In Memoriam: Interview with Maureen Wartski, Artist, Author, and Friend

Copyright © 2013-2014 Maureen Wartski

“In Memoriam: Interview with Maureen Wartski, Artist, Author, and Friend” by Joan Y. Edwards

Maureen Wartski answered my questions in December and planned to be a guest on my blog today, Monday, January 20, 2014. She died on Tuesday, January 14, 2014. I love you, Maureen. Thanks for being my friend. Thank you for sharing your life with us here on earth. I will miss you. All those who walked on the path with you will miss you. I feature that you are up in heaven painting the skies with your beautiful colors and writing haiku poetry in the clouds for our enjoyment. Thank you, Maureen. Here’s the interview with the questions as she answered them.


1.  How did you do in English as a kid?
I fell very quickly in love with language. My Uncle Harry introduced me to Shakespeare, and other literary works when I was barely five. I could quote Julius Caesar till the cows came home, and I once scandalized some very proper ladies by quoting Marc Antony’s speech over the body of Caesar, the one that begins, “Oh, pardon me, thou bloody piece of earth!” English was always easy for me, and it was my favorite subject in school.

2.  When did you decide to become an author?
I don’t think I ever made any conscious decision to be an author, but I always was writing something. After selling my first short story at 14, I suppose the die was cast.

3.  What’s your favorite book? Why?
I have too many favorites, Joan. I loved Llewellen’s How Green Is My Valley, Dumas’ Three Musketeers and  Adam’s Watership Down. Why do I like them? I suppose the answer is that they offer tremendously well-written stories.

4.  Are your characters based on real people?
No—but I am sure characteristics from real people slide into what I write. My aunts have turned up in my novels, I’ve been told.

5.  Did you outline and plan your books before you wrote them or did their stories flow on its own?
I write an outline. It’s not carved in stone, but like a blueprint, it keeps me steady. I often change that outline and add or remove characters, however. I almost always write the last chapter of a novel (in my head) before I start.

6.  Did you cry while writing one of your books?
Sometimes. One novel that makes me weep every time I read it is The Lake Is On Fire. An editor once told me, “If you make me cry, you make me buy…” so perhaps that’s a good thing.

7.  What’s your favorite book you’ve written?
That’s like asking me to choose between my grandchildren!  There are some that flowed more easily, but all in all, I like them all. Two that pop into my mind are The Lake Is On Fire and Candle In The Wind.

The Lake Is on Fire Cover
Maureen Wartski

The Lake Is on Fire

The Candle in the Wind

Candle in the Wind cover
Maureen Wartski


Candle in the Wind

8.  What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you related to your writing or book tours?
Shortly after I’d sent my YA The Face In My Mirror into the world, I received a fan letter from a Reformatory. It began, “Yo, Miss—“ and went on to say, “I usually hate reading but yurs (sic) warn’t (sic) half bad.” It was signed, “Squinty.”

9.  What is your favorite genre?
I love writing YAs and mid-grade novels, but I very much enjoyed writing Regency romances as Rebecca Ward. They were light and often combined history with comical as well as serious issues.

10.  How do you choose the right narrator for your book – first, second, or third person?

Choosing the right voice for a narrator can be a problem. I’ve often had difficulty choosing between 1st and 3rd person, main character. What usually works for me is to write a chapter in 1st person and then sleep on it. If it doesn’t sit well, I try 3rd main character. This ploy usually works, but it’s a tricky business. Writing Candle In The Wind, I actually wrote about five chapters in 3rd person—and hated the way it was turning out. Then, in the middle of the night it came to me what I was doing wrong —and there was no problem after that. My advice: if you aren’t sure, try different voices and see how they do.

11.  Is it necessary to create an unforgettable character for fiction?
Creating an unforgettable character is absolutely essential. To my mind fiction rises or falls with character. I have learned that the more ways in which a character is depicted the better. Here are five ways:

  1. Character in action

  2. Character in his/her surroundings

  3. Character shown through dialogue

  4. Character shown through the thoughts/speech of others

  5. Character shown through inference.


  1. Henry slunk down the street and peered around the corner.

  2. Henry’s room was a mishmash of odds and ends which looked as if they had been salvaged from discards of a yard sale.

  3. “Ah—could you possibly—well, I really don’t want to ask—“ sputtered Henry.

  4. “Henry?” the man guffawed. “That little pipsqueak? He’s afraid of his own shadow.”

  5.  The waitress saw Henry walk in, rolled her eyes and pointedly walked away.

Poor Henry! But we get the picture.

12.  What is a simple way to outline a compelling plot?
Outlining a plot needn’t be an awful experience. Simply jot down the characters you intend to introduce, then write a sentence or two outlining the actions that precipitate the conflict. After that spend a bit of time isolating the problem between the characters that will constitute the conflict. The conflict should now lead to actions that will create a climax, which will in turn lead to a conclusion.
This is simplistic, of course, but  I encourage writers to start with simple little outlines. When character, conflict, climax and conclusion are firmly fixed, there will be time to amplify and create a more detailed plot.

13.  How do you know when your manuscript is ready for submission?
I think that this varies with each writer. The notion that the manuscript has to be read and reread, worked and reworked, sometimes backfires because by then the writer is tired of the thing! I personally do four drafts. First comes the first draft, second the ‘bullwork’ draft—where the story is worked into story form, third the ‘cleaning up’ draft, and fourth the proofing and re-reading which I call ‘icing on the cake.’
It is, of course, dreadfully important to proof read the manuscript. If you have a friend who has an eye for details, ask h/her to read the script, too. Sometimes the eye of the author skips over a word or an omission because the mind ‘sees’ it as written. Beware!

14.  Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer?
I have been very fortunate—my family encouraged me to write and believed in my writing. My husband is my greatest critic and biggest fan. The younger generation thinks my stories are fun. So much for help. And inspiration? My Uncle Harry, I think, for he showed me the magic of words.

15.  What are you writing now?
I  have been so busy with my art that I have given short shrift to the writing. Short stories, an article or two—and my blog posts have helped to keep me alert. I write a haiku each day, and I am also chewing over an idea (the last chapter, of course, has been already written in my mind, but the rest is nebulous still).
Thank you, Maureen.
Here is more information about Maureen.
Links about Maureen Wartski:
Her blogsite/website (where you can access her writing and art) is:
Blogs She Followed:
Linda Anderson – A Writer’s Playground:

And recently discovered:
Tim Livingston’s: The Forester Artist:
Maureen Wartski was a writer, artist, wife, mother, and grandmother. She was born in Ashiya, Japan, a (then) small town which lay cradled between sea and mountains. In the evenings, they would walk along the road that ran past Osaka Bay, and a great moon would rise out of the water to turn the world to silver.  She was told that her first words were, “Big Moon.”
She and Mike Wartski got married 51 years ago. They have two sons and three grandchildren. She had 56 books published. They loved to travel.
All her life she felt the tug to write something, draw something, put together something with fabric, string and color, and the urge to create grew through the years.

Yuri's Brush with Magic cover Maureen Wartski

Yuri’s Brush with Magic – ,

Yuri’s Brush with Magic, her latest book for middle school children, follows the adventures of a brother and sister, the magic of words, and the incredible magic of the natural world.
There is even more wonderful information about Maureen in Wikipedia:
Thank you for being a guest on my blog, Maureen.  It is an honor to have you with me in spirit, today.
Love, Joan
A celebration of Maureen’s life was held in Raleigh, N.C. on Saturday, January 25, 2014.

Here is a link to the Obituary in the Raleigh News & Observer:

Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2014 Joan Y. Edwards

28 thoughts on “In Memoriam: Interview with Maureen Wartski, Artist, Author, and Friend”

    1. Dear Tim,
      Thanks for writing. Did you see that your blog was one of Maureen’s 3 favorite blogs? Indeed, she was a talented woman. You are right. It is wonderful that I was able to share this interview. I am glad that you enjoyed it.
      Celebrate you and your love of nature,
      Never Give Up

  1. Barbara writes;
    What a lovely lady and friend. Thank you for your tribute to
    Maureen Wartski. Thank you, for going ahead with sharing the interview.
    Her insights and thought are informative and helpful to me, and I’m sure to others.
    I appreciate your many other words of wisdom too, Joan.
    Abireso, your life to you today.

    1. Dear Barbara,
      Thank you for writing. Indeed, you are right. Maureen was a lovely lady and friend. You’re welcome for the tribute. It is an honor to tell you about Maureen in her words. I am glad that her insights and thoughts are helpful to you. I am glad that you feel I give you words of wisdom, too.
      Celebrate you and all you do help others in your path,
      Never Give Up

  2. Joan,
    I’m so glad you decided to post Maureen’s interview in memoriam. We all can learn so much from Maureen’s writing tips such as how to develop character, how to shape a novel by writing the last chapter first, and how to know when a manuscript is ready to submit. Maureen loved sharing her skills with budding authors.
    Maureen’s blog was one of many ways she shared her love of the world’s beauty and its people. She embraced beauty even in her first spoken words, “Big Moon.” Her haikus and art quilts brought beauty and joy to many, including myself. I’ll always treasure the ones I own.
    I’ll miss Maureen’s art, writing, and her friendship! Maureen’s life blessed so many! I’m thankful to have know her and her works.
    Thanks again for posting this. Joan. It’s a jewel.

    1. Dear Linda,
      Thank you for writing. I know that being a guest on my blog was something Maureen really wanted to do. I knew that she would want me to post it. I couldn’t let all of her hard work and great wisdom go without sharing it with my readers and her family and friends and writers all over the world. In a way this helps me handle the grief and loss of missing my good friend, Maureen.
      I know that she loved you, Linda. It is so good that we were both blessed by knowing her.
      I love that you believe my tribute post is a jewel. Thanks.
      Celebrate you every day.
      Never Give Up

  3. Thank you for sharing your interview with Maureen. Although I never met her in person, I was moved by her writing and the sweet spirit she expressed in her art. I’ll miss her but am grateful for the gift of her life.

    1. Dear Mary,
      Thank you for writing. You’re welcome for the interview with Maureen. Her words and art did touch us in many ways, didn’t they? She indeed was a gift to us.
      Celebrate you every day.
      Never Give Up

  4. Beautiful tribute to a life well-lived. Although I never knew her, I also was inspired by her work and her blogs. Thank you for sharing her last interview. It gave those of us who were only acquainted through her work, a special glimpse of her and her work.

    1. Dear Sandra,
      Thank you for writing. I’m glad you think this was a beautiful tribute to Maureen. Indeed, she did inspire us by her life, her work, and her blogs. You’re welcome for my sharing her last interview. I am honored that she shared this special glimpse into her and her work with us.
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

  5. How wonderful of you to follow through with Maureen’s interview so that we could all benefit from her words of wisdom.
    Marvelous interview and great tips from a generous author, poet, and artist.
    For those of us who unfortunately did not know Maureen, I thank you for your comments allowing us a great glimpse of her.
    Thank you, Joan – you have been, and continue to be a generous person, just like Maureen. I’m so happy you were friends.

    1. Dear Claire,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad you enjoyed Maureen’s interview and read her words of wisdom for us as writers. You’re welcome. My life was enriched by Maureen. She was a good friend. I wanted you to catch a glimpse of her beauty and wisdom.
      Celebrate you every day.
      Never Give Up

    1. Dear Mona,
      Thank you for writing. Thank you for your words of sympathy. It is indeed difficult to say goodbye. Sharing about a friend’s talents and love for others is a great way to say it for me.
      Celebrate your life today.
      Never Give Up

  6. DOn’t know what to say, Joan. What amazing timing that you had planned to post this interview with her now. What precious thoughts she shared with the writing community through your blog. Thanks for sharing her with the rest of us. Loved her points about characterization.Will use it in my writing classes.

    1. Dear Carol,
      Thank you for writing. It is indeed amazing that the time Maureen and I chose for her guest interview was now. Her birthday was on January 25, 1940. Perhaps that’s why she wanted one in the last of January. She was only 14 days younger than me. The Memorial Service Celebration of Her Life will be on her birthday, January 25, 2014.
      She did share precious thoughts with the writing community through my blog. I am honored. I’m glad you will use her ideas for characterization with your writing classes. I know they will use them to great benefit in her honor.
      Celebrate your life today.
      Never Give Up

  7. I am glad you decided to go ahead with this wonderful interview. She was a gifted and remarkable woman, writer, and warrior. And an incredibly blessing to all who had the chance to cross paths with her. She will be missed. Thank you, Joan.

    1. Dear Ann,
      Thanks for writing. I’m glad that you enjoyed the interview with Maureen. You are right. Maureen was a gifted and remarkable woman, writer, warrior, and a blessing to those who crossed paths with her.
      Celebrate you
      Never Give Up

  8. Joan,
    Thank you so much for posting this interview with Maureen. She always so freely shared all her talents. I couldn’t agree more with your statement of our luck in having her as part of our lives.

    1. Dear Lynn,
      Thank you for writing. You’re welcome for my posting this interview with Maureen. It is indeed a blessing that she shared her talents so freely. We are lucky people because we knew her.
      Thanks for subscribing to my blog. I appreciate you doing that.
      Celebrate you and your talents today.
      Never Give Up

  9. Oh, what a lovely interview to share as we mourn the loss of Maureen. I cannot even imagine the works of art she must be creating in heaven. My prayers are with her and her family.

    1. Dear Vijaya,
      Thank you for writing. I’m glad you think that this was a lovely interview to help as we mourn the loss of Maureen. I agree that Maureen’s working on a wonderful masterpiece in heaven. Thank you for your prayers for her and her family.
      Celebrate you.

    1. Dear Janelle,
      Thank you for writing. You’re very welcome for my sharing this interview. You are right. We will definitely all miss Maureen.
      Take the time to celebrate you today.
      Never Give Up
      Joan Y. Edwards

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