Related to: 'The Next Level'

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.

Carol O'Connor

Dr Carol O'Connor is the author of eight business books and director of Vision in Practice Ltd, a leadership development consultancy and publisher. She has spent more than 30 years teaching, writing and consulting about leadership, innovation and strategic thinking. She sees her role as preparing leaders to identify strategic goals, clarify performance standards and retain talent that supports organizational growth. Her client list is global and her books have collectively been translated into more than 20 languages. Current projects include the publication of a series of business workbooks for under 25-year-olds in developing nations - with apps in support of key topics - and working at the London School of Economics and Political Science in support of its entrepreneurship programmes.

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

Eric Schmidt

Eric Schmidt served as Google's CEO from 2001 to 2011. During that time he shepherded the company's growth from a Silicon Valley start-up to a global technology leader that today has over $55 billion in annual revenues and offices in more than 40 countries. Eric is now Google's executive chairman.

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.

Jen Sincero

Jen Sincero is a #1 New York Times bestselling author, success coach and motivational cattle prod who's helped countless people transform their personal and professional lives via her products, speaking engagements, newsletters, seminars and books. Her #1 New York Times bestseller, You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, has sold well over two million copies, is available in twenty-plus languages, and continues to grow in popularity around the globe. Her follow-up, You Are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth, also a New York Times bestseller, is written with the same inimitable sass, down-to-earth humor and blunt practicality that made You Are a Badass an indomitable bestseller and Jen a celebrated voice in the world of self development.

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.

John Whitmore

Sir John WhitmoreSir John Whitmore is the pioneer of coaching in the workplace and Co-Founder of Performance Consultants International, the market leader in coaching globally. He was the first to take coaching into organizations in the early 1980s and creator of the GROW model, the most used coaching model in the world. Honoured for his lifetime's work with the President's Award from the International Coach Federation, Sir John's global contribution to coaching and leadership has helped to drive organizational transformation. Through his books - most notably Coaching for Performance - workshops and speeches, he defined the principles of performance coaching and midwifed its birth from sporting excellence, transpersonal psychology, and emotional intelligence. Coaching for Performance is widely considered to be the bible of coaching and Sir John's vision, philosophy, and methodology has inspired millions of managers, leaders, and coaches across four decades to bring the best out of themselves and others. Sir John died in 2017, his extraordinary legacy is continued by his colleagues. The new edition of Coaching for Performance to publish in 2017 was completed before his death. Performance Consultants InternationalFounded in the early 1980s by Sir John Whitmore, Performance Consultants' mission is to transform the relationship between organizations and employees. Their stance is simple: organizations are sitting on a great untapped reservoir of potential - that of their people. They partner with organizations globally on effective leadership development, coaching and culture transformation. Market leaders in their field, they invite organizations to improve performance through their leaders and thereby reap rewards for people, profit and planet. Their flagship development programme named after this book is Coaching for Performance, it is considered the industry gold-standard and delivered in over 40 countries and in 23 languages.

Jonathan Rosenberg

Jonathan Rosenberg joined Google in 2002 and managed the design and development of the company's consumer, advertiser, and partner products, including Search, Ads, Gmail, Android, Apps, and Chrome. He is currently an advisor to Google CEO Larry Page.

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.

Matthew Syed

Matthew Syed is a leading columnist and feature writer for The Times and the host of the UK's biggest podcast: Flintoff, Savage and the Ping Pong Guy on BBC Radio 5. Matthew also gives business talks to major international corporate clients including. Before becoming a writer Matthew was the England table tennis number one for almost a decade, three times Commonwealth Champion, and he twice represented Great Britain in the Olympic Games.Matthew Syed's first book, Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice, was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year. His second, Black Box Thinking, was a Sunday Times No.1 bestseller. He has also published a collection of his award-winning sports columns in The Greatest.

Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis founded When to Jump after quitting his job at a pristine investment firm, to pursue his dream of becoming a professional squash player. He has curated a community of like-minded people who have done the same, to share their stories and inspire others to take the jump.

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.

Paul Sean Hill

Paul Sean Hill was the Director of Mission Operations at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Johnson Space Center from 2007 through 2014. He was responsible for all of NASA's human spaceflight mission planning, flight controller and astronaut training as well as Mission Control. Before this, he held a number of senior leadership positions, and from 1996 through 2005 Paul served as a Space Shuttle and International Space Station Flight Director. He supported 24 missions, with leadership roles including planning and leading space station construction in orbit, instrumental leadership in the Columbia accident investigation and returning Shuttle to flight two years later.Today Paul runs Atlas Executive Consulting and is speaks frequently, focusing on universal leadership challenges.

Richard Reeves

Richard Reeves (Author) Richard Reeves, along with John Knell, 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. Richard is currently European Business Speaker of the Year. He is a columnist and editor-at-large for Management Today.

Rob Moore

Rob Moore is a self made property investor, businessman, entrepreneur, best-selling author, world record holder, speaker, pilot & proud dad, who co-owns 7 companies in property, lettings & finance.Rob has partnered with many of the biggest business and household names, featured in prime time TV shows for Living as a business mentor, on Channel 4, the BBC, The Independent and The Business Channel, as well as mentoring success-hungry people who want to achieve more money & recognition in business & life.

Scott Eblin

Scott Eblin is president of The Eblin Group, a leadership development firm committed to helping clients lead and live at their best. As a leadership expert, global speaker, best-selling author and executive coach, Scott works with some of the best-known companies and organizations in the world. He holds the designation of Professional Certified Coach from the International CoachFederation.

Sue Stockdale

Sue Stockdale is a motivational speaker, executive coach and record-breaking explorer. She works with leaders worldwide helping them to manage change, motivate others and deliver improved performance. As a high achiever, Sue has represented Scotland in athletics, and was the first British woman to ski to the North Pole. Her academic background includes an MBA in Entrepreneurship and a master's degree in Quality Management.

Viktor Mayer-Schonberger

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger is Professor of Internet Governance and Regulation at Oxford University following a decade on the faculty of Harvard's Kennedy School. He is one of the most respected authorities on what is happening in the big data arena. His book, Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age is considered a seminal work on the ever-presence of data.