Four years ago, in April 2018, Anita Mulvey went blind in a matter of days. She had been a primary school teacher until her vision loss forced her into retirement on medical grounds.

The silver lining has been that this experience has given her ample time to pursue her dream of becoming a children’s author - a dream which last month became a reality.

I went to speak to Anita about her experience with vision loss, and what it means to see her first book published.

She said: ‘I’m a primary school teacher, and in April 2018 I suddenly lost my eyesight.

‘It went within a week - five days. On the Tuesday, I was perfectly sighted, by the Saturday, totally blind.’

She then spent a month in St Paul’s Eye Hospital, Liverpool.

‘I can see a little bit of light and a little bit of movement and bright red. My sight is somewhere between 1% and 2%, so it’s a very very limited sight.

‘When I was in hospital, in St Paul’s, I remember I was keen to get home, and of course I was there for a month. They did every test under the sun.

‘They think my immune system went into overdrive and attacked my eyes. I never knew that could happen. But apparently, your immune system can do all sorts of things.

‘When I was in hospital, I remember saying to my mum “I really want to go home, as long as I can make a cup of tea”. Because I love a cup of tea, and it’s such a basic thing, but when you’re suddenly newly blind, even something very basic like that is actually really difficult.’

Eventually, her vision loss led to her being retired on medical grounds, and she then turned her skills to writing.

‘I’d always had ideas, I’d always thought about books, and wanting to be a children’s author, but never really had the time.’

Writing full time was made easier by Sight Matters, formally known as the Manx Blind Welfare Society.

Sight Matters looks after the interests of more than 500 people with serious sight loss here on the Isle of Man.

Their vision is ‘for all blind and visually impaired people in our island community to lead inclusive, independent lives and for the island to become a centre of good practice where everyone with a hidden disability may enjoy fulfilling, valued lives, free of discrimination’.

Anita couldn’t speak highly enough of the support the charity gave to her.

She said: ‘Manx Blind Welfare were brilliant. They set me up with a laptop and some special software, and I just started writing in earnest.

Her debut book, Dragon Times, follows siblings Alexander and Lily as they discover many positives when they embark on an adventure into the unknown.

Describing her debut, Anita said that she suddenly had an idea about writing a book about the early Covid-19 lockdowns and their impact on school children.

She said: ‘The book starts off in a school, and the head teacher announces that the school is going to go into lockdown, and it’s right at the beginning [of the pandemic].

‘The children in the story, they don’t want to go to the hub school. Their mummy is a nurse, and so they’ve got to go to school, they can’t stay at home with her.

So basically, she sends them off to this elderly couple that were friends with her mum and dad, and they discover a dragon in the grounds of this big house, living in a sort of a folly castle at the bottom of the grounds.

‘They discover lots of things along the way.

‘They discover that they actually spend more time with each other, because they’re a brother and sister, so they didn’t spend much time together before, and they find that the mummy dragon’s had a baby, and they watch her teaching him to fly and to puff smoke.

‘It’s just a nice, feel good sort of story.’

Publishers Austin Macauley clearly agreed, as the manuscript was accepted by them straight away. And all being well, this will be the first of many books we see published by the new author.

‘I’ve actually written some books that haven’t been published, that are based on the Isle of Man.

‘I’ve got a series of books about a Manx cat who gets into lots of adventures and I’ve written about the Fairy Bridge fairies, and a couple of other things.

‘I might publish them myself if they’re too niche for the publisher.

‘But this is the first one. It’s taken quite a while. It took me a good couple of months to write the story, but when I get into it, it’s like I’m lying in bed and I’m buzzing with ideas and I just want to get up and start writing.

‘And on a good day, I can write all day long.’

The publishers also have another book by Anita, entitled Winners, which will be published in due course.

That story follows children who win a fairground prize and they get some tattoo transfers, which lead to them getting temporarily taken over by the characters in the tattoos, leading them to start ‘doing some really naughty things’.

As you would expect, one place Anita got a lot of inspiration from was her time as a primary school teacher.

As she said: ‘One of the things I particularly loved when I was teaching was reading to children, and I would always have a class book on the go.

‘I really, really love reading to children, it’s one of my pleasures. So I’ve read a lot of children’s books with children, and I’m hoping that that sort of inspired me to help write a book that will appeal to children.’

Dragon Times is aimed particularly at Junior school age children, which Anita had the most experience with as a class teacher.

‘That’s another thing, I put lots of things in that have actually happened.

‘So, for example, one of the children in one of my classes got into trouble with his mum and dad for trampling all the flowers in their garden. I don’t know why he did it, he just took off and did that! So one of the characters in my story Winners does that.

‘So I’ve got lots of little things like that, that hopefully will appeal to children.’

The book even has activities and questions at the end to help teachers guide a class reading session.

In fact, a friend who works at Anita’s old school is planning on ordering it in for guided reading with their class - news which left Anita overjoyed.

She said: ‘That’s really what I wanted, was to have a book that children would enjoy.

‘It’s not about making any money or anything, because it probably won’t. Your Harry Potter scenario is once in a blue moon.

‘But if any child could read my book and enjoy it, then I would be happy. I would consider that job done.’

l ‘Dragon Times’ is out now.