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.

Alice Judge-Talbot

Alice Judge-Talbot is a blogger, writer and entrepreneur from Buckinghamshire, a quiet place she found herself in when she became a single mum to two under two at the age of twenty-seven. She started her blog in 2009 when she found herself pregnant in a group of friends where 'Mum' was a word used for the woman you called when you broke up with your boyfriend, knowing nobody in her real life had even an inkling of a baby on the horizon. Since then, Alice has written frankly, funnily and emotively on the subjects that affect mums the world over: from pregnancy and childbirth to post-natal depression, divorce and life as a single mother. She is now the thriving and proud mother of a five and seven year-old, writing a successful blog called More Than Toast as well as a column for the Telegraph, and she has thankfully worked out what day the bins go out.

Andy Cope

Andy describes himself as an author, happiness expert, qualified teacher and learning junkie. He has spent 10 years researching 'positive psychology' culminating in a 'PhD in Happiness' from Loughborough University. He has developed a series of keynotes and courses centreing on themes of happiness and flourishing, which he delivers in businesses and schools across the world. Andy has written several best-selling personal development books, including The Art of Being Brilliant, and is also a best-selling children's author. His Spy Dog series has enjoyed huge global success.

Andy Puddicombe

Andy Puddicombe is a meditation and mindfulness expert. An accomplished presenter and writer, Andy is the voice of all things Headspace. In his early twenties, midway through a university degree in Sports Science, Andy made the unexpected decision to travel to the Himalayas to study meditation instead. It was the beginning of a ten year journey which took him around the world, culminating with ordination as a Tibetan Buddhist monk in Northern India. His transition back to lay life in 2004 was no less extraordinary. Training briefly at Moscow State Circus, he returned to London where he completed a degree in Circus Arts with the Conservatoire of Dance and Drama, whilst drawing up the early plans for what was later to become Headspace.He has been featured widely in international press, appearing in Vogue, NYT, FT, Entrepreneur, Men's Health and Esquire, to name but a few. He also makes regular appearances on TV and online, having been featured on BBC, Dr Oz, Netflix and TED.Andy currently lives in Venice, California, with his wife Lucinda.

Christine Wilding

Christine Wilding's (Kent, England) books on CBT have sold over 50,000 copies. She holds a postgraduate diploma in CBT from the University of London, is an accredited member of the British Association of Counselling, is a member of the steering committee set up to develop guidelines for the treatment of depression within the NHS, and is in-demand as a leader of CBT-based training courses.

Clive Woodward

Clive Woodward was born in 1954. He was educated at HMS Conway in Anglesey and Loughborough University. He played rugby for Leicester, England and the Lions, and Manley in Australia. During his impressive business career Clive Woodward successfully coached Henley RFC, London Irish and Bath before being appointed the first National England coach. He memorably led the England rugby team to World Cup victory in 2003. He lives in Berkshire with his wife and three children.

Clover Stroud

Clover Stroud is a writer and journalist writing for the Daily Mail, Sunday Times, Daily Telegraph, and Conde Nast Traveller, among others. She lives in Oxfordshire with her husband and five children.

David Perlmutter

Dr David Perlmutter is president of the Perlmutter Health Centre in Naples, Florida, and the co-founder and president of The Perlmutter Brain Foundation. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the American College of Nutrition and the Linus Pauling Award. A frequent lecturer, he writes a blog at VanguardNeurologist.com and is a contributor to The Huffington Post. His previous books include Grain Brain and The Grain Brain Cookbook.

Donal Skehan

Donal Skehan has been cooking since age four when he flipped his first pancake! Inspired by a family of passionate foodies, cooking and eating hearty home cooked food has always been a way of life. Donal is the author of seven cookbooks; Fresh was named as one of Good Food magazine's Top 10 cookbooks of the year. He's the host of Saturday Kitchen, star of cookery shows on RTE and The Food Network, and has his own hit YouTube channel. Donal was born and raised in Dublin and is currently living in LA.

Emily Reynolds

Emily Reynolds is a journalist specialising in mental health, technology, science and feminism, writing for WIRED, The Guardian, Buzzfeed, and VICE among others. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in her early twenties, and since then has been raising awareness and supporting other young people with mental health issues. She also co-founded the Words by Women Awards in 2016.

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

Hazel Wallace

Dr Hazel Wallace is the girl behind The Food Medic, a blog she set up in 2013 as a platform to show people that eating healthy and staying fit can be enjoyable, uncomplicated and easy to incorporate into an everyday busy lifestyle.Hazel is a UK based health and fitness blogger, social media influencer, qualified personal trainer and Junior Doctor. She graduated in 2012 with a first class degree in Medical Sciences, going on to gain a graduate degree in Medicine (MBBCH) in 2016. She now works as a Junior Doctor in London and The Food Medic is her first book.@thefoodmedicwww.hazelwallace.co.uk

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.

Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson is an author living in London.Born in Yorkshire in the late eighties, she then lived in France and Kent, before moving to the big city she loves so much.Her very first 'novel', written in her early teens, is so old it was stored on a floppy disc. She spent most of her childhood reading her latest poems and stories to her long-suffering but inspirational parents, who encouraged her to continue sharpening her skills as a writer.This passion for writing continued and flourished, and she eventually trained to become a reporter with the National Council for the Training of Journalists. She was a reporter for two major newspaper groups for six years, before working in charity communications and digital marketing while writing novels.Jessica loves singing, running, eating out and spending time with friends. She is currently studying with the Open University.To find out more you can visit Jessica's website http://jessicathompsonbooks.com/, her Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/pages/Jessica-Thompson-books/251309534929956?fref=ts or follow her on twitter @Jthompsonauthor

John Whitmore

Sir John WhitmoreSir John Whitmore is the pioneer of coaching in the workplace and Co-Founder of Performance Consultants International, the market leader in coaching globally. He was the first to take coaching into organizations in the early 1980s and creator of the GROW model, the most used coaching model in the world. Honoured for his lifetime's work with the President's Award from the International Coach Federation, Sir John's global contribution to coaching and leadership has helped to drive organizational transformation. Through his books - most notably Coaching for Performance - workshops and speeches, he defined the principles of performance coaching and midwifed its birth from sporting excellence, transpersonal psychology, and emotional intelligence. Coaching for Performance is widely considered to be the bible of coaching and Sir John's vision, philosophy, and methodology has inspired millions of managers, leaders, and coaches across four decades to bring the best out of themselves and others. Sir John died in 2017, his extraordinary legacy is continued by his colleagues. The new edition of Coaching for Performance to publish in 2017 was completed before his death. Performance Consultants InternationalFounded in the early 1980s by Sir John Whitmore, Performance Consultants' mission is to transform the relationship between organizations and employees. Their stance is simple: organizations are sitting on a great untapped reservoir of potential - that of their people. They partner with organizations globally on effective leadership development, coaching and culture transformation. Market leaders in their field, they invite organizations to improve performance through their leaders and thereby reap rewards for people, profit and planet. Their flagship development programme named after this book is Coaching for Performance, it is considered the industry gold-standard and delivered in over 40 countries and in 23 languages.

Jojo Moyes

Jojo Moyes was born in 1969 and brought up in London. A journalist and writer, she worked for the Independent until 2001. She lives in East Anglia with her husband and three children.Jojo has twice won the Romantic Novelists' Association Novel of the Year Award: in 2011 for The Last Letter From Your Lover and in 2003 for Foreign Fruit. The Ship of Brides and Silver Bay were shortlisted for the 2005 and 2007 RNA award and Silver Bay was shortlisted for the inaugural Good Housekeeping 2007 Book of the Year award. You can read Jojo's blog or find out more from her website, www.jojomoyes.com, follow her on Twitter @jojomoyes or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jojo.moyes.

Lucy Dillon

Lucy Dillon was born in Cumbria. She won the Romantic Novelists' Association Novel of the Year Award in 2010 for Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts, and is the bestselling author of four other novels: The Ballroom Class, Walking Back to Happiness, The Secret of Happy Ever After and A Hundred Pieces of Me. Lucy now divides her time between London and the Wye Valley where she enjoys walking in the Malvern Hills with her basset hounds, Violet and Bonham. You can follow her on Twitter @lucy_dillon or on Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/LucyDillonBooks.

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.