A Playwright and a Look Back in the Beauty of English Literature

Isabel Quintero grew up with a love of reading, checking out more books than she could carry from the main library in downtown Riverside.

Quintero’s mother would walk her and her little brother from their home in the city’s Eastside neighborhood and then inevitably have to help carry the books on the way back.

Those books helped lead the young Quintero to grow up with a love of stories. She would quickly learn that her fondness extended to oral storytelling, as well.

“When I was a kid I loved listening to my mom and her friends talk around her friend’s breakfast table, drinking coffee and eating a dish that one of them had cooked,” she said. “The story topics varied, including marriage, migration, love and singlehood, and the tales unfolded in such a way that the listener had no choice but to pay attention.”

Quintero was raised in both Riverside and Corona.

“Since my parents worked a lot, my grandparents baby sat me and then later my brother,” she said, explaining that they were not actually blood related, but a nice, older couple who helped her parents out. “They lived in Corona, which meant that’s where we went to school. So, it was go to school in Corona and also live in the Eastside of Riverside.”

While in fifth grade at Corona’s Garretson Elementary School, her teacher, Ms. Laing, had the class write a scary story for Halloween. When Quintero got her story back, it had words of encouragement that made her feel good about writing for the first time.

But it would not be until she was studying poetry as an undergraduate under Julie Paegle at California State San Bernardino that Quintero would truly go from simply appreciating the storytelling of others to discovering her own love of writing.

She would earn her bachelor’s degree in English and a master’s degree in English composition from Cal State San Bernardino. Her poetry began appearing in The Pacific Review, Xicano Poetry Daily and other publications. In 2015, her book “Gabi, a Girl in Pieces” won several awards, including the William C. Morris Award for Debut Young Adult Novel and a California Book Award Gold Medal for Young Adult Fiction.

Quintero said that getting her books published has been a huge and unexpected turn in her life. Other books have included “My Papi Has a Motorcycle” and the “Ugly Cat and Pablo” series. She said that she recently sold a middle-grade trilogy, “Martinez Paranormal Services,” about a young girl whose parents are ghost hunters.