SCBWI Oregon Conference

There were a lot of inspiring moments at this Spring’s SCBWI conference. But for me some of the best were during Matt de la Pena’s keynote speech.


Matt is the author of Mexican White Boy, Ball Don’t Lie, The Living, and its sequel, The Hunted. He has also written two picture books, A Nation’s Hope and Last Stop on Market Street, which won the 2016 Newberry Medal.

Some of the highlights: that revising is his favorite part of writing. He loves getting the words just right. He also said that it’s tempting for us, as writers, to always want what we think others have: to get an agent, to be published, to receive an award. But it’s important, he added, to be sure to stop and appreciate where we are in the process, whether we’ve finished a draft or written a pivotal scene. No matter where we are as writers, we should stop and celebrate.

I am nearly finished with The Living. My husband is not a big YA reader, but he and I argue over whose turn it was to read the book. The pace is quick and exciting, like a movie. Shy, the main character, is a teenager working on a cruise ship to help his family pay the bills. He has lost his grandma to a gruesome disease, and his nephew has been diagnosed with the same. One night a man tries to jump over the side of the ship. Shy catches him and tries to hold on, but the man slips from his grasp. Just before he dies, the man tells Shy something cryptic. Before Shy can make sense of what’s happened, a catastrophic earthquake destroys the West Coast. The ship is struck by a series of tsunamis. And Shy is fighting to survive in the middle of the ocean, surrounded by sharks.

I hope that readers of my stories have trouble putting my books down, that they argue over whose turn it is to read them. But no matter what, I’m going to remember to celebrate every step in the process.



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