Cate Caruth has found a unique way to raise money for Breast Cancer Now – she’s taking requests to create bespoke children’s books.
I love to write. I always have, ever since early childhood. It's my hobby, my love, my purpose. It's never been my career because there have been bills to pay and a family to support - you know how it goes - and I never quite had the courage to quit my job and starve in a garret for the sake of my art. It didn't stop me writing though - and this was no idle fancy. I wrote for real. By 2004 I'd written my first novel and was looking for an agent with a view to getting published.
Then, ten years ago, I was diagnosed with breast cancer, as so many people are. It was frightening and bewildering and pretty much the worst birthday present I've ever had. Believe me, those gaudy socks just pale into insignificance by comparison.
In a strange way, however, breast cancer also had a profoundly positive impact on my life. It told me life was too short to hang about waiting for miracles. I stopped hunting and hoping and dreaming of the infinitesimally small chance of a mainstream publisher showing interest in my books and decided to publish my books myself. I used the first three months of my treatment to self-publish my first novel and, having done that, went on to write my second. Breast cancer changed everything - how I thought about my writing, how I shared my work with others, how I viewed my life and my future... Everything.
This year I hit the amazing milestone of ten years since diagnosis. It's a bit of an arbitrary number, of course. Why ten? Why not eleven, or nine? And why is 20th January more significant than 19th or 21st (except, of course, that the one in the middle happens to be my birthday). It's the law of nice round numbers, I suppose. That's the point at which clinicians measure survival so that's the number that means so much to any cancer survivor.
I knew I wanted to do something significant to celebrate my continued good health. The ten years between 2006 and 2016 is 8808 hours (and an 8 is a bit like a pair of breasts if you put your head to one side and squint a bit), so that was the number I settled on. I've set myself the target of raising £8808 for Breast Cancer Now. Can I do it? Well, I plan to give it my best shot.
In thinking of ways to raise funds, I considered the 'usual suspects' - walking and running, cakes and coffee, raffles and tombolas - all of which I'll probably do but I wanted to do something that was really ME.
That's when it struck me. I could WRITE to raise money. On a few occasions, I have written a story for friend's children, to amuse them and for a bit of fun. So why not do the same for a donation? That's got to be an attractive way for people to sponsor me, hasn't it?
Bespoke books for children
So that's what I'm doing. For a minimum donation of £75, I will write a completely bespoke story based on the ingredients given to me by the donor. I will get it illustrated and then turn it into a little hardback book. Perfect for bedtime reading with young children!
I've got a couple of amazing illustrators to help me and I'm working on my first commission at the moment. Jan the Dragon (pictured above) is taking shape nicely and Marianna Mooney's illustrations are going to look stunning but, of course, I want to do more. A lot more.
After all, ten years is something pretty special and I want to use my writing to make sure many, many more people also get to celebrate this most precious of anniversaries.
To find out more about Cate's bespoke children's books, or to place an order you can e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org, watch her video about the project, or follow her on Twitter @catec23.
Cate would also love to hear from you if you are an illustrator and would be interested to donate your time to illustrate one of these very special books.