Matt is available for readings, school-library visits and presentations throughout the year.
For all press-related inquiries you can email my publicist Shanta Newlin: firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact Matt for event details: email@example.com
Or you can contact Lisa McClatchy to set up an event through Random House: LisKe@aol.com
For inquiries about film/TV rights contact Matt’s literary agent, Steve Malk, at: smalk@WritersHouse.com
Say hi to Matt here (for non-event-related emails only): firstname.lastname@example.org
Join Matt on Facebook here
Follow Matt on Twitter: @mattdelapena
Subscribe to Matt’s mailing list here
What type of presentations do you give?
If you’d like to know where I’m coming from, check out this essay I wrote for NPR about the power of literature and reading.
I have three 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 via basketball scholarship — but once I did, it changed my life. I also talk about the power of education which leads to the acquisition of possibility.
The second presentation is more focused 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.
The third presentation is a creative writing lecture/workshop. In addition to writing I’ve taught creative writing at NYU, San Diego State and now Hamline University.
If it’s a keynote, and I’m presenting to a big crowd, and I’m a little nervous . . . that’s when I break out the big gun, a combination of my story as well as my old man’s inspiring literary awakening.
I’m open to other ideas as well.
How do I go about setting up a visit?
Feel free to contact me directly over email and we can work out the details: schedule, author fee, logistics.
Or if you’d prefer to go through Random House, that’s fine, too. Please contact Lisa McClatchy atLisKe@aol.com.
So, how the heck are we supposed to pronounce your last name?
Funny you should ask. The good people at TeachingBooks.net just asked me the same thing. 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 racial identity. I believe as the Hispanic population grows 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 bi-racial character in WWH. 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 thuggish, but many of them also had an incredible amount of heart. I wanted to show them to readers. But I also had a basketball teammate in college who had unintentionally committed an awful, unthinkable crime. I often watched him. Sometimes he would laugh and joke with the rest and then drift away, his eyes emptying out. In the book I use his crime.
The novel is also 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 is The Living 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, I wanted to take that same kind of mixed-race character and put him in a bigger context. The race exploration is more subversive, I think. And the contextual story takes center stage. At least in book one (keep an eye out for book two, The Hunted, coming in 2014).
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.
I see you have a picture book. What’s that all about?
I feel so lucky to have worked with Kadir Nelson on A Nation’s Hope: The Story of Boxing Legend Joe Louis. And I love that it’s paved the way for me to be able to speak to younger students, too. My fantastic agent, Steven Malk, is the one who suggested I try my hand at a picture book. It’s been an amazing experience. In fact I have a second picture book coming out next year called Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson.
Do you have a cat?
Yes. Her name is Annie, and she has a bit of an attitude problem. Apparently cats pick one human, and that’s the only person they really hang out with. Well, Annie didn’t pick me. Actually, she wants nothing to do with me. She just saunters on by like the Queen of England. I’ve decided to give her the silent treatment. I’ll let you know how it goes.