Talking Books With The Local Children’s Author
by Gill Sherry
By her own admission, Greta Yorke is a tad obsessed with witches.
“It all started because I won a lovely knitted witch in a school raffle when I was teaching Primary 1. I thought it would be lovely to have ten of these witches for counting exercises. So the lady knitted me ten witches and they all came in different colours. I thought, gosh, I have to write a story about these witches! And that’s how it came about.”
Greta, who lives in Prestwick, is referring to her first children’s book, Witch Hitch, which she self-published in 2015 – quite an undertaking considering the only writing she had done previously was the odd poem for a church magazine.
“I was actually in my fifties when I started writing,” Greta tells me. “I didn’t go to university till late. I wrote a few poems and people said they were good… I thought, can I maybe do something with the poems?”
But it was actually advice from a famous actress that started Greta on her writing journey.
“No name dropping at all… but my mother was friendly with Emma Thompson’s mum. They were talking and apparently Emma said, ‘Greta should join a writer’s club’. So I did. I joined Ayr Writers’ and I’ve never looked back… it’s been amazing.”
Two significant things happened after Greta joined Ayr Writers’ Club. Firstly, her story Witch Hitch won the under 7’s category in the Scottish Association of Writers’ competition in 2010. And secondly, she met Maggie Bolton.
“I knew that Maggie had done an illustration course… and I said, would you like to try and illustrate this book? She did… and then we decided we would publish it ourselves. That’s how it all started.”
Witch Hitch proved so popular that Greta wrote another story (this time about a wizard), publishing The Woo in the Woods in 2016.
But she wasn’t yet done with witches!
“The Mitchell Library was doing an exhibition on tartans… and I thought, what about a tartan witch? Also, they’re trying to encourage the use of Scots language in schools so why not marry the two up? And so Tartan Witch was born!”
Although she admits that having her first book published was the highlight of her writing career, it’s being able to thrill and delight children that gives her the most pleasure.
“I’ve always been involved with children. I just love the feedback that you get from telling stories to children. And they’re so honest, they tell you exactly what they think!”
But as much as she enjoys entertaining children, she’s also keen to include an element of educational value in each of her stories. This is particularly evident in her latest book, Halloween Quest, a story that takes place on October 31st but is not specifically about Halloween.
“I actually wrote it to help young people,” says Greta. “They need to talk and they don’t. They spend their time on machines and in their rooms.”
The book tells the story of Ross, a boy who feels the whole world is against him. He takes his siblings out for Halloween but manages to lose them. During his quest to find them, he meets various different characters and realises that it’s actually good to talk. He sees into the home life of a bully and is able to empathise and understand why he behaves as he does. He meets a wood man who tells him all about the importance of trees. He’s also able to come to terms with the death of his beloved grandpa. And, in case you were wondering, his siblings turn up safe and well!
But Greta is still not done with witches! The Tartan Witch is set to return as she explains to other witches what Halloween used to be like when you had to make your own costumes. It promises to be an entertaining and educational story full of Scottish customs and culture.
In the meantime, you can purchase Halloween Quest (and Greta’s other books) from Dumfries House or online from Amazon. For signed copies, contact Greta directly by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.