Guest post from Scream Street author Tommy Donbavand
By Ruth Atkinson
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!
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!
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…
For $43 (£30) per month, you will receive ALL of the above, plus…
For $214 (£150) per month, you will receive ALL of the above, plus…
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.
I look forward to hearing from you, and helping your pupils!