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.

Billy Graham

No one else in the religious world carries the same respect of international leaders or has the same stature as the American evangelist Billy Graham. He has been the friend of presidents, he has been welcomed by heads of state throughout the world, and in Britain he has had the privilege on several occasions of preaching before the Queen.

Craig Storti

Craig Storti is founder and co-director of Communicating Across Cultures, a Washington DC-based intercultural communication training and consulting firm. With work appearing in the Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Chicago Tribune, he is the author of six books. Having lived nearly a quarter of his life abroad, he lives now in Maryland. www.craigstorti.com

David Bramwell

David is the creator of the bestselling Cheeky Guides and author of travel memoir The No9 Bus to Utopia, ("packed with wisdom, humour and pathos." Tom Hodgkinson, Idler), which has since evolved into an award-winning one man show, Radio 3 documentary and TEDx talk. David is a presenter on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 and has made programs on subjects ranging from time travel to Ivor Cutler. In 2011 he won a Sony Silver Award for The Haunted Moustache. He is a regular contributor to Ernest Journal, co-hosts the Odditorium podcast and has written books on alcohol and hard words for Harper Collins. "A remarkable storyteller." (Radio Times).

David Mitchell

Born in 1969, David Mitchell grew up in Worcestershire. After graduating from Kent University, he taught English in Japan, where he wrote his first novel, Ghostwritten. Published in 1999, it was awarded the Mail on Sunday John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award. His second novel, number9dream, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and in 2003, David Mitchell was selected as one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists. His third novel, Cloud Atlas, was shortlisted for six awards including the Man Booker Prize, and adapted for film in 2012. It was followed by Black Swan Green, shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award, and The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which was a No. 1 Sunday Times bestseller. Both were also longlisted for the Booker. In 2013, The Reason I Jump: One Boy's Voice From the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida was published in a translation from the Japanese by David Mitchell and KA Yoshida. It was an immediate bestseller in the UK and later in the US as well.

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.

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 north London.

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.

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 Grindrod

John Grindrod grew up on 'the last road in London' on Croydon's New Addington housing estate, surrounded by the Green Belt. He is the author of Concretopia: A Journey Around the Rebuilding of Postwar Britain, described by the Independent on Sunday as 'a new way of looking at modern Britain'. He has written for the Guardian, Financial Times, Big Issue and The Modernist and has worked as a bookseller and publisher for over twenty-five years. He runs the popular website dirtymodernscoundrel.com and can be contacted on Twitter @Grindrod.

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.

Justin Lee

Justin Lee is the founder and executive director of The Gay Christian Network (GCN), a non-profit, interdenominational organisation working to increase dialogue between gays and Christians and support people on both sides wrestling with related issues. A passionate Christian from a conservative evangelical background, Justin thought he knew everything there was to know about the Christian approach to homosexuality - until unexpected events turned his world upside down and forced him to reconsider everything he believed. Today, his organisation works with individuals, families and churches to stop the debate from tearing people apart.

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

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.

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.

Naoki Higashida

Naoki Higashida was born in Kimitsu, Japan in 1992. He was diagnosed with severe autism in 1998 and subsequently attended a school for students with special needs, then (by correspondence) Atmark Cosmopolitan High School, graduating in 2011. Having learnt to use a method of communication based on an alphabet grid, Naoki wrote The Reason I Jump when he was thirteen and it was published in Japan in 2007. He has published several books since, from autobiographical accounts about living with autism to fairy tales, poems and illustrated books, and writes a regular blog. Despite his communication challenges, he also gives presentations about life on the autistic spectrum throughout Japan and works to raise awareness about autism. In 2011 he appeared in director Gerry Wurzburg's documentary on the subject, Wretches & Jabberers.

Nick Page

Nick Page is the author of over sixty books, including The Bible Book, What Happened to the Ark of the Covenant and Other Bible Mysteries, The HarperCollins Atlas of Bible History (editor) and most recently, THE WRONG MESSIAH. Follow Nick Page on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NickofEynsham and visit his website at: http://nickpage.co.uk

Nicky Gumbel

Nicky Gumbel is the pioneer of Alpha. Alpha is an international organisation that runs the Alpha Course which is a series of sessions exploring the Christian faith. Nicky read law at Cambridge and theology at Oxford, practised as a barrister and is now vicar of HTB in London.@nickygumbel