Sunday, December 20, 2009

Mary Amato's Writing Tips Blog is moving

My Writing Tips blog is moving to my new website.

You can find me at:





Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Question About The Power of Story


Kids write the best fan letters. “It made me feel verry alive.” That’s how a fourth grader from Middletown Elementary School described the experience of reading. From time to time I find the same comment, though not always spelled the same way, in my fan mail, and it always makes me stop and marvel about the power of story. Why does reading a story about someone else make us feel alive? Want to explain your theory?

Illustration by Eric Brace for Please Write in This Book by Mary Amato

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Writing Tip#17: Plotting Your Way

I often use index cards to keep track of my plot. I try to write short statements related to the action of the story on cards. Sometimes I spread them on the floor to "see" my plot. Sometimes I tape them to a display board.

In addition to using the cards for plotting purposes, I also use them to keep track of important bits of information, such as my character's school schedule. These are the cards for the novel Invisible Lines. I have a new set of cards for the book I'm working on now.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Creative Teaching Idea #1: Toy Travel Diary


Learn a little something by sending your toy pet into the world...

My name is Inch, and I’m from Wilmette, Illinois. Recently, I traveled to Maryland to visit author Mary Amato (you can see me on the bottom of her rather messy desk holding her pencil). She was surprised to see me and read the tag attached to me. My card asked her to send a note, photo, or postcard to the school about what it’s like where she lives (her geography, culture, climate, population, interesting facts, etc.). Then she is supposed to pass me on to someone else. I’m hoping to travel all around the country. Maybe even the world. Cool, hunh? Thanks to 5th grade teacher Teresa Dobson at Highcrest Middle School for inspiring her students to follow through with such a great idea.

Do you have a creative teaching idea to share?


Friday, September 11, 2009

Writing Tip #16 Kids Deserve Rich Vocabulary

Sometimes adults ask me if I am conscious about word choice when writing for children: Do I deliberately choose a “small” word so that it doesn’t go over the reader’s head?

I shoot for the best word, no matter how small or large.

I believe that there is an organic process of learning language, which is called exposure. How do we learn “big” words? By hearing or seeing them used in context. I still recall the thrill of learning the word “salutations” when reading Charlotte’s Web. Imagine if E.B. White had deprived me of that thrill?

Kids are remarkable creatures and can handle just about anything.

While walking to the outdoor pool last week, I passed two boys, about seven years old, sitting on a fence, legs dangling. One boy’s flip-flop sandal fell off his foot, and he turned to his friend and said, in absolute deadpan, “I just lost my dignity.”

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Writing Tip #15: Listen to Leonard Cohen's Advice

Spend a full day writing, painstakingly layering in word after word, only to discover that it all needs to go into the trash at the end of the day. The process is agonizing and depressing and…essential.

How do you keep doing it day after day? By accepting the fact that you have to write in order to write. (I'm still working on this.) The great songwriter Leonard Cohen, captured in a documentary by Lian Lunson, said it this way: “You have to write down what you have to abandon. You’ve got to see how it works with the whole thing and then throw it away.”