On November 14-15, Newbery Medal-winning author Matt de la Peña came to AISB and shared his career story with secondary students. Peña has written 12 books throughout his career, many of which were New York Times Bestsellers. Here’s a look into how it went.

Who is Matt de la Peña?

Matt de la Peña modelling the Domino's uniform
Matt de la Peña modeling for Domino’s Pizza.

Peña was born in San-Diego, California, near the Mexican border. He didn’t always want to become an author, as he didn’t like to read or write as a child. However, when he attended San Diego State University as a sports scholarship student, Peña naturally spent more time in the library and discovered his love for literature.

Matt de la Peña playing basketball
Matt de la Peña playing basketball for his university.

While playing basketball at college, Peña wrote poems and played the guitar in his free time. Towards graduation, he struggled to decide whether to become a guitar player or an author.

Eventually, Peña graduated with a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing in 2000. Five years later, he published his first book Ball Don’t Lie, a story about a teenager who overcomes his emotional struggles through basketball.

What did he do at AISB?

Matt de la Peña telling us about his books.

During his short visit, Peña delivered several intriguing presentations about his life as an author to middle and high school students. He talked about his childhood, how he became interested in literature, and the inspirations behind some of his own books.

For example, he said that new book ideas don’t simply appear out of thin air. Sometimes, they are a combination of some of the most random thoughts and observations in daily life. Otherwise, he would “recycle” ideas from his old novels or scrapped pieces of writing.

“Writers are the slowest readers… Why? Because they are always looking for something to steal,” he says.

One of Matt de la Peña’s books, The Living.

Peña also engaged the students in his presentations by giving them small tasks, like, “Come up with two words that describe your life.” After hearing various creative responses from students, Peña highlighted that just a few words can contain so much meaning.

A huge thank you to Matt de la Peña for visiting us!

Tell Us: Have you read any of Matt de la Peña’s books? Tell us what you think of them in the comments below!