As a child Mary Saracino dreamed of being a June Taylor Dancer, twirling her legs high in the air, spinning kaleidoscopic images onto the TV screen, enchanting viewers of the Jackie Gleason Show. She has since followed that sweeping trail of fairy-dust magic wherever it would take her, relying on her imagination and her innate optimism to temper the ups and downs life had in store for her.
Mary was born in Seneca Falls, NY, the granddaughter of Italian immigrants who’d settled in that small town in western New York State in the early part of the 20th century. Her paternal grandparents arrived in 1920 from Castellaneta, Puglia (southern Italy). Her maternal grandparents arrived in 1913 from Castlenuovo di Garfagnana, Tuscany (northern Italy).
Mary is the fifth child (out of seven) and the first daughter of Frank (Francesco) and Margaret. Mary’s father Frank worked as a machinist at Gould’s Pumps from the time he was a teenager until he retired in his 60s, although his avocations were writing and politics. When Frank was a GI during World War II, his poems appeared in the Stars & Stripes and songs he’d written and recorded were played on the Armed Forces radio network. Back home after the war, he helped organize a union at the factory where he worked and was later elected a town Trustee (Councilman) and, eventually, a County Supervisor, serving his community for decades. Mary’s mother, Margaret, was a homemaker and a mother, who was never given the opportunity to pursue her dream of being a Broadway actress.
Margaret named her first daughter Mary Immaculate. Quite the handle for a five-pound baby girl, but she was raised Italian Catholic, so there you have it. Margaret already had four sons by the time Mary came along. The story goes: Margaret prayed to the Virigin Mary for a girl, promising to name her first daughter in honor of the Holy Mother. When Mary popped out, Margaret was elated. Mary can’t say what the Virgin Mary thought about it all. Funny thing is, in Margaret’s haste to repay her debt to the Blessed Virgin, she plopped an adjective between Mary’s first name and her surname, not a proper noun like Teresa or Angela. Perhaps that’s what inspired Mary to become a writer. Still, anyone who knows Mary well can tell you that such an unusual middle name failed to make her spotlessly perfect in any way.
Mary’s career as a writer began at the age of four when, instead of taking a nap, she used a stickpin to scratch the lyrics of “On the Good Ship Lollypop” into her parents’ wooden headboard. Since then, she’s been pursuing more original material.
Unlike some writers, Mary was not a voracious reader as a child. As the child of working class parents, books didn’t make it into the monthly budget. Even so, a few found their way onto the bookshelves in her family’s living room. On those knotty-pine boards Mary found a couple of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys mysteries as well as an assortment of The Lives of the Saints. The family’s modest library also held one complete set of used encyclopedias, no doubt a hand-me-down from some relative with older children who’d outworn their academic usefulness.
Mary’s introduction to the world of books (and literature) came in the 6th grade when her parochial school teacher invited her to participate in the Great Books program. Thus began her love affair with words and writing. In high school, Mary wrote her first short story as an assignment for her World Literature class. In college, she majored in English and continued to write, switching her focus to poetry.
After college Mary enrolled in a few poetry writing classes at The Loft, in Minneapolis, MN. While she continued to write poetry and prose through the intervening years, her work wasn’t published until 1990 when her creative nonfiction essay, "On Being Italian-American: An Introspection", was published in Sinister Wisdom, Issue 41.
In 1991-1992 Mary was selected to participate in the Loft Mentor Series Program where she worked with nationally known writers including Jessica Hagedorn, Sandra Cisneros, Barney Bush and Gallway Kinnell. These fabulous writers provided her with feedback on what would become the first chapter of her first novel, No Matter What (Spinsters Ink 1993). That novel was eventually named a 1994 Minnesota Book Award finalist.
In 1999 Mary’s second novel, Finding Grace, was published. That novel earned the Colorado Authors’ League award in the Adult Fiction Mainstream/Literary category. In 2000, Mary’s creative nonfiction essay, “Valentino, Puglia & Seneca Falls,” won the Salvator & Margaret Bonomo Memorial Prize for Literature.
Mary’s memoir, Voices of the Soft-bellied Warrior was published in 2001. Her fourth book and third novel, The Singing of Swans (Pearlsong Press 2006) was named a 2007 Lambda Literary Awards Finalist in the Spirituality category.
Mary’s shorter fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry have appeared in a variety of anthologies and literary/cultural journals, including: Don’t Tell Mama! The Penguin Book of Italian American Writing (Penguin Books, 2002); The Milk of Almonds: Italian American Women Write about Food and Culture (The Feminist Press 2002), TRIVIA: Voices of Feminism (September 2007), Hey Paesan! Writings by Lesbians and Gay Men of Italian Descent (Three Guineas Press 1997), She is Everywhere (iUniverse 2005), OCHRE: Journal of Women’s Spirituality (Spring 2007), NewVerseNews.com, and ThePedestalmagazine.com.
Mary doesn’t have an agent (yet!) but she welcomes any offers.
Pearlsong Press, Nashville, TN www.pearlsong.com
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