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Wednesday, 26 October 2016

The Caped Crusaders Win Again!

When Zena first asked me if I wanted to collaborate on a children's chapter book, my first reaction was to ask her if she was having a stroke. When she subsequently failed to collapse or speak in tongues, I spent some long moments staring at her while I waited for the delivery of the punch line. This also failed to happen.

Well, sort of. The punch line was there - it just wasn't funny. Have you ever heard the one about kids and how they get cancer? I hadn't, and the sheer outrageous injustice of it made me suppress my qualms and agree to be told more about what the hell anyone could possibly want from a combination of me and stories with morals, talking animals and other such garbage.

WABIAD Awards Ceremony 2016
As it turns out, it's all about stories. Once upon a time, a kind-hearted bus driver saw some bald children in the street and decided to give them a lift. Upon discovering that these children were literally deathly ill, he took it upon himself to become their personal taxi driver, ferrying them from place to place and, eventually, organising outings and activities for them. As with anything else, money was required, and he found himself also raising funds to sustain his frankly excellent initiatives.

Fast forward a few years, and this seemingly innocuous act of random kindness had evolved into a fundraising powerhouse, pumping vital quantities of cash into research programs dedicated to treating childhood cancers. And this is roughly where I come into the story.

Like most fundraising organisations, The Kid's Cancer Project has many strings to its bow, and one of them is the Write a Book in a Day challenge. You've probably heard me talk about this before, but for those who haven't, here are the basics. We get a team of people together and, in twelve hours, write, illustrate and bind a kid's book. Excellent people such as yourselves sponsor us to do this, either as the only way to escape our constant requests for money, or because they don't actually believe we're going to be able to do it. This money, every cent of it, goes to The Kid's Cancer Project.

I've been involved in this process for the past three years and it's taught me quite a bit. I've realised that collaborative writing is not only possible, but potentially very satisfying. This is surprising, as generally I'm incapable of collaborating even with myself. I've learnt that people have very definite ideas about what should go into a kid's book, and even more definite ideas about what shouldn't. I've learnt that you wonderful people out there in internetland can be astonishingly generous, that there's also a seven o'clock in the morning, and that being thanked for stuff is deeply embarrassing - none of which I was aware of before becoming involved.

But probably the most important thing I've learnt is that none of this stuff actually matters. What matters is the realisation of the existence of a war between human ingenuity and the insanity of pain. At any given time, there are people consuming their power, substance and mental and physical energy in the effort to create a world in which children no longer suffer from cancer. My writers' group, NBWG, has won the national best book award for four years running and I don't really care. As far as I'm concerned, every time we punt in another book and the cash we raise sponsoring and flogging it, it's another incremental win for those people in those labs. The researchers who are, when all's said and done, the real caped crusaders in this fight.

If you want to get involved or give money, click here to visit the Kid's Cancer Project, and here for Write a Book in a Day.

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