|When Gary Soto was a young boy, he never thought about becoming a writer when he was older. No one really encouraged him to read, because there weren't many books around his house when he was growing up. Gary was born April 12, 1952, in Fresno, California, to parents of Mexican-American descent. He lived most of his life in the southern part of Fresno. When he decided to attend college at California State University, he thought he might be interested in geography. But one day, while he was in the college library, he discovered the Beat poets, and found their work to be amazing--it lit a spark within him. From that day on, he decided to try his hand at poetry, and signed up for his first poetry writing class in 1972. After graduating magna cum-laude from Cal State with an English degree, he attended the University of California at Irvine to work on his Master's in Creative Writing. His first book of poetry, entitled THE ELEMENTS OF SAN JOAQUIN, was published in 1977 and won the US Award from the International Poetry Forum. In 1990, his first two books for kids, one of poetry and one of short stories were published, and received very positive reviews. The book of short stories entitled BASEBALL IN APRIL AND OTHER STORIES was named as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Before this, Gary had garnered many prestigious awards throughout the years for his poetry, essays, and fiction that were written for an adult audience. Throughout his prolific writing career he has received many esteemed awards which include: the Discovery--The Nation Prize, the US Award of the International Poetry Forum, the California Library Association's John and Patricia Beatty Award, and the Tom's Rivera Prize. In addition to these awards, he has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the California Arts Council. His poems have appeared in many literary journals including The Nation, Ploughshares, The Iowa Review, and Poetry. Gary's writing does concentrate on the experience of growing up Mexican-American, but he says his work is not autobiographical or based on actual events, although he does vividly remember parts of his childhood when he's writing. Celebrating his heritage and family through his writing is very important to him, and he enjoys creating and sharing new stories about it. Although he does write primarily about Mexican-American characters, Gary's books are read by kids from all different backgrounds because he writes about the "feelings and experiences of most American kids," like going to the park, riding a bike, or even just having a horrible day. He has said that getting kids excited about reading and writing is very important to him, and tries to visit some of the schools to meet his readers. A fun fact: Gary likes to eat out at new restaurants.