Author Matt De La Pena speaks to MHS students

By Ayasha Thurman | Features Editor

Author Matt de la Pena visited MHS April 17 to share his life and his novels with students. The day culminated in all-school assembly in which de la Pena addressed the student body, but he also spoke to smaller groups of students earlier in the day.

Senior Sarah Sweider said she enjoyed listening to de la Pena discuss his novels and sharing what inspires him. She specifically found the fact that his characters are based on real people interesting.

“He goes to different cities and if someone catches his eye they could become a character in one of his books,” Sweider said.

De la Pena’s books, including his first, “Ball Don’t Lie,” which he said has been made into a movie featuring Ludacris to be released in theaters in late summer, are geared toward young adults and often center around characters dealing with poverty, oppression or racism. He said his own experience growing up poor in National City, on the border of California and Mexico, is often echoed in his stories and their main characters.

While many students found de la Pena’s presentation very interesting, he said he enjoyed the students as well. De la Pena, who now resides in New York, visited Coos Bay for the first time and said he appreciated how beautiful the town was and how great the students were during his presentations.

“My favorite part was the down-to-earth kids,” de la Pena said.

De la Pena told stories to students about his childhood up through the time his first book was published. He shared one particular memory about laughing at someone who told him to write his dream down on a note card when he was young and stick it in his sock drawer. This inspired junior Chey Knudsen to test his theory.

“I went home that day and wrote down my dream on a note card and put it in my sock drawer. I woke up this morning and had run low on socks,” Knudsen said. “This morning I saw my dream. He [de la Pena] really touched my soul.”

Head Librarian Peggy Christensen, who was the driving force behind bringing de la Pena to MHS and organized his visit, said his visit was a great experience since he took the time out of his schedule to come and interact with students.

“He is an incredible individual. He is so unassuming and so approachable,” said Christensen. “Oh, and did I mention he is a great writer?”

Christensen purchased several copies of each de la Pena’s novels prior to his visit which are available for checkout for interested students. Christensen is placing note cards in the library so students can write de la Pena notes and she will send them all to him. De la Pena encourages students who have read his books to contact him.

“I encourage whoever reads one of my books to message me on Facebook,” de la Pena said. “I always reply.”