Matthew de la Peña is an American writer who specializes in novels for young adults. His first book, “Ball Don’t Lie,” was developed into a motion picture in 2008 featuring Ludacris, Nick Cannon and Emilie de Ravin. He recently spoke to students at Clear Falls and Clear Brook high schools.
The game of basketball is chaos. It’s a five-on-five game of talented athletes sprinting up and down the court, passing, dribbling and shooting.
Anything can happen and anything will happen.
It has the power to change people — people like author Matthew de la Peña.
On Feb. 10, students from Clear Falls and Clear Brook high schools had the opportunity to hear de la Peña speak.
The students were able to get an insight into the mind of a young author who is enthusiastic about writing.
Overall, it was a great learning experience for students and teachers, and an inspirational speech that bolstered the confidence of the young writers in the audience.
Sitting in the auditorium of Clear Brook High School, I didn’t know what to expect from de la Peña.
All I knew was that he played basketball and had written a few books, or in my words “nothing special.”
I was gravely mistaken.
As de la Peña walked across the stage to thunderous applause, I couldn’t help but notice his figure.
He was tall with broad shoulders and eyes that seemed older than he was physically.
De la Peña grew up in National City, Calif., and was the son of a white mother and Hispanic father.
He was close to his family.
“The town I grew up in was known for its close-knit families,” he said.
De la Peña continued to elaborate on his teenage years and young adulthood, specifically his adventures in basketball.
He told the audience that while he played point guard in college and he enjoyed playing the game, it gave him the ability to study and go to college.
In fact, de la Peña focused so much on how his education was important that he didn’t say where he played college basketball (he played at University of the Pacific).
Though I, and I’m sure the majority of the students in the auditorium, wanted to hear him recount the dramatics of his basketball career, de la Peña used the stories of his education to segway into his writing career.
Poised and confident like any good point guard, de la Peña dove right into his style of writing.
“The most important part of any story is the characters,” he said.
The students in the audience nodded in agreement at this, but when de la Peña asked them where they thought he got the inspiration for his characters, they seemed to be puzzled by his answer.
“I steal them,” he boldly declared.
I chuckled at the irony. A former point guard stealing inspiration like he would steal a basketball on defense. That makes perfect sense (at least it did to me, as I am a former point guard).
It was true though.
De la Peña really did “steal” his characters.
He named them after inspirational people, crafted their character from overheard conversations and brought them to life in the world of literature.
He recounted stories of a father and son arguing about drug use on the New York subway to a simple moment of a little girl shouting to her father “here I come” as she slid down a slide on the playground.
The way de la Peña crafted his stories was like that of a point guard orchestrating an offense.
He held everyone in the audience captive and made me want to explore his novels and stories.
De la Peña is a true example of hard work and dedication.
His work in basketball that allowed him to be the first in his family to go to college exemplifies what it means to stretch your comfort zone.
Undoubtedly, he used his college basketball experiences and education to grow and expand his mind.
This is shown by not only his success as a writer but also his thought process he uses to create a story.
It was a wonderful opportunity for the students to learn about writing and hard work. It truly was an inspiration and memory that will never be forgotten.
Todd Brinen is a high school senior and the sports editor of the Clear Falls Post.