Tuesday, April 15, 2014

5 Questions with Toni De Palma

Toni will have a reading by a professional actor of her work on April 27, 2014 at 7:00pm as part of the NJ Literary Artists Fellowship Showcase.

The reading will take place at New Jersey Repertory Company
179 Broadway
Long Branch, NJ 07740
Click here for directions

There is a suggested donation of $10. All tickets will be available at the door on the evening of the readings. No advanced ticket sales.  

1. You have written several middle grade novels. What do you enjoy most about writing for young audiences?  
Reading became very important to me when my family moved to a new apartment when I was six. We lived on an avenue in Brooklyn over a candy store. While the candy store was a kid's dream come true, there were no other kids in the area to play with. Around that time, I found solace and friendship in the Beverly Cleary books. I loved Ramona, Beezus and Henry Higgins. They became my new gang of buddies. I think the seed was planted at that time. I was inspired by those books and wanted to reach out to other kids who might feel lonely by becoming a children's writer when I grew up. 

2. As a child, you spent many summer in Ischia, the Italian island where your father grew up. That is a unique experience for a young person. How do you think this has influenced your writing?
Since I was a bit shy and spoke only a few words of Italian, when I went to visit my relatives, I was put in the role of the observer. This, it turns out, was excellent training for a person who would later become a writer. Italians are by nature theatrical. They are expressive, a bit loud and talk with their hands. So being in Ischia was like watching an ongoing opera. As I got older, I learned more Italian and responded to its rhythm and lyricism. I am always trying to capture this lyricism in my own writing. 

3. You studied psychology before you decided to pursue your dream of writing. Do you write your characters and then go back and figure out why they behave the way they do or do you first outline certain “types” of characters and then write your story based on their behaviors? 
I don't write for plot, but rather for character development. Because of this, it is very important to me to know my character's motives. One of my teachers gave me excellent advice. She said, ask your character two things: What does he or she want and ask her/him what they really want. Characters are just like you and me. They have dreams and goals, but underlying these tangible goals are the true essence of what they are seeking. 

4. You contribute to the Writers by the Shore blog and are developing the Pasta, Passion and Pens Writers Retreat, a retreat for writers in Italy. Since writing is a solitary act, what do you find are the benefits for bringing a group of writers together to write a blog or to spend time with one another on a retreat?
I love working with writers one-on-one or in a group. I find that while I'm encouraging others and actively engaging in conversations about their writing, I am learning something too. And interacting with other writers is essential because there are days when I just want to scrap it and get a job at Starbucks. But hearing other writers talk about their own frustrations and their triumphs gives me that spark I need to continue.

5.  You were born in Brooklyn, NY and now reside in NJ. We have to ask….who does pasta better…the New Yorkers or the New Jerseyians? 
My husband (a Philly boy) actually makes the best homemade pasta! When we got married, his grandmother gave me a pasta maker for my bridal shower. I don't particularly like to cook so I took one look at the pasta maker and said to my husband, "It's all yours." :) 

To learn more about Toni, visit our website 

You can also find additional information on our website about the Literary Artist Fellowship program.

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