Fred Aceves, author of young adult books The Closest I’ve Come and The New David Espinoza, came to speak with Durant High School’s English students and aspiring writers at the end of February.
Aceves described his life as a half-Mexican and half-Dominican teen in Tampa through the eyes of his first book’s main character, Marcos Rivas. Aceves was born in New York and moved to Tampa when he was 14. In high school, Aceves was assigned books for his English classes, such as Shakespeare’s King Lear, but never truly enjoyed reading because, as a poorer teen, he couldn’t relate to the royal characters.
As a result, Aceves was never an avid reader and wanted to write a story that today’s teens could relate to and enjoy, and what better way to do that than telling a version of his own story in his novel? In writing the Kirkus Reviews Best Book of 2017 The Closest I’ve Come, the author and screenwriter was able to reflect on his experiences and the challenges he faced in his teen years. His book talks about gender expectations and the pressure to “wear a mask” when he is around his friends and family.
Aceves also had the opportunity to talk about what it was like to write his first book at only 39.
“I wanted [Durant’s students] to meet me, a regular person from Hillsborough County, and understand that becoming an award-winning author is possible for anybody,” said Aceves. “I wasn’t given a unique gift, and I wasn’t even the most talented writer in my critique group when I first started. I just worked harder and stayed consistent.”
His talk with Durant was the first in-person event he has done since the coronavirus pandemic, and he said getting to talk to the students was wonderful and that he was impressed and inspired by the resilience of their creativity.
Aceves is currently working on a screenplay, which he admits is a brave step outside of his comfort zone since he is already an established novelist.
For more information on or to purchase his books, visit Aceves’ website at www.fredaceves.com.