Blog Swap with Linda Sienkiewicz

When it comes to writing, or any other creative pursuits, time used to explore possibilities is never wasted.  

How a Dead End Led to a Children’s Book

One of our family’s favorite activities when we’re on the beach in North Carolina is watching for ghost crabs, those skittish little creatures that live in deep holes in the sand along the shore. One year, my grandson, then three, was frightened by a large ghost crab that ran right across his foot. We promptly visited Village Books in Buxton to find a picture book about them for him. Surprisingly, we came up empty-handed. “Well,” my daughter said, “You’ll just have to write him one.”

So I wrote a story about a boy who visits the beach for the first time, and how his big brother’s story about ghost crabs scares him. What would happen if he then had to rescue a crab from a girl with a net? I sketched out pictures with markers and colored pencils, and printed it myself for my grandkids. 

The love of story kept me going

As a writer, I thought the story had possibilities. I fine tuned the text by putting my poetry skills to work and began querying children’s book agents. From what I understood, publishers typically select the the illustrator for picture books, not the author. That was okay with me. It had been a long time since I’d done any serious drawing, and this looked like a big project.

Don’t quit 

Finding an agent or publisher can be a long process though. While I queried, I decided I may as well try doing the illustrations, too. Why not? I had the skills, even if they were a little rusty. The biggest issue was I’d attended art school in the seventies, long before art was digitalized, and I felt this put me at a disadvantage.

I bought myself an iPad and an Apple Pen. That was the easy part, because I had no clue how to draw on an iPad, or even what app to use! It took me a year, a full year, before I finally got serious about learning how to use Adobe Sketch.

I watched a lot of YouTube how-to videos. I also had to study children, beaches, and crabs, which I’d never really drawn before. Have you ever considered how hard it is to draw ocean waves? They are tricky! 

Meanwhile, I kept getting rejections or no response from agents. 

Keep learning

Despite the rejections, I felt productive. In addition to fine tuning my drawing skills, I studied picture book layout, and learned what in the story to illustrate in order to keep the story moving ahead visually. I went to a conference on publishing children’s books and talked with an agent who suggested adding science facts at the end of book. 

A year or two later, I sought out a publisher on my own. I worked hand in hand with editor MaryChris Bradley, who’d published my novel, In the Context of Love, under a different imprint. She had excellent ideas for fine tuning the text. However, she told me my illustrations were too small to use! 

Ugh. I resized them, but in the process, they lost clarity, so I had to redo all the drawings for optimal reproduction. Not only that, after the book was laid out, there were three more pages to fill! I expanded the educational portion of the book with more fun facts and science. And more drawings.

That dead end created “The End”

At any point in this journey, I could have thrown up my hands and said “I’m not a children’s book author,” “I’m too far behind in my skills to illustrate a book,” or “Agents keep rejecting me!” Many times, I thought “This is too much work.” But I kept at it. I’m so excited to see how my early conception of a children’s book morphed into this final product. 

My grandson is seven now. I hope my grandchildren, and your children or grandchildren like this book. It means a lot to me.

Gordy and the Ghost Crab Book Trailer

Gordy and the Ghost Crab 

Gordy is afraid of the crashing ocean waves and a strange creature he sees skittering across the beach. It doesn’t help his fears when his big brother tells him it’s a ghost crab that will pinch off all his toes. What will Gordy do when he meets a girl intent on capturing a ghost crab? Will he stay away, or will he rescue the little crab? 


The story highlights empathy, problem solving and the value of caring for nature. The book also includes fun facts about different types of common crabs and offers a gentle conservation message.


Order: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1941523226/

Linda K. Sienkiewicz’s poetry, short stories and art have been widely published in literary journals and anthologies. Gordy and the Ghost Crab is her first picture book. Her first novel, In the Context of Love, won four finalist awards, including the Hoffer Award and the Sarton Award for Fiction. She also has a poetry chapbook award, three other poetry chapbooks, and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. Her MFA is from Stonecoast at the University of Southern Maine. She volunteers at The Neighborhood House, a nonprofit social services organization.

More Covid Marketing

It took all weekend, but I managed to make a Twitter post on Canva! Then I uploaded it to Twitter via Canva’s direct “post to Twitter now.” That was a mistake as I could not add my buy link to my tweet post. A problem with Canva is you can’t put the buy link into a Canva design. Just pop it beneath the tweet. Or use the Word Press link or caption option if you’re blogging.

I hope you can see that I am not very far at all in my quest to master Canva. I would take a class if I could find one. I already looked for Canva for Dummies but there is no such book. I was only able to make the above tweet because I used a stock template and changed the words in the text boxes. So, really, I’m not Canva ready. I’m just bungling along.

Also, all last week, when my book released, guess what everyone was tweeting about? The election. Which, okay, that was way more important than my new book release. So I decided to use the time to learn Canva. It is clear I need more time. Much more time. Or a class. Probably both.

One tip I do have is to talk to your writer friends now, especially those with book releases about the same time as yours. What are they doing? My writing friend Linda told me to use Canva for tweets and Facebook. She also said we should do an online “two writers talking about writing” thing. I liked that idea, but I told her I know nothing about Zoom except how to click on the link the leader sends.

But darn if she didn’t only find out how to do it, she found a writer who wanted to host us on her online program: Pink Panther Presents Author Talk. Our talk will be streamed live November 20 at 4 pm and anybody can watch it for free. So, we are still dealing with Covid, but there are ways to market your new release even if you are a tech disaster like me.

I must mention that I have had a website and a blog since 2002 and I use them as my platform base. My son suggested I start a blog way back and he taught me everything I know about having an online presence. If you don’t have a good website (I like Word Press and I pay $100 a year so there are no ads.) that’s my #1 tip. Get a website and start blogging! When I need help with technical aspects of my site, I use Bakerview Consulting; they are wonderful and also Word Press experts.

Another writing friend, Barb, has a book coming out December 9 and we share the same publisher, the lovely Wild Rose Press, who tweeted out my new release last week. Barb offered to interview me on her blog and I said wouldn’t it be fun to switch blogs for a day? I’d write a blog for her site and she’d write one for mine. About our new releases, of course. So really the basics of marketing online are having a platform like a website, use it to blog, then link posts on social media. Also, you gotta have writer friends. Those are my top two suggestions.

Suggestion three is for people who are good at online design. Make all those great Twitter and Facebook posts and pin them. Just don’t overdo promotion on Twitter and Facebook. Pinning a marketing post is fine, but scheduling your lovely designed posts to pop up every hour is not cool. Social sites require social engagement in a meaningful way. That means don’t just tweet fancy ways to say buy my book. But, hey, if you want to, here’s my link: https://amzn.to/34MK3FY.

Jane in St. Pete Release Day!

Jane fires her agent, retires from the art lecture circuit and moves to sunny St. Pete, all on a frenzied whim when her not-very-beloved husband unexpectedly dies. She fixes up her condo, meets her mom for lunch and finds new friends. When one of them is murdered, she uses her knowledge of art to help the local police solve the case. Also, she falls in love with a homicide detective.

Of course she falls in love. I have never written a book, published or unpublished, that does not have a love thread. And I’ve tried. That’s just where my heart goes. Talking with friends, trying to figure out if my new series is really cozy. We came up with edgy cozy. Because you do see a body in the second book (still writing), there is blood, and I have procedural characters. Edgy cozy. If it was not a thing before, it is now.

Read it on Kindle, Nook, iPhone or in print now. Meanwhile, I’ll figure out how to market my book online. I did one Zoom presentation a while ago, and I wasn’t entirely happy with it. I was not in control, I’d do it different. If I knew how. Also I’m learning Canva so I can post nice photos. Marketing during Covid sure is different!

My writing partners: Vernie, Bob and Tom. I’m next to Tom.

Seinfeld on Writing

A book full of jokes is not nearly as funny as watching a comedian do his act. I bought this book because Seinfeld said in an interview, pressed on this exact point, that really it’s a book for writers. I’m probably the only writer who believed him and ordered the hard cover.

The book is divided by decade, beginning with the 70s. This is when Jerry began writing jokes. They were short.

Still, I persisted. Maybe, I thought, he would have a little commentary on how to write humor at the beginning of the 80s section. He did not. Just more jokes. The jokes got longer and more complex in the 90s and beyond, but I wasn’t reading them anymore. I was looking on every page for writing wisdom. Particularly, I wanted to amp up my humor.

My editor says my novels have a “subtle” humor. The trouble with being subtle is that quiet ironies may land a bit too softly for others to recognize. I looked at every page of Jerry’s book. Twice. There was no writing advice anywhere within. There were witticisms by the dozens, jokes on every page, and, although I laughed a lot, I received zero advise on how to prod others do so while turning my pages.

To give him credit, he never said it was advice he was giving the reader. It was jokes, specifically, every joke he’d ever written. I realized he was teaching by example. I prefer things spelled out. My stomach hurt from laughing; I almost stopped reading, but then I noticed how he set his jokes up. The early ones had three parts and as he got better the jokes became much more complex. Funnier. If Jerry was a bottle of wine, he’d age well.

The other thing I noticed was his page breaks. I am writing this post in block format. It’s what people are used to seeing when they read anything on the internet. Before the internet we had indentation, not a space between paragraphs. But Jerry chose neither of these forms. His jokes were, I finally noticed, printed like poems.

Most people, I assume, know what poems look like. The lines break in the middle of a sentence. Or anywhere. It can seem random if you are not a reader of contemporary poetry and/or do not have an MFA in English. But I finally recognized the poem pattern and it dawned on me. Jerry was writing in joke lines. The early ones from the 70s were the simplest. The first sentence or phrase would be the set up. The second bit was an elaboration. And the third was the punchline.

This was the lesson for writers. Genius, right? He was showing instead of telling. I tried using Jerry’s method in the first few paragraphs of this post and then threw in a few more. Trying to be funny is exhausting.

“Show don’t tell” is another thing writing teachers say to new writers. It’s not always true, because sometimes you need to tell. Everyone knows how to tell. Showing is harder, and I tried to do that, too. But I’m no Jerry Seinfeld.

The first book in my new mystery series, Jane in St. Pete, is available now.  As a thank you for stopping by, I’m offering a free short story prequel

Modern Mythology

Don’t know why I still read the New York Times Book Review every Sunday. I rarely am interested enough in a reviewed book to buy it. I get upset because they don’t review near as many books by women as they do men. And yet, there I was yesterday, reading NYTBR again. And being happily surprised.

One thing I like is that they recently added a monthly romance review column. They’ve had one for mysteries for years, so, about time! Anyway, I was also gratified to note that many of the romance novels they deigned to review were self-published. The Times, they are a changin’. I bought Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade.

What hooked me in the review was the tie-in to the love story between Aeneas, a Greek god, and Dido, ruler of Carthage. Dido is said to be ugly, yet Aeneas, aided by Cupid, loves her anyway. This ancient storyline, like all the stories of Greek and Roman gods and the humans who amuse and infuriate them, can be found in the 1940 classic Mythology by Edith Hamilton.

Mythology was my first literary love. My first class, in 1973, in high school, whetted my appetite for those ancient origin stories. I went on to read many more of the original plays in college and grad school. Hamilton’s book, pictured above, is my third or fourth copy. I’ve referred to Mythology so often through the years (as I have this morning) that they fall apart on me after twenty years or so. My current copy has yellowed pages but the spine remains intact.

In Spoiler Alert a contemporary novelist retells the story of Aeneas and Dido. His mastery captivates fanfic writers online and nabs a Hollywood remake, which is as horrible as the massive series of tomes are wonderful. The guy who plays Aeneas is a hot and handsome star, who’s smart too. He has a secret. He’s one of the writers on a popular fanfic site. As is his online BFF, a woman.

That’s all I can say about the plot of Spoiler Alert without spoilers. Oh, except when the female online BFF of the actor playing Aeneas decides to out herself as fat (her word, not mine) all hell breaks loose with the Twitter trolls. I’m enjoying this wild brew, a mix of old and new. It’s a nice respite from the historical romances I’ve buried myself in since the pandemic outbreak in March.

Ha! So that’s why I continue to read The New York Times Book Review. It’s rare, but every once in awhile, I still find an intriguing book reviewed there.