Stars and their eyes… Dame Joy Cowley

Iconic Kiwi author Dame Joy Cowley, best known for her children's fiction, such as the popular Mrs Wishy-Washy series, suffers from macular degeneration (MD).

Featherstone-based Cowley, aged 82, wrote on her blog that she’s physically "as strong as a horse", according to her doctor, but that her eyes have retired from reading, wood-turning and painting, due to MD.

“I’m still writing but don’t know how long that will last. This letter is in 36pt font and will be reduced to send to my patient web manager. I expect quite soon, I’ll be asking one of my grandchildren to show me how to do voice on the computer.”

Cowley’s sight loss developed quickly last year; she suddenly realised she could no longer recognise people she knew. Cowley receives injections every five weeks in Wellington and, although her sight has deteriorated to around 30%, it hasn’t diminished her life. “It is like when you are trying to find something at the back of the cupboard, you often close your eyes to help you see. It’s a bit like that,” she told Wairarapa Times-Age.

The much-loved author has received numerous awards in New Zealand and overseas, including the Commemoration Medal for services to New Zealand (1990), Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to children's literature (1992), the Margaret Mahy Award (1993) and was appointed Distinguished Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (DCNZM) for services to children's literature in 2005.

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