Related to: 'Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing'

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.

Hodder Paperbacks

Thinking in Numbers

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet
Hodder & Stoughton

Embracing the Wide Sky

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet
Hodder Paperbacks

Born On a Blue Day

Daniel Tammet
Authors:
Daniel Tammet

'I was born on 31 January 1979 - a Wednesday. I know it was a Wednesday, becasue the date is blue in my mind and Wednesdays are always blue, like the number nine or the sound of loud voices arguing.'Like the character Hoffman portrayed, he can perform extraordinary maths in his head, sees numbers as shapes, colours, textures and motions, and can learn to speak a language fluently from scratch in three days. He also has a compulsive need for order and routine. He eats exactly 45 grams of porridge for breakfast and cannot leave the house without counting the number of items of clothing he's wearing. If he gets stressed or unhappy he closes his eyes and counts.But in some ways Daniel is not all like the Rain Man. He is virtually unique amongst people who have severe autisitic disorders in being capable of living a fully-functioning, independent life. It is this incredible self-awareness and ability to communicate what it feels like to live in a totally extraordinary way that makes BORN ON A BLUE DAY so powerful.

Akala

Akala is a BAFTA and MOBO award-winning hip-hop artist, writer and social entrepreneur, as well as the co-founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company.With an extensive global touring history, Akala has appeared at numerous festivals both in the UK and internationally, and has led innovative projects in the arts, education and music across South East Asia, Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand. Akala has also appeared on Channel 4, ITV, MTV, Sky Arts and the BBC promoting his music and poetry, and speaking on wide-ranging subjects from music, race, youth engagement, British/African-Caribbean culture and the arts, with numerous online lectures and performances that have millions of views on YouTube. More recently known for his compelling lectures and journalism - he has been awarded an honorary degree from Oxford Brookes University and the University of Brighton, written for the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent, and spoken for the Oxford Union and TEDx - Akala has gained a reputation as one of the most dynamic and articulate talents in the UK.

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.

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.

Clare Pooley

Clare Pooley graduated from Newnham College, Cambridge and spent twenty years in the heady world of advertising before becoming a full-time mum. Clare lives in Fulham, London with her long-suffering husband, three children, dog and a cupboard filled with alcohol-free beer.Clare is the author of the hugely popular blog, Mummy was a Secret Drinker, under the pseudonym Sober Mummy.

Constance Briscoe

Constance Briscoe practises as a barrister and in 1996 became a part-time judge - one of the first black women to sit as a judge in the UK. She lives in Clapham with her two children, Martin and Francesca. Her partner is Tony Arlidge QC.

Countess Of Carnarvon

Lady Fiona Carnarvon married the current Earl of Carnarvon in 1999, and they took over Highclere eight years ago.

Gervase Phinn

Dr Gervase Phinn is a teacher, freelance lecturer, author, poet, educational consultant and visiting professor of education. For fourteen years he taught in a range of schools, then acted as General Adviser for Language Development in Rotherham before moving on to North Yorkshire, where he spent ten years as a school inspector - time that has provided much source material for his books. He has four grown up children and four grandchildren and lives near Doncaster. Visit Gervase's website, www.gervase-phinn.com.

Graeme Swann

Graeme Swann is a former international cricketer for England. He was primarily a right-arm offspinner, and also a capable late-order batsman with four first-class centuries, and often fielded at slip. After initially playing for his home county Northamptonshire, for whom he made his debut in 1997, he moved to Nottinghamshire in 2005. He made his debut for England in 2000 but didn't play again until 2008 when he became an essential part of the team in all formats. In 2011 he was part of the team that claimed the number one world Test ranking spot. Graeme was involved in three Ashes tours, winning the Ashes in 2009 and 2011, he retired from all formats during the 2013 Ashes series. Since retirement Graeme has made the transition into commentary and is a summariser on Test Match Special and BT Sport cricket coverage.

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.

Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin is one of the most influential writers on the linked subjects of habits, happiness, and human nature. She's the author of many books, including the New York Times bestsellers, Better Than Before and The Happiness Project. A member of Oprah's SuperSoul 100, Rubin has an enormous following, in print and online; her books have sold more than 2 million copies worldwide, in more than 35 languages; and on her popular daily blog, gretchenrubin.com, she reports on her adventures in pursuit of habits and happiness. She also has an award-winning podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. She lives in New York City with her husband and two daughters.gretchenrubin.com twitter | facebook | instagram

James Bowen

James Bowen is the author of the bestselling A STREET CAT NAMED BOB and THE WORLD ACCORDING TO BOB. He found Bob the cat in 2007 and the pair have been inseparable ever since. They both live in north London.

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

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

Martino Sclavi

At the age of 10, Martino Sclavi and his family moved from Rome to New York. Knowing little English, he spent his time in school learning to sew and type, skills that have now become essential. After studying political science, he moved to Berlin and played bass for a Krautrock band while at the Humboldt and Freie Universität. He completed his MA at Cambridge University, then moved to London where he mixed drinks in a bar in Brixton. After work, with his 35mm camera on his shoulder, he would wander the streets and tell the stories of his neighbourhood. Sclavi became a producer for a variety of documentaries and films. He has previously written articles and screenplays, but The Finch in My Brain is the first project he has typed into his computer without being able to read it back. Martino lives in London and Italy where he invents bedtime stories to carry his young son to his dreams.

Michel Thomas

Michel Thomas (1914-2005) had an amazing life. Born in Poland, he spent his early years in Germany and then in France, where he studied psychology at the Sorbonne in Paris. When war broke out, he fought with the Resistance and suffered imprisonment in labour camps. At the end of the war he joined the US liberation army and later settled in the US where he established his world-famous language school. Languages, being his strength and passion became the focus of the next 50 years of his life that he spent developing a method that he hoped would change the way we teach and learn - so that everyone could succeed. He developed this method 'that works with the brain'. After creating several courses of his own, he passed on his method so that other teachers might use it too.

New International Version

The New International Version is the world's most popular modern English Bible translation. Developed by Biblica, formerly the International Bible Society, the New International Version is the result of years of work by the Committee on Bible Translation, overseeing the efforts of many contributing scholars. The translators are drawn from a wide range of denominations and from various countries and they continually review new research in order to ensure the NIV remains at the forefront of accessibility, relevance and authority.www.hodderbibles.co.uk www.facebook.com/NIVBibles