As part of my job, I visit a lot of schools each year to teach creative writing and instil a love of reading for pleasure. These visits provide a healthy portion of my income (no, not all authors are paid on the JK Rowling sliding scale – most of us just about make enough to live on).
And not just schools – there are also libraries and book festivals, too. Here I am in the Author’s Yurt (I kid you not) at the Edinburgh International Book Festival a few years back…
School visits are great fun, but the thing about them is that schools are full of kids.
Smelly, snotty, grimy, noisy kids.
I love ’em – the feedback you can get on your ideas in a primary school classroom is better than anything you’ll ever receive from an editor.
But, they’re full of germs! (Kids, that is… not editors. Well, not all of them).
And that’s where I catch coughs and colds every now and then. In schools. From kids. Mind you, teachers don’t help… “Line up, then you can all shake Tommy’s hand on the way out!”
Coughs, colds, flu, throat infections, chest infections. I’ve caught them all.
In fact, back in 2009, I picked up swine flu at a school visit!
So that’s why being diagnosed with mumps didn’t seem strange to me. I’d obviously picked the bugger up during a school visit.
And, we were coming up to World Book Day (the one day in March each year when headteachers remember that authors exist and ALL try to book you in for a visit in the same week). I had a LOT of school visits lined up in the early part of 2016, including a week long trip to Guernsey, where I was due to visit 15 different schools over just 5 days!
I hoped to get better before that madness started. But, I didn’t. I got worse. The pain increased, and the lump grew in size.
And I started to lose weight.