Okay, you know me. I love books and respect the heck out of transformative works. So imagine my delight when I was asked to give an endorsement for a book about revolutionaries who changed the world through writing! Um, yes, please! And even better that the book was written by fellow SCBWI-Wisconsin member Rochelle Melander, who’s a friend and incredible cheerleader for fellow writers.
I just got my advanced copy of Mightier than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers & Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing. It releases July 27th and is sure to be a favorite of teachers and parents alike. I’m so happy for Rochelle and proud of this grand achievement. Mightier is compelling and a testament to the power of writing. I’m honored that it’s the first book for which I’ve given a blurb (an accolade quotation). This book is right up my alley.
Enjoy this glance at some inside pages, and remember, writing is revolutionary.
(Mightier Than the Sword: Rebels, Reformers & Revolutionaries Who Changed the World Through Writing is available for pre-order at your local independent bookstore.)
Back in January, I read an article by Literary Agent Kate McKean on her Agents & Books blog about how your journey (publishing journey, in this case) probably isn’t going to go the way you plan, as there are just so many variables in life, and how that’s okay and might lead to interesting things. That article, and similar articles by author Nathan Bransford, have clearly stuck with me, as I’ve been marinating all year in the theme of “letting the universe tell me how things are going to be because I can only control what I can control.”
So how did Planning Silvia expect 2021 to go? Well, Planning Silvia hoped to wrestle a bit more control of life because, since I can only control that which I can control, I should try to control more! Am I right?
“HAHAHAHA!” the Universe says. “Let’s fix those silly notions!” And it did.
In early May, a close family friend essentially gifted a scooter to me! He’d gotten his enjoyment out of it and wasn’t planning on using it anymore. Whoo hoo! What an awesome surprise! Please don’t think I’m complaining because I’m totally not! I’d wanted a motorcycle or scooter since I was a teenager. This little beauty needed some minor repairs, and I had to set up insurance, and then, surprise! I discovered it’s got enough speed and power to classify as a motorcycle here in the great state of Wisconsin. So suddenly I’m practicing to pass a driving test to earn a motorcycle license. Cool, but, wow, that wasn’t expected for 2021.
You know what else I didn’t foresee for 2021? Getting a kitten!!! And that’s mostly because I’m allergic to cats! But I also didn’t expect to go outside on Memorial Day to water some flowers and hear something crying. What the heck is that? A kitten? A crying kitten?! OMG!!! Where is that precious little thing?!
Baby Cat was hungry and scared. Mom Cat never came back, soooo, Silvia to the rescue!
It was actually my pet-loving husband Jeff who decided we were adopting this little cutie. He was buying him a bed and toys before I’d even gotten my bearings on what was going on. Now we all adore Sketch, and so far my allergies haven’t kicked in. Supposedly that might happen when he’s about 12 weeks old. Crossing my fingers that it never happens.
Here’s Sketch, at about four weeks old. And it’s 2021 for the win again, obliterating Planning Silvia’s plans in the best possible way.
What next in the universe’s plans? An unexpected, remote job with Inkluded, a New York based nonprofit championing diversity in the publishing industry — and offering a tuition-free course toward that end. How cool is that? Again, unexpected and awesome.
Sooooo, yeah, things don’t always go as planned, but, like Kate McKean said, we might end up surprised. Life is full and fun. I’m not doing much writing lately, but I’m enjoying summer, and, once the weather changes, I’ll get back to some creative writing, as creation is good for the soul — planned or not. 😉
In my last blog post, I mentioned how helpful it was during the pandemic to connect with people online. In mid-2020, when socially-distanced people were badly missing each other, I decided the SCBWI-Wisconsin region could benefit from connecting online just to hang out and chat, like we do at conference socials. It seemed to me that a lot of online meetups at the time revolved around some sort of educational programming, and I thought our members might want an unstructured way to hang out. We also had newly published members who were releasing books during a pandemic, not the ideal time to release, to be sure.
So I came up with the idea of “PAL New Release” meetups that, for a host of reasons, our PAL coordinators couldn’t implement until 2021, but, hey, they’ve been a HUGE success! And they’re something we’ll continue doing well after the pandemic has past.
The PAL New Release meetups allow our members to hear directly from PAL (Published and Listed) authors about their new books — and they can talk about anything! Like: How did the book come to be? How did you get your original idea? How did the manuscript change over drafts? How did your editor’s editorial advice fit in with your vision? What’s the word count? How did the publisher choose the illustrator for the book? Are you getting a say in your marketing plan? Anything they want to chat about!
The authors aren’t required to answer anything they don’t want to, and they can ask questions too. Maybe an author they admire is in the audience, and they can compare notes, with the rest of the participants gleaning from the talk. Oh, and the whole talk is preceded by a half hour of simple catch-up time. People can dip in whenever they want. It’s all very easy-going, very fun, and a great way to connect with fellow members who may live too far to ever meet outside of a conference. What a great way to connect us all!
For all the fatigue Zoom has given us, there are great ways to connect, and I’m happy this little brainchild has caught on. I hope it lives on forever.
One of the many ways I’ve dealt with the past year’s uncertainty is to focus on what I can control. A lot of people practice this all the time. It’s not revelatory because, let’s face it, there’s a lot outside our control, and to rage against that reality is a great way to drive yourself into the ground. But I think it’s safe to say that some people are better at settling themselves this way than others.
Don’t get me wrong. The “focusing on what I can control” mantra can be twisted into a kind of privilege that allows you to ignore anything that requires effort. Or it can allow you to wash your hands of responsibility. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about things like, oh, say, not festering over how the pandemic has upended our lives and canceled events and such.
First, we must acknowledge that inconveniences are nothing compared to what many have had to bear. The losses have been heartbreaking. And with that understanding, inconveniences are nothing. Nothing.
And yet, change stings. Life has been so different. Since March 2020, I’ve had to cancel five conferences or retreats that I’d planned for more than a year. But you know what? It was doable. We’ve all pivoted.
Earlier this month, I co-hosted a day-long, virtual SCBWI-Wisconsin conference that was originally planned to be in person at a favorite retreat center on 90 acres of beautiful woods and water. Couldn’t happen. But you know what I could control? Deciding early to pivot. Becoming proficient at Zoom. Guiding people on how to join us. Connecting with others, which is what so many people say they missed most over the past year.
I’m grateful to see friends in squares on my screen, as that was once science fiction. And I’m grateful for the vaccines, which have allowed us to see friends and family in person. Long past this pandemic, though, I’ll stick with the notion of focusing on what I can control. It’s a better use of my energies and helps me see what’s important.
I hope you enjoy these photos of the event. Be well.
This week was my last as an intern at New York literary agency Writers House. I have so many wonderful things to say about this experience, but first, the logistics.
The internship is meant to teach a select few, lucky people the ins and outs of the publishing industry. But, more than that, it’s a program with the heart and purpose of increasing the number of BIPOC members within the industry. Publishing is overwhelmingly white, and that homogeny has historically been detrimental to creators from marginalized groups. As demographics shift, the need to diversify the industry has never been greater. Writers House and, specifically, program director Michael Mejias have been fighting the good fight for more than 20 years, working to ensure that those entering the industry better reflect the American people.
I’m told my class of 13 interns had more than two thousand applicants. I’m blown away that I was chosen to take part. What’s equally astounding is how amazing the program is structured and executed. You do not walk away from a Writers House internship without learning the skills needed to successfully enter the publishing industry.
I learned so much about assessing manuscripts, providing editorial feedback, and assisting agents. We interns also got to dive deeply into other aspects of publishing, including sales, marketing, publicity, foreign and subsidiary rights, scouting, contracts, production, and more. Michael has honed this program to be one of the most well organized programs I’ve ever seen.
And while the internship is about education — and stellar it is — it’s also about community. Our supervisors work hard to help us succeed, both during and after our time there, seeing to it that we were challenged and grew. And then there were the other intern themselves. They are some of the brightest, most intellectually curious, and fun people I’ve had the pleasure of knowing. They are actively on the job hunt and will take the industry by storm. I know someday their names will be spoken with awe and admiration. And rightly so.
In a year full of difficulties, my internship was an unexpected joy and a highlight of my life. I’m grateful to everyone involved. And I love getting to say I got my start in publishing at Writers House.
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.