Catherine Raphael

My life is an unfolding adventure, with lessons to learn and opportunities to take — finding humor along the way.

I grew up in a suburb of Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Syracuse University with a major in metalsmithing. I worked as a jeweler for sixteen years, first in Philadelphia and then back in Pittsburgh. I also travelled to Arizona several times to do construction work on Arcosanti, Paolo Soleri’s ‘city of the future’.

Then, a couple things happened.

In 1984, I gave birth to my son. Six month later, my mother was diagnosed with cancer. Those events shifted my focus for quite a while. When I came up for breath, I felt the impetus to find new creative activities.

I got active in working for women’s rights and equal justice. I am one of the founding mothers of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania. I served on the boards of the Ms. Foundation for Women and the Women Donors Network and volunteered with other progressive organizations.

For fun, I attended a series of playshops for grown-ups (non-competitive play, art, and storytelling). I loved it, and eventually led my own playshops. In 1999 I wrote and published a workbook for hosting playshops, It’s Our Turn to Play!!!

Playshops led to storytelling, led to working with an improv troupe, led to acting rolls in a couple films, and…led to writing fiction.

I’ve loved fantasy since I was a kid, but found few protagonists I could identify with. For the most part women were idealized beauties or window dressing. Fully developed females tended to be evil hags instead of heroes. So, I wrote my own fantasy.

In 2014, I attended a master class at Hedgebrook. The friendships I made there coalesced into the Roving Writers, my writing group. We meet regularly to support each other and our writing. Together we’ve workshopped with authors Gail Tsukiyama, Erica Bauermeister and Kathy Fish.

I’ve had the pleasure of attending the Iceland Writers Retreat in Reykjavik, Iceland for four years pre-COVID. There I took workshops with a variety of international authors, connected with other writers, explored the strange and beautiful landscape of that country, and soaked in thermal pools.

Not surprisingly, my writing has expanded beyond fantasy. My flash story, It Used to be Called Trenton, won third prize in Writer Advice. The Care and Propagation of Azaleas won second prize in the Ageless Authors competition. My work has been short-listed in Women On Writing and long-listed in Bumble Bee.

(headshot taken by Ilana Ransom Toeplitz)