Honoring a Legend
PCC has made a difference in the life of Martha Tolles.
New friendships with aspiring writers at the college, an educational night class for writing fiction, and the skills needed to become a published author all helped make her who she is today: the celebrated author of the Katie Hart series for young adults and her adult fiction novel Love and Sabotage, among other works.
The esteemed author and PCC alumna was honored at the college’s first Hometown Legend Series of 2020. After a glittering reception, Martha was interviewed by Beyond the Book’s Julie Lin and spoke about her experiences growing up on the east coast and starting out her professional career as an editor for Publisher’s Weekly.
“We had the largest attendance of any Hometown Legend Series event yet,” explained Nancy Davis, creator of the series. “It kept growing. In fact, it out-grew every space we set up for it and eventually became standing-room only. Martha Tolles’s name alone drew the crowd.”
In her interview with Julie Lin, Martha recounted her years of marriage to E. Leroy Tolles and her experiences of being a homemaker in the 60s raising six children. It was only after Martha and her family settled in San Marino in the early 1960s, she explained, that she suffered from serious back problems.
Bed-ridden and bored, Martha spent much of her time writing. And this is when the ideas for her stories first came to life.
“I got so bored,” Martha said. “One day I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll just write a story and try that.’ I had never written fiction before. And I just loved it.”
“When she recovered, she enrolled in a night class at PCC,” Nancy said. “She ended up staying in touch with her teacher and classmates for years. Over time, she acquired the skills to complete her manuscripts and publish her work.”
As Martha recalled, “My courses were taught by Helen Jones, and she really knew how to make us write. She taught us the right principles and gave us the right motivation.”
Always with the encouragement and support of her husband and children, Martha has not only gone on to publish her series of books, short stories, and articles, she has also established a rich history of philanthropy in the San Gabriel community. Over the years, she and her husband have donated charitably to many local non-profit organizations.
As a parting gift for guests, Martha signed copies of her latest novel Love and Sabotage, a story about a World War II-era journalist who sets out to investigate a mysterious fire in a shipyard.
And as the evening came to an end, Foundation Executive Director Bobbi Abram announced that Martha Tolles had been selected as a Distinguished Alumna of the College and will be included in the festivities honoring the 100 Distinguished Alumni of PCC in 2024 when the college celebrates its 100th Anniversary.