|The fourth of 12 children born to a Mexican-American family living in a poor section of Fresno, California, Victor Martinez says he was not encouraged to become a writer. However, he attended California State University at Fresno, where he studied creative writing with Philip Levine. Martinez now credits Levine with being the first person to tell him he had talent as a writer. Encouraged to write poetry, Martinez was awarded a graduate fellowship at Stanford University and eventually became involved with San Francisco's Poetry for Schools programs. It was through his work with these programs that Martinez was inspired to write his first novel for young adults "Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida", which is based on memories from his own childhood. This novel was awarded the 1996 National Book Award in the Young People's Literature category.