Guest post from Scream Street author Tommy Donbavand

By Tommy Donbavand, Author

On 10th March 2016, I was diagnosed with inoperable throat cancer, and my entire world turned upside down.

For those of you who don’t know me – my name is Tommy Donbavand, and I’m the author of over 90 books for children and teenagers including the 13-title Scream Street series (now adapted for CBBC), Doctor Who: Shroud of Sorrow, Wolf, Uniform, Cyber Shock and dozens more books for reluctant and struggling readers of all ages.

Most of them already quizzed for the Accelerated Reader scheme!

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I visit scores of schools, libraries and book festivals every year to teach creative writing and promote the love of reading for pleasure.

But now, that has all changed. What was originally diagnosed as a case of mumps has turned out to be cancer. The Big C itself. It started at the base of my tongue and my tonsils, and has now spread into my throat.

Surgery is impossible, unless I want to lose my entire tongue, and the ability to speak (hint: I don’t).

Quite honestly, when I was told what was wrong with me, I was terrified.

I still am.

On Monday 18th April, I begin six weeks of intensive radiotherapy and chemotherapy, followed by a three month recuperation period. This will rob me of my speech – albeit temporarily – and I’ve had a feeding tube inserted into my stomach so that I can continue to ‘eat’ by pouring nutrient rich milkshakes down it.

Milkshakes which, for some reason, come in different flavours!

I’ve started a new blog to chart my battle with the disease in the hope that it will allow me to understand my situation more clearly, and help anyone else who may find themselves in a similar situation.

You can read this blog at www.tommyVcancer.com – but, please be aware that these posts are not suitable for pupils. Staff eyes only!

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Obviously, my work life has been affected. I can still write (although my stints at the computer are much shorter now), but I’ve been forced to cancel all of my forthcoming school, library and book festival events for what could be the rest of the year, and turn down any new requests.

If you were hoping to see me at this year’s Bath Children’s Literature Festival, or the Edinburgh International Book Festival – sorry! I hope to be invited again next year.

You may or may not be aware that a good portion of any author’s income comes from visiting schools, running workshops and giving talks. In my case, I lost around 50% of my earnings overnight – and that’s hard to deal with.

Plus, I know I’m letting hundreds, if not thousands of pupils down by having to shut down my events calendar.

So, I’ve come up with a scheme where everyone wins…

I signed up to a service called Patreon (www.patreon.com). It’s an American site, but open to anyone. Through Patreon, you can pledge to pay an amount of money per month and receive exclusive content in return.

Some people make videos, or compose music. Others paint pictures or shoot photographs.

I’m going to teach creative writing!

I’ve set up three dedicated schools levels on my Patreon account – one at $15 (around £10) per month, one at $43 (around £30), and one at $214 (£150). If you or your school pledges one of these amounts, you will receive a ton of unique, never before seen creative writing content for your pupils. Here’s what you get for that money…

For $15 (£10) per month, you will receive…

  • A selection of at least 10 different story starter sheets in various genres, ability levels and linked to either school topics or seasonal times of the year. Print them off, hand them out and your pupils will never have to face the fear of the blank page ever again.
  • I will provide worksheets on my writing topic of the month – such as ‘Brainstorming Ideas’, ‘Creating Characters’, ‘World Building’, ‘Developing Plots’, ‘Realistic Dialogue’, ‘Finishing The First Draft’, ‘Rewriting Techniques’ and many others.
  • A handful of fast and fun writing exercises that can take as little as ten minutes to complete. Each exercise will be specifically designed to sharpen your pupils’ storytelling skills and help them to become better writers.
  • For $43 (£30) per month, you will receive ALL of the above, plus…

  • Detailed lesson plans to help you run my workshop topics in your own classrooms. It will be almost as if I’m right there with you!
  • Techniques designed to expand your pupils’ creative writing into other areas of the curriculum, such as drama, music, history, art and more.
  • I will cover other areas of writing, such as poetry, scriptwriting, flash fiction and more!
  • A surprise of the month. This could be a short story, a poem, a video, or even a task for your pupils to undertake!
  • For $214 (£150) per month, you will receive ALL of the above, plus…

  • I will provide INDIVIDUAL feedback on stories for up to TEN of your pupils. It will only take a few months for me to cover the entire school – then we start again at an improved level of writing.
  • I will answer all your pupils’ questions in a personal email, upgrading to an exclusive video when I’m able to talk again after my radio and chemotherapy treatment.
  • I will give you a discount on a LIVE author visit once I’m back on my feet!
  • Should you wish to get feedback for more than ten pupils per month, please contact me for a price.

    I can also create BESPOKE writing workshops, based on a topic of your choice. Should that be of interest, please get in touch.

    So, that’s it! I’m working hard to find a way to provide for my family, and keep pupils entertained and working hard during my illness.

    For more information, or it you just want to say hello – please email me at: mail@tommydonbavand.com or visit www.tommyVcancer.com and click on the Patreon button.

    I look forward to hearing from you, and helping your pupils!

    Tommy Donbavand


    Tommy Donbavand
    Author

    Tommy is the author of the popular 13-book Scream Street series for 7 to 10 year olds, published by Walker Books in the UK and Candlewick Press in the US. His other books include Zombie!, Wolf and Uniform (winner of the Hackney Short Novel Award) for Barrington Stoke, Boredom Busters and Quick Fixes For Kids’ Parties (How To Books), and Making A Drama Out Of A Crisis (Network Continuum).



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