October Featured Guest: Maurice Prater (USA)

 

1. Do you consider your Business Administration Master Degree as having laid the foundation for your different jobs within the Catholic Church?

Yes, very much. Since 1999, I have been involved in a variety of business-oriented roles: communications, development, fundraising, stewardship, mission advancement. Because a nonprofit has limited resources, my career has always involved a combination of responsibilities, not just a focus in one area. But, that’s what I like!

2. What are some of the biggest challenges you have experienced, as a Catholic author, because of the latest turmoil within the Church and the Pope?

It’s depressing. There always seems to be some kind of sexual or financial scandal in the news. The challenge is to stay focused and look at the big picture. Scandals come and go, but Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. I’m working to please the Lord, not worldly churchmen.

3. You are a member of the prestigious Catholic Writer’s Guild. What are some of the advantages of belonging to such groups? Why did you choose this group among all the other Catholic and non-Catholic groups available?

I chose the Catholic Writer’s Guild because they offer a Seal of Approval for books that are faithful to the teachings of the Church. When I was editing the Holy Family Prayer Book for the Missionaries of the Holy Family, I learned about the Guild through a friend in Saint Louis. If a book has an Imprimatur, and all three of my children’s books do, a Seal of Approval is not necessary. But, this is just one service they offer. The Guild members help to promote each other’s books, and we partner with the Catholic Marketing Network, which promotes Catholic bookstores.

4. How did you choose the theme and topic of the Family Moment videos you were responsible for producing and which aired periodically at the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN)? Challenges and rewards related to the production?

The theme was easy, Family Life, because I am the advancement director for the Missionaries of the Holy Family who promote the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph as the standard of holiness for all families. The topics were chosen based on what each month is dedicated to in the Church year. For example, October is Respect Life Month and the Month of the Holy Rosary. So our October Family Moment video was about praying the Rosary as a family for a Culture of Life, based on the Rosary meditations found in the Holy Family Prayer Book. This book, by the way, is available in English and Spanish. The biggest challenge to creating these videos was having them meet EWTN’s high standards of quality and fidelity to Church teachings. Our first video was rejected, and we were crushed! But we eventually, by trial and error, settled into a format that flowed with EWTN’s programming.

Another challenge was being limited to covering the topic thoroughly within a two-minute timeframe. It was rewarding, though, to see our videos played on EWTN, the largest Catholic media network in the world. It was a stamp of approval. But, it almost didn’t happen at all! Before production could begin, EWTN wanted an endorsement from a bishop or cardinal, and Cardinal Raymond Burke came through for us. He was familiar with the Missionaries of the Holy Family when he was Archbishop of Saint Louis.

5. Now let us talk with Maurice, the children’s book author. You team up with the same illustrator to publish your three books with Divine Providence Press. What are some of the dos and don’ts when choosing the publisher and the illustrator for your genre?

Unless you are a big name in the world of Catholic publishing, the hard part is not finding the right publisher. The hard part is finding a publisher willing to take a chance on you! Divine Providence Press is an imprint of Wiseblood Books. The founder is Dr. Joshua Hren, and we just hit it off from the beginning, the chemistry was right. Joshua’s wife Brittney is also a big influence in running the publishing house. Choosing the illustrator was easy because I did not have to choose! Jason Koltuniak was chosen by Joshua and Brittney, and Jason’s illustrations make the text come alive. He’s brilliant. It’s critical, right? Picture books, for the most part, are all about the pictures, so the illustrations must take the vision and turn it into a reality.

6. You started that journey in 2014 with the publication of Counting on Faith. A clever way to teach children to count while learning their Catholic Faith. How are teachers, catechists, and parents reacting to your book?

Counting on Faith is simple, yet profound. It goes deeper than other Christian counting books. It’s more than just counting sheep, counting stars, and so forth. Each number, one through ten, represents an important truth found in Sacred Scripture. For example, the number nine refers to the nine choirs of angels. Scriptural references are included in the back of the book as an encouragement for family members to get back to the roots of their faith. People will often say that they learned something new, right along with their children and grandchildren.

7. In 2018, you released Saved by the Alphabet. However, now the emphasis is shifted from numbers to letters. Children learn their ABCs while getting to know a person in Sacred Scripture who plays a role in our history of salvation. Do you envision these books as a cornerstone to find positive role models in a world of chaos?

Absolutely. Positive role models are becoming harder to find, unless one cracks open the Bible, which is full of heroes and heroines! There are many more characters in the Old Testament than the New Testament, but I evened it up, with half the people coming from each Testament. There are also more male characters than female in Sacred Scripture, but I added in the heroines as much as possible. For example, how could we ever forget God’s masterpiece, the Blessed Virgin Mary, who is the mother of Jesus Christ and our spiritual mother too? Saved by the Alphabet is balanced, appealing to both boys and girls.

8. In 2020, during the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic, you brought hope and added color to the world with the release of What Color is Heaven? Children learn about the colors in God’s creation, while strengthening their spirits in such uncertain times in which we are living.  Has this book fulfilled your expectations and mission?

Yes, but opportunities became limited because of less and less public events. It’s okay in a way since we are challenged to become more creative in reaching our audience. I am hopeful that life will become somewhat normal again. Did you know that blue is the color of faithfulness? Children will learn this and more in What Color is Heaven? In a way, this book is more symbolic than the other two, but it is still practical because while children are learning their colors, they will also begin to understand how colors relate to our faith and the Word of God.

9. How do you keep the text simple and engaging for your young target audience?

It is always good to have proofreaders, and Joshua and Brittney are parents of young children, so they make for great proofreaders. Be open to ideas. Illustrators are often a good source of advice. I have made changes based on the suggestions of artist Jason Koltuniak. Collaboration is key. Also, I try to remember what it was like when I was a child. Children take everything so literally, and then there comes this epiphany when they learn that words can have more than one meaning.

10. Will there be a companion audiobook in the near future?

There is no plan at the moment, but this would ultimately be a decision made by the publisher. It probably would be difficult because these are picture books, and children need to see and be captivated by the illustrations.

11. Where can our readers buy your books?

Ask for them at your local bookstore! Otherwise, the books are available through Divine PAsk for them at your local bookstore! Otherwise, the books are available through Divine Providence Press at www.divineprovidencepress.com, Amazon, Catholic Supply, and the EWTN Religious Catalogue at 1-800-854-6316.

12. How can our readers reach you to schedule book readings?

Please call me at 314-599-3627, or send an email to mauriceprater@hotmail.com, or write to me at 3014 Oregon Avenue, Saint Louis, MO 63118-1412.

13. A word of advice for parents and educators to nurture the seed of faith in young children?

The Bible is fun! It is rich in numbers, heroes and heroines, and colors. Some of the first things children learn are how to count, their ABCs, and colors. They can do this and learn about their faith from Sacred Scripture at the same time. I have three books that prove it can be done: Counting on Faith, Saved by the Alphabet, and What Color is Heaven?

God bless your family!

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