Hello! I’m Barry, a friend of Tommy’s. He’s roped me in to help run the site should he ever find himself too unwell to post an update. I’m interrupting his banging on about illness and hospitals an’ that to post this. Don’t tell him.
Tommy and I first met online via a writer’s website about 15 years ago. We hit it off right away, sharing a similar sense of humour and the same drive to become full-time writers.
Over the years, our careers have strangely mirrored one another. Tommy started writing his spooky children’s series, Scream Street, and soon after that my own horror series was picked up.
I wrote some stuff for the telly, then around the same time Tommy started writing for the TV version of his Scream Street series.
We both write for The Beano, constantly swap ideas, and have run joint events in schools to promote our love of reading and writing. I was even the best man at Tommy’s wedding, where I took immense pleasure in heavily promoting my books throughout my speech.
I talk to Tommy every day via Skype. For a decade and a half he has been my constant companion as I’ve tried to navigate my way through the topsy-turvy world of children’s publishing.
And he has cancer.
I knew Tommy hadn’t been well. I knew he had an appointment to get a worrying lump on his throat checked, but I reassured him that it’d be fine. Nothing to worry about. One of those things.
Only, it wasn’t.
Tommy told me about his diagnosis shortly after getting home from the hospital. For the first time in 15 years, I didn’t know what to say. We’ve both discussed the illness itself several times over the years – both Tommy’s parents and my mum succumbed to it – but this was different. I just stared at the words he had written on screen, hoping I’d somehow misread them, or misunderstood their meaning.
I can’t remember what I finally did say. I swore, I think. Nothing particularly helpful, anyway. Tommy, however, said two things which I think go some way to reveal the man he is. He said:
“I feel like I’ve let Kirsty (his wife) and the kids down.”
“I’m glad my mum and dad aren’t here to worry about me.”
Those were his first thoughts. Not, “why me?” or “it’s not fair” or “how am I going to cope?” His first thoughts were for those around him, and how it was going to affect them.
And that’s Tommy. That’s why I’ve spoken to him on a daily basis for 15 years. That’s why other authors – some who have never even met him – have been contacting me asking what they can do to help.
Like myself and most children’s authors, the majority of Tommy’s income doesn’t actually come from writing at all. It comes from speaking events at schools, festivals and libraries. This horrible illness has taken those speaking opportunities away from Tommy, leaving an enormous hole in his finances.
Sadly, the world doesn’t care about any of that. The bills will keep coming, demanding to be paid, and so Tommy has had to find a way to generate a new source of income, so he can continue to provide for his family.
Tommy has spent the last 7 years travelling around the UK teaching children and adults how to write fantastic stories, and he’s now making all that knowledge available via Patreon.com. From as little as $1 (about 70p) a month, you can become a Patron, and sponsor Tommy to create exclusive video and written content on the subject of creative writing.
Tommy doesn’t like talking about his Patreon, as he hates the idea of asking people for money. I’m more than happy to talk about it, though, because he isn’t asking for money at all – he’s offering you the bargain of a lifetime.
In just a few years, Tommy has written almost 100 books as well as TV scripts, comic strips and pretty much any other type of creative writing you can think of. He has delivered workshops to thousands of children and adults, and I can think of no-one better placed to give advice to aspiring writers of all ages. What’s more, Patrons will also be helping ensure Tommy can continue to writes the type of stories which turn reluctant readers into lifelong book-lovers. That’s got to be worth a few quid a month in anyone’s book.
We can’t fight Tommy’s cancer for him, but we can buy him the time he needs to fight it himself. It’s a one-on-one fight to the finish – Tommy V Cancer – but by God, I’m honoured to be standing there in his corner holding his towel. I hope you’ll join me there.
PS – Tommy mentioned in an earlier post that once his hair goes he won’t be able to wear a woolly hat, as he says they make him look like a serial killer. I told him he was being silly. Then he sent me the photo below.
He’s right. He must never be allowed to wear a woolly hat.