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.

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.

Catriona McPherson

Catriona McPherson was born in the village of Queensferry in south-east Scotland in 1965 and educated at Edinburgh University. She left with a PhD in Linguistics and spent a few years as a university lecturer before beginning to write fiction. The first Dandy Gilver novel was short-listed for the CWA Ellis Peters Historical Dagger 2005 and the second was long-listed for the Theakston's Crime Novel of the Year Award 2007. In 2012 DANDY GILVER AND THE PROPER TREATMENT OF BLOODSTAINS was nominated for a Historical Macavity Award. Catriona writes full-time and divides her time between southern Scotland and northern California.www.dandygilver.comwww.catrionamcpherson.comwww.twitter.com/CatrionaMcP

Dan Harris

Dan Harris is a correspondent for ABC News and the co-anchor for the weekend edition of Good Morning America. Before that, he was the anchor of the Sunday edition of World News. This is his first book.

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.

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.

Gavin Extence

Gavin Extence lives in Sheffield with his wife and children. He has written two previous novels, the Richard and Judy bestseller, THE UNIVERSE VERSUS ALEX WOODS and THE MIRROR WORLD OF MELODY BLACK, which was described as 'a cross between Bridget Jones' Diary and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest' by a Simon Mayo Book Club reviewer.

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.

Harry Judd

Harry Judd is a member of the hugely successful bands McFly and McBusted who have headlined Hyde Park, notched up 19 hit singles - of which 7 went to number one - and 2 number one albums. He is a much-loved former Strictly Come Dancing champion.

Iain Maitland

Iain Maitland has been a professional writer since 1987. He has written over 50 books, mainly on business, and been published as far away as Russia, India, Japan, USA and Australia. He has also written for the Sunday Times, Which? and the Financial Times amongst many others.

Jeremy Howick

An Oxford researcher with over 75 publications and a classic textbook, Jeremy Howick is well qualified to write Doctor You. A world-renowned placebo researcher and his work has been featured in The Times and The Washington Post, as well as on Sky News, and the BBC.

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.

Katie Marsh

Katie lives in London with her family. Before being published she worked in healthcare, and her novels are inspired by the bravery of the people she met in hospitals and clinics across the country. Her first novel My Everything is a 2018 World Book Night pick, and her second A Life Without You was a huge e-book bestseller. Her fourth novel The Rest of Me is out this summer in e-book, audio and paperback. She loves strong coffee, the promise of a blank page and stealing her husband's toast. When not writing, she spends her time fruitlessly pursuing her children in various local parks. You can contact Katie on Twitter (@marshisms) or Facebook (www.facebook.com/katiemarshauthor), or via her website (www.katie-marsh.com).

Mark Hyman

Mark Hyman, MD, is the director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine, and founder and director of The Ultra-Wellness Center. He is the bestselling author of numerous books, including Eat Fat, Get Thin, The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet, and The Blood Sugar Solution.

Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman PhD, Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania and Director of the Positive Psychology Network, gave the Centennial address to the British Psychological Society in 2002 and is an Honorary Professor at the University of Cardiff. A former President of the American Psychological Association, he has written over 20 books including the bestselling Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness and in 2009 was awarded the British Academy's Wiley Prize in Psychology. He is widely considered the pre-eminent expert on applied psychology in the world.

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.

Rod Judkins

Rod Judkins is an accomplished lecturer at Central St Martin's, one of the world's pre-eminent art schools whose alumni - ranging from artists like Lucien Freud, and Antony Gormley through to the designers Stella McCartney and Alexander McQueen - have helped shape our culture. Judkins has lectured on the subject of creativity at universities and to businesses around the world. He blogs at Psychology Today, and also acts as a consultant to numerous private companies. Trained at The Royal College of Art, he has exhibited at galleries including Tate Britain, The National Portrait Gallery and The Royal Academy.

Ruby Wax

Ruby Wax is a comedian, writer, performer and mental health campaigner. She has suffered bouts of depression throughout her life and completed her Masters in Mindfulness-based Cognitive therapy at Oxford in 2012.

Simon Hooper

For 40% of the day, Simon works as a management consultant. For 100% of the day, Simon is a father to his 4 daughters. 40% and 100% don't quite add up, because being a parent isn't something you can turn off. Even when you're at work there are emails about gymnastic classes, paying lunch fees, providing instructions on how to work the overly complicated smart TV and other various parent life admin. Now, Simon has committed another 40% of the day to social media and engaging with his hundreds of thousands of followers about real life parenting challenges. He still works 40% of the day as a management consultant too. He also spends 20% of the time clearing up and doing DIY jobs, while being a dad 100% of the time - yes, that's 200% of the time he's doing something which goes some way to explain why he hasn't slept for 10 years and has a forehead covered in so many lines, you could mistake it for a ploughed field. With the small sliver of remaining time Simon does find, he likes to spend time on 'secret projects' in the shed (no one is yet to actually see any results from these projects) and cycles - basically things that give him time on his own, a brief reprieve from a life surrounded and outnumbered by girls.