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.

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.

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 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.

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.

Melvyn Bragg

Melvyn Bragg is a writer and broadcaster whose first novel, For Want of a Nail, was published in 1965. His novels since include The Maid of Buttermere, The Soldier's Return, Credo and Now is the Time, which won the Parliamentary Book Award for fiction in 2016. His books have also been awarded the Time/Life Silver Pen Award, the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the WHSmith Literary Award, and have been longlisted three times for the Booker Prize (including the Lost Man Booker Prize). He has also written several works of non-fiction, including The Adventure of English and The Book of Books about the King James Bible. He lives in London and Cumbria.

Michael Lloyd

Michael Lloyd is the Principal of Wycliffe Hall in Oxford. He wrote his doctrol thesis on the problem of evil - giving him the infamous name amond his students, Dr Evil. Michael has taught theology at Oxford and Cambridge universities, and airs his views on the GodPodcast.

Paula Gooder

Dr Paula Gooder is a writer and lecturer in Biblical Studies. Her research areas focus on the writings of the apostle Paul, with a particular focus on 2 Corinthians and on Paul's understanding of the body. Her passion is to ignite people's enthusiasm for reading the Bible today, by presenting the best of biblical scholarship in an accessible and interesting way. Paula is Director for Mission Learning and Development in the Birmingham Diocese for the Church of England.

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.

Philip Yancey

Philip Yancey is one of the most popular and acclaimed religious writers of our day. His searching and refreshingly honest books, which include FINDING GOD IN UNEXPECTED PLACES, SOUL SURVIVOR, PRAYER and WHAT GOOD IS GOD? have encouraged and inspired millions of people around the world.With a background in journalism, Philip admits that he prefers to ask the questions instead of answer them. This has led him through a path of re-discovering his faith and sharing that publicly through his writing in some of the most heart-felt and tried ways imaginable. A true wordsmith, a curator of language, Philip tackles difficult issues with an approach of 'this is what I've wrestled with and how I got through it so perhaps you might find it helpful too' making his reading incredibly engaging. Philip admits that he lost his faith in a racist church and made a living out of being a doubter and sceptic. After he came back to his faith, he wrote books about his journey by 'circling the edges' of common issues and eventually moving on to topics like Jesus, grace and most recently prayer.Billy Graham has said that there is no one in the evangelical world whom he admires more.

Riad Sattouf

RIAD SATTOUF is a bestselling cartoonist and filmmaker who grew up in Syria and Libya and now lives in Paris.The author of four comics series in France and a former contributor to the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo, Sattouf is now a weekly columnist for l'Obs. He also directed the films The French Kissers (winner of a César Award for Best First Film) and Jacky in the Women's Kingdom.The Arab of the Future - which was awarded the Fauve d'Or Prize for Best Album of the Year at the Angoulême International Comics Festival and has been translated into twenty languages - is his first work to appear in English.riadsattouf.com @RiadSattouf

Rob Parsons

Rob Parsons is the bestselling author of THE SIXTY MINUTE GRANDPARENT, TEENAGERS! and THE SIXTY MINUTE FATHER. He speaks internationally on family issues and is the Executive Chairman of Care for the Family, a charity committed to strengthening family life and helping others who are hurting due to family breakdown.Care for the Family, launched by Rob in 1988, is a registered charity and its work is motivated by Christian compassion. The resources and support it provides are available to everyone, of any faith or none.Rob lives in Cardiff with his wife Dianne. They have two adult children and four grandchildren.

T.D. Jakes

T.D. Jakes, one of the world's most widely recognized pastors, is the bestselling author of Woman Thou Art Loosed and sixteen other popular books. He has inspired millions through his speaking tours, and his television show, 'The Potter's Touch', airs weekly on Trinity Broadcast Network. The senior pastor of The Potter's House, a multiracial, nondenominational church, Bishop Jakes lives in Dallas, Texas, with his wife and five children.

Thomas Keneally

Thomas Keneally began his writing career in 1964 and has published thirty 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, and Shame and the Captives. 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.

Timothy Keller

Timothy Keller was born in Pennsylvania and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He became a Christian at university, was ordained by the Presbyterian Church in America and worked as a pastor for nine years.He was asked to start Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan in 1989, and under his leadership the church's congregation experienced unprecedented growth from 50 to 5,000 members. His target audience consists mainly of urban professionals, whom he believes exhibit disproportionate influence over the culture and its ideas.The 'Influentials' Issue of New York Magazine featured Dr. Keller as "the most successful Christian evangelist in the city by recognizing that young professionals and artists are 'disproportionately influential' in creating the country's culture and that you have to meet this coveted demographic on its own terms."Timothy Keller is renowned for his clear, reasoned approach to Christian apologetics and his book THE REASON FOR GOD: BELIEF IN AN AGE OF SCEPTICISM was named Book of the Year for 2008 by World Magazine.Timothy Keller lives in New York City with his wife Kathy and sons David, Michael and Jonathan.