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Fifty years on, veteran Kiwi author Joy Cowley still writing children's books despite deteriorating eyesight

Veteran author Joy Cowley says she feels like the country's grandmother, but after more than 50 years publishing books she hasn't finished yet.

She's just released Gobbledegook, a collection of children's rhymes and stories, telling 1 NEWS she now needs a bigger screen and much bigger type to keep up her writing.

"I've got macular degeneration," the 83-year-old said.

"It was in August last year that it was detected and in that time, I've gone from 12 point to 48 point.

"It's deteriorated very quickly."

Ms Cowley is a member of the Order of New Zealand, membership of which is limited to 20 living New Zealanders. But it’s her letters from children over the years that keep her smiling. She’s kept all of her favourites.

"This one came from Singapore. How does Joy Cowley look like?" she reads. "Ms Cowley is very tall, with a very square nose and very circle eyes."

She chuckles her way through the pictures and misspelled words, some of which she now strains to see.

"I love these pictures, don't you like those pictures? With all the bright colours in them?"

Ms Cowley said she doesn't usually like book launches, but believed her latest book deserved a party.

She threw one on Saturday in Featherston, including fairy bread, cocktail sausages and carrot cake with jellybeans on top.

"It's a party for children. And children are allowed to bring their big children.

"The four-year-old next door told me, 'I know what big children are, they're adults!"" she laughs.

Gobbledegook was illustrated by Giselle Clarkson, a young illustrator who also grew up reading Ms Cowley's books.  

"I feel like the country's grandmother, I love that!" Ms Cowley said.

"I love that I've been around for so long and that now there are many people, like you, who had my books when you were at school.

"Wishy Washy, the Meanies, The Hungry Giant. Those were, and that was the beginning and they're still going strong."

She has plans for another adult novel too. "It’s just a matter of finding the space for it."

Until then, she's hoping her macular degeneration stabilises. She doesn't believe she'll go completely blind but has faced big challenges over the past year.

Not least, she can no longer do her woodturning, which has been another long-time hobby of the writer.

"I can't drive, I can't do woodturning, no television of course, no films. I listen to the concert programme at night."

But still so full of wisdom, and still encouraging generations of young readers and writers.

"I think it would be a tragedy if the first thing we wrote got published.

"It's like learning to play the piano or wanting to get into the All Blacks. You know, you have this ambition you just have to work towards it."

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Gobbledegook is a collection of children’s stories. Source: 1 NEWS