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

A former childcare worker, Adrian Plass is now one of the most prolific and most-loved Christian writers in the UK. He is the bestselling author of The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass Aged 37¾ - this and its various sequels have sold millions of copies around the world. A somewhat bemused Anglican, Adrian and his wife Bridget live in Yorkshire and recently spent two years as part of the Scargill Community as well as continuing to speak in churches, prisons, schools, festivals and literary events in the UK and around the world.

Boyd Robertson

Professor Boyd Robertson is Principal of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, Scotland's Gaelic College on the Isle of Skye.

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.

Elisabeth Smith

Elisabeth Smith was born and educated in Germany. She studied English at Hamburg University with a teaching career in mind, and well before EU days was offered her first assignment at a London prep school. While on contract in Africa she became sidetracked by commerce. She spent the next ten years learning about printing and publishing in Zambia before joining a publishing house in Johannesburg where she ultimately became the company's chief executive. In spite of climbing the corporate ladder she never lost her interest and skills in teaching languages. During the last 30 years she has taught French to English children, English to Zambian students, German at evening classes and Italian to her daughter "just for fun".Since moving to Spain she had to learn Spanish in a hurry - cutting across traditional learning methods. This gave her the inspiration for thehighly successful "Teach Yourself Instant..." series currently offering eight titles with a further four to be published in early 2001.Elisabeth Smith now lives in Marbella like a "proper" author with a volatile PC and two cats.

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.

Iain Taylor

Iain Taylor has worked with Scottish television and the Scottish Examination Board.

Jeff Lucas

Jeff Lucas is an international author, speaker and broadcaster based in England and Colorado, USA, where he is teaching pastor at Timberline Church. In his books and when speaking his aim is always to share helpful, practical Bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. His latest books include Faith in the Fog and There Are No Strong People.

Joan Bomford

Joan Bomford, 83, who lives near Evesham in Worcestershire, has been farming since the 1930s. She continues to be very active on the farm today - driving tractors and feeding the animals. In 2015 she was named BBC Countryfile's Farming Hero 2015.

John Young

John Young is a Canon of York Minster, and is perhaps best-known as the author of the classic THE CASE AGAINST CHRIST.

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.

Leelo Kingisepp

Mare Kitsnik is simultaneously a freelance teacher of Estonian as a second language and a freelance author of Estonian study materials and training programmes. Many of her study guides have been published.Leelo Kingisepp is a highly experienced teacher and teacher-trainer of Estonian as a second language; he has lectured extensively in this field at university level, and has also taught English and Finnish. He is an established author of many titles aimed at providing guidance to second language teachers, and has written in-depth Estonian coursebooks and textbooks.

Lois Pryce

Lois Pryce is a journalist and speaker and has written for the Telegraph, Independent, New York Times, CNN and the Guardian and is a contributing editor for Overland Journal. She was named by the Telegraph as one of the 10 Great Female Travellers and is the author of two other bestselling books about her adventures by motorcycle.

Michel Thomas

Michel Thomas (1914-2005) had an amazing life. Born in Poland, he spent his early years in Germany and then in France, where he studied psychology at the Sorbonne in Paris. When war broke out, he fought with the Resistance and suffered imprisonment in labour camps. At the end of the war he joined the US liberation army and later settled in the US where he established his world-famous language school. Languages, being his strength and passion became the focus of the next 50 years of his life that he spent developing a method that he hoped would change the way we teach and learn - so that everyone could succeed. He developed this method 'that works with the brain'. After creating several courses of his own, he passed on his method so that other teachers might use it too.

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

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.

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

Paul Ferris

Paul Ferris was a teenage prodigy, becoming Newcastle United's youngest-ever player in 1982, only for injury to ensure his promise went unfulfilled. He later returned to the club as a physiotherapist before earning a Master's degree and beginning a successful quest to qualify as a barrister. But the lure of football was always strong and he went back for a third spell at Newcastle, as Head of the Medical Department, again working closely with a host of big-name players and managers. Paul also became a novelist and now runs a successful health and fitness business.

Pete Greig

Pete Greig is a writer, church-planter and bewildered founder of the 24-7 movement. He heads up Emmaus Rd in Guildford with his wife Sammy, serves as Vice-President for the NGO Tearfund and was part of the senior leadership team at HTB in London for seven years. Pete's publications include Red Moon Rising, God on Mute and The Prayer Course. He loves art galleries, live music and knocking down walls. Pete tweets regularly @petegreig

Peter Stanford

Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident; Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle; The Devil - A Biography; Heaven - A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country; and The She-Pope, an investigation of the Pope Joan legend. His other books include biographies of Bronwen Astor, Lord Longford and the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis, plus the polemical Catholics and Sex that became an award-winning Channel 4 series in 1992. He is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, where he is a columnist. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.

Ranulph Fiennes

Sir Ranulph Fiennes was the first man to reach both poles by surface travel and the first to cross the Antarctic Continent unsupported. In the 1960s he was removed from the SAS Regiment for misuse of explosives but, joining the army of the Sultan of Oman, received that country's Bravery Medal on active service in 1971. He is the only person yet to have been awarded two clasps to the Polar medal for both Antarctic and the Arctic regions. Fiennes has led over 30 expeditions including the first polar circumnavigation of the Earth, and in 2003 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents in aid of the British Heart Foundation.In 1993 Her Majesty the Queen awarded Fiennes the Order of the British Empire (OBE) because, on the way to breaking records, he has raised over £14 million for charity. He was named Best Sportsman in the 2007 ITV Great Briton Awards and in 2009 he became the oldest Briton to reach the summit of Everest.