Reflections on our times

Six months. It’s taken me six months to get back to my blog, this News section. My last post was about being awarded two literary residencies and the weight of expectations, yet it was hopeful. *I* was hopeful. But even as I wrote that entry, the coronavirus pandemic was spreading around the world. Here in Wisconsin, we were two weeks past a truly hellacious news week, the week I marked in my personal calendar as “Coronavirus hell week” because I knew the virus was going to be a much bigger thing than many of my non-news friends were thinking. The journalist in me wanted to keep track of the timeline of events.

Because I organize and run conferences and retreats for both SCBWI-Wisconsin and Fantasy Art Workshop, I paid extremely close attention to governmental reports, even more so than a newshound typically does. I watched as a few in-person conferences organized by others were held when they shouldn’t have been, and I watched as others were canceled.

My co-advisor for SCBWI and I decided to cancel our September 2020 conference as the contractual drop-out date was approaching. We knew that holding the event wasn’t worth the risk to either our members’ health nor the region’s finances should we have to cancel after the deadline. We made the right choice.

The tougher decision for me personally was to cancel the Fantasy Art Workshop Illustration Intensive, an annual week-long art retreat at a local college which my husband and I run. The decision wasn’t harder because I lacked the same concerns of health and finances. No. Our attendees’ health will always come first. What was tough about the decision was that I saw how the whole pandemic would pan out.

Oh, it’s easy *in hindsight* to say that I predicted its path. Even experts weren’t willing to conjecture during the throes of the crisis. The year 2020 changed our lives so profoundly. But I’m not talking about the nuances of the spread. I’m talking about the human nature side of it.

See, you can’t be a journalist for nearly 30 years and not learn something about human nature. You can’t be interviewing people all the time and not recognize the vastly different worldviews of people within different demographics. You can’t talk to people all the time as part of your job and not have seen growing economic and political polarization. You can’t be busting your butt to be fair in your coverage without noticing that other news organizations are doing the exact opposite and being handsomely rewarded by a viewership/readership that is sick of hearing the other side’s view.

So I predicted way back in February that there would be some sort of shutdown of movement, that it would be fairly effective in lowering the curve, and then society would reopen. I told my husband that by the time of our event in late June, the economy would have opened up a bit, and we would be *allowed* by the authorities to hold our event, whether it was morally right or not, but he rightly read that the mood of people in the creative industries would be against holding in-person events.

I couldn’t help but agree because I knew, once the shutdowns eased, that many, many people would rush back into the world, and why wouldn’t they? Some have no financial choice. Others would feel that enough was enough, they’d done their part, and anyone asking more of them was asking to sacrifice the economy. I knew this instinctively from all my years of reporting.

There is a segment of our population that is so fiercely individualistic, privileged, and nationalistic that they would never bow to the collective, especially if doing so went against their “don’t tread on me” attitude. And I knew there was a segment of our population that would be quite the opposite and would plead that everyone follow science as a moral imperative to stop the pandemic’s slaughter. They would hardly be applauded for it. In fact, they’d be jeered for their softness and blamed for fear-mongering hysteria. Such has been the history of millennia. It’s the hawks versus the doves. The suits versus the hippies. Choose your opposites for this exercise. You’ll find many parallels.

My predictions were no great revelation on my part. It was simply years of study and observation. I predicted a second wave in late summer, which would hinder the return to school. And I further predict how damaging virtual learning will be to the women’s movement, as it will be mostly women who will forgo their careers this year to stay home to teach. They’re incentivized to do so as they already make less on the dollar than men (assuming they have such a life partner), and women have already lost standing and the forward trajectory of their careers by being out of the workforce for months or years at a time having and rearing said children. I know of what I speak. I homeschooled (by choice, which means I had the luxury of preparation) for a decade. For all the talk corporate America does about supporting women, reality reveals a stark contrast.

Of course, we know how the virus has turned out. But what we didn’t know would happen is the racial reckoning spurred by the murder of George Floyd and the further brutality against other people of color, including Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Joel Acevedo (no relation), and Dontre Hamilton.

If you think police aren’t given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to overreaching use of force, then you haven’t had to cover the police as a journalist. The account given by law enforcement is always given greater weight, most especially by the authorities charged with investigating those accusations. Oftentimes the media follows suit. In my decades of news, I’ve covered countless claims of abuse of force and seen far too few reports in which the authorities were caught and justice brought to bear — not because the force may not have existed, but because the brotherhood of protectionism often obstructs investigations. The authorities call their units a “force” for a reason and encourage citizen loyalty with supportive-looking slogans like “We back the badge.” But to back either side’s version as the default truth — or to swallow either side’s story without question or investigation — well, that’s not what ethical journalists do.

So with the pandemic raging, thousands marching worldwide against systemic racism, and an inept response to both, I did something wholly uncharacteristic of a writer. I stopped writing. So did many others. Working journalists kept on, as their paychecks and the world’s historical record depends on their great work. But my freelance journalism dried up. My will to write fiction did too. Few creatives — heck, few people overall — in those first months of the pandemic could hold it together.

We sewed masks, myself included, to give to nurses and other friends facing a deficit during an appalling lack of urgency by our national leadership to provide such items. Or we worked jigsaw puzzles to try to calm our racing hearts and slow the flashes of video-horror looping in our minds. Or we read books or watched TV to sink into any entertainment that could even temporarily numb our troubled souls. Or we leaned into that which brings us meaning. There was just so much anxiety. There continues to be.

But there is a new national conversation underway, one that is long overdue and vitally important. And that is another reason for hope. Caring people must always hope.

This summer, SCBWI hired an equity and inclusion officer to train its regional leaders (yours truly and many others) to be more inclusive among our ranks and have intent in our leadership. The demographics of children in the U.S. is now majority “minority.” In other words, most kids are nonwhite. Writers for U.S. children who purposely exclude people of color are not presenting the world as it exists today. As writers for children, we should strive to allow children who have been underrepresented in literature to see and read characters that are like themselves. And as writers for children, we have a special responsibility to not perpetuate stereotypes that do harm, especially when that literature is targeted to readers during their formative years. I’m grateful to be part of an organization that cares so much about its members and future generations.

This year has shaken the world. It is not hyperbole to say 2020 has brought us disease, death, financial calamity, worldwide street protests, racial violence, class wars, conflicts of conscience, and moral crises.

The coming autumn chill will drive us indoors. Its typical cold-weather illnesses threaten to join the virus. We will get through this crisis just as we have through other crises. But this whole essay begs the question: if we get through this crisis *just* as we have others, won’t the outcome be the same? Isn’t now the time to examine how we got here? Isn’t now the time to fix the systemic flaws that allowed both social injustice and the pandemic to flourish?

I beg you to look around you and see what you can do to alleviate injustice in your workplace, at your school, at your bank. And I beg you to care for yourself and others. We absolutely have it within our power to make the world a better place.

Most Listens Award!

How cool is this?! You may remember that I was interviewed last year by The Writescast Network podcast, which, by the way, is an excellent podcast for writers, illustrators, and creators of all types. Well, wow and zowie! I won the podcast’s MOST LISTENS AWARD for 2019! What a nice honor. I talked about writing a series following the completion of my God Awful trilogy. You can listen to the interview HERE.

Host Ryan Campbell also CREATED A NIFTY COFFEE MUG celebrating the award, which, if you’re interested in seeing the covers of my books while enjoying your morning coffee, you can purchase HERE.

And finally if you haven’t yet read my award-winning (I’m still so happy to say that!) series, why not get it now and binge read this funny story for a break from your studies or from real adulting? You can get the series HERE.

Thanks to author Ryan Campbell and to all of you out there who made the award happen. He’s had some really excellent guests, all authors, editors, agents, etc., within or around the publishing industry. If you’re into creating or publishing at all, you should dive into his podcasts. 🙂

Image shows award sticker for Silvia Acevedo for winning the 2019 Writescast Podcast Most Listens award

Silvia Acevedo holding a mug with the logo of The Writescast Network podcast and labeled 2019 Most Listens Award.Silvia Acevedo holding a mug showing the covers of her books, the God Awful series, with the words "Award Winner 2019 Most Listens" for The Writescast Network podcast.

“Ink Drawing Techniques DVD & Art Book” Kickstarter is LIVE!

Inking Instructional DVD and Art Book Kickstarter Now Live

I am super excited that my husband’s and my “Ink Drawing Techniques DVD & Art Book” Kickstarter is  LIVE! It’s already 77% funded in just 7 hours. If you or someone you know loves ink drawing, then this DVD and art book is for you.

Please visit the following link to pledge/pre-order.
https://tinyurl.com/y8pdysp7

Some background: my hubby, Jeff Miracola, is a professional illustrator who also teaches hundreds of other artists through his popular YouTube channel and in-person art retreats. I’m videographer of the series and either the disembodied voice or the on-camera partner who asks questions.

Please consider pledging and share this post with your friends.

The Morning Blend Appearance – Winter Olympics Preview

Silvia Acevedo previews the 2018 Winter OlympicsI talked about speedskating today on The Morning Blend talk show on WTMJ-TV. Milwaukee played a big role to the skaters on their way to the 2018 Olympic because this is where the US Speedskating Olympic Trials were held. I was one of three announcers calling the play-by-play.

Here’s the segment, which is a preview ahead of the 2018 Winter Olympics:

I’m wishing my speedskating friends fast ice and great results. Who are you following in the Olympics this year? What’s your favorite sport?

The Privilege of Announcing the Nation’s Best Athletes

Silvia Acevedo Play-by-play Announcing at the Pettit National Ice Center's Long Track Time Trials

Announcing Time Trials

In just a few exciting days, I, along with two others, will have the privilege of play-by-by announcing for the US Speed Skating Olympic Trials. We’ll have the honor of kicking off the event, introducing skaters, calling each race, and sharing details of the sport, its challenges, and its national representatives on their way to the world stage, the Olympics 2018.

I’ve announced at Milwaukee’s Pettit National Ice Center off and on for years, even as I compete in the very same sport. I’ve watched the athletes who’ll skate the trials grow up, I’m friends with most of them, and I wish them the very best.

Come the opening day of Trials, January 2nd, I’ll get the great privilege of watching these athletes’ hard work pay off. Achieving a place at the trials is a great accomplishment. Earning a spot on the Olympic Team is the pinnacle, of course, reserved for those at the very top of the field on that day. It’s a snapshot in time. All the skaters out there are our nation’s best, as are those who came within fractions of a second of the qualifying times or are battling injury or fatigue that prevents their attendance at these Trials. There’s always another run in four more years.

US Speedskating Announcers Silvia Acevedo and Jeff Brand

US Speedskating Announcers Silvia Acevedo and Jeff Brand

I’ll be announcing alongside my own speedskating coach and Pettit Head Announcer Jeff Brand, seen here, and Gordon Cepuran, who’s also running the music. The Trials will be live broadcasted on NBC Sports Network with their own announcers. We’re looking forward to being a part of this grand event.

The Pettit National Ice Center ahead of the US Speedskating Olympic Trials 2018

The Pettit National Ice Center ahead of the US Speedskating Olympic Trials 2018

The Pettit has brought down the hockey nets, readied the bleachers, and transformed the facility, which happens to be celebrating its 25th anniversary. The venue is ready for the occasion. We hope you’ll come down and watch as the skaters compete and US Speedskating names its Olympic team. January 2 – 7, 2018. Some days are already sold out, so buy your tickets now! Details can be found here: http://thepettit.com/trials/

Go, Team USA!

Team USA

Ten Years Blogging

http://www.silviaacevedo.com

Milestones trigger emotions, and this one is no exception. Today marks ten years blogging. My website and blog is mostly about the creative life (writing, publishing, media in general) and occasionally sports. I’ve experienced growth in all those areas, and I hope something I wrote added to your insight on a subject.

My very first post was about inspiration, specifically about shooing the Muse. You can read it here:  http://www.silviaacevedo.com/a-writer-writes/muse-schmuse/ I feel pretty much the same way today. If I waited until I felt inspired, who knows when I’d ever get around to it? The funny thing is, once I start, it’s the writing itself that inspires me to write more. What inspires you?  And what topics should I hit in the next ten years? 🙂

TODAY IS RELEASE DAY for Fantasy Art Workshop’s “Oil Painting Techniques” Video

I am so thankful and pleased to say that today is finally the official release day of Fantasy Art Workshop’s Oil Painting Techniques DVD. You may wonder why I’m excited about that as I’m not an artist, but I actually have a couple of huge reasons: the Fantasy Art Workshop is my illustrator husband and my creation, and this video is now our second successful feature-length instructional set to hit the market. It’s getting great reviews, and I’m honored that the first video (the Workshop’s Acrylic Painting Techniques) is not only highly recommended by Video Librarian, but it’s also award-winning, having won ImagineFX Magazine’s lauded Artist’s Choice award.

So, why is it garnering such nice attention? Because my husband so generously shares his knowledge. Jeff Miracola‘s got more than 23 years in the fantasy art industry working for the biggest entertainment names. Our little YouTube channel grew more than we expected. It’s now got more than 65 videos, 31,000 subscribers, and 1.4 million views. The feature-length DVDs/Digital Downloads came to be because people wanted more. We delivered; he by showing the world his form of magic, and me as videographer and occasional disembodied voice / cameo artist. Ha!

If you are an artist or have an artist in your life, I invite you to check out the series. You can read reviews on Amazon for the Oil Techniques here and the Acrylic Techniques here. We’re honored that our work has taught and inspired others.

So check them out, please, and remember: Draw, Paint, and Always Create! 😉

Good Day Wisconsin Plugs the Sheboygan Teen Book Festival

The inaugural year of Sheboygan’s Teen Book Festival is good news, and so local media let viewers know that their favorite children’s fest now has a teen component. Here’s video of a segment about it on Green Bay WLUK Good Day Wisconsin. Enjoy!

And here are some stills. Thanks to both WKUK-TV and Karin Menzer of the STBF for inviting me. I had fun and even went to Lambeau Field afterward. Go, Pack, go! 🙂

Good Day Wisconsin segment on the Sheboygan Teen Book Festival with Co-chair Karin Menzer & Author of the GOD AWFUL Series of Books Silvia Acevedo

Sheboygan Teen Book Festival Co-chair Karin Menzer & Author Silvia Acevedo share a laugh on WLUK Fox 11's Good Day Wisconsin Show

Premiering (!) the “Wisconsin Writes” Author Interview Video Series

I am incredibly honored to be the very first author featured on the newly created WISCONSIN WRITES AUTHOR VIDEO SERIES. This interview chat was created by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for students to hear directly from authors about how they do what they do, providing a glimpse into both their current works and their creative minds.

I have two segments, which you can see above or at the WI DPI website. The first segment is on my writing process, and the second covers many topics, including my approach to subject matter, the role of research, editing, feedback from other writers, and advice to students.

Many thanks go the educators behind this series! I hope you enjoy it, too, and please feel free to share it widely with the writers (young and old) in your life!

Young People Can Handle It — at the Wisconsin Writers Association

Wisconsin Writers Association Kid Lit Panel - Pat Schmatz, Silvia Acevedo, Melanie Boyung, Jessica Freeburg, and Miranda Paul

Wisconsin Writers Association Kid Lit Panel – Pat Schmatz, Silvia Acevedo, moderator Melanie Boyung, Jessica Freeburg, and Miranda Paul

I had the honor and pleasure of talking on a panel about kid lit at the Wisconsin Writers Association‘s Annual Convention yesterday. Beside me were some of the most talented writers of the day, their works spanning from picture book to young adult novel.

A few of the questions had to do with taboo topics and whether we censor our writing for the sake of our audience. The answer was a universal no to censorship but that, of course, a writer’s presentation is tweaked depending on age range and relevancy to the story. We all agreed that stories are a safe place to explore new worlds and perspectives. Besides, those readers who don’t enjoy a book will self-censor, that is, decide a particular book isn’t for them and put it down. It comes down to choices, which is an integral part of growing up.

Not every book covers deep, heavy topics, but most offer a window to emotional growth. My God Awful Loser is a light read and yet doesn’t gloss over the protagonist’s womanizing. He and other characters eventually learn, with the readers riding their wave, to value those around them.

Do kids need books to teach them such lessons? Perhaps another question is in order: Who remembers reading a book at just the right time and having it profoundly affected their worldview?