Friday, June 22, 2012

Coast to Coast Interview with Toni Margarita Plummer

Melinda Palacio
Toni Margarita Plummer at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference

On Tuesday, Michael Sedano wrote his review for The Bolero of Andi Rowe. I’ve also recently finished Toni Margarita Plummer’s book and relished each of the stories. What struck me was the outstanding way in which she portrays strong, female characters who are in control of their sexuality. These are not your abuela’s stories of rebellion and tortilla making, but contemporary coming of age stories, set in South El Monte, Plummer’s hometown. Of the Winner of the Miguel Mármol Prize and Honorable Mention in the Mariposa Award, Sandra Cisneros writes:

“Heartfelt stories of girls who ache to live in any other world than the one given them and who disastrously believe falling in love is the only way to get there. American tales for the new millennium.”

First Book Panel at the SBWC with Amy Franklin-Willis, Melinda Palacio, Ramona Ausubel, and Toni Margarita Plummer

Attendees at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference had the pleasure of hearing Toni Margarita Plummer both as an editor and an author on the first book panel, which included Amy Franklin-Willis (The Lost Saints of Tennessee), Ramona Ausubel (No One Is Here But All of Us), and Melinda Palacio (Ocotillo Dreams). This year the SBWC had the best first book panel, and the best looking bunch as well. Sure, I’m biased because I was on the panel. I’ve also had several people tell me they appreciated our candid words. I’ve been attended the SBWC for ten years and it was certainly the most packed first book panel. Our moderator was late and we took over. Judge for yourself and read all of our books and then you can add your comment of how great it was to read these four female authors in conjunction.

Interview with Toni Margarita Plummer

Melinda Palacio: After polishing these award-winning stories, what have you learned about yourself as an author and what surprises you most about your role as author?

Toni Margarita Plummer: Well, I know that I love being an author! Now that I have this first book done I want to write 10 more! What’s surprising is hearing how differently people can read the same story. As readers, we seize on different things, connect with different aspects. And some readers have made these really insightful comments, things I never even thought of.  So the writing and intention is one thing, and the interpretation is another. It’s fun that we can discuss these stories. I’m the author, but that doesn’t mean I’m the only one who has anything to say about them. I revised them a lot. So it’s also great to know that they’re being well-received. I feel my instincts were right.

MP: How do you know when to end a story? Do you change your mind often about the ending?

TMP: The ending is usually the one part that stays the same! It’s more likely I’ll decide to begin in a new place or play around with the middle.  I usually know where I want to go. It’s getting there that can be tricky.

MP: You write about women who own their sexuality, such as Inez Suarez. Who is your biggest influence in writing strong women characters and why is this important to you?

TMP: I think of Inez as not really knowing what else to do with herself, or how else to express her sexuality, and so she’s in this pattern where she moves from guy to guy and does the whole club scene. But strong women and women exercising their sexuality is very important to me. I don’t think that comes from any particular influence, but more from just my experiences as a woman and hanging out with other women. A woman’s sexuality is a key part of who she is. So it’s really more about capturing the reality that I’ve seen and writing women who are as true-to-life as possible.

Melinda and Toni in Manhattan two weeks ago

MP: What is your favorite thing about being an editor in New York?

TMP: It’s finding authors whose work I love and connect with. I get to share that work with my colleagues and ultimately with the larger reading public. Your whole self goes into selecting the books you acquire. It can end up being quite personal. What’s really gratifying is hearing that other people love it too. I guess that’s more than one thing!

MP: Since your life allows you to see both sides of writing, what advice would you offer to begining writers.

TMP: So many writers focus on just getting that first book published. Of course that’s important, but it’s just the beginning! Set long-term goals for your writing. Remember that a career is usually built over many books. Be a part of the literary community however you can.

MP: What else would you like to tell readers of La Bloga about yourself?

TMP: I recently joined the board of Kweli Journal, an online literary journal for writers of color. We’re always looking for submissions, and we’re especially in need of nonfiction. Check out the website: You can also read a short story of mine there, about Andi Rowe!

MP: Read more about Toni Margarita Plummer on her website:


Unknown said...

Enjoyed the interview. Thanks for sharing the link and information.

Red Gables said...

Thank you for a very upbeat and inspiring interview. I will be following La Bloga from now on!

Thelma T. Reyna said...

What a pleasure reading this article: two strong, highly talented, outstanding authors--Melinda Palacio and Toni Margarita Plummer. Congrats to both of you for the honors your books have won. As Toni says, your career is built on all the books you write, and I'm looking forward to your continuing successes, both as authors and as literary inspirations.