Related to: 'How to Stop Feeling Like Sh*t'

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.

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.

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.

Claudio Feser

Claudio Feser is a Senior Partner and one of the founders of McKinsey's Leadership Development practice. Claudio has been in the Firm for 25 years and has published several leadership books, including Serial Innovators, When Execution Isn't Enough, and Growing Leaders.

Clive Steeper

Clive Steeper has been a business leader and change executive for over 25 years. His career includes several roles as Managing Director in the UK, USA and Asia. Central to his success has been Clive's ability to help leaders effectively navigate through change, and get the best from their people. Now as an executive coach, consultant and facilitator, he works internationally with many different organisations ranging from public bodies and international corporations to fast-growth businesses.

Emma Gannon

Emma Gannon is a writer, broadcaster, podcast host and has been a guest digital lecturer at Condé Nast College since 2014. Her podcast CTRL, ALT, DELETE discussing online life has had 2 million downloads to date. She was selected in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list 2018 in media and marketing and is a regular on BBC Woman's Hour. Find her online: twitter @emmagannon / Instagram @emmagannonuk

Geoff Colvin

Geoff Colvin is Fortune's senior editor-at-large and is also the author of Talent is Overrated and The Upside of the Downturn. He has served as moderator of the Fortune Global Forum, where he has interviewed Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Herb Kelleher, Peter Drucker and other business legends. Colvin graduated Harvard cum-laude with a B.A. in Economics, and received his MBA from New York University's Stern School.

HRH the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama is one of the world s best-known leaders who has led his people for over 50 years as the head of the government-in-exile and spiritual leader of Tibet.

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.

Ian Roberts

Dave Corbet and Ian Roberts are owners and directors of Greengage Consulting Ltd. For over fifteen years they have helped clients of all sizes and from all kinds of industries make breakthroughs in their ability to deliver remarkable results.. Together they have consulted to the upper echelons of the UK government the Home Office; and the Department for Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs as well as major British firms.

Jim Loehr

Jim Loehr is the chairman and CEO of LGE Performance Systems. He is the author of 12 books, including the bestselling Stress for Success.

John Knell

John Knell (Author) John Knell, along with Richard Reeves, are co-founders of the Intelligence Agency, a strategy and research consultancy. Their roster of clients includes BT, Accenture, Sky, PricewaterhouseCoopers, NESTA, PepsiCo, the Arts Council, Orange and the BBC. They are both contributors to the Whitehall Top Management Programme.

Kelly Riggs

Kelly Riggs is an author, speaker, and business performance coach for executives and companies throughout the United States and Canada. He has worked with companies in a variety of industries, with revenues ranging from $3 million to Fortune 500 companies. Recognized as a dynamic, powerful speaker, and successful performance coach in the areas of sales, management leadership, and strategic planning, Kelly is a former sales executive and two-time national Salesperson-of-the-Year with well over two decades of executive management and training experience.

Larry Downes

Larry Downes is an Internet industry analyst and author on developing business strategies in the age of disruptive innovation. He is the co-author of Big Bang Disruption and author of New York Times business best-seller, Unleashing the Killer App: Digital Strategies for Market Dominance, (1998) which was named by The Wall Street Journal as one of the five most important books ever published on business and technology. He is a columnist on innovation for both The Washington Post and Forbes and writes regularly for Harvard Business Review. Downes has held faculty appointments at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, Northwestern University School of Law, and the University of California-Berkeley's Haas School of Business, where he was Associate Dean of the School of Information. Since 2014, he has served as project director at the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy.

Laurens van den Muyzenberg

Laurens van den Muyzenberg is an international management consultant who has lived and worked in the the UK, Netherlands, Sweden, France, the US and Chile.

Martin Manser

Martin Manser is a professional reference-book editor. He is also a language consultant with national companies and organizations. Martin is Part-time tutor at London College of Communication, University of the Arts London and Part-time visiting lecturer at Buckinghamshire New University.

Michael Rennie

Michael Rennie is a former Senior Partner and Global Head of McKinsey's Organization Practice. Michael was at the Firm for over 30 years and pioneered McKinsey's approach to culture change more than 20 years ago. He has published The Performance Culture Imperative.

Nicolai Chen Nielsen

Nicolai Chen Nielsen is an Associate Partner with McKinsey Academy, and has been with the Firm for 7 years. Nicolai leads McKinsey's latest research on leadership development at scale, and has designed and delivered leadership development programs in the public and private sectors globally.

Nigel Cumberland

Nigel Cumberland is an award-winning global coach who helps leaders and teams to optimise and enhance their success in both their careers and lives. He has coached and trained at some of the world's most prestigious organisations such as the United Nations, the World Bank Group, Standard Chartered Bank, Google, Dell, LVMH, Christian Dior, Continental AG and the Dubai Government. He is also one of the elite Marshall Goldsmith approved coaches and a member of Harvard Business Review's Advisory Council. He is also a Freeman of the City of London and has been given the award as one of the world's top 100 leadership coaches.

Omar Abbosh

Omar Abbosh is group chief executive of Accenture's Communications, Media & Technology operating group and is a member of Accenture's Global Management Committee. He has served as the global client lead for leading multinational companies where he advised client executives on major strategic issues for their businesses. Mr. Abbosh joined Accenture in 1989 and became a partner in 1998. He holds a degree in electronic engineering from Cambridge University and a master's degree in business administration from INSEAD.

Patricia Scudamore

Pat Scudamore and Hilton Catt are experienced careers consultants and trainers, and the authors of many successful books on career management.