Image shows a bookshelf with books

Tallying the year

Image shows a bookshelf with booksI genuinely love end-of-year lists.

Best of. Worst of. Most this or that. The year 2023 at a glance. I like being reminded of all that’s transpired in the past 365 days. I forget a lot of it and like revisiting with the benefit of hindsight.

One of the lists I always see is “How many books I read this year.” I keep track too, but I don’t feel any strong need to share it. I made the list for myself, not to later share in the hopes to impress or shame. Plus, I like to see how many books I read and actually enjoyed. See, those are the only books that make my list. My tally would be much, muuuuch higher if I included all the books I started but didn’t finish.

That’s the point of this post. If you need permission, I’m hereby granting it. You do not need to finish books you aren’t enjoying. The book police won’t come get you. The creators involved won’t be any the wiser. No one will know what you did or did not finish unless you tell them. There are too many books in the world to read them all, and you have too little life force to expend on entertainments that don’t feed you.

So, keep a tally, if you feel so inclined. Or don’t. Finish that book. Or don’t. But of course I’d always advise you try another. A year without books would be a tragedy indeed.

Here’s hoping your new year is bountiful with spectacular reads.

I’ve joined a book club–and I love it!

Picture of poster showing a girl holding a red book in front of her face. The poster reads, "That's what I do. I read books."I know, I know. It’s shouldn’t be big news if an author is part of a book club. But can I confess something here? **looks around sheepishly** I’ve never taken part in a regular book club.

As a kid, I read the books suggested by my school or library, but I didn’t join group discussions about them. I guess I didn’t want to hear people potentially criticize a book I enjoyed. What can I say? I was fragile. Then, as I got older and talked endlessly about books, I joined short-term clubs led by publishers or literary agencies or even clubs with the focus of having the creators attend. So I’d get to meet the authors or illustrators or editors, etc. That’s amazing, right?

But a club with readers who aren’t publishing-adjacent? Not until November 2023 when I joined one of the many monthly book clubs offered by Boswell Books, my local independent bookstore. I’ll post reviews of those books soon, but for now, I just want to say how fun it is to read books outside of what I may have chosen and then talk with fellow readers about them. Further, it’s fascinating to hear from readers who speak freely about a story (because the creator isn’t right there to hear what they have to say) and expound on other elements of a book (because they may not have thought about industry reasons for certain publishing choices). PLUS, a couple of fellow authors whom I’ve invited to join have, so it’s an overall lovely time.

Do you want to make more friends in the new year? Join a book club. Or another club focused on a hobby or passion you enjoy. I hope joining adds fun and friendship to your life. As for my new enterprise, so far so good. 🙂

NaNoWriMo #2

Picture of a calendar for November 2023The more you do something, the more you learn, right? And what I learned this November is that I need to be on solid footing with my story before NaNoWriMo if I expect the month to work for me.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. I explained the idea and methods for it in last year’s post, found here, so I won’t repeat myself. But let me just say, NaNoWriMo 2022 was a success for me because I knew where I was going with the story before the start. This year? Oof, no.

See, I plot my stories. Other writers don’t. Whichever method works for you is great, but I’ve found I do better if I’ve thoroughly thought through my story, all the way through to the end. So I had planned to think deeply about my story ahead of time. I had planned to outline so I wasn’t wasting time writing drivel. Alas, time is a runaway freight train. It was suddenly November! I had to get my first day’s word count in! No time to lose!

Well, I kinda think I lost half the month, if you want me to be honest. My final word count was well below what I’d hoped–primarily because I was adrift, going back and forth and rethinking parts and blah blah blah.

So. Hear me, writers. I highly suggest you keep following your tried-and-true, nice-and-toasty, satisfying method ahead of NaNo. If you typically plot your stories, do it again before you start. NaNo is no time to charge across uncharted lands while also expecting to double or even triple your daily word count and yet expect magic. You know yourself, so believe in your trusty process. My two cents. I wish you luck.

Cover image of the book THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA

THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA is available for PREORDER!

In February, I told you I’m representing Wisconsin in the upcoming spooky anthology THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA. I’m thrilled to tell you that the book is now AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER! Here’s a look at the cover, illustrated by by Solomon Hughes.

Cover image of the book THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA

Releasing from Macmillan Publishers on July 9, 2024
ISBN 9781250819413

Friends, there is simply no better way to support an author and their work than to preorder their books. Even if you think you won’t read the book for months or years, preorders count in the crucial first week of publication and can determine a book’s entire trajectory. So please do order a copy, either here or through your favorite bookstore. And trust me, by the time you get the book in July, you’ll be facing spooky season again and you’ll be ready to embrace some spine-tingling tales.

To remind you, this creepy collection features 52 twisted short stories, one from each state plus D.C. and Puerto Rico. My Wisconsin tale is personal and oh-sooooo-haunting. I spent countless hours at the Seven Bridges in my youth, so when I learned about this upcoming anthology, I knew I had to set a story there. My terrifying tale includes scenes from the archway, bridge, and trail shown below.

Sign at the entrance to South Milwaukee's Seven Bridges, which reads, "Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature"

It reads, “Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature.”

The Seven Bridges opening bridge, overlooking a deep gorge

The Seven Bridges opening bridge, overlooking a deep gorge

Image shows Seven Bridges trail

A trail dappled in light.

Thank you so much for your preorder and overall support. May Halloween 2024 be frightening fun,

 

 

 

 

What I’m reading – Under the Blanket Sky, Restart, Twerp, The Devil Particle, and The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet

Yaaaay! I am so glad to be back blogging. I’ve spent the past month recovering from elbow surgery, which kept one hand in a support brace, so I’ve refrained from too much typing, except for the ineffective, one-handed variety, haha. But now I’ve been cleared to type with two whole hands again (huzzah!), which is incredibly important in most aspects of my life, so yay! I’m back! 🙂

During my convalescence, I did (and am doing) quite a lot of reading. It’s also summer, and I always say I want to spend more time reading in the summer. Here are some of the gems I’ve hit upon.

UNDER THE BLANKET SKY by Tim Fischer (picture book, May 2023, DoubleDay). A lonely boy is visited by a mysterious owl (perhaps imaginary?) who spends summer with him enjoying playful adventures before it must eventually move on.

This quiet, gentle book feels like a hug to lonely kids everywhere, or maybe to kids who find themselves alone at important moments and wish they had a forever friend to share them with. I was touched by the unspoken themes of time, friendship, and bittersweet goodbyes, leaving me a little breathless afterward. The illustrations are soft, ephemeral, luminescent. And another thing I loved about it: the boy wears glasses. I know it seems small, but there aren’t enough books with kids who wear glasses, and it is so affirming for kids to read about others like them. This picture book is simply lovely. An Amazon Editors’ Pick. A new classic. Recommended.

 

RESTART by Gordon Korman (middle grade, March 2018, Scholastic). A boy suffers amnesia after falling off a roof and gets a rare second-chance to reset his life’s trajectory.

I’m a bit late to reading this considering it came out five years ago and is published by Scholastic, where I recently worked. But hey, definitely better late than never! This Amazon Teacher’s Pick hits so many themes I can’t resist: unreliable narration due to memory loss, discovering who you are compared to what others expect, restarting yourself after new experiences, joy, regret, processing an emotional renaissance. It’s all there. I can see why this book is a teacher’s favorite, and I can see why any kid who feels stuck might cling to it like a lifeline. You can change. You can start anew. You can reset your life. It’s never too late. Recommended.

 

 

 

 

TWERP by Mark Goldblatt (middle grade, May 2014, Yearling). A 6th-grade boy in 1969’s New York City is given a choice by his teacher to either keep a journal and write about what got him and his friends suspended or write a report on Shakespeare, which the boy is sure he’d flunk.

Again, I was late to the party on this one, but I’m so glad I discovered it. TWERP feels to me like a (lower stakes, gentler) middle grade CATCHER IN THE RYE. We see the world through the eyes of a genuinely likable boy who knows he made a bad choice — well, several, most of which he’s willing to admit, except for the story his teacher most wants to hear. The protagonist has a good heart, though, and cares about his friends and family. You can’t help but root for him and you’re so glad when he comes to terms with it all. I’m about to start the sequel, FINDING THE WORM. TWERP is good stuff. Another Amazon Teacher’s Pick. Recommended.

 

 

THE DEVIL PARTICLE by Kristin A. Oakley (young adult dystopian, June 2023, self-published). A 17-year-old boy living in a post-apocalyptic world competes to save humanity by becoming the single vessel containing all the world’s evil.

Whew, that’s some heavy stuff, isn’t it? And who would want to do such a thing? It turns out there are plenty of altruistic, caring youth who vie for the chance to change the world, to better the planet, to save others. But first the candidates must compete in The Trials, with its cruel and deadly challenges. There’s plenty to chew on in this book. Who’s to blame for evil — and evil acts? How can we as a society and world curtail it? Would we be willing to sacrifice one innocent for all people when that innocent  is someone we know and love? And are The Trials what they appear to be? Fans of THE HUNGER GAMES and a good race to the finish will enjoy sinking their teeth into THE DEVIL PARTICLE. Recommended.

 

 

THE HEAT WILL KILL YOU FIRST: LIFE AND DEATH ON A SCORCHED PLANET by Jeff Goodell (adult nonfiction, July 2023, Little, Brown and Company). The planet’s temperature is rising, the reality of climate change is hitting home, and heat is already becoming the world’s first-order threat.

I am up to the minute on this read! The book came out 15 days ago as one of the most anticipated books of the season and is already an Amazon #1 Bestseller and a New York Times bestseller. This fascinating, fast-paced, well-researched book looks into and explains the many climate-related terrors we’ve been experiencing the past few years, from deadly heat patterns to apocalyptic, orange skies laden with wildfire ash. Guggenheim fellow and bestselling author Goodell shows how even the privileged few among us will grapple to escape the cascading catastrophes of global warming. And he notes what’s impossible to ignore on the horizon (blistering, deadly heat; rising seas; crop failures; social unrest; mass starvation; large migrations) if action isn’t taken immediately. I’m not finished reading it, but so far it’s an incredible read. Highly, highly recommended.

I’ve listened to a few audiobooks lately too, and there’s one I’m really enjoying so far, so I’ll talk about those soon. I find it lovely to have stories read to me.

Hope you’re also enjoying some good reads this summer. 🙂

 

(The above are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I make a few pennies off the sale of each book, at no cost to you.)

 

 

Photo shows opening slide of SCBWI New York City conference

Positive Feedback

Oh, how wonderful it is to get positive feedback! How reassuring that you’re hitting the right notes, piquing reader interest, and traveling the right path. I’m sooo happy to have gotten positive feedback today at an agent roundtable, and I’m genuinely hopeful for the future of this piece.

You may have noticed that I have been quiet on this blog lately, and that’s because I’ve been hard at work on my current manuscript. I signed up for SCBWI‘s annual New York City conference and spent a good part of January completing homework for the revision workshop. The timing was perfect, which doesn’t always happen when you attend a conference. But here I was with a manuscript ready to revise, and I was eager to hear from great authors on how they do it. I took the homework seriously, and thus it proved very useful.

The workshop had me silently shouting Eureka! in my head and prompted me to write a whole new first chapter which garnered the positive feedback mentioned above. And the entire event was a joy. I got to see former publishing colleagues and friends old and new, from around the world. It was a fun return to NYC, and warmish for early February. I even got to see my first Broadway play. Here are a few pics for you to enjoy.

Expect me to remain, at least for a few weeks, on cloud nine from the agent’s feedback. And I’ll keep working on this piece. It’s almost ready. Nearly there. 🙂

 

Bryant Park in the Garment District, Manhattan, New York City

Bryant Park in the Garment District, Manhattan, New York City

 

Door plaque for book publisher Macmillan

Door plaque for book publisher Macmillan

 

Door plaque for Writers House Literary Agency

Door plaque for Writers House Literary Agency

 

Writers House fellows Catherine Bai and Silvia Acevedo

My Writers House fellow Catherine Bai

 

Writers House mentor Michael Mejias

My Writers House mentor, Michael Mejias, who’s kind of a big deal. 😉

 

Photo looking up from the archway of The Alwyn Court at 7th Ave & 58th Street in Midtown Manhattan, designed by Harde & Short in the French Renaissance style.

Looking up from the archway of The Alwyn Court at 7th Ave & 58th Street in Midtown Manhattan, designed by Harde & Short in the French Renaissance style.

 

Photo shows Silvia Acevedo holding the playbill for the Broadway play Pictures from Home staring Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein, and Zöe Wanamaker

Holding the playbill for the Broadway play “Pictures from Home” staring Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein, and Zöe Wanamaker

 

Photo shows a ballroom full of conference attendees

So many creators!

 

Image shows pro panel at SCBWI's annual New York City conference

The pro panel talks publishing at SCBWI’s annual New York City conference

 

Photo showing workshop teachers Eliot Schrefer and Elana Arnold plus author Silvia Acevedo

Eliot Schrefer and Elana Arnold put on a great workshop. Note the bunny ears!

 

Photo shows illustrator Druscilla Santiago and SCBWI-Hawaii leader Akiko White with author Silvia Acevedo.

Narrative Art Award winner Druscilla Santiago, SCBWI-Hawaii leader Akiko White, and I enjoy a laugh at the Saturday Social.

 

Photo shows authors TeMika Grooms, Silvia Acevedo, and Jolie Stekly, whose work will appear in the MacMillan anthology "The Haunted States of America," fall 2024.

TeMika Grooms, me, and Jolie Stekly, fellow authors in the upcoming Macmillan anthology “The Haunted States of America,” coming July 9, 2024. If you have a young person in your life who loves spooky short stories, please look for this title. It’s friiiiighteningly good! 😉

Copyright © Silvia Acevedo. All rights reserved.