Aaron H. Aceves (he/him) is a bisexual, Mexican-American writer born and raised in East L.A. He graduated from Harvard College and received his MFA from Columbia University. His fiction has appeared in Epiphany, The Florida Review, and Passages North, among other places. He currently lives in Texas, where he serves as an Early Career Provost Fellow at UT Austin, and his debut young adult novel, This Is Why They Hate Us, was released by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. It received multiple starred reviews and was named a Best Young Adult Book of 2022 by Kirkus Reviews.
What excites you about writing? How has it affected your life?
Writing, for me, has always been about character. People are fascinating, and ever since I was a child, I’ve wanted to understand those around me and figure out how to best support them. I think I’ve made great strides since then, so writing isn’t just my profession, it’s my way of expanding my empathy and respect for others (while having a great time).
What mindset does a writer need to continue to grow and learn?
I would say all a writer needs is to acknowledge that they’ll never be done growing and learning. You’ll only ever get better as a writer if you continue to challenge yourself and recognize what you have left to improve. Writing is a process, and taking the next step with a project is actually taking 10 smaller steps that each require humility and patience.
What makes a good writing mentor?
The best writing mentor is someone who understands that everyone’s process is different and that every mentee needs a different kind of support. In other words, a mentor needs to adapt their teachings for a variety of writers and their personalities/goals. A poor mentor would try shaping a writer’s piece into something that it’s not, whether that detrimental instinct comes from the mentor’s personal taste or knowledge of literary trends and market. My job is to read between the lines, listen to the writer when mention comp titles or models for their book, and do my best to figure out their vision and help them execute it.
Outside of the craft of writing, a good mentor provides both publishing industry perspective and insights into the psychological reality of being a writer. A mentor of mine once said “60% of writing is figuring out how you write,” and I agree. A good mentor is knowledgeable about the process of writing, the role of emotions and attitude in creation.
What is your style of feedback?
My line edits are real time “reader” reactions to a piece, an “ew” in the margins when pool of blood is rendered vividly in a horror story, an “lol” when the comic relief in a romantic comedy makes a witty observation, or a series of exclamation points when a writer has successfully pulled off a shocking twist. I believe these small but affirming reactions are crucial inspiration that will help writers stay motivated and know when they’re on track.
The second part of my critique is an edit letter of sorts (all comments and changes are purely suggestions) in which I expound upon macro level edits that I believe would make the work stronger. This is when we get into character arc, structure, theme, and writing tics. The letter is an analysis of text and subtext, what the work is stating as a whole.