Pam McAllister

Selected Works

Nonfiction, illustrated
“Thorough and reliable ... full of fun and surprises.”
~ R. Kent Rasmussen,
author of Mark Twain A to Z
“An engaging blend of homage and irreverence.”
~ Publishers Weekly
Nonfiction, with illustrations and index
A life-embracing argument against the death penalty and handbook for all who oppose it.


I am a WRITER, author of books (described below), poems, stories, and essays. My work has been translated into a number of languages, including Japanese, Chinese, Swedish, and Farsi. I’m also a professional MUSICIAN, private piano teacher and, since 1988, the Music Director of the Park Slope United Methodist Church.

My writing and music grow out of my identity as an ACTIVIST, a feminist and pacifist-with-attitude, a woman of faith bent on finding the sacred in the ordinary. I’ve described my best self as a little bit Gandhi (eyes on the prize, feet on the path of justice and peace) and a little bit Ethel Merman (brassy, fleshy, campy, and loud, inclined to belt out “Everything’s Comin’ Up Roses”).

The primary paths of my life were forged early. My passion for words, books, poetry, theater, and writing was established when reading was encouraged as a family activity. Now, I live in a quiet, book-filled apartment -- the city-that-never-sleeps within easy reach for inspiration. Both parents were social activists. Our home in western New York was filled with music. By age fifteen, I was a paid church organist, following in the footsteps of my maternal grandmother. Interest in hymns has been a lifelong passion. From 2007 to 2011, I wrote a column of hymn-meditations for The Progressive Christian magazine.

Since making the move from rural to urban in 1975, I’ve called Park Slope, Brooklyn home. Mine has been an unconventional, counter-cultural, kaleidoscopic life, lived on a shoestring budget to support my creative passions. A grab bag of jobs, to keep the lights on and the rent paid, have added texture and adventure -- bus station diner waitress, emergency room nurse’s aide, temp secretary on Wall Street, office manager for several non-profits, live-in babysitter...


In 1982, I edited Reweaving the Web of Life: Feminism and Nonviolence (New Society Publishers). The Village Voice called the anthology “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.”

“I’m interested in anything Pam does ... Her work on women’s lives and nonviolence is direct, true, close to my heart, actually -- essential.” ~ Grace Paley

Two books in a series named for my mentor, Barbara Deming, illustrate how women have used creative nonviolent action for a variety of causes -- You Can’t Kill the Spirit: Stories of Women and Nonviolent Action (NSP, 1988) and This River of Courage: Generations of Women’s Resistance and Action (NSP, 1991).
“We need this book, especially for the history we learn about women and nonviolence. We need it because the times are so hard and anger is so deep, our sorrow so pervasive, and our patience so thin. What to do? we ask, to make a world worthy of our suffering. You Can’t Kill the Spirit helps us with this question.” ~ Alice Walker

After the publication of my anti-capital punishment book, Death Defying: Dismantling the Execution Machinery in 21st Century U.S.A. (Continuum, 2003), 150 attended the book party, including Judith Malina, whose Living Theater troupe performed Not in My Name, a play about ending the cycle of violence and revenge. My book Standing in the Need of Prayer: Devotions for Christians in Prison (Presbyterian Church U.S.A., 1992), has been distributed to 50,000 chaplains and inmates across the U.S.


Of my nine published books, the most fun to write was The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Mark Twain (Continuum International, 2008). What a stormy soul and wild mind Twain had.

I co-authored several books in Continuum’s Companion series with a writing partner, Dick Riley, on Shakespeare (2001), Sherlock Holmes (1999), and Agatha Christie (1979/​1986). Angela Lansbury attended the book party at NYC’s Mysterious Bookshop for the Christie book.

At their 2011 spring concert in NYC, the Melodia Women’s Choir sang “Mornings with You,” a setting of four of my poems by the composer Christina Whitten Thomas.

I’ve been a featured speaker at church and secular conferences, lectured at high schools, colleges, and universities, and given readings in bookstores and cafes. In 1992, a Swedish peace institute sponsored my attendance at a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. I then toured Germany as a guest of social justice activists.

I am a member of the Hymn Society, American Guild of Organists, Poets House, Author’s Guild, Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Brooklyn Community Storytellers, Animal Rights Advocates of Upstate New York, Brooklyn for Peace, and the War Resisters League.