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Josephine Feeney

As a child

I was born in the back bedroom of our three-storey terraced house on a main road in Leicester. I was the fifth child in a family of eight. My Irish parents had left their homeland during the Second World War. We lived in a close-knit Irish community and our lives revolved around the church and the school. As a child I found it hard to identify with the characters in most children's books. I did, however, love reading comics, especially the Bunty and the Judy and I was fascinated with the way the stories developed. We didn't watch much television when I was a child but we did listen to the radio and to Irish music. Looking back, I realize now how privileged we were to have such a carefree childhood. We had no car, one bicycle between the lot of us and we played outside in the street, the parks and the allotments until our stomachs told us it was time to go home.

As an adult

I trained to be a teacher in Hull. I loved teaching but I also had a very powerful urge to write and many stories to tell. Two things nudged me towards my ambition. The first was when I discovered a book by Bill Naughton called One Small Boy. It was a fictionalised autobiography about a working class Irish person (just like me) and it was a revelation. In the early 1980s I joined a writers' workshop in Sheffield, led by Berlie Doherty. Berlie was a great inspiration and she encouraged me to actually send off my work to publishers and radio stations. Eventually, in 1990 I had a play accepted by BBC Radio 4. This was the beginning of my professional writing career. My first book, My Family and Other Natural Disasters, was published by Viking Penguin in 1994. Since then I have had nine other books published and some have been translated into other languages. I am married to Ian and we have two children and we all live next door to my mum. How lucky is that?

As an artist

I work in the back room, using a fountain pen and a notebook. The first draft is always written in that book, with very few corrections. Then I move over onto the computer and type up what I have written, then print it off, edit it and redraft. If I'm stuck or finding it hard to work I'll do something totally different like hanging out the washing or chopping the vegetables for tea. When I'm satisfied with my work I'll send it off to the publishers. I belong to an authors' book group. Once a month I meet up with a group of children's writers in Leicester and we talk about a chosen book. We also talk about our work and generally support one another. This is really helpful and enjoyable as we always have a shared lunch together.

Things you didn't know about Josephine Feeney

  1. I love cycling and walking. I hate driving and I travel most places by train or bus.
  2. I love playing the piano accordion (even though I'm not much good at it,), especially with my daughter who is brilliant on the button accordion.
  3. I would love to live in Donegal or the Outer Hebrides. Maybe one day.
  4. My confirmation name is Camilla.
  5. I have a rabbit called Basil who spends his days trying to escape from the garden.
  6. My children support Leicester City and St Johnstone Football Clubs. What do you mean, you've never heard of St Johnstone?
  7. I'm very happy when I'm in our tiny kitchen baking bread or making cakes, with a good play on the radio.
  8. We have two allotments. One of these is an orchard which keeps us self-sufficient in fruit for about half the year.
  9. I love picnics – even in the winter.
  10. One of my favourite things in the whole world is having a cup of tea, a piece of cake and a chat.

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