I’ll be at Book Expo on Thursday, May 31, launching my new chapter book series with @HolidayHouseBks and signing ARCS from 2-3 pm! See all you book lovers there!
Even Ghosts Need the Chance to Speak the Truth, Don’t They?
“Sam finally allows himself to look up. He and Lacy lock eyes, and a joyous warmth rushes through him.”
Meet Lacy and Sam. She is a sixteen-year-old wannabe slam poet who wakes up in an historic cemetery–confused. He is a 17-year-old Civil War soldier whose job it is to teach new ghosts the strict rules of there after and to warn her about Suppression, a punishment even worse than death. Lacy desperately wants to leave the stifling cemetery and find out how she died, but every soul is obligated to perform a job. Given the task of providing entertainment, Lacy organizes an open mic. With the help of Sam and other new allies, will the open mic become a chance for the sad, frightened residents of the cemetery to finally express themselves? WARNING: This novel contains profanity as well as sensitive and complex themes related to death, dying, alcohol abuse, and physical abuse, and is for mature teens and adults.
What Makes the Book Unique?
- Hybrid play-novel form. I started this as a play and decided to incorporate various play writing elements into the process, but did not follow the rules of either form.
- Narrator voice and direct address.
- Mix of humor and seriousness.
- Historical setting. The play-novel takes place in Westminster Cemetery, the actual cemetery where Edgar Allan Poe is buried.
- Edgar Allan Poe, his Raven, and his family. Fans of Poe’s twisted tales will meet a newly imagined Poe and a trio of his relations.
Pre-Publication Praise for the Book
“Amato (Guitar Notes, 2012) is no stranger to playing with form and genre…a unique read that fans of Poe, poetry, or stage plays will find something to grab onto.” –Booklist
“The resulting alchemy capitalizes on the strengths of both media to create a unique, fully-realized world… Quoth the Raven, “Encore.”–Kirkus
Author Notes about the Writing Process
Find out more about my writing process and watch a video about one of my revision exercises in this link.
Author Notes about the Research Process
Find out more about my research process in this link to come.
Essays/Interviews/Blogposts related to the book
Listening to Old Ghosts: The Haunting Influence of Our Town and Spoon River Anthology published in Teen Librarian Toolbox.
See my gallery of images used in writing and researching.
Can you figure out the language of this new translation?
What do students do when they write a song?
- Research/brainstorm (it’s okay to be messy)
- Write rough draft
- Recognize and follow patterns
- Use repetition
- Experiment with rhyme
- Use rhythm
- Make sure each song has a surprise
Students at Potomac Elementary explored lots of elements of songwriting in my songwriting residency. Thanks to teachers, staff, PTA, and first-grade students for all the enthusiasm.
Our subjects were math and science. Teachers Ms. Siegel and Mrs. Li gave me a list of topics that first graders study. I chose a different topic with each class: Magnets, Soil, and Measurement.
Here are the songs the students wrote. When you listen to the songs, pay attention to the pattern, the rhymes, the rhythm, and the meaning.
Download the pdf of the You Need Me song about soil with lyrics and chords. Sing and play along with the song.
Download the pdf of the Magnet Magnet song with lyrics and chords. Sing and play along with the song.
Download the pdf of the Ruler Power song about soil with lyrics and chords. Sing and play along with the song.
First we did brainstorming to write down all the things about the topic that we know. Sometimes questions would arise and we had to do research to make sure we were correct. Then we used our brainstorm to write a rough draft. We had to experiment with different rhymes and rhythms to make sure the song made sense and sounded good to our ears. We had to recognize a pattern in our first verse and then apply that pattern to the rest of the verses. We decided that a good song has magnetic properties—it sticks to your brain!
Besides learning a lot about songwriting and writing original songs, we also learned about collaboration and about democracy (we had to vote on different ideas throughout the process).
I loved seeing how, at PES, kids are encouraged to respectfully disagree. As we wrote our rough drafts, sometimes a statement would be made about the science by one student, and another student would challenge the accuracy of the statement. This prompted us to stop the songwriting process and do a little research to determine accuracy before we continued. Bravo!
Since this residency was a part of the science block, I also introduced a question: can we make musical instruments out of magnets? What about soil or sand? We experimented to get results. Which kind of particle of sand do you think would be the loudest in a shaker? Course or fine?
Parents, here’s what you can do at home.
- Continue the folk song tradition of taking a song you already know and changing the words. This is a great activity for car rides! As our warm-up, we took a folk song that uses math and changed the words to make it a little more challenging. Substituting new words for old words in a folk song is a great way to encourage songwriting. When you substitute words, you have to make sense and you have to remember the new ones. It takes focus and concentration!
50 bottles of juice on the shelf.
50 bottles of juice.
Take ten down and pass them around
40 bottles of juice on the shelf.
2. When you are listening to a song with your kids, ask:
- Is there rhyme?
- What’s the pattern of the song?
- What’s the rhythm of the song?
- What’s the emotion of the song?
- Does the rhythm and melody fit the emotion/meaning?
- What’s the main idea of the song?
- Is there a chorus (a part that repeats)?
- Is there repetition?
- Is there a surprise?
3. If your child writes a song for fun at home, encourage him or her. As first graders, they might write silly songs. Their songs might not even make complete sense. That is okay. Please don’t try to make your child’s song perfect. Comment on something positive about the song. Does it have rhyme? Does it have rhythm? At this age, experimentation, play, and fluidity are important.
4. Add a ritual of making up songs together or singing songs that you know before dinner, while you’re cooking, when you’re stuck in traffic.
5. Sing and play the original songs above! I’ll have a new series of chapter books out in September that is about a songwriting club in an elementary school. The books will come with songs that are perfect for elementary school students. Happy reading and keep singing!
What a great school! I loved seeing all students in third through fifth grades for an assembly and then getting the chance to do writing workshops with fourth graders. We focused on developing character and wrote monologues about an unusual day in the life of… whatever animal they wanted to be. I encouraged the writers to put clues in their work, but NOT to say outright what kind of animal they were. Every student wrote and got the chance to perform a portion of their stories. To model how students could take a piece of writing and create an audio story, we collaborated on recording one story from each class–complete with sound effects.
Great job, kids!
A huge thanks to the fourth grade team and to the PTA for coordinating this year’s creative writing residency at Rock Creek Valley Elementary School.Special thanks to parent Shauna Hill and to teacher Rebecca McNiece for all the communication and coordination. Listen to the three stories below. (If you can’t see them, your computer is blocking. Try https://soundcloud.com/mary-amato-author/sets/rock-creek-valley-2018.
Can you guess the animal who love waffles in this story?
Can you guess the animal who is learning to fly and hunt?
Can you guess the animal who is trying to impress the King of the Jungle?
Join us in supportive, creative community
Page to Performance: Monologues & Dialogues
Saturday, February 10 event
Space is limited and registration has already begun. Contact Mary Amato to register ASAP. email@example.com
Join fellow writers and theater-lovers for a day-long exploration of character, voice, and conflict followed by an evening performance of the work we create. During the day-time workshops, we’ll write and revise monologues and dialogues tied (however loosely) to the theme “Making the Call.” This event is for writers, poets, storytellers, songwriters, comedians, and actors who want to learn more about the process of creating and giving voice to characters and who want an opportunity to hear/see work come alive in front of an audience.
If you’re already starting to get nervous, rest assured that the focus will be on exploration and fun. No need to spend time writing something ahead of time. We’ll do some simple exercises to generate a range of material. The pieces we create will vary from a short snippet of voice to a more complex dialogue complete with a beginning, middle, and end.
You don’t have to perform. You might not end up with a piece you love or even want to share, but you’ll definitely stretch your creative muscles by doing the exercises and enjoy contributing to the whole by giving feedback and hearing/reading the work of fellow participants. Some of the audience members who come for the evening enjoy performing, so we can decide which pieces can be done with audience participation.
Throughout the day we’ll explore what makes characters alive, believable, specific, funny, and riveting as well as how to use monologues/dialogues to tell a story. See schedule below.
Only $45 for the full day. The evening reading of our work will be free and open to the public
- Check payable to CPAE on arrival.
- Your own brown bag lunc
- Whatever you like to write with—pencil, paper, laptop (charge up!)
- Any snacks, drinks that you need to keep you going. There is a kitchen and we can provide coffee and tea. Bring anything special you enjoy.
- Yoga mat if you need a stretch.
- Layers—to adjust to room temp.
We’ll provide pizza and wine for dinner.
The whole shebang will be at the College Park Arts Exchange at Old Parish House, 4711 Knox Rd, College Park, MD 20740. The house is located within walking distance of the college park metro. Street parking is available for free.
- Arrival by 10:30 please.
- 10:30-11:00 Warm-up
- 11:00-12:30 Monologue/Voice Workshop (including writing time)
- 12:30-1:30 Brown bag lunch
- 1:30-3:30 Dialogue/Conflict Workshop (including writing time)
- 3:30-5:00 Individual Writing Time (one-on-one and/or small group feedback as desired—if anyone wants to go home or to a coffeeshop to work, that’s fine, too.)
- 5:00-5:30 Break
- 5:30-7:00 Dinner (pizza and wine provided) during which we’ll give each other feedback, do any last-minute rewrites, decide on the order of the evening show, etc.
- 7:00 Set up performance space
- 7:30 Public Performance (invite your friends and family—we will have at least one piece that will involve readers chosen from the audience)
Space is limited and registration has already begun. Contact Mary Amato to register ASAP. firstname.lastname@example.org
Please pass it on to writer friends and actor friends.
If you can only attend the evening performance, just show up at 7:30 pm. If you’re on FB, please RSVP through event for the show: https://www.facebook.com/events/169063820520359/
Leaders: Mary Amato and John Feffer
Mary Amato is a playwright, novelist, poet, and songwriter who also writes fiction for young adults and children. She co-founded Firefly Shadow Theater (www.fireflyshadowtheater.com) and has written and produced plays for adults as well as kids. Her next project is a hybrid play/novel and is coming out in Fall 2018. www.maryamato.com.
John Feffer has written and produced ten plays, including four one-man shows, and is the author of several non-fiction books and numerous articles on foreign policy. He is also the author of the recent dystopian novel, Splinterlands. He serves as the director of Foreign Policy in Focus at the Institute for Policy Studies. www.johnfeffer.com.
Carpe Diem Arts is offering my new class.
4 weekly workshops for adults
Tuesday evenings, 7:00-8:30pm
January 16-February 6, 2018
NOTE: You may borrow a uke during lessons if you want to try this, but do not own a uke.
Location TBD: Silver Spring or Takoma Park (depending on size of group)
In this series of sessions, we’ll work on singing, playing the ukulele, developing performance skills, and learning some practical music theory.
Songs will cover a range of styles. Mary will adjust the ukulele instruction so that players can be working at different levels at the same time. More advanced players can learn new tricks while less experienced players can be working on the basics.
Feel free to invite friends or family members who might appreciate the opportunity.
This series is great for:
a) singers who want to bond with their ukes;
b) uke players who want to expand their repertoire and bolster their vocal skills;
c) guitar players who want to add the uke to their repertoire;
d) songwriters who want fresh inspiration;
e) couples who relish the chance of a shared adventure!
f) music lovers who want to have fun in community with others.
NOTE: If you or a friend or family member want to participate but have never played the uke before, please contact us. We can try to arrange 1-2 private lessons before the class begins.
COST: $100 for the 4-week series. Let us know if you need financial assistance. We can arrange a partial barter for volunteer hours.
(Space is limited–so don’t delay in signing up!)
Thanks to students, staff and parents who welcomed me to the Alexander Hamilton Elementary School for a busy day of author visits. I loved getting the chance to be on the AH morning news show. Another treat was the special lunch with student writers. The stories they wrote were interesting, funny, and surprising. Keep writing! Special thanks to librarian Linda Murphy for all her preparation and planning.
An enormous thank you to the PTO of TJ Elementary School in Morristown, NJ, to Mark Fluck, librarian extraordinaire, and to all the students and staff of this grades 3-5 school. I loved making up funny stories with all the grade levels and sharing the excitement of writing. Thanks also to the PTO for organizing the book sale. AND…drum roll, please… Mr. Fluck created a collaborative journal, based on my book Please Write in this Book, so now students can add their own writing! TJ students, make sure to read what I wrote in your journal and have fun writing!