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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.

Learning Scrivener

I bought Scrivener last year and am really enjoying it. It seems like a really robust program, but that means there’s a lot to learn. So here I am trying to learn. Well, no, not really. Here I am posing with some SCBWI gals who helped put together a meetup about Scrivener, but I was too busy learning to take more pictures. And now I got Scriv skills. 😉

Thanks to Kerry, Deb, and Becki for setting this up.

Left to right: Silvia Acevedo, Kerry Hansen, Deb Buschman, Scrivener presenter Erica Dinka, and Becki Kidd, at Pewaukee Public Library.

Left to right: Silvia Acevedo, Kerry Hansen, Deb Buschman, Scrivener presenter Erica Dinka, and Becki Kidd, at Pewaukee Public Library.

Hanging out with the incomparable Linda Sue Park

When Newbery Award winner Linda Sue Park visits your area, you go. And that’s just what a bunch of us SCBWI-ers did recently when Boswell Book Company hosted her appearance promoting the release of her new middle grade novel, Prairie Lotus. Park says the work is reminiscent of the Little House books and is set in America’s heartland in the 1880s, but it’s meant to be much more inclusive and representative of the true diversity of the region then and now. Prairie Lotus features a half-Asian girl who’s also a wry, determined heroine.

SCBWI volunteers got some private chat time with Park before her event at the North Shore Library kicked off. You can see the event was well attended and just plain fun! Enjoy the pics.

SCBWI-Wisconsin is in the house!

SCBWI-Wisconsin is in the house!

Linda Sue Park speaking about her new book, Prairie Lotus

Linda Sue Park speaking about her new book, Prairie Lotus

Linda Sue Park speaking about her new book, Prairie LotusLinda Sue Park speaking about her new book, Prairie Lotus

Linda Sue Park holds her new release, Prairie Lotus, with an appreciative Silvia Acevedo

Linda Sue Park with her new release, Prairie Lotus, and Silvia Acevedo

SCBWI-WI Indie & Self-Publishing Coordinator

Library Book Shelves _ silviaacevedo.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hi, everyone!

I’m proud to announce a project that I’ll be sharing here and a new title. I am now SCBWI-Wisconsin’s first Indie & Self-Publishing Coordinator. This is a new position for the Wisconsin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I actually think it might be the first in the nation.

I’ll share information about the many new and nuanced forms of publishing, including independent presses, hybrids, and self-publishing. My goal is to provide resources, programming, and network opportunities for authors and illustrators interested in paving their own way.

Point of View with Asst. Editor Catherine Laudone of Simon & Schuster

Silvia Acevedo at SCBWI-WI Spring Luncheon 2018

 

 

Clarity and Joy come with every SCBWI Spring Luncheon. This year, though, the organizers pitched those benefits in the event title.  That’s a big promise, and I think the organizers did a great job delivering both.

 

 

 

 

 

The Spring Luncheon of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators-Wisconsin is an annual half-day conference that always seems to come at the right time, when I’m starting to get a bit of the winter blahs and am happy to connect with other writers and illustrators. This year’s was held in Sturgeon Bay, which is still wintery, but features a beautiful bay.

Sturgeon Bay, WI

Sturgeon Bay, WI

Catherine Laudone, Asst. Editor, Simon & Schuster

 

Assistant Editor Catherine Laudone of Simon & Schuster spoke about the pros and cons of the various forms of points of view in writing. You remember POV from middle school, right? First person uses “I.” Second person uses “you.” And then there’s third person with its options (limited, omniscient, etc.). Laudone spoke about how different POVs offer varying levels of emotional connection and descriptive opportunities. POV is important, and it was helpful to dive into the intricacies of the many types of narrative voice.

 

Miranda Paul, Author and SCBWI-WI Regional Advisor

 

 

The event also marked a transition for SCBWI-Wisconsin. Fearless leader Miranda Paul is stepping down after three years as co-Regional Advisor. She and Andrea Skyberg have done wonders highlighting our work to literary and educational leaders around the world. Southeast WI Area Rep Rochelle Groskruetz, who’s organized great events for years, steps in.

 

 

 

As usual, some of my favorite moments were catching up with fellow writers and illustrators, seasoned and newbies. If you’re aspiring to write or illustrate a book someday, come to this inspiring event! It’s great to hang around with creative people.

Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators-Wisconsin 2018 Spring Luncheon

 

 

 

 

Deadline Looming for 2018 SCBWI-WI Mentorship

2018 SCBWI-WI Mentorships Flyer

Hurry, aspiring writers and illustrators! You have just 18 days to apply to SCBWI-Wisconsin’s 2018 mentorships.  The deadline is November 30, 2017, and this is an opportunity not to be missed. I am deeply honored to be among the six authors/illustrators who’ll be mentoring up-and-coming creators in 2018, along with Jamie Swenson, Jane Kelly, Pat Schmatz, Deb Gross, and Jeanne Styczinski. I’ll work with an author of middle grade or young adult work who’s interested in self-publishing.

First, here are the mentorship basics:

The 2018 SCBWI-Wisconsin Mentorship runs approximately six months, January to June. The amount of interaction between mentor and mentee will be decided between the pair.

Next, the rules:

You must be a current member of SCBWI and have attended at least one member event in the past year, unless applying for the Diversity Mentorship with Pat Schmatz.

You can only apply for one category of mentorship unless you qualify for the Diversity Mentorship, in which case you could apply to more but only win one.

You must yet to be traditionally published in your category.

Finally, the application details:

Follow the guidelines on this online application form and email the requested documents to wisconsin-ra@scbwi.org by November 30th.

 

I’m really looking forward to this adventure. Please apply if you’re interested and spread the word to the creative people in your life who you feel might benefit. Thanks! 🙂

 

Playing at the SCBWI-WI Fall Retreat

Silvia Acevedo Presenting at Wisconsin's Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

How often, do you suppose, have you fallen into a rut? Even when trying to be creative, do you find yourself slipping into familiar routines and say, meh, the writing or artwork is good enough?

Whoa boy, let me tell you. If you were feeling that way before the SCBWI-WI Fall Retreat, you left feeling like a new person. Superhero-ish even. There’s no way any uninspired, humdrum, or worse, corrosive thoughts could creep into your creative sphere that weekend. And if you haven’t yet made it a part of your creative journey to connect with others at a conference, I’d highly suggest you do.

Wisconsin’s Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Fall Retreat was meant to be an antidote to stifling routine. This years theme was “experiment and play,” and what a great thing to  do to help us create.  I was incredibly honored to give three presentations: how to slant the truth through an unreliable narrator; how to bring back the thrill of creating (in case the joy’s become a grind); and using art as inspiration.

Anyone who knows my writing knows that I love a good unreliable narrator. I could talk about that all day. I didn’t, though, to allow attendees time to work on their writing prompts. See? Proof.

Writing at SCBWI-WI

Writing…writing…writing…

And we had an open, dynamic talk on how to banish the blahs. Author Melissa Gorzelanczek not only inspired everyone during her talks, but she came up with the idea of Journey Stones weeks ahead of our workshop. I designed a hundred.

YES to your journey! YES to challenges! YES to bravery! I think the attendees liked them. 🙂

Journey Stones - Silvia Acevedo

Journey Stones

My final presentation really revved my engines. Author Valerie Biel and I talked about the gazillion ways we creative types use other art for our inspiration. I’m talking literature, visual arts, music, theater, or dance. I’m big into the visual arts, and there’s no shortage of it referencing mythology, so I was absolutely in my element. Here are a few pictures I shared: me hanging out with Cupid at the Milwaukee Art Museum and then imitating Bacchus, the god of theatre and wine, at the Louvre. We’re buds, ya know.

Silvia Acevedo with Cupid at the Milwaukee Art Museum and Bacchus at the Louvre Museum

Silvia with Cupid and Bacchus

And again I made a little memento: crocheted bookworms. I hope they crawled their way into someone’s heart. 🙂

Silvia Acevedo's Bookworms

Silvia’s Bookworm Bookmarks

Others got artistic, too. Check out these handmade bags for the faculty, made by the “Freakin’ Happiness Fairy,” Author M.J. Diem. And can she rawk a tutu or what?

Freakin' Happiness Fairy M.J. Diem and her fabulous bookbag

M.J. Diem and that *gasp* gorgeous bookbag

Oh, and the talks. And the amazing guest faculty (Lin Oliver, Mary Amato, Carol Hinz, I’m looking at you!). The cruise. The book title contest. Yes, yes, yes, and yes!

Keith Pitsch, Silvia Acevedo, and Valerie Biel

Keith Pitsch, me, and Valerie Biel

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