Getting to Know Mother Teresa
An Interview with Maryanne Raphael
By Tim Drake
Maryanne Raphael is the oldest of ten children. Born in Waverly, Ohio she edited a literary magazine at Ohio University, and studied at the Sorbonne in Paris. She resides in Carlsbad, California but spends most of the time traveling. She has previously published How to Survive as a Free Lance Writer, Akita, A Dog For All Seasons, & Runaways: America’s Lost Youth. Her most recent book is Mother Teresa, Called to Love.
TD: Have you always been a writer? How did you first get started writing?
MR: I have been a writer since before I learned to read. My Grandpa Patterson used to read stories to me and I would make up my own stories and he would type them. When I was about five, I made up an article called Pray for the Wanderer based on my favorite song. Grandpa typed the story for me and we mailed it to St. Anthony’s Messenger and waited eagerly for them to print it. It broke my heart when I received my first rejection slip at age five.
It could have ended my career but I was already addicted to story telling and could not stop. And eventually I began to see rejection slips as a reward, a Blue Ribbon for achievement, for having written something and sent it out.
TD: Are there particular authors whose work influenced your own?
MR: I have always read all sorts of work and loved many different authors. Poets influenced me as much as any writers. I loved Emily Dickinson, e.e.cummings, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert
Browning, T.S. Eliot, Anais Nin, Hyemeyohsts Storm, Flannery O'Conner, Ernest Hemingway, William Faukner, Thomas Wolf, Willa Cather, Somerset Maugham, Katherine Anne Porter, and Thomas Merton.
TD: Weren't you originally a "Beatnik" poet? Explain how that experience influenced your work.
MR: My husband Lennox Raphael and I read poetry with William Burroughs, Alan Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky , Gregory Corso and others at the Metro Cafe in New York and at St. Marks Church in the Bowery. During this time I fell passionately in love with language, changed my priorities to put spiritual and artistic concerns above material possessions and began to experiment with various forms of writing.
TD: How did you come to know Mother Teresa?
MR: I was teaching the history and geography of India in St. Joseph's Catholic school in Hilo, Hawaii when Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize . That was the first time I heard of her. Then a friend of mine became a Missionary of Charity and invited my son and me to watch her take her vows at the church in the Bronx. After the Mass, the nuns and their guests spent the rest of the day with Mother Teresa. It was a beautiful intimate time, a real blessing and a day I will never forget.
TD: In what ways did meeting her change your life?
MR: Mother taught me not to worry about money, health or safety. When I saw her fantastic faith I thought, "Of course you don't have to worry, Mother Teresa, you are a saint. You know God is taking care of you." But I am a sinful single mother with health problems and limited budget. When I suddenly found myself with a life-threatening brain tumor I had no choice but to trust God to care for me.
I remembered Mother Teresa's words and I became a Sick and Suffering Co-Worker and was able to relax and let God heal me. Mother helped me to get over my fear of death. When she was saying goodbye to a dying person, she spoke as though she were sending them on a trip they'd always longed to take. She would hug them and smile and say, "Now as soon as you get there, you tell Jesus how much we love him and how we are coming to see him soon."
TD: How is your book different from others that have been published about her?
MR: My book is concise. I tried very hard to make it fun to read, to arrange the material in chronological order, with dramatic narrative. While I wanted to give the most important facts I was mostly striving to capture something of Mother's wonderful passionate compassionate spirit.
TD: Share with me how you went about promoting the book, particularly your experiences in your hometown.
MR: I started my promotion by going to Waverly, Ohio where I was born and raised and received my first rejection slip. I was on all the local television stations. The newspapers sent reporters and photographers to my house. When I spoke to St. Mary's Friendship Club every member bought a book and they took money from the treasury and bought books for every library in town. Then we had an official celebration in each library where I signed the books and sold some and donated more to the library. Frank Swarington's News Show (Waverly's 20/20) announced, Mother Teresa, Called to Love by local author Maryanne Patterson Raphael is now the number one best selling book in Waverly, Ohio!" That inspired me for all the other stops on my book tour.
TD: What advice would you offer fellow writers hoping to publish their
MR: When I was in New York City at Thanksgiving I went to a Conference at the New School for Social Research sponsored by the American Pen Club and the Authors Guild. The topic was electronic publishing. I am not interested in e-books because I love old-fashioned books but the idea of POD, Print-on-Demand excites me. In fact the Authors Guild has re-released Runways, America’s Lost Youth(co-author Jenifer Wolf-Preface Anais Nin). Our book came out in February, 2001. And I have a whole stack of manuscripts I plan to publish that way.
TD: Could you share your experience of almost running out of books, and
how you were able to overcome that?
MR: My Thanksgiving book tour in New York was a big success and we sold out. We didn't have enough money available to print more books so I found an investor and the second printing will be available in six weeks. Now as soon as I heard we were running out of books I ordered the 200 that were left so I have never been completely out of books, even though the wholesaler is out, as are Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.
TD: What do you have planned next?
MR: I have begun a new book about Mother Marianne of Molokai who was with Father Damien when he died and who lived in the leper colony herself for 30 years and died there. And my ex-husband, Lennox Raphael, and I are finishing a book we began when we were together. It is called Autobiography of a Marriage. Lennox lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, so the work is done via computer, phone and letters. Our son Raphael who lives in New Delhi has written the preface.
TD: How can interested readers get a copy of your book?
MR: My web page is http://www.authorsden.com/maryanneraphael
My address: Writers World, P.O. Box 1381, Carlsbad CA 92018-1381.