The shape I’m in: Judi Curtin, author

FOR some change comes with a significant birthday or the new year but Judi Curtin waited for the millennium before she decided to start writing novels for children.

The shape I’m in: Judi Curtin, author

A primary school teacher at the time, she had always wanted to write but never got around to it.

“The year was 1999 — everyone was talking about the end of the world. I think a lot of people at the time decided to do things they had been putting off.

"I was at the right stage of my life, my children were not babies anymore and I was working part-time.”

She was born in London, though her Irish parents decided to come home and settled in Douglas, Cork when she was eight years old.

Now in her 50s, she lives in Limerick city with her husband Dan; their three children — a boy followed by two girls — are aged between 19 and 23.

Have any of the children picked up her literary bent? “Not as yet. I didn’t start writing until I was in my late 30s so they have got a bit of time to go,” she says.

During the summer she likes to spend a lot of time in the garden and enjoys growing vegetables. “It’s very nice to just wander out to the garden and pick a few things for the dinner.”

A children’s author who gets to potter in her garden sounds about as idyllic as it gets. She doesn’t take her good fortune for granted.

“Sometimes you catch yourself complaining with other writers: ‘I don’t love the cover of my 20th book’ or something. You realise that so many people would kill to be in your situation. Sometimes you have to remind yourself that we are fortunate.”

However, making a living from writing children’s fiction is another matter.

“Unfortunately it’s not hugely lucrative. I think the truth is really there would be a handful of writers actually making a living in Ireland...

On the plus side it is lovely to be well known in your own country and to see people enjoy what you do — I wouldn’t knock that.

“You get paid for events and things like that. A lot of people would be doing a bit of journalism on the side and things like that. It’s a job to fit in with other jobs.”

Judi and children’s author Sarah Webb are hosting a talk and workshop for children at the West Cork Literary Festival.

“We write similar books and we’re great friends. We basically just chat to each other about our lives. Children seem to enjoy it and we enjoy it what’s more.

“The workshop is a great opportunity for children to come along and just do little bits. Even though I am a teacher I don’t want it to be too schooly — it’s the middle of July.”

* West Cork Literary Festival. July 12 - 18;

What shape are you in?

Fairly good. I play leisurely tennis twice a week, but could probably do with going for a few extra walks in between.

What are your healthiest eating habits?

I usually have a good breakfast — fresh orange juice, wholemeal bread and maybe some sugar-free muesli — and I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables.

What are your guiltiest pleasures?

I can’t resist crisps. I rarely buy them, but if there’s a dish of them anywhere near me at a party, it’s not pretty.

What would keep you awake at night?

Pointless worries about things that might never happen, and that I can’t do anything about anyway.

How do you relax?

Reading or gardening. My dad remains a very keen gardener in his late 80s. All my siblings have taken after him.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?

My great-grandparents. I’d love to see their take on life. Maybe Enid Blyton too — I hear she wasn’t the nicest person in the world, but I’d love to know how she managed to write all those books.

What’s your favourite smell?

My mum’s freshly baked brown bread.

What would you like to change about your appearance?

I don’t lose sleep over my appearance, but if I woke up one morning and found myself four inches taller, with easy-to-manage hair, I probably wouldn’t complain.

When is the last time you cried?

Watching Toy Story 3.

What traits do you least like in others?

Arrogance and intolerance.

What traits do you least like about yourself?

Over-thinking things.

What would cheer up your day?

My children have all left home now, so when one or all of them shows up, it’s always a good day.

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