Matt is available for readings, conference keynotes, school/library visits at any grade level, and special presentations throughout the year.
For all event details please contact Christine Labov at the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau: firstname.lastname@example.org
Matt’s assistant, Marina Addison, can be reached at: email@example.com
For all press-related inquiries please contact Matt’s publicist, Caroline Sun at: firstname.lastname@example.org
For inquiries about film/TV rights contact Matt’s literary agent, Steve Malk, at: smalk@WritersHouse.com
Say hi to Matt here (for all non-event-related emails only): email@example.com
What type of presentations do you give?
If you’d like to get a general sense of where I’m coming from as an author/speaker, please check out this essay I wrote for NPR about the power of literature and reading.
I have four main presentations. The first centers around my journey from reluctant reader to author (most frequently requested). I talk about my novels a little, but the focus of this presentation is the transformative nature of literature. I didn’t fall for books until I was in college — I got there on a basketball scholarship — but once I did, it changed my life. I also talk about the power of education.
My second presentation is geared toward elementary school audiences. I talk a little about my personal journey (described above), but the focus of this presentation is on the picture books themselves. I read the books (while showing the images) and tell my audience secret things about the stories and we discuss recurring themes like wonder and gratitude and love and how proud I am to come from a working class background.
My third presentation (geared toward middle school, high school and college) focuses on the books. I talk about my inspiration for each story and character and my fascination with the real world. Sometimes, I explain to students, I’m not sure if I’m writing books or just plagiarizing the world. We talk about what that means and how each of us own an important story.
My fourth presentation is a creative writing lecture/workshop. In addition to writing books, I’ve also taught creative writing at NYU, Vermont College, Hamline University and now San Diego State University.
If it’s a keynote, I’ll talk about my personal journey from reluctant reader to writer, focusing on the barriers many working class boys and young men encounter in the acquisition of literacy.
I’m open to other ideas as well.
How do I go about setting up a visit?
Please contact Christine Labov of the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau (Christine Labov), and she will work through all the details with you: schedule, author fee, logistics, etc.
All right, so how are we supposed to pronounce your last name?
Funny you should ask. The good people at TeachingBooks.net let me talk a little about that here: Hear the recording here.
What inspired you to write Mexican WhiteBoy?
MWB was definitely a very personal journey for me. Growing up half Mexican I was often confused in terms of my own racial identity. I believe as the mixed race population continues to grow, more and more kids will find themselves asking similar questions. To hear more about this, and to listen to me read an excerpt, go here.
What about We Were Here?
I follow another mixed-race character in this book. The book was also inspired by two major elements that I pulled from my own experience. First, for two years I worked in a group home in San Jose, California. These kids were just out of juvi and “troubled,” but many of them also had an incredible amount of heart. I wanted to reveal their hearts to readers. Also, I had a basketball teammate in college who had unintentionally committed an awful, unthinkable crime. I often watched him in social settings. Sometimes he would laugh and joke with the rest of the team, then he’d drift away, his eyes emptying out. He allowed me to use his crime in We Were Here. I also explore the concept of existentialism as it applies to kids who are moved out of regular society. These kids have dreams, too.
The novel is my ode to some of the literature that inspired me to pick up a pen myself including: Of Mice and Men, The Color Purple and Catcher in the Rye.
How are The Living and The Hunted different from your other novels?
There’s an earthquake. And a tsunami. And Shy’s life is in danger a few different times in the novel. But thematically it’s similar to my previous four novels. It’s a study of race and class in America. Shy, a half Mexican teen boy, takes a summer job on a luxury cruise ship where he finds himself interacting with the one percent. This is his first experience with the “haves.”
I think every writer of color is moved to write a book “about” race. That book for me is Mexican WhiteBoy. But in The Living and The Hunted I wanted to take a mixed-race character and place him in a “bigger” context. The race exploration is more subversive, I think. And the contextual story takes center stage.
You write picture books, too. What was that transition like, going from novel writing to picture book writing?
I feel so fortunate to be able to do both. Writing a picture book is like going back to my roots actually. I started out writing spoken word poetry all through high school. I take the same approach to writing a picture book. My first job is to get the story right. But then I also have to get the music right. And I’ve been fortunate to work with some incredible illustrators.
Do you still play basketball?
Definitely not as well. It’s kind of sad, man. I wrote a bit about my current relationship with hoop here.
Hey, you won a Newbery Medal? What was that like? Can you tell us about getting “the call”? To be honest, it’s more fun to talk about this in person. I can’t even explain why. But you can check out my speech. That’s pretty much everything I wanted to say about me and books and awards. You can read it here. Or you can watch it here.