Related to: 'Oscar Wilde'

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.

Alan Titchmarsh

Alan Titchmarsh is known to millions through the popular BBC TV programmes British Isles: A Natural History, How to be a Gardener, Ground Force and Gardeners' World. But he started out in far humbler beginnings, in a rural childhood on the edge of Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire.After a spell at Kew he became a horticultural journalist, as an Editor of gardening magazines, before becoming a freelance broadcaster and writer.He has twice been named 'Gardening Writer of the Year' and for four successive years was voted 'Television Personality of the Year' by the Garden Writers' Guild. In 2004 he received their Lifetime Achievement Award.Alan has appeared on radio and television both as a gardening expert and as an interviewer and presenter, fronting such programmes as Points of View, Pebble Mill, Songs of Praise, Titchmarsh's Travels and Ask the Family, and since 1983 has presented the BBC's annual coverage of The Chelsea Flower Show. He now has his own daytime TV show on ITV, The Alan Titchmarsh Show. Alan has written more than forty gardening books, as well as seven best-selling novels, including his 2008 success, Folly, which have all made the Sunday Times Bestsellers List. Alan has published three volumes of memoirs; Trowel and Error sold over 200,000 copies in hardback when published in 2002, and Nobbut A Lad, about his Yorkshire childhood, was published in October 2006 with similar success, and his third volume of memoir Knave of Spadeswas a Sunday Times bestseller.He was made MBE in the millennium New Year Honours list and holds the Victoria Medal of Honour, the Royal Horticultural Society's highest award. He lives with his wife and a menagerie of animals in Hampshire where he gardens organically.

Andrew Flintoff

Andrew Flintoff was born in Preston in 1977. An aggressive fast bowler and hard-hitting batsman, he made his County Championship debut for Lancashire in 1995 and won the first of his 79 England Test caps in 1998. As an all-rounder, he played a vital part in England's celebrated Ashes victory in 2005.Widely considered to be the best all-rounder of his generation, Andrew was named as a Wisden Cricketer of the Year in 2004, and Wisden Leading Cricketer in the World the following year. Also in 2005, he was awarded the title of BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Andrew became captain of the national team in 2006, only to have the captaincy removed after England's disappointing performances in Australia in 2006-07 and in the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean. Having put those setbacks behind him, he overcame a series of injuries to help England, under Andrew Strauss, regain the Ashes in 2009. Shortly afterwards, he called an end to his playing career and embarked on a varied new one in television, as a presenter, documentary-maker and team captain on the BAFTA award-winning A League of Their Own. In 2012, Andrew Flintoff unexpectedly turned to sport again, this time as a boxer, winning his one bout as a professional. In the summer of 2014, after five years out of the game, he made a surprise return to cricket, playing for Lancashire in the NatWest T20 Blast and then for Brisbane Heat in Australia's T20 Big Bash. In 2015, he took part in Australia's version of I'm a Celebrity ... Let Me Out of Here!, and was crowned King of the Jungle.In May 2014 when it was announced that Andrew would play for Lancashire again. Following on from such a successful stint with Lancashire in October 2014 it was announced that Andrew would continue his professional cricket comeback in Brisbane in the Australian T20 Big Bash league. In March 2015 Freddie was crowned the King of the Jungle in the first series of the Australian version of 'I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here', and was bowled over by the support of the Australian public.After launching his very own podcast with friend and TV producer Clyde Holcroft in 2014, it was announced that Freddie and Clyde will celebrate the ten year anniversary of England's Ashes win with a live tour which will travel the length and breadth of the country including at the Edinburgh Festival.

Anne Sebba

Anne Sebba is a biographer, journalist and former Reuters foreign correspondent. She has written many books including the best-selling Mother Teresa: Beyond the Image, Laura Ashley, A Life by Design and That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor. She lives in London.

Bob Fischer

Bob Fischer is a lifelong science fiction and fantasy fan who has previously enjoyed careers as a record shop owner, a solo singer-songwriter and a short-lived Elvis impersonator (one gig). He now works as a radio presenter for BBC Tees, a job that has seen him spill tea over Jack Charlton's antique fireplace and sing on a UK Top 10 hit single ('Bunsen Burner' by John Otway, No 9 in October 2002). Bob has also won a prestigious Sony Radio Award . . . just a bronze though, so don't get too excited. Bob has dabbled with writing before, but Wiffle Lever To Full! is the first major project he's ever actually finished. Or, indeed, started. He lives near Middlesbrough with a tall girlfriend who thinks old-school Doctor Who is 'rubbish', and a medium-sized dog that doesn't mind the Jon Pertwee era, but if pressed would admit to preferring Blake's 7.

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.

Don Stephens

Don Stephens is the founder and president of the international charity Mercy Ships. The charity currently operates three hospital vessels: the Anastasis, the Caribbean Mercy and the Island Mercy. These astonishing ships take relief and development to the port cities of some of the world's poorest countries. Every year, Mercy Ships' doctors perform more than a thousand complex operations that transform people's lives - including complicated maxilofacial surgery - in areas where up to half the population has no access to basic health care.

Donald Sturrock

Donald Sturrock grew up in England and South America and, after leaving Oxford University, joined BBC where he worked as writer, producer and director. He has made more than 30 documentaries, and is the author of critically acclaimed biography of Roald Dahl, Storyteller.

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.

James Lovell

James Lovell is much in demand for his skill in turning film scripts into novels. He is based in the US.

Jeffrey Kluger

Jeffrey Kluger is a senior writer at Time magazine. He is co-author of the best-selling Apollo 13, which served as the basis of the film. His other books include Moonhunters and Splendid Solution.

John Vaillant

John Vaillant lives in Vancouver. His first book, The Golden Spruce, won the Canadian Governor General's Award for non-fiction. He has written for The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Outside, National Geographic and Men's Journal, among other publications. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with his wife and children.

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.

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.

Max Pemberton

Max Pemberton is a practicing doctor. As well as a degree in Medicine, he completed a degree in Anthropology for which he was awarded a first and a prize for academic excellence. Max has worked in a broad range of medicine, from geriatrics, adult psychiatry, surgery and paediatric palliative care. He is also a columnist for the Daily Telegraph and Reader's Digest. In 2010, he was named Public Educator of the Year 2010 by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

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.

Mike Pannett

Mike Pannett was born in York, and joined the Metropolitan Police in 1988. He became one of the youngest officers to be given his own patch, and served on the Divisional Crime Squad, Murder Squad and TSG (Riot Police).He transferred to North Yorkshire police in 1997 as he missed the countryside - and fly fishing! He became a rural beat officer and eventually, a wildlife officer. In 2005 he starred in the BBC's Country Cops and was inspired to write about his adventures in the North Yorks force.Mike served nearly twenty years in the police, during which he became one of the highest commended officers. Following the UK riots in 2011 he has become a key spokesman on current policing issues in the UK, giving extensive interviews on national UK radio and television. He lives with his wife Ann, who is still a serving police officer, and their three children in a small village in the shadow of the North Yorkshire moors.

Penny Junor

Have added line in bold of her biography: Penny Junor is a writer and broadcaster. She is the author of many best-selling biographies including of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, both the Prince and the Princess of Wales and two British Prime Ministers. She also co-wrote best-selling autobiographies of Pattie Boyd and Sir Cliff Richard. For many years she presented The Travel Show on BBC2 and Channel 4's award-winning consumer programme 4 What It's Worth. She is married with children and grandchildren and lives in Wiltshire.

Peter Stanford

Peter Stanford's previous investigations into the history, theology, enduring appeal and cultural significance of religious ideas include Martin Luther: Catholic Dissident; Judas: The Troubling History of the Renegade Apostle; The Devil - A Biography; Heaven - A Traveller's Guide to the Undiscovered Country; and The She-Pope, an investigation of the Pope Joan legend. His other books include biographies of Bronwen Astor, Lord Longford and the Poet Laureate, C Day-Lewis, plus the polemical Catholics and Sex that became an award-winning Channel 4 series in 1992. He is a senior features writer at the Daily and Sunday Telegraph titles, and contributes to the Independent, the Observer, the Daily Mail and the Catholic weekly, the Tablet, where he is a columnist. He has presented programmes on BBC 1, Channel 4 and Channel 5, as well as BBC Radios 2 and 4 and the BBC World Service.

Rupert Shortt

Rupert Shortt is religion editor of The Times Literary Supplement and a former Visiting Fellow at the University of Oxford. He writes for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the London Evening Standard. His books include Benedict XVI (2005), Christianophobia: A Faith Under Attack (2012), Rowan's Rule: The Biography of the Archbishop (2014) and God Is No Thing: Coherent Christianity (2016).

Stephen King

Stephen King is the bestselling author of more than fifty books. His novels include Carrie, The Shining and Revival. His novel Under the Dome is now a major TV series. His novel 11.22.63 won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Mystery/Thriller as well as the Best Hardcover Book Award from the International Thriller Writers Association.Many of his books have been turned into celebrated films including Misery, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Over the years, King has had various cameo roles in film adaptations of his books as well as playing rhythm guitar in the Rock Bottom Remainders, a rock and roll band made up of some of America's bestselling and best-loved writersHe was the recipient of the 2003 National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He lives with his wife, novelist Tabitha King, in Maine, USA.