Silver Spring’s Mary Amato inspires young writers

How do writers turn ideas into a book?
Are you a young writer–or a Baby Boomer with writing aspirations?  Check
out Mary Amato’s short movie above.


by Sandy Moore

When local children’s book author Mary Amato addressed her young audience at a March 13th book signing for her new novel, Invisible Lines, she issued a challenge: “If you ever see me without my writer’s notebook, I’ll give you $100.”
Amato is passionate about writing.   She’s ready to write anywhere, anytime.

Mary started to write as a young girl, filling her first writer’s notebook when she was seven.  ” I became best friends with children’s book character, Harriet the Spy” she says, “and started writing in a notebook, just like Harriet.”  Mary entered writing contests, penned magazine stories, wrote manuscripts and eventually (fast forward) built a career as a children’s book writer.  Her nine books have won her a national following.  But local fans are equally impressed by her devotion to young writers in Silver Spring’s Passion for Learning (“P4L”) program.

Alexander Amaya is one of those young writers.  He participates in the Young Writer’s Academy sponsored by P4L at Strathmore Elementary.  Amaya was hooked after reading Amato’s Please Write in This Book, about an epic classroom battle waged entirely through journal entries. “The part about three boys in a bikini was pretty funny,” said Amaya, “and I got to write in the back of the book!”  But now he writes stories about his favorite subject: soccer.  Kenia Villatoro, a fifth grader from Oakview Elementary said she likes writing plays best. “In one of my plays,” said Kenia, “the main character gets Superpowers from a bug bite.”


Local children’s book author Mary Amato greets fans
and fellow writers Alexander Amaya (left, center) and Kenia Villatoro
(right  center).

photo by Julie Wiatt

Both Kenia and Alex were excited to hear about Mary’s new book, Invisible Lines.   At the book signing, Mary read a suspenseful part of the new novel for middle grade readers (ages 10 and up), leaving the two hungry for more.   “That scene was fascinating,” said Kenia, “where the main character is furious with his younger brother for throwing out the notebook he worked on, so hard.”

When Amato was a full-time teacher, she knew kids like her protagonist, Trevor, who didn’t have the money for school supplies, or a computer at home — or even a stable home. “Trev” loves to play soccer, but his single mom can’t afford cleats or shin guards that are required for “A” league play. His family is still adjusting to apartment life after a short stay in a homeless shelter. Trev figures out how to turn his talent as a graffiti artist into a business, decorating kids’ sneakers to earn money for soccer gear.  He’s also determined to gain the respect of the science teacher at his new school and scores big with a notebook full of beautifully illustrated mushrooms.

One book reviewer wrote : “Amato’s mushroom metaphor aptly fits her young hero, who emerges from unpromising surroundings by following his mom’s advice “to rise above it” (Kirkus Reviews).  Mary Amato has created a character whose pluck and perseverance will inspire her students — as well as other young readers in our community.

Author Mary Amato has written nine books for children, beginning with middle grade novel The Word Eater, followed by The Riot Brothers series, and including a picture book The Chicken of the Family Her most recent novel, Invisible Lines, was published in fall 2009 by Egmont USA.

Amato is also a talented songwriter/singer who performs locally with a duo called “Two-Piece Suite.”  They will perform at The New Deal Café in Greenbelt on April 24..

About the Author

Sandy Moore, the Kids' Voice columnist, writes for young readers and is a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. Sandy is also a past contributor to Washington Parent magazine, a Board member of Lumina Studio Theatre, and resident of Silver Spring.