Since the new coronavirus outbreak hit the U.S. in early March, children’s authors have put forward a host of digital options for young readers, from daily doodling to story times, but one writer’s group is also stepping up for fellow writers. Las Musas Latinx Authors Collective, a coalition of women and nonbinary Latinx kids’ lit writers, has launched a series of programs on writing and publishing for aspiring and published writers alike.
The collective, which has more than 60 members, hosted the first of its participatory webinars on March 19. “We realized many writers and readers would be facing weeks and possibly months of social distancing and isolation,” said CNN producer and author Mayra Cuevas, whose YA romance Salty, Bitter, Sweet was published by HarperCollins/Blink in early March. Cuevas developed the idea with fellow author Ismée Williams, whose book This Train Is Being Held was published by Abrams in February. Both authors’ tours were canceled due to the outbreak.
“From a mental health perspective, we know this can lead to anxiety, insecurity and depression,” Cuevas said. “We wanted to use our art to help and connect with people around the world.”
For the March 19 event, Cuevas and Williams shared their own stories about becoming published writers and took questions in a wide-ranging conversation. “It was fantastic,” Williams said. “We had an outline of topics to cover, but only got through about half of them as we went with viewer requests instead, which is why we are going to be scheduling more webinars.” Close to 50 viewers logged in for the conversations, from the United States, Canada, Argentina, Germany, and Mexico.
Attendees expressed gratitude for the opportunity to learn more about the publishing industry. “As a complete newbie, I really enjoyed the documents they uploaded as well as hearing them talk about how they got started in writing,” said Simone Richter, who participated from Germany.
For Ossining, N.Y.-based participant Lisa Ramos-Hillegers, the digital gathering helped lower a barrier to knowledge about publishing that she had previously felt. “It was an opportunity to get an inside view of the complex publishing process,” Ramos-Hillegers said. “They are clearly making efforts to offer a seat at the table to more authors, especially to those from more traditionally marginalized backgrounds.”
When Las Musas was created by author Aida Salazar in 2018, lowering those barriers was one of her main reasons. The organization has a monthly newsletter that shares members’ publication successes and hosts regular Twitter chats about aspects of the publishing process. In February, before the coronavirus began to take a toll in this country, the group also hosted its first in-person writing retreat at the Highlights Foundation in Honesdale, Pa.
“Members support one another on all things book-related, attending each other’s launch parties, swapping early drafts for feedback, and fielding questions about publishing issues that arise,” Williams said.
With the success of the first webinar, Las Musas hosted a second session on March 24: a discussion between Williams and her agent, Jim McCarthy, v-p and senior literary agent at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. The two discussed the reasons that authors need an agent and how to find the right one.
More than half a dozen upcoming talks have been scheduled, including a writing workshop with Color Me In author Natasha Díaz and The Truth Is author NoNieqa Ramos, as well as a conversation with Cuevas’s agent, Saritza Hernandez, v-p at Corvisiero Literary Agency.
The group is also looking to expand its programming to include educators, librarians, and students. “We’re a collective where we look out for one another,” said Williams, who is also a pediatric cardiologist currently working through the pandemic in a New York City hospital. “Our most valuable resource is each other.”