Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is very happy to shine our Friday spotlight on children’s book author Matt De La Pena. When asked what he writes, this was Matt’s answer:
I write books for young people. My goal is to share moments of grace and dignity that take place on the “wrong side of the tracks.”
Matt, where can people find your work?
In bookstores and libraries around the country.
How can we follow your work and share your awesomeness?
Instagram and Twitter: @mattdelapena
For readers unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe what you do? What can readers expect from you next (Latest cover, book, comic, movie, etc?) or what is the last thing you worked on?
I write books for kids of all ages. And while I don’t go into any of my books with a message, I do go in with a point of view. It’s the way that I see the world. I see sadness. I see grace. I see the dignity of working class people. I listen for the music of everyday speech. I see the poetry in kids who aren’t ordinarily associated with poetry. These are the ingredients in the stories I try to put into the world. It’s what I tried to do with my latest picture book, Milo Imagines the World. Most importantly, I understand that at their very best, books are vehicles for conversation.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you create? What do you think draws customers to these works?
I write realistic fiction. There are some great storytellers out there who write about bears. Or unicorns. Or vampires. There are some amazing writers who include magic in their stories. Or superpowers. Or princesses. I read these stories to my kids. But I’m inspired by real people. And real life. My goal is to try and share moments of grace and dignity that exist in working class communities like the one I grew up in.
What piece of advice would you want to share with other artists/authors?
There’s a line taped to the wall above my computer that reads: Do not write what you see. Write what will be seen. In other words, as writers we don’t have to simply perpetuate the status quo. We can try to put alternative narratives into the world.
What else can we expect from you in the near future?
I’m incredibly excited about my next picture book, PATCHWORK, illustrated by Corinna Luyken. It doesn’t come out until 2022, but I’m just getting to see the art and it is beautiful. I can’t wait to share this story with all the young readers out there who put so much pressure on themselves to be great all the time.
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your career as an artist/author?
It’s not about me. It’s about the characters and the story. It’s about leaving space for the reader. Sometimes the reader is smarter than the writer. I love it when I visit with a community and a young reader tells me what they think my book is about. I can’t tell you how many times their theories have actually taught me how to understand what I’ve written. When you leave space for the reader, you are leaving space for that kind of magic.
Thank you so much, Matt, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer our questions!