Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Q&A with Executive Director and CEO of LATiSM: Kety Esquivel

Kety Esquivel has over fifteen years of experience in the non‐profit, private and political sectors. Kety graduated from Cornell University where she served on the Board of Trustees. While at Cornell, she organized students to defend issues as varied as financial aid and need-blind admissions to the environment. Her work has taken her to China and Ethiopia with the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, she has worked as the New Media Manager for the National Council of Lar Raza (NCLR), and she is a published author and founder of Her commentary has been featured and quoted in stories for the Wall St. Journal Online, HITN, PBS, XM radio, Democracy Now, CNN, Televisa and Univision.  She blogs at her personal blog and at Huffington Post.  She is the Executive Director and CEO of Latinos in Social Media (LATISM).

It's an honor for me to have had the opportunity to interview Kety.  She is a source of great inspiration and is one of the most supportive people I have come across in social media.  (Follow her on twitter).  

This interview has been underway for a while, and I truly feel fortunate that Kety was able to squeeze a little bit of time for this interview between attending the People's World Conference for Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia, organizing the first ever Latinos in Technology and Media MeetUp at SXSW, and getting married, oye! 


You have so many incredible projects going on--how do you keep yourself on track, organized and coherent so that your energy is well-directed and productive? 

Thank you Nilki!  I try to contribute my grain of sand.  I was raised by a phenomenal mother who did it all.  By trade she was a school teacher.  When she came to this country she worked her way up from the mail room to the purchasing department in a Fortune 100 company; and then when she came home each night she took care of her two daughters and her very traditional though ideologically progressive Latino man.  Folks always wondered where she got all the energy to do everything she did.  I guess I'm lucky in that I've taken after her in that way.  What keeps me on track, organized and coherent so that my energy is well-directed and productive is keeping my eye on the prize and not sweating the small stuff.  Whenever I find myself going off track, I just remember why I do the work I do and then it all seems to fall into place, almost magically.   I recently came across the following quote by Thomas Jefferson and it rings pretty true to me, "I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."  I work hard and try and work smart. 

How do you organize your daily activities and thoughts into writing?
I email myself any and all ideas.  I find that burst of creativity and inspiration come at me/to me in the most random of times so I am thrilled that I have a blackberry/computer on me constantly. 

I find that having the discipline to sit down and write is both the biggest challenge and the biggest gift.  Once I am sitting at the computer and doing it, the words flow.  It's like being in the zone.  Also, for me writing is an iterative process.  An idea will come and I will flesh it out bit by bit.  It takes time and dedication.  Having a deadline often helps me too.  Without deadlines things continue to shift to the bottom of the pile/long list of to-dos and for better or worse, I have a lot of those. 

My father is a poet, very prolific, composing three or so poems per sleepless night.  Perhaps that's where I get the writer gene from.  I love it and honestly wish I had more time to write in different genres.  I have several ideas of books which are works in progress and I've been meaning to get back to poetry for a while now.  The challenge as with all else is simply finding the time.  

What are the key ingredients for creating high-quality journalistic content?
I'd say there are three key ingredients in this recipe: 
#1- staying abreast of what is happening;  
#2- not being afraid to bring your voice to the table; 
#3- being passionate about conveying your message, whatever that is.   

It takes courage to put yourself out there, especially in this day and age when the feedback comes back to you the way that it does, completely unfiltered and public.  In many ways we are living in the wild west where many times anything goes.  Though I am at heart and always will be a citizen blogger, my time working for a communications shop in a DC organization probably helped to round me out a bit too.  I say a bit because now that I am no longer with them I have in many ways reverted back to my natural style. 

I think in journalism, as in almost every other profession, networking and finding a mentor is so crucial for success.  How did you get started in creating your network? How do you recommend new writers build their networks if they don't have the Graduate school platform or funds for conferences?

I was raised to believe that it is important to help your neighbor.  I certainly have been the recipient of good will and several opportunities from peers and mentors who have helped to guide me on the road to success and it has been my hope to do the same for others.  

I think it's very important to see the worth in others work and share with them resources, knowledge and opportunities that you might have and which they might not. There were folks who came before me who shared those resources, knowledge and opportunities with me and it is my hope to be able to do the same for others every chance that I can.    

If there is one piece of advice that I would give to young writers it would be to not be afraid and to ask for what you want or need and be persistent about it.  The worse that can happen is that you get a no and then you are no worse off than when you began.   Conferences are very important; I'm not talking about merely going to them but actually speaking at them and setting yourself up as an expert and presenting.

At Latinos in Social Media we know that there are many Latinos and Latinas who have the chops to be experts on panels, speakers, etc it's just a question of them getting the chance to do so. These are the opportunities that we are aiming to create. The statistics prove that we are the content producers. It is time for us to stop being humble about it and to step into that tremendous gift that we've been given and share it courageously with others. 
What did you have to overcome, in terms of the craft, or art, of writing to be where you are as a writer today?  Is there anything you are still working on, that you are consciously trying to improve? 
I think I will always be a work in progress and the same is true for my writing.  I would like to be able to write faster, less drafts and be more prolific.  If I could live as my father does and never sleep, that would be helpful too, though my partner, Rich, might protest at the thought of that. Rich has been very helpful and supportive and in truth without him, I probably could not have done everything that I have as a writer. 

Thanks again to Kety, and if you'd like to hear her one big piece of advice to writers, sign up to receive our newsletter which includes advice to writers, news about up-coming book tours, audio interviews and more! Sign up now!

1 comment:

  1. We're very proud of Kety's work and with no doubt she'll lead LATISM to the next level. Thank you for this post and such an excellent interview.


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