a New York correspondent for 10 years, first for The Sun and later the Daily Mirror. He then co-founded the Big Apple News media agency and has covered German-speaking Europe for the last eight years for newspapers including The Times, and the Mail on Sunday. He has written a number of books including serveral encyclopedias of crime. He lives and works in Berlin.Michael Leidig has been covering Austrian affairs for the Daily Telegraph as a foreign correspondent since 1995. He is founder of the Vienna-based news agency, Central European News, and founder and editor of three Austrian newspapers including the newly launched Austrian Times.

Charles R. Cross

Charles R. Cross was the editor of The Rocket, northwest America's leading music magazine, from 1986 to 2000. He is now a freelance writer and journalist writing for diverse publications from The Times to Rolling Stone. His book, Room Full of Mirrors: A Biography of Jimi Hendrix, is also published by Sceptre. He lives in Seattle with his family.

David Shimwell

David Shimwell is a botanist and a close family friend of the Durrells. He graduated from Durham University with degrees in botany and vegetation ecology and has had a lifelong career lecturing in botany, biogeography and environmental conservation at the universities of Hull and Manchester.

Don Stephens

Don Stephens is the founder and president of the international charity Mercy Ships. The charity currently operates the world's largest civilian hospital ship; The Africa Mercy. This astonishing ship takes relief and development to the port cities of some of the world's poorest countries. Every year, Mercy Ships' doctors perform more than two thousand complex operations that transform people's lives in areas where up to half the population has no access to basic health care.

Gino D'Acampo

Gino was born in Napoli in the south of Italy into a large family. The food they ate was very traditional - simple recipes based on fresh and healthy fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.'My grandfather said that a good recipe doesn't need many ingredients because if the ingredients are good quality and full of flavour, why do you have to cover up or change their taste'. This is a philosophy Gino has stuck to since he first started in the kitchen. After training at the Luigi de Medici Catering College, Gino came to London at 19 and worked at The Orchard Restaurant in Hampstead and then at the Cambio restaurant in Surrey.Working with Tesco on their Finest range led to his first TV appearance on Great Food Live on UKTV Food and a TV chef was born! With a cheeky smile and exceptional talent, he was well on the way to becoming one of the UKs most popular chefs.Gino is the author of several best-selling books including Fantastico!, Gino's Pasta, Italian Home Baking and Gino's Italian Escape.He is married to Jessica and they have three children, Luciano, Rocco and Mia.

Glen David Gold

Glen David Gold was born and grew up in California, where he currently lives. His first novel, CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL was published in 2001, when it was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award, and has been translated into 14 languages. His second novel, SUNNYSIDE, was published in 2009. His short stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Playboy and McSweeney's.

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

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She's the author of many books, including the New York Times bestsellers, Better Than Before and The Happiness Project. A member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, in more than 35 languages; and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. She also has an award-winning podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.gretchenrubin.com twitter | facebook | instagram

Helen Brown

Helen Brown is a New Zealander living in Melbourne. She wrote Cleo to tell the story of the family cat chosen by her son who was tragically 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 titled After Cleo is available in paperback and ebook. The film based on Cleo is currently in pre-production. Website: www.helenbrown.com.au

James Bowen

James Bowen is the author of the bestselling A Street Cat Named Bob and The World According to Bob. He found Bob the cat in 2007 and the pair have been inseparable ever since. They both live in London.

James Frey

James Frey is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His books A Million Little Pieces, My Friend Leonard, Bright Shiny Morning and The Final Testament of the Holy Bible have all been bestsellers around the world. He is married and lives in New York.

Jenny Meldrum

Jenny Meldrum lives in Sussex with her husband, three children and Isla, her greedy black Labrador. She paints from her studio (posh word for shed) in her garden, eternally distracted by wild rabbits, moorhens, deerand a particularly pesky heron. Despite her love of art since childhood, Jenny had no formal training and began her career as an actress, only returning to painting when her own children were at school. She has since privately exhibited seascapes and views of the South Downs. In 2016 she illustrated Miranda Hart's book Peggy and Me.

Jo Tinsley

Jo is the editor and publisher of Ernest Journal, an awardwinning digital and printed magazine for the curious and adventurous. It is a guide for those who appreciate true craftsmanship, slow adventure and eccentric history. She worked on the launch team for Countryfile magazine, launched and edited Pretty Nostalgic magazine and co-authored Wild Guide: Devon, Cornwall and South West. She writes regularly for Countryfile, The Simple Things,The Guardian, Independent and greentraveller.co.uk. She has hosted Bristol's Biggest Indoor Picnic and collaborated on events at Wilderness Festival, Port Eliot and Eroica Britannia.

John Van Sloten

John Van Sloten is a pastor, teacher and writer who lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. For the past 20 years he's been exploring a worldview that seeks to discern God's voice in all things: the Bible, the arts, sport, science, film, music, literature, history, maths, nature and human nature. John's first book, The Day Metallica Came to Church: Searching for the Everywhere God in Everything (Square Inch, August 2010), listened for God's whispers in pop culture. John has been the recipient of two John Templeton Foundation grants, exploring the intersection of faith and science in the context of preaching.

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.

Lee Durrell

Lee Durrell is Honorary Director of the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust and hasa PhD in zoology from Duke University specialising on animal vocalisations in Madagascar. She married Gerald in 1979 and worked with him on books and television series about nature and conservation over the next decade. In 2011 she was awarded the MBE for services to conservation.

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.