Related to: 'Private Parts'

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.

Adam Hills

Adam Hills is an Australian comedian and television presenter. Alongside his stand-up, he is known in Australia for hosting the music and quiz show Spicks and Specks and the talk show Adam Hills Tonight. His combination of positive uplifting comedy and spontaneity has seen him receive a number of awards and glowing reviews along the way. In 2012, he hosted a one-off series for Channel 4 airing over 2012 London Paralympics called The Last Leg. Now in its 12th series, the show is one of the most popular shows in the UK. This is his first book.

Alice Vinten

Alice Vinten spent ten years as an officer in the Metropolitan Police. Now in her thirties, she lives in Leigh-on-Sea with her two sons.

Alison Jean Lester

Alison Jean Lester was born to an American father and a British mother, and educated in the US, the UK, China and Italy. She spent twenty-five years working, writing and raising her children in Japan and Singapore before relocating to the UK in 2016. She is the author of the novel Lillian on Life and has had short stories published in Ecotone, Good Housekeeping, Synaesthesia and Barrelhouse.

Anne Glenconner

Lady Glenconner is now 87. She was born Lady Anne Coke in 1932, the eldest daughter of the 5th Earl of Leicester, and growing up in their ancestral estate at Holkham Hall in Norfolk. A Maid of Honour at the Queen's Coronation, she married Lord Glenconner in 1956. They had 5 children together of whom 3 survive. In 1958 she and her husband began to transform the island of Mustique into a paradise for the rich and famous. They granted a plot of land to Princess Margaret who built her favourite home there. She was appointed Lady in Waiting to Princess Margaret in 1971 and kept this role - accompanying her on many state occasions and foreign tours - until her death in 2002. Lord Glenconner died in 2010, leaving everything in his will to his former employee. She now lives in a farmhouse near Kings Lynn in Norfolk.

Dan Harris

Dan Harris is an Emmy Award-winning anchor and correspondent for ABC News. He is also the host of the 10% Happier podcast and the cofounder of the 10% Happier meditation app. He lives in New York City with his wife, Bianca; their Son, Alexander; and three extremely needy rescue cats.

Derek Pringle

Derek Pringle was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, where he first learnt to play cricket on matting pitches. He attended St Mary's School, Nairobi, then Felsted School in Essex, before reading Geography and Land Economy at Cambridge, where he captained the university at cricket and won three blues. While still an undergraduate he was selected to play Test cricket for England in 1982, a feat achieved previously by Ted Dexter, 24 years earlier. He also appeared, briefly, in the Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, as Cambridge's vice-captain of athletics.He played 30 Tests and 44 one-day internationals for England, appearing in two World Cups, one as a losing finalist in 1992. His cricket career at Essex, which spanned 15 years, included five County Championship titles, three John Player League titles, a NatWest Trophy and countless friendships. He retired from the game in 1993.A second career, as a journalist, saw him appointed cricket correspondent for the Independent, then the Daily Telegraph, a role he fulfilled until 2014. He now works as a freelance writer. His hobbies include photography and collecting vinyl records, of which he has several thousand - the latter perhaps explaining why he has never married. He has a son whose musical tastes he is trying to shape. He lives in Cambridge.

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.

Fiona Mitchell

Fiona Mitchell is an award-winning writer and has worked as a journalist for many years. She spent almost three years living in Singapore and now lives in London with her husband and daughter. The Maid's Room is her first novel.

Hazel Gale

Hazel Gale is a master practitioner of cognitive hypnotherapy, author and ex-athlete. Having competed internationally as a kickboxer and boxer, achieving World and National titles in the two sports respectively, she's well-versed in both the drive to succeed and the anxiety that can so often come hand-in-hand with that. In her practice and in her writing, Hazel aims to help others emerge victorious from their own battles, whatever they may be. The Mind Monster Solution is Hazel's first book. It explores the psychology of self-sabotage while taking you on her journey, and offers a practical guide to reclaiming your self-control.

Henry Normal

Henry Normal is an English comedian, television producer, poet and writer. He co-wrote The Royle Family, The Mrs Merton Show, Paul and Pauline Calf's Video Diaries, Coogan's Run, The Tony Ferrino Phenomenon, Dr Terrible's House of Horrible and The Parole Officer. He is Managing Director of Baby Cow Productions Ltd, which he set up with Steve Coogan, responsible for bringing The Mighty Boosh and Gavin and Stacey to the screen, amongst many others.

Holly Bourne

Holly Bourne is a bestselling author. She is passionate about gender equality and mental health. How Do You Like Me Now? is her debut adult novel.

Jayson Greene

Jayson Greene is a contributing writer and former senior editor at Pitchfork. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Grantland, and GQ, among other publications. This is his first book. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son.

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.

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.

Lorna Byrne

Lorna Byrne has been seeing and talking to angels since she was a baby. Now that her family is raised she talks openly about what she has learned. She lives quietly in rural Ireland. She is the author of the international bestsellers Angels in My Hair, Stairways to Heaven, A Message of Hope from the Angels and Love From Heaven. Her books have been translated into over twenty languages. For more information, visit www.lornabyrne.com or follow Lorna on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/lornabyrneangels

Mary Jane Grant

Mary Jane Grant is an experienced writer, a professor of creative thinking, a consultant in marketing, and a student of mindfulness. She divides her time between London and Toronto.

Michael Caine

Sir Michael Caine CBE has been Oscar-nominated six times, winning his first Academy Award for the 1986 film Hannah and Her Sisters and his second in 1999 for The Cider House Rules. He has starred in over one hundred films, becoming well-known for several critically acclaimed performances including his first major film role in Zulu in 1964, followed by films including The Ipcress Files, Get Carter, Alfie, The Italian Job, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Educating Rita, and more recently The Dark Knight, Is Anybody There? and Harry Brown. He was appointed a CBE in 1992 and knighted in 2000 in recognition of his contribution to cinema. Married for more than 45 years, with two daughters and three grandchildren, he and his wife Shakira live in London and Surrey.

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, The Jewel Garden and Paradise Gardens.@TheMontyDon/themontydon

Noel Janis-Norton

Noël Janis-Norton graduated from teacher-training college at New York University. Her career as a learning and behaviour specialist spans more than forty years. She has been a classroom teacher, a special needs teacher and advisor, a tutor specialising in learning strategies, a head teacher and a parenting educator. Noël is the founder and director of the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting Centre in London, which provides courses and consultations for parents of toddlers through teens. A regular speaker at professional conferences, Noël has also been featured on numerous television and radio programmes. In addition to lecturing widely in the UK and the US, she also trains teachers and parenting practitioners in her unique and highly effective methods. She is the spokesperson for National Family Week and the parenting expert for Macaroni Kid (a popular website for parents in the US). Through her seminars, courses and talks for parents, and through her books, CDs and DVDs, she has helped transform the lives of tens of thousands of families. Noël's most comprehensive book, Calmer, Easier, Happier, Parenting, was published in 2012. Noël has two grown children, a foster daughter and six grandchildren.

Padraig O'Morain

Padraig O'Morain is a psychotherapist, trained counsellor and mindfulness teacher based in Dublin with over 25 yearss experience and has taught mindfulness for more than a decade.