Creating connections through the arts and across cultures

My Writing Mentors by Maryanne Raphael

Author Maryanne Raphael graces us with memories of her mentors.
My Mentors

My first mentor was Grandfather Patterson who read stories to me, wrote letters to editors and typed up all the stories I made up before I learned the art of putting words on paper. He helped me appreciate my first rejection slips telling me they showed I had written something and sent it out which was what professional writers do.

My Grandmother Brown was another mentor. When I was 12 years old, she called me aside and said, “I want you to help me tell my life story for all my children and grandchildren.” Grandmother described her growing years, meeting Grandpa, getting married, having children, going from olden days to modern days. She had a gift of being sensual, making you smell the lilacs, feel the thorns, see the waterfalls, hear the horses, and feel the udders as she milked the cows.

I always loved to read and from William Faulkner I learned to create pictures with my words and to find the exact word to describe an object or thought.

From Ernest Hemingway I learned to share the most important facts with my reader while having a mountain of secrets hidden in my head and heart holding the information I shared in the writing. I saw my work as an iceberg with the essential on top but the majority of the work underneath, hidden but supporting the top.

My next mentor was Mrs. Freshour, my next-door neighbor and English teacher at school. She taught me to love reading good literature and when I was chosen to give the Valedictory speech she helped me learn to do research and use it effectively.

When I met Anais Nin, she told me of friends from all walks of life, and travels around the world. I wished to imitate her love of life, her sensitivity, her commitment to her work. “I always answer every letter I receive,” she said. “I never know how my answer will help someone.” I loved her compassion and passion.

My spiritual mentor was Mother Teresa. I was blessed with spending time with her and Anais Nin. The most important thing she taught me about writing was if you write about her work, you must commit yourself to doing the work, no matter how dirty you get your hands. You cannot write about poverty unless you live with the poor. I became a coworker and she gave me permission to write. “Mother Teresa, Called to Love”and “What Mother Teresa Taught Me” which was published by St. Anthony Messenger Press and in Arabic by an Egyptian publisher.

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1 Responses »

  1. Thank you Janet for suggesting I write about my writing life. I try to make it a habit to write something each day and writing about my mentors took me on a quick trip through my writing life. It reminded me of how fortunate I have to have writing as a guardian angel with me always. Hope the words help some other writer to remember his or her beginnings as a writer. Best wishes Keep up the wonderful creative work you do. Happy 2010 Maryanne

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