Saturday, May 30, 2020
Pablo Cartaya to Share Stories of Family, Culture
Pablo Cartaya will use his acting experience and bilingualism to shares stories about family, community and culture filled with humor, heart and voice. COURTESY: Sun Valley Writers’ Conference
Monday, October 7, 2019


It’s said that Pablo Cartaya is a hopeless romantic who secretly loved reading Shakespeare sonnets in middle school.

He grew up to be an award-winning author who pens novels geared towards middle school students. He also traverses the nation, going out of his way to try to inspire Latino students, even in places like Middleton, Idaho, where teachers made headlines last fall for posting offensive things at the border wall and Mexican immigrants.

Now the Miami-based author will make several presentations in the Wood River Valley, courtesy of the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference and its Eye on the Future project.

Award-winning author Pablo Cartaya will speak at a free presentation at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Ketchum’s Community Library. He will also sign books that will be available for purchase, courtesy of Iconoclast Books & Gifts. (You can preorder them at or by calling 208-726-1564.)

While here he will also visit dual-immersion classes and give a presentation at Wood River Middle School.

Cartaya received a Pura Belpre Honor for his debut novel “The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora,” the story of a 13-year-old Miami boy who fights to defend his community and family against a smarmy land developer.

NBC News lauded his sophomore novel “Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish,” which is being developed as a feature film. The storybook focuses on an eighth-grader who meets a colorful cast of characters who show him the many faces of fatherhood as he travels through Puerto Rico in search of his own father.

His most recent novel,” Each Tiny Spark,” was described as a “layered, culturally rich novel” by Publishers Weekly. That story is about a girl with a wandering mind who reengages with her soldier father through working on an old car as her community unravels around her.

Cartaya’s own parents fled Cuba before he was born. He endured stigma because of his Cuban-American heritage as a child but now sees it as a source of pride.

In fact, while in Boise for a One Book, One Community event, he was told of the incident in the Middleton School District. Instead of simply shaking his head, he asked the organizer to take him to the school where he ended up talking to 1,500 kids, many of whom were bussed in to hear him talk.

“Some of these kids, as soon as I started speaking Spanish, their eyes light up,” he told Mitchell Kaplan at The Literary Life. “This is at the school they were marginalized, and now I was there speaking.”

Cartaya got a Master’s of Fine Arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts. And now he serves on the faculty  at Sierra Nevada College’s MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. His acting credits include a stint on NBC’s “Will & Grace.”

 The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference brings some of the world’s best writers and thinkers to Sun Valley Resort every July for four days. The event has included 50 Pulitzer Prize winners, 22 National Book Award winners and six winners of the elite Mann Booker Prize presented in Great Britain.

It offers local students the opportunity to sit in on its Pavilion talks free of charge. Conference organizers plan to bring an author to Sun Valley each fall as part of the new Eye on the Future Project designed to expand community outreach programming for students.

For more information, visit


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