Ever since an uncle introduced her to Shakespeare at the age of 6, North Raleigh-based author Maureen Wartski has loved words.
"They are magic - you can take a handful of words and twist them into anything you want," Wartski said. "You can create universes. You can create anything."
Wartski's recently released book, "Yuri's Brush With Magic," is the 70-year-old's latest creation in a career that has spanned decades and continents. She has published 14 books since 1979, and her work has appeared in multiple magazines. Much of her work is aimed at young adult readers, but she also has penned historic and contemporary romance novels.
North Raleigh author Maureen Crane Wartski will read from and sign her latest book, "Yuri's Brush with Magic," at The Regulator Bookshop, located at 720 Ninth St. in Durham, at 3 p.m. on Saturday
Wartski's stories for Boys' Life magazine have been outdoor-oriented and action-packed, using excitement to draw readers in and character development to keep them engaged, senior editor Paula Murphey said.
"We like our stories to both entertain readers and emphasize positive values without being heavy handed," Murphey said. "This isn't an easy thing to do, but Maureen seems to pull it off effortlessly."
Alice Johansen of the Burlington Writers Club, where Wartski has been an instructor, describes Wartski as a gentle teacher who guides her students to learn through doing.
Wartski always suspected she would end up a writer. She was born in Ashiya, Japan, to a Welsh businessman and a Swiss-Japanese English teacher, and spoke Japanese, English and French growing up. Her first book was a "short-lived masterpiece" titled "A Fish on a Dish," penned at the age of 5. Her first short story was published in an English magazine when she was 14, and she had a column for the local newspaper while she was in high school.
"Writing is the one thing that always came to me naturally - nothing else," Wartski said.
Then life took over for a while: She attended college at Redlands University in California, finished her degree in literature and philosophy at Sophia University in Tokyo, and was living in Bangkok, Thailand, while her husband was in the Army when her first child was born.
Her first book, "My Brother is Special," was published in 1979 after being rejected 11 times. After each rejection, Wartski retyped and edited the manuscript, which revolved around the Special Olympics, and sent it right back out again until she finally got an acceptance.
Many of her books have serious themes, such as interracial adoption or the trials of the Vietnamese boat people, but Wartski always makes sure to keep things lively with strong characters to maintain readers' interest.
Her most recent manuscript is set on Emerald Isle, and centers around two siblings sent to live with an artist great-aunt who they soon suspect has magic powers with her paint brush.
Since moving to North Carolina from Massachusetts about 15 years ago, two of Wartski's books are set in the state. Along with "Yuri's Brush with Magic," a ghost story titled "The Promise" takes place in Mecklenburg County.
"Mountains, gold mines, ocean - there's everything you could possibly imagine in North Carolina," Wartski said, "so it's fertile for a writer's imagination."