Reflections on 2020 and 2021


The final hours of 2020, an unparalleled year.

Tomes have been written about this year’s brutal heartaches. The pandemic. Social unrest. Politics. I’ve written my thoughts here and elsewhere, a lone voice in oceans of words. But, generally, on New Year’s Eve, I look inward, because my choices are all I can truly control. And in the effort of keeping this post upbeat as we head into a new year, I’m going to focus on the positive.

This year brought me an incredible opportunity and life changing experience. My internship at Writers House has been all I hoped it would be and more, and I’m incredibly grateful to those who played a role in getting me there and making it so very fabulous. I also adore my fellow interns. I expect great things from them. They’re brilliant. Truly inspiring.

The writers and illustrators in my sphere have been wonderful. For those sad about missing events we’ve had to cancel through SCBWI-Wisconsin or the Fantasy Art Workshop’s Illustration Intensive, keep hope. In-person events will return someday. And we’re all more cognizant of healthy behaviors, so that’s a bonus. 🙂

What does 2021 hold in store? We’ve got a long way to go to recover from our multiple crises, but I’m personally hoping the recovery does begin. It would help to loosen and unravel the collective knots in our chests. And then we can, worldwide, turn our attention to improving our lot.

Personally, I’m looking to dig deeper into publishing, lavish time on Fantasy Art Workshop, and maintain my practice of gratitude, which I started just over a year ago, and has greatly balanced my outlook.

Look, if you’re reading this, on a screen, somewhere relatively safe, and you’re decently fed, you’ve got a lot to be grateful for. Let’s remember just how lucky we are as we step into 2021. Now as always, but uniquely today, we’ve got new chances ahead of us.

All This (*gestures wildly at everything*)

If you’re a person living outside the United States reading this, I wonder how you’re reacting to all that’s happened in American politics this year (and the previous three). Of course, we Americans can go online and dip into your newspapers/newscasts to see reaction. It is, obviously, as varied as all human interaction is. But I know that deep down, some of you know all too well the emotions swirling within us.

The undisputed majority of the American public is waking up to a new workweek this morning after collectively spending the weekend celebrating. Many Americans were literally dancing in the streets. Our expulsion of joy comes after days of fraud claims, months of lockdown, and years of political exhaustion. Did we need a release of tension/anxiety/fear/mourning? You bet your life we did. Didn’t the whole human family?

Importantly, we should all celebrate that one of America’s most enduring glass ceilings is finally broken. It’s hard to believe, honestly, that we will at long last have a woman in the executive branch. Other countries have been emotionally mature enough to handle this for aaaaages. Madam Vice President Kamala Harris’s mere presence in the room where decisions are made will undoubtedly change the narrative — because you can’t have fair representation when more than half the population isn’t even at the table. I feared this situation wouldn’t change in my lifetime. I am overcome with joy that it did.

And there’s work to do before the world gets close to a semblance of normalcy. I do hope this time that we go beyond what’s been normal because “normal” has been pretty terrible for too many people. I hope we overcome the opposition and lethargy that’s allowed systemic racism to flourish. I hope we examine our hearts and souls to see why so many not only allowed hatred to grow but actively watered the weed. And we should study our failed government responses because they should, always, illicit more than a shoulder shrug.

And it’s not all up to a new administration. The world can see we’re divided by more than political ideology. Those from countries whose governments are older than the U.S. republic have some history to draw upon and learn from. I picture some shaking their head at us in recent years. I picture some finally relaxing their tense shoulders. So, yes, I know some know all too well what we’re feeling.

Both history and current discourse prove it.

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanic Heritage Month starts Tuesday.

It’s always been a special time to acknowledge the history and contributions of the many people who make up the Hispanic/Latinx  community. With this year’s racial reckoning and social upheaval, I thought I’d share some data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Hispanics make up nearly 19% of the U.S. population. That’s almost 1 in 5. The demographics for children are already “majority minority,” meaning minorities make up the majority of people under the age of 18. To be tolerant of other groups now is to be tolerant toward America’s future leaders.

Especially in 2020, I feel it’s best to face facts.

Source: https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2020/hispanic-heritage-month.html

GOD AWFUL REBEL wins the Spark Award!

Wow! Wowee wow!

I might be hyperventilating as I write this, but I’m so thrilled to share the news with you. I’ve won a major award! I’ve won the SCBWI Spark Award.

SCBWI Spark Award

This is an incredible honor because of who it’s from and because of what it represents. It’s given by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which is the worldwide professional organization for creators of literature for children and young adults. Their Spark Award recognizes excellence in independently published work.

And God Awful Rebel won! I’m so incredibly happy about this. God Awful Rebel is the book I’ve shared with all of you through progress reports and excerpts. So you were along with me on the journey — and many of you encouraged me along the way!

God Awful Rebel is my latest book, the third and final title in my God Awful series. As it was the final piece, it had a lot of work to do. And I’m especially pleased with how it wrapped up the series. I believe it encompassed my best fiction writing to date. The God Awful series was a wild ride, and this award puts a gorgeous bow on the top.

If you haven’t yet picked up God Awful Rebel, you now have added incentive. You can get it HERE. And please share this post with someone who you think might enjoy the tale of a not-so-likeable Cupid who loses his place in Olympus and works his way back — and into our hearts.

God Awful Rebel - Spark Award winner

God Awful Rebel – Spark Award winner

“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.

Wrapping up 2016 with Four Final Events

Looking back at 2016, I can see that I had a lot to be thankful for. Most importantly, I have good health, a loving family, and dear friends, many of you among them. If we haven’t yet met in person, I hope to someday get the pleasure.

This year saw the release of the second in my God Awful Series of Books. I expect 2017 to bring the final installment of this comedic, mythological adventure. Until then, here are a few pictures of some of the authorial events that have kept me busy these past few months. Thanks to all who invited me / put up with me. Enjoy the pix and I wish you a very happy 2017! 🙂

Wisconsin Writers Association - Compelling Scenes Presentation by Silvia Acevedo

Oct 2016 – Presenting on writing compelling scenes for the Wisconsin Writers Association

Nov 2016 - Silvia Acevedo Presenting on Character Development at the Southeast WI Festival of Books

Nov 2016 – Presenting on character development @ the Southeast WI Festival of Books

Nov 2016 - Silvia Acevedo discussing God Awful Thief with the Columbus, WI, Books & Beer Book Club

Nov 2016 – Discussing God Awful Thief at Columbus WI’s Books & Beer Book Club

Milwaukee's Brown Deer Park, the beautiful Setting for Novel Lunch 2016

Milwaukee’s Brown Deer Park, the beautiful setting for Novel Lunch 2016

Guests at Novel Lunch 2016

Guests at Novel Lunch 2016

Books Donated by Publishers & Authors for Novel Lunch 2016

Books Donated by publishers & authors for Novel Lunch 2016

Silvia Acevedo & Other Sassy Authors at Novel Lunch 2016

Sassies at Novel Lunch 2016

Brown Deer Park, Novel Lunch 2016

The view, Novel Lunch 2016

Silvia Acevedo, author of God Awful Loser & God Awful Thief

Silvia Acevedo "I read YA"

Luncheon, Munchin’, ‘n Stumpin’ for Sojourner

Food is always a good idea. And it’s one thing to enjoy it with incredible people, new friends who share the same passions and humor as you and with whom you can see yourself spending many happy hours. It’s even more amazing when you get to help a worthy cause while doing it!

Friends

I got that chance this month when a friend — and a soon-to-be friend — invited me to their fourth annual Novel Cuisine Luncheon. What the heck is that, you ask? It’s a gathering of authors / librarians / teachers / book bloggers / booksellers. We donate books from our collections to a local charity in need of them, we talk about books, and we enjoy a fabulous meal based on foods mentioned in select titles. It was my first time going, and I am so blessed to have been a part of this!

Sojourner Milwaukee

First, just look at the piles of books collected to donate to Sojourner Family Peace Center! Sojourner’s tagline is “Peace is Possible.” Their goal is to help those impacted by domestic violence. And by help, I mean they are involved in the most desperate of times. They literally help women escape violent situations. They protect them in a hidden safe house. I personally know people who’ve benefitted from their help. When mothers run from violence, they so desperately want happiness for their kids, and books help. I couldn’t be more proud than to help in a tiny way by offering a moment of entertainment in trying times.

Hello? Author Liza Wiemer opened her home to about 20 of us. She and YA Book Blogger and Librarian Heidi Zweifel put together an incredible spread, thought up really fun games, and generally made themselves a holiday joy. Thanks so much to them for inviting me.

God Awful Loser Pizza

And look at this! My novel God Awful Loser was the basis for the lunch’s pizza fun! We made our own from ready-made dough and lots of fixin’s. YUM!

Author Melissa Gorzelanczyk handed out ARCs of her own Cupid-based novel, Arrows, and everyone even left with a few new reads of their own. It was a fantastic time, and I hope to continue the spirit of giving great reads in the years to come!

Guest Hosting The Morning Blend

The Morning Blend

I’m so happy to be able to guest host The Morning Blend again tomorrow, Tuesday, May 27! The show is so much fun, and I love catching up with all the great people behind the show. I hope you’ll get a chance to tune in: 9 a.m. Central on TODAY’S TMJ4.

Our “Magic: The Gathering” on the Big Screen

Bubbling Beebles by Jeff Miracola for Magic: The Gathering

Bubbling Beebles by Jeff Miracola for Magic: The Gathering

I have never posted about movies on my website, but this one’s special. This one’s EPIC. This one is based on a world that my husband helped bring to life through his artwork — a world that continues to influence our lives nearly every day.

Magic: The Gathering is a hugely (and by that, I mean ENORMOUSLY) popular role-playing game. If you haven’t heard of it, trust me, plenty of people in your circle have — and lots have played it. The card-based game pits characters and powers, beasts and spells, against each other to determine an ultimate mega champion. Yes, there are world-wide championships. Yes, some players dress in costume. It’s cool. It’s fun. And now it’ll be a FEATURE FILM!

I’m so immensely proud to say that my husband, Jeff Miracola, helped visualize that world. His art has graced 110 cards; he started painting for them in 1995. Fans of the game love his work, and the whole M:TG world has been a fun ride for us.

We’re hoping Beebles will be included, as they sprung entirely out of his imagination, all cute and naked as they are. Proud of my hubby! CAN’T WAIT to see the flick!

Tough Mudder

 

Team Dagobah

If you were at Tough Mudder Wisconsin 2012, you probably saw my team before, during, and after the event. We were the ones with the Yoda backpacks. First, let me thank any and all Mudders who helped any of us along the way, as this event is all about camaraderie, and absolutely everyone on the course helped or encouraged everyone else. In that spirit, this page is dedicated as a blow-by-blow of the event to offer future Mudders advice and to admittedly show off pix of us having fun.

We were Team Dagobah, named after the Star Wars planet and system that Luke traveled to in search of Master Yoda. Our team leader thought the challenge of running around in the woods and mud was a lot like Luke having to train with Yoda on his back, so we went with the idea. About half of our team wore the backpacks, and we’re glad we did! Everyone loved our costume, and the backpack was ridiculously useful throughout the course. More on that later.

My husband,Jeff, and I got there two hours early for our 9:20 start time. Parked easy peasy. We took a few minutes to duct tape the top of our shoes because we’d heard they’d otherwise get sucked into mud and lost for all time. It proved to be a smart move. After, we walked to the course nice and clean, and here are pix to prove it.

Clean Me

Clean Jeff

We bought souvenirs, got noticed and given a shout out by the super funny MC on stage, and climbed the first short wall to get to the starting line.

 

 

 

TM Wisconsin had 21 obstacles planned, and the first for us was Kiss of Mud. We managed to clear the barbed wires even with our backpacks. The core of our team trained for months, and we prepared for this obstacle by crawling through the sand of Milwaukee’s Lake Michigan shoreline. I’m so glad we did that because it taught us that crawling through sand is WAY tougher than crawling through mud. The obstacle was easy, but we were all properly muddy now, so we were happy.

We moved on to High Steppin,’ which is hopping over a serious of chest-high wooden walls (well, waist-high for most Mudders, but I’m a shorty). Those were the only walls I could navigate without help, and that was the case for most people.

Next came Mud Mile, which I think was the sloppiest, most slippery obstacle on our whole course. You cover an area of land (not a whole mile) that’s got a series of deep dips filled with muddy water. By the way, by now, I was starting to discern the many different types of mud there are in the world. There’s the very watery, grainy, splashing mud which filled the gaps at Mud Mile and then there’s the thick, creamy, pay-a-lot-for-it-facial-mask mud of later obstacles, and everything in between. I’m a mud expert now. Where you must walk on mud, I suggest you do it tippy-toe; you’re springier, and your shoes have less of a chance of getting stuck. Anyway, Mud Mile is extremely sloppy. We came out soaked and everyone was left blinking to keep in their contacts.

Seriously muddy

Next came the first of two sets of Berlin Walls, very high wooden walls with small crossbeams to place a foot but not high enough to actually help you launch over the top. Teamwork was critical here; very few made it over the top without help. The good news is that everyone wants to see others succeed, so everyone helped. I loved that about this event, and it makes me proud to call myself a Mudder.

The Underwater Tunnels obstacle was broken when we got there, but we still had to cross the cold pond; we were just spared having to dive under a series of large plastic tunnels. Don’t feel like we were coddled; Arctic Enema was next.

Todd Crossing the River Styx, er, the pond at Tough Mudder WI 2012

There are no words to describe the horror of Arctic Enema nor how cold that water was. My freakish, cold-water-loving husband found it refreshing and hung out to push me out of the vat. He must have known how my limbs would stop responding almost immediately; I didn’t think I needed his boost until I had to finish the job of climbing out. I did it, but it only confirmed how much I dislike the cold. Yes, yes! I know! I can hear my friends laughing at me now. True, I’m a speedskater who’s in the cold all the time, but my defense is that I’m used to cold air, not being submerged in cold water. So nyah. Anyway, I survived.

Bale Bonds is climbing over bales of hay. My teammates and everyone around us were surprised at how much our feet sunk into the bales. I guess other Mudders before us must have broken them up a bit. No biggie. It was fun crawling up, and, as usual, those at the top helped others. Did you know how much better hay sticks to you when you’re covered in mud? Oh, my! We ran away looking like escaped scarecrows.

We’re at mile three of almost 12. So far we’re thinking it’s pretty easy. There are spectators everywhere cheering everyone on and taking pictures. Kids are waving at us and shouting about our backpacks. We’re running through fields and then forests and then rocky trails to reach Trench Warfare, in which you crawl through underground tunnels. Think Forest Gump being told to check out a foxhole. I kept talking in the trench to warn of the huge rocks that would eventually beat up all our knees and to give those in the group with claustrophobia something else to worry about than being in dark, cramped underground tunnels. The challenge here was psychological.

Jeff\’s Happy that Obstacle is Over!

On to Logjammin.’ This was a series of logs tied atop each other to make a series of short walls to climb over and under. Flexibility is a good thing.

And here is where I would like to tell all future Mudders that the one obstacle that you won’t find on your map is the course distance itself. You’ll want to run it, of course, because your adrenaline is pumping and you’re tough and all that. Super! – because if you and your team are smart, you won’t focus solely on obstacles during your training. Anyone signing up for Mudder should consider that they need to be able to simply cover the course distance without obstacles. I’m a runner, and I regularly train on hills, so I actually really liked the chance to open up here and get the blood flowing again, but there were plenty of people who clearly hadn’t covered that much distance in a long time. There were also plenty of people who walked to encourage a suffering teammate, including me, so don’t think that every walker out there couldn’t handle it. Everyone encouraged everyone through it, but I’d simply advise in the nicest possible way to try to get in some miles because you’ll tire less easily and thus have a lot more fun.

Rough Terrain for Jaime, Chad, and Chris

Okay, next was Firewalker, in which no one walks. They should call it FireRunnerHoldYourBreath. And that’s what you do. Don’t slow down.

Walk the Plank. It’s where you climb a slanted ramp to a tall plank and jump into a deep pool. Sounds easy, but the plank is high. I stayed up a bit too long trying to encourage a teammate who’s scared of heights, and, while I’m so glad to have had the chance to help, it gave me a little too much time to analyze the height. Bad move. I got scared, too. But I got mad at myself and tossed myself into the air out of pure frustration. I got kicked in the face underwater by someone. I probably had it coming; you know, karma for psyching myself out. But the water is deep, so there’s really nothing to fear. Just don’t dawdle. That was mile five.

After a series of zigzagging runs, we got to Hangin’ Tough. This is where you swing on rings over water. Going into TM, I was most concerned about obstacles that required upper body strength, not because that’s the usual concern of most women, but because I’d suffered a rotator cuff injury following a fall while skating last season. I felt strong, but the injury wasn’t healing too well. In the end, I held onto the ring just fine, but ones further on were slippery, and down I went along with most of the guys. My advice would be to try to dry your hands as best as you can on whatever grass you can find. Your clothes won’t be any help, as they’ll be caked in mud. Ah, well. I still held on for awhile, so I was happy about that.

More running. More ponds.

Chad, Chris, Jaime, my legs, Jeff\’s legs

Steve and Joe

Right after that was Cliffhanger, in which you climb a rocky cliff. Just keep your feet moving and you’ll be fine.

Mile seven and people were clearly tired. There were water stations with bananas along the way, so people were taking care of themselves. Yoda carried our provisions for us: a nice, sweet-yet-salty electrolyte drink, a Cliff bar, an extra pair of contacts, whatever we chose to carry or put in there along the way. I even put stuff into Yoda: a layer that I took off, but the course was littered with gloves and socks and shirts, what have you. I also brought a face towel (sealed in ziplock) to dry my eyes, which I needed right after the next obstacle: Boa Constrictor.

You crawl through metal tubes half-(or more) submerged in muddy water. You had to dunk your head, which means, when you came up, muddy water poured down your face and got into your eyes. Here’s where the contact issue came in. I took the contact out on the run to the next obstacle and was lucky that Jeff spotted a water station to clean it. I would have continued the course even with just one contact, but I was glad not to.

Mile 10. We never saw the Spider’s Web net climb. Huh.

But we did get to Electric Eel. This is a crawl through muddy water with live electrical wires dangling down from cross wires. The crowd here was huge. Apparently watching people scream as they got shocked is great entertainment. Well, it was funny. Even other Mudders couldn’t help but laugh at themselves or others as they twitched and screeched. Well, I’m happy to say that I deprived everyone of laughter at my expense. I rocked that obstacle! Got on my belly and launched myself right in. Did my sand-type crawling so fast that I left a wake! No shocks, and I was out on the other side in record time. And the crowd went wild. There I am getting out, a teammate smiling and my husband on the right trying to figure out how that happened.

Me Being Helped out by Chad while Jeff helps Deanna

Chris and Deanna Navigating Electric Eel

We’re at the home stretch, and my most worrisome obstacle is next! The Funky Monkey is a monkey bar climb up and down over a water source. Unfortunately for others (but not for me because I really didn’t want to test my shoulder anymore), that event was closed! Someone said the liner for the pond underneath had sprung a leak, so the water level could not be stabilized. TM doesn’t want people injured, so closing the obstacle was the right thing to do.

Mile 11, and rounding the bend, the crowd is bigger than ever for Everest. You can’t complete this obstacle without teamwork. I saw no one get to the top on his own. You run up a quarter pipe to catch the hands of those waiting at the top, but the pipe is slippery, and the athletes are tired. I ran up once, and my fingers slipped through my teammates’ hands. I ran up a second time, and yet again, Yoda came in handy. While two teammates held my hands, another reached over both and yanked up Yoda. I came along for the ride.

Jamie and Joe Lending a Hand

I Get Help

Jeff Gets Help

Team Dagobah Victorious

Final obstacle, Electroshock Therapy. Running through a gauntlet of live, electrical wires with the maximum shock value being 10,000 volts. The MC from the stage was there and started shouting for Team Dagobah! How cool is that?! The crowd started rootin’ for us, so Jeff and I both took off our Yodas and put him in front of us. Our shield. Our 21st teammate. How I love him. Yoda valiently took the brunt of the shocks for us. Jeff got none. I got three small hits, probably because I held Yoda lower. A teammate who chose to not carry Yoda (and therefore it’s totally his fault) got the mega-zap and was knocked out cold. Face first into the mud. When he stumbled out, dazed and confused, he was totally and completely re-soaked in black mud. He looked like a cake that a kid had frosted really thickly in chocolate.

 

 

 

 

After hours of hard work, we made it! We crossed the finish line, got the famous orange Tough Mudder headband, cool T-shirt, and an ice-cold beer. Whoo hoo, Team Dagobah! No beer ever tasted so good. And we were sad to leave.

 

 

 

 

Jeff and Me Done

Sad to Leave

So, So Sad to Leave

So that’s Tough Mudder. I hope you enjoyed the pix and this recap. If you want to leave a comment, click here. It’s much appreciated. Link at will.

Couldn\’t Throw Away the Team Shirt!

I Actually Got These White Again

Congrats to all Mudders and thanks to all who keep the spirit of camaraderie alive! We are all TOUGH MUDDERS!