Related to: 'Whale Done!'

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.

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.

Chrissie Manby

Chrissie Manby is the author of twenty five romantic comedies including A PROPER FAMILY HOLIDAY, THE MATCHBREAKER and SEVEN SUNNY DAYS. She has had several Sunday Times bestsellers and her novel about behaving badly after a break-up, GETTING OVER MR RIGHT, was nominated for the 2011 Melissa Nathan Award. Chrissie was raised in Gloucester, in the west of England, and now lives in London. Contrary to the popular conception of chick-lit writers, she is such a bad home-baker that her own father threatened to put her last creation on www.cakewrecks.com. She is, however, partial to white wine and shoes she can't walk in. You can follow her on Twitter @chrissiemanby, or visit her website www.chrissiemanby.co.uk to find out more.

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.

David Freemantle

David Freemantle is the founder of Superboss Ltd (www.superboss.co.uk). He is a pioneering author, whose many books include What Customers Like About You (also from Nicholas Brealey Publishing), and is a well-known speaker, respected across the world for his seminars on leadership, people management and customer service.

Georgina Rodgers

Georgina Rodgers is a journalist, editor and writer with over 15 years' experience working on magazines, newspapers, online and in busy television newsrooms. She has authored nine non-fiction titles and five Sunday Times top ten bestsellers, both under her own name and as a co-writer.She lives in Buckinghamshire with her husband, pre-schooler and new baby. She is starting to practise what she preaches and alongside propping the baby on her lap while madly typing with one finger and a zillion other work and home tasks, she tries to take the odd two minutes out - her three-year-old's Frozen colouring pens have come in particularly useful of late.

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.

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.

Janet Ellis

Actress, presenter and author Janet Ellis trained at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Best known for presenting Blue Peter, she stars in numerous radio and TV programmes and in 2018 appeared at the Edinburgh Festival in a successful month long run of Makes, Bakes and Outtakes, a play celebrating sixty years of Blue Peter. In 2016 Janet was awarded an MBE for services to charities and theatre.A graduate of the Curtis Brown creative writing course, her debut novel, The Butcher's Hook, was longlisted for the Desmond Elliot Prize.janetellis.comtwitter.com/missjanetellisinstagram.com/missjanetellis

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.

Karen Raney

Karen Raney recently gained an MA in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths and was awarded the Pat Kavanagh Prize for All the Water in the World when the novel was still a work-in-progress. A painter, academic, and former editor, Raney teaches Fine Art at the University of East London. She grew up in the US and lives in London.

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.

Laura Jane Williams

Laura Jane Williams has written about love, lust, and her feelings everywhere from The Guardian to Buzzfeed to RED, to the Telegraph, Stylist and more, and from September 2016 - February 2017 was Grazia's single girl dating columnist. She is the author of heartbreak memoir BECOMING, Marie Claire's #BREAKFREE from Fear ambassador, and blogs about being 'messily human' at www.superlativelyrude.com

Lauren Fern Watt

Lauren Watt is a writer from Nashville now living in New York City. When her 160-pound English Mastiff Gizelle was diagnosed with terminal bone cancer, Lauren created a bucket-list adventure of everything they wanted to do together, to make sure the time they had left together was even more precious.

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.

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.

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.