Related to: 'Respect'

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.

Becky Chambers

Becky Chambers was raised in California as the progeny of an astrobiology educator, an aerospace engineer, and an Apollo-era rocket scientist. An inevitable space enthusiast, she made the obvious choice of studying performing arts. After a few years in theatre administration, she shifted her focus toward writing. Her books have been nominated for the Hugo Award, the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the Bailey's Women's Prize for Fiction, among others.

Caitlin Davies

Caitlin Davies was born in London in 1964. She is the author of five novels and five non-fiction books, and has worked as a teacher and freelance journalist for 25 years. In 1989 she moved to Botswana where she worked for the country's first tabloid newspaper, the Voice, and later as editor of the Okavango Observer. She received a Journalist of the Year award. From 2014-2017 she worked as a Royal Literary Fund Fellow at the University of Westminster, Harrow, in the faculty of Media, Arts & Design. Caitlindavies.co.uk@CaitlinDavies2

Cal King

Cal King is a writer, erstwhile zine creator and podcaster who also works in digital marketing for television. He loves to write, make things, and poke his camera where it isn't wanted.

Daniel Tammet

Daniel Tammet is an essayist, novelist and translator. He is the author of Thinking in Numbers, Embracing the Wide Sky, and the Sunday Times bestseller Born On A Blue Day. Tammet is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA). He lives in Paris.

Fern Riddell

Dr Fern Riddell is a historian specialising in sex, suffrage and culture in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. She appears regularly on TV and radio, and writes for the Guardian, Huffington Post, Telegraph and Times Higher Education among others, and is a columnist for BBC History Magazine.

Fran Cooper

Fran Cooper grew up in London before reading English at Cambridge and Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art. She spent three years in Paris writing a PhD about travelling eighteenth-century artists, and currently works in the curatorial department of a London museum. These Dividing Walls is her first novel.

Graham Norton

Graham Norton is one of the UK's best loved broadcasters. He presents The Graham Norton Show on BBC1, has a weekly show on BBC Radio 2, and writes a column for the Telegraph. He is the winner of eight BAFTA awards. Born in Dublin and raised in West Cork, Norton now lives in London. His debut novel Holding was a commercial and critical success, winning Norton the Irish Independent Popular Fiction award at the Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards in 2016.

Hannah Jewell

Hannah Jewell is a pop culture host and editor at The Washington Post, and a former senior writer at BuzzFeed UK, where she became known for her humour writing about gender, her satire of British and American politics. She presented BuzzFeed's live 2016 election night show, which was watched by nearly 7 million people. Born in the UK, she grew up in California and did her undergraduate study at UC Berkeley in Middle East Studies, then moved to the UK for an MPhil in International Relations and Politics at Cambridge. Now, she combines her background in history and politics with her love of the internet to write about remarkable women of the past with an accessible, hilarious, and sometimes sweary style.

Helen Pankhurst

Dr Helen Pankhurst is a women's rights activist and senior advisor to CARE International, based in the UK and in Ethiopia. She has extensive media experience including national and international radio and print interviews, and was involved in the 2015 film Suffragette. Her work in Ethiopia includes support to program development across different sectors, focused on the interests and needs of women and girls. In the UK she is a public speaker and writer on feminist issues. She also leads CARE International's Walk In Her Shoes event in London - on International Women's Day. Helen is the great-granddaughter of Emmeline Pankhurst and granddaughter of Sylvia Pankhurst, leaders of the British suffragette movement. @helenPankhurst

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.

James Frey

James Frey is originally from Ohio. His books A Million Little Pieces, My Friend Leonard, Bright Shiny Morning and The Final Testament of the Holy Bible have all been bestsellers around the world. He is married and lives in New York.

Jasper Fforde

Jasper Fforde traded a varied career in the film industry for staring out of the window and chewing the end of a pencil. He lives and works in Wales and has a passion for aviation.Visit Jasper's website, www.jasperfforde.com, find him on Facebook, www.facebook.com/jasperffordebooks, and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasperfforde.

Joe Lycett

Award-winning comedian Joe Lycett is one of the best-loved performers working on the UK circuit, a rising comedy star with bundles of stage presence and effortless charm.Joe's television appearances include performing stand-up on programmes such as BBC One's Live At The Apollo and ITV1's Sunday Night At The Palladium, as well as regular appearances on panel shows including Channel 4's 8 Out Of 10 Cats Does Countdown and Would I Lie To You? He is a regular on BBC Radio 4 including a number of appearances on the institution that is Just A Minute and hosts the panel show It's Not What You Know. He's also been on Comedy Central's Drunk History a couple of times, but he can't remember.In 2012 Joe performed his hotly-anticipated debut show Some Lycett Hot at the Edinburgh Fringe, securing him a Foster's Comedy Award Best Newcomer nomination. Joe returned to Edinburgh in 2015 with That's The Way, A-Ha, A-Ha, Joe Lycett to huge audiences and critical acclaim, securing him a Chortle Award for Best Show and subsequently going on a sell-out tour. He is actively looking for new show titles that include Lycett-based puns.His debut stand-up DVD, Joe Lycett Live, was released in November 2016, and most recently has hosted C4's Sunday Brunch.Joe's new tour will be announced on 8th September 2017, with dates from late 2017 onwards.

John Connolly

John Connolly is author of the Charlie Parker mysteries, The Book of Lost Things, the Samuel Johnson novels for young adults and, with his partner, Jennifer Ridyard, co-author of the Chronicles of the Invaders. John Connolly's debut - EVERY DEAD THING - introduced the character of Private Investigator Charlie Parker, and swiftly launched him right into the front rank of thriller writers. All his subsequent novels have been Sunday Times bestsellers. He was the winner of the 2016 CWA Short Story Dagger for On the Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier from NIGHT MUSIC: Nocturnes Vol 2.In 2007 he was awarded the Irish Post Award for Literature. He was the first non-American writer to win the US Shamus award and the first Irish writer to win an Edgar award. BOOKS TO DIE FOR, which he edited with Declan Burke, was the winner of the 2013 Anthony, Agatha and Macavity awards for Best Non-Fiction work.

Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort was born in Queens, New York. He hustled ices to put himself through college, showing early entrepreneurial flair. His first business sent him bankrupt at twenty-four so he went down to Wall St with $100 in his pocket and ended up building one of the largest brokerages in America - the now infamous Stratton Oakmont. A hard partying lifestyle ended in crash and burn. Ultimately indicted by the federal government, Belfort served twenty-two months in prison, and time in rehab. He's now a highly successful motivational speaker.His story has been made into a Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese.He is currently living in Los Angeles.

Juno Dawson

JUNO DAWSON is the multi-award-winning author of dark teen thrillers. Her first non-fiction book, BEING A BOY, tackled puberty, sex and relationships in a frank and funny fashion, and a follow-up for young LGBT people, THIS BOOK IS GAY, came out in 2014. Juno is a regular contributor to Attitude Magazine, GT and the Guardian and has contributed to news items concerning sexuality, identity, literature and education on BBC Woman's Hour, Front Row, This Morning and Newsnight. She writes full time and lives in Brighton.

Lauren Oliver

Lauren Oliver captivated readers with her achingly beautiful first novel, BEFORE I FALL. She followed that up with her bestselling young adult Delirium Trilogy and three adult novels. Her latest book, RINGER, was published in 2016. Her new novel BROKEN THINGS will be published October 2017. She is also the author of three novels for young readers, including the CURIOSITY HOUSE series. A graduate of the University of Chicago and NYU's MFA program, she lives in Brooklyn, New York.Find more information at www.laurenoliverbooks.com, or connect with Lauren on Twitter (/OliverBooks) and on Facebook (/laurenoliverbooks).

Lesley-Ann Jones

Lesley-Ann Jones is a journalist, newspaper columnist and broadcaster. The author of eight published books, she has enjoyed more than twenty-five years in music and the media. She lives in South-East London with her young children, the eldest having grown up and gone into the music business.

Lily Pebbles

Lily Pebbles has been blogging since 2010 and is one of the pioneers of the industry. She's amassed a league of loyal followers of her blog and self-named YouTube channel for content that covers beauty, style and advice. Lily is also the co-creator and co-host of the podcast 'At Home With...'. The F Word is her first book.

Melanie McGrath

Melanie McGrath was born in Essex, and is the author of critically acclaimed, bestselling non-fiction (Silvertown and The Long Exile) and won the John Llewelyn-Rhys/Mail on Sunday award for Best New British and Commonwealth Writer under 35, for her first book Motel Nirvana. She writes for the national press and is a regular broadcaster on radio. She writes fiction as M.J. McGrath, and her first novel in the Edie Kiglatuk series: White Heat was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger Award and was followed by The Boy in the Snow. The Bone Seeker is the third book in the series. Melanie lives and works in London.