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Friday, March 5, 2021

Activities & Organizations

New York Times bestselling author visits UH


The New York Times bestselling author and Newbery Medal recipient Matt de la Peña shared his story of how he went from a reluctant reader to a successful author. | Pablo Milanese/The Cougar

The New York Times bestselling author and young adult novelist Matt de la Peña visited campus Monday for a seminar in which he discussed his success as a writer and answered students’ questions.

The seminar, “Transformative Power of Literature,” was held at M.D. Anderson Library Rockwell Pavilion and was followed by a book sale of de la Peña’s works. During the seminar, de la Peña spoke about how different authors influenced him, his background and family and what it was like receiving the Newbery Medal.

De la Peña said going to college was not a goal his parents had instilled in him. He was a first-generation student on a basketball scholarship and was unsure of what he wanted to do.

“I felt like a sell out going to college while real life was going on at home,” de la Peña said.

A former teacher, Ms. Blizzard, was a major influence in his pursuit to become a writer. De la Peña also credited Sandra Cisneros’ “The House on Mango Street” as an early inspiration.

“What if I did this for a living?” de la Peña said he asked himself prior to pursuing writing. “Ms. Blizzard thinks I’m a good writer, maybe I could become a poet.”

Associate Chair for the Department of Curriculum and Instruction and clinical associate professor Margaret Hale said the event was beneficial for first-generation students.

“I liked the message that he has for students for their first time in college,” Hale said. “I appreciate him sharing how literature changed his life and his dad’s life.”

Director of Communications and Event Coordinator Esmeralda Fisher said the event was inspirational and that she hopes students left the seminar inspired.

“We were delighted to host author Matt de la Peña at the University of Houston Libraries,” Fisher said. “The story of his journey from reluctant reader to award-winning author is inspirational and one that I think is relateable to children and adults alike.”

De la Peña ended his talk with advice for aspiring writers to simply read as much as possible.

“You can never even be a good writer unless you’re first a great reader,” de la Peña said.

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