Related to: 'Get Fit and Get Happy'

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.

Aaron Gillies

Aaron Gillies, aka @TechnicallyRon on twitter, is a comedian and writer. He has been featured in and written for The Poke, Buzzfeed, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, amongst many others, and has produced viral content from 'Reasons my wife is crying' to 'a short guide to washing machine symbols' and 'a google autocompleted CV'. Aaron has written about mental health for many years in various publications.

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.

Dominique Antiglio

In her native Switzerland, Dominique discovered Sophrology at an early age. She arrived in London in 2011 where she now enjoys sharing her passion for Sophrology. She works with individual clients and guides group sessions, particularly in the corporate world.Dominique's work has been featured in the Telegraph, Grazia and Psychologies magazine. She also blogs for the Huffington Post.

Donna Dunning

Donna Dunning, PhD, is an author, consultant, certified teacher, and member of the MBTI ® International Training Faculty. She worked as a psychologist for over 20 years, specializing in the areas of career development, learning, and work performance. Donna is the author of more than a dozen publications. Her newest books are 10 Career Essentials and What's Your Type of Career? 2nd edition.

Dr Mike Shooter

Dr Mike Shooter CBE is a former President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and was the first child psychiatrist to hold that post. He is now an honorary fellow of six Royal Colleges and has spoken from public and professional platforms, written and advised governments in many parts of the world. An ex-journalist, Mike is a passionate believer in the power of stories and the need to share them - those of his patients and his own. He still lives in the Welsh Valleys, amidst a large family, many animals, and the community with whom he worked for more than 40 years.

Giovanna Fletcher

Giovanna grew up in Essex with her Italian dad Mario, mum Kim, big sister Giorgina and little brother Mario, and with family playing such a big part of her life it was only natural that she had always dreamed of having children of her own. Giovanna and her husband Tom Fletcher have two young sons Buzz and Buddy and share glimpses of their family life through their YouTube channels (giovannasworld) and on their social media (twitter: @mrsgifletcher, facebook: MrsGiFletcher and Instagram: mrsgifletcher). A bestselling novelist, actress, TV presenter, vlogger and blogger, Giovanna is most importantly a mum and her pledge to spread positivity wherever she goes has earned her a vast following.

Gordon Ramsay

Scottish by birth, Gordon was brought up in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. With an injury prematurely putting an end to any hopes of a promising career in football, he went back to college to complete a course in hotel management and his dedication and natural talent led him to train with some of world's leading chefs.In 1993 Gordon became chef of Aubergine in London and within three years was awarded two Michelin stars. In 1998, at the age of 31, Gordon set up his own restaurant, Restaurant Gordon Ramsay, which quickly received the most prestigious accolade in the culinary world - three Michelin stars. One of only four chefs in the UK to maintain three stars, Gordon was awarded an OBE in 2006 for services to the industry.Now internationally renowned, Gordon has opened a string of successful restaurants across the globe, from Italy to LA. 2011 has proved to be another exciting year and saw the opening of Bread Street Kitchen in London's City district, as well as a venture across the pond in Montreal, Canada.Gordon has become a star of the small screen both in the UK and internationally, with two top rated shows in the US. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Hell's Kitchen are both into their third and ninth series respectively, whilst his latest show, Masterchef US, is now in its second series and is proving to be another massive hit with viewers. Gordon has also published a number of books, many of which have become best sellers across the world, notably his autobiography, Roasting in Hell's Kitchen.Gordon lives with his wife and four children in South London, along with their two bulldogs Rumpole and Romeo.

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.com/gretchenrubin | facebook.com/GretchenRubin | instagram.com/gretchenrubin

Imi Lo

Imi Lo is an award-winning mental health professional with extensive and international experience. She started her career as a mental health Social Worker, and later qualified as a Clinical Psychotherapist, Art Therapist, and a Mindfulness Meditation Teacher. She has lived and worked in the UK, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Australia, and is an awardee of the Australian Government's International Endeavour Awards for academic and clinical excellence. She has worked in the NHS and charity setting, with more than 10 years of experience. She specialises in working with people with personality disorders, the LGBT population, and highly sensitive and gifted individuals.She is a faculty member of an UK Council for Psychotherapy accrediting institute and delivers lectures and workshops regularly for trainee therapists seeking accreditation, as well as supervising therapists as a clinical supervisor and mentor. Imi is the founder of Eggshell Therapy - a practice that is dedicated to serving emotionally intense people. Though it is based in London, her work has attracted interest and clients from all around the UK and the world.Imi wrote the introduction of the 'Art for Mindfulness' series for Harper Collins.

James Arthur

In December 2012, Middlesbrough born James Arthur won the X Factor and his debut single Impossible became the biggest winner's song of all time. After a two year break, in 2016 James made a triumphant return with his single Say You Won't Let Go which went on to become a smash hit around the world, reaching No. 1 on the Official UK Singles Chart, No. 1 on the Radio Airplay Chart in the USA, and picking up over 1.5 billion sales and streams globally. The album Back From The Edge followed, topping the Official Albums Chart in the UK, with global sales of over 1 million. Earlier this year, James was nominated for two awards at the prestigious BRIT Awards 2017 and went on to sell out multiple tours worldwide. Back to the Boy is James' first book. For more info on James, check out www.jamesarthurofficial.com.

James Haskell

James Haskell is an internationally renowned athlete and professional rugby player, with extensive experience of playing at the highest level all around the world. Well known for his performances on the pitch, it is James's elite athleticism and commanding physique that has seen him become one of the most recognisable sportsmen of his generation.James's rugby career has seen him play for leading teams in London, Paris, Japan and New Zealand, and to date he has earned 70 (and counting!) international caps for his country. His globetrotting endeavours have seen him work closely with some of the world's best coaches, trainers and nutritionists, allowing him to amass a wealth of knowledge that enables him to remain at the very top of his game. James's passion for nutrition and training has held the key to his continued success; and it is this burning passion that has seen the development of one of the most cutting-edge, dynamic fitness brands in the world today - James Haskell Health and Fitness.

Jonathan Wittenberg

Jonathan Wittenberg was born in Glasgow in 1957 to a family of German Jewish origin. The family moved to London in 1963, where he attended University College School, specialising in classical and modern languages, subsequently reading English at Cambridge. He trained for the rabbinate at Leo Baeck College London, receiving ordination in 1987. He now lives in London with his wife Nicky and, three children, and his faithful canine companion, Mitzpah.

Joshua Wolf Shenk

Joshua Wolf Shenk is an essayist, author, and curator based in Los Angeles. He is a contributor to Atlantic, Slate, Harper's and other magazines. His first book, Lincoln's Melancholy, was a New York Times notable book and won prizes from the Lincoln Institute and Mental Health America. Shenk directs the Arts in Mind series on creativity and serves on the general council of The Moth.

Katie Marsh

Katie Marsh lives in south-west London with her family. Before being published she worked in healthcare, and her books are inspired by the bravery of the people she has met in hospitals and clinics around the country. Katie loves strong coffee, the feel of a blank page and stealing her husband's toast. Her debut novel, My Everything, was chosen by the Evening Standard as one of the hottest summer debuts of 2015. Her second novel, A Life Without You, was a smash-hit ebook bestseller. This Beautiful Life is her third novel. You can follow her on Twitter @marshismsVisit her website www.katie-marsh.comOr find her on Facebook /KatieMarshAuthor

Mark Hyman

An internationally respected physician, researcher, educator, activist, and author of numerous New York Times best-selling books, Dr. Hyman has dedicated his life and career to ensuring optimal health - UltraWellness - for all individuals. His book, The Blood Sugar Solution, addresses the global epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular and other related diseases.His revolutionary "secret" to achieving UltraWellness? Dr. Hyman is the world's leading pioneer and practitioner of a ground-breaking and emerging approach to medicine that treats our system, not our symptoms. This new health paradigm is a systems-based, patient-centered method (called Functional Medicine) to preventing and treating disease and promoting health that works on two intertwined platforms: identifying and addressing the underlying causes of disease instead of just managing and masking symptoms and employing emerging trends in science and medicine, and integrative medicine. Dr. Hyman teaches that there are seven keys to achieving UltraWellness, centering on Optimizing Nutrition, Cooling Off Inflammation, Balancing Hormones, Optimizing Digestive Health, Enhancing Detoxification, Boosting Energy and Metabolism and Calming the Mind. By connecting these dots, he provides a way of get our bodies to work the way they were designed. We come to understand all the influences on our biology which are at the root of illness, and how our lifestyle and environment interact with our genes to create the imbalances or balances that are the real determinants of disease or poor health.Practicing what he preaches, Dr. Hyman is the founder and medical director of The UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts, where he directs a team of physicians, nutritionists and nurses who utilize this comprehensive, life-changing approach to health, involving diet and lifestyle modifications, in combination with nutritional and specialized testing, nutritional supplementation, and medications to add

Miranda Hart

Miranda Hart made her mark appearing in shows including Smack the Pony, Absolutely Fabulous and Not Going Out. But when her sitcom Miranda burst on to our screens in 2009, her popularity rocketed. Miranda has since been crowned the Queen of Comedy at the British Comedy Awards and won Best new TV comedy, as well as winning best actress in 2010 and 2011. She has also won three RTS comedy awards and has been nominated for four BAFTAs. Her book Is It Just Me? was the number one best-selling memoir of 2012 and to date it has sold over 580,000 copies. Her stand up show - My, What I Call, Live Show - was a sell-out in 2013. Follow Miranda on Twitter www.twitter.com/mermhart or vist her website www.mirandahart.com

Monty Don

MONTY DON is a well-known gardening writer and broadcaster. He lives with his family, garden and dogs in Herefordshire. His previous books include the Sunday Times best-seller Nigel and Paradise Gardens.@TheMontyDon/themontydon

Padraig O'Morain

Padraig O'Morain has practised mindfulness for 25 years and taught mindfulness for more than a decade. He runs workshops in his native Ireland where the inspiration for this book was sparked by an encounter with a very busy woman who took 4 years to get to one of his courses (and still had to dash to a meeting in the middle of it) and who has since reported that mindfulness changed her life - for the better.

Paul Jenner

Paul Jenner is a writer and journalist specializing in lifestyle subjects. He lives with his partner, three horses, two dogs and two sheep, in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees, where, when he's not working, he enjoys hiking, riding, cycling, sailing, swimming, diving and snowboarding. His other books include Teach Yourself Living Longer, Living Well and Teach Yourself Happiness.

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.