Monday, September 14, 2015

Michigander Monday: Linda Sienkiewicz

I'm pleased to welcome Linda Sienkiewicz to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Linda, please tell us a little about yourself.

Linda:  When I was a girl, one of my favorite pastimes was to sit on my front steps and staple little books out of manila paper, and in them I wrote dramatic love stories about teenagers who fall in love and run away together. I also painted, drew, sewed many of my own clothes, and crafted jewelry out of things I found in the back woods where I loved to spend time by myself. I went to art school, worked in graphics for a few years, raised a family, and then returned to writing later in life.

My poetry, short stories and essays are widely published in literary journals such as Prairie Schooner, Spoon River Poetry Review, Rattle, CALYX, Permafrost, The MacGuffin and others. I have a poetry chapbook award, three other poetry chapbooks, and a Pushcart Prize Nomination. When I was in my 50s, I decided to return to school to get my MFA in Fiction.

I'm a corgi lover -- I have a Welsh Pembroke named Clementine who follows me everywhere. I also love black tea, red wine and vintage Archie comic books. These days, my favorite thing to do, besides writing, is to spoil my grandchildren and then send them back home.

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

LindaIn the Context of Love  is a story about the discovery of a devastating family secret that derails the life of narrator, Angelica Schirrick. As a young woman with two children and a husband in prison, she must reevaluate her life before she can move forward, and what happens when what she discovers leads to more questions. Threaded through the novel is a love story.

It was inspired by a magazine article I read in the nineties titled "My Father is a Rapist," about several women who learned this horrifying truth when they were young adults. I was so impressed by their stories of strength, courage and redemption that I wanted to write a fictional story about such a woman. I had no idea how she would learn this secret, or what would happen when she did, but that's part of the joy of writing.

I was very happy when Buddhapuss Ink offered me a publishing contract. They are a small but solid press that aims to publish great fiction and nonfiction for readers who like to think.

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

LindaI would also like to explore another story related to In the Context of Love, told from another character's point of view. I would also like to write a sequel, too, because several people have told me they fell in love with the characters, including Angelica's two children, and they want to know what happens to them.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Linda:  October 25 from 11 - 5 pm I'll be at the Books and Authors Event at Leon and Lulu's, 96 W. 14 Mile, in Clawson.

November 10 at 7pm I'll be at Pages Bookstore, 19560 Grand River Blvd. in Detroit.

November 24 at 1pm, I'll be on radio.

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan bookstore?

Linda:  I absolutely love poking around in John K. King Books on Woodward Avenue. It's a treasure trove of dusty relics and charming old books. I'll tell you a secret: I also make purses out of old books. It's a great way to recycle books that are falling apart. Book lovers, have no fear, I rebind or recycle the texts; nothing is lost. I sell them on Etsy. [Ed. note, which is to say, a word from Debbie:  I have one of these!  Love it.  Now back to Linda....]  I can't wait to make a clutch from my own book, but I've been busy promoting In the Context of Love and writing new work.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Linda:  I love my hometown of Rochester. We've got a beautiful park, terrific bistros, several 5-star restaurants and all kinds of shopping, from antiques to skateboards. We have great events like art shows, car shows, Dancing in the Streets, gallery walks, Girls Night Out, Rochester Posed, and the Big Bright Light Show at Christmas. We also host the second largest Christmas parade in the state.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Linda:  I get really cranky if I have to miss the Arts and Apples Festival. Who can resist homemade apple pie and fabulous artwork?

Debbie:  A few fun Michigan people we should all know about?

Linda:  Yes! Anyone who reads fiction should know about critically acclaimed authors Bonnie Jo Campbell and Lev Raphael. If you enjoy poetry, check out Detroit poetry guru M. L. Liebler, Dr. Terry Blackhawk, who founded InsideOut Literary Arts Project where professional writers teach creative writing in city schools, and Diane DeCillis whose poetry collection Strings Attached won a Michigan Notable Book Award.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Linda:  Many people would be surprised to know that Michigan and the metro Detroit area has a vibrant literary community with writers of all genres and forms. We're like a tribe. There are excellent classes, readings, workshops and conferences here. Detroit is also home to Springfed Arts, Detroit Working Writers, and Rochester Writers.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Linda:  Michiganian sounds a bit hoity-toity, but Michigander reminds me of a goose. I don't know. I'm from Michigan. I live in a mitten.

My website is and the buy link for my book on Amazon is

Debbie:  Linda, thank you for joining us today for Michigander/Mitten Monday!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Michigander Monday: Amy Nielander

I'm pleased to welcome Amy Nielander to Michigander Monday!

Debbie:  Amy, please tell us a little about yourself.

Amy:  I grew up in Northville, Michigan and was raised with a big family, lots of pets and a constant stream of music playing somewhere in or outside of the house.  Both of my parents are Romanian and we often attended summer picnics where a live band played traditional Romanian folksongs. There, we danced for hours and hours with more family, friends and newcomers building one tremendous swooping line. As a kid, this felt like I was part of a human roller coaster.  We sped up, we slowed down, spiraled in and out as the line grew but never let go of the hand on either side of us.  It was great fun and I treasure those summer memories.  The dance formations we created inspired the last pages of The Ladybug Race, my debut picture book.

Playing music was also a large part of my life growing up.  I took violin lessons at a young age and continued until I graduated from high school.  I built very stable and respectful relationships with my teachers during those years and met good friends through camps and orchestra.

I also really enjoyed reading, writing, drawing and being inventive as a kid. That curiosity and passion for creativity led me to pursue Product Design.  I attended the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.  After graduation, I lived and worked in Chicago then eventually moved back to Detroit when I got married.  I switched gears from design work to a digital automotive sculpting job (due to the surrounding industry), but then left the workplace all together when we started a family.

My journey to creating picture books started then.  My mom is an incredible writer and wrote a few of her own children’s stories when we were growing up.  I had the time to illustrate one for her and we submitted it, however did not get any bites.  After that project I was hooked on the idea of bringing joy and laughter to kids through books.  I became a member of SCBWI , attended conferences, submitted manuscripts and even earned a spot in a mentorship program.  I was still receiving multiple rejections which went on for years.  Just when I was starting to feel defeated, I heard about the international Silent Book Contest.  The stars finally aligned for me the day I received notice that I was a finalist.  

Debbie:  And, of course, we want to know all about your book.

Amy:  My very first picture book, The Ladybug Race, is available and published by PomegranateKids.  This book was a two year journey from concept to final publication.  When I came up with the idea I had just learned about the Silent Book Contest through SCBWI, specifically Ruth McNally Barshaw (forever indebted to Ruth!).  Since The Ladybug Race was a picture book that challenged genre boundaries it seemed like the perfect platform to test it out.

In traditional publishing circles, book illustrators are advised to avoid drawing near the center of the book (the gutter).  The Ladybug Race flips this concept on its head, and makes the gutter - the story’s conflict, uncommon in children’s books today.  The story also recognizes more ladybug species than the familiar red bodied-black dotted ladybug children know so well.  Each bug is drawn true to scale, creating a live race-like experience in the reader’s lap.  The wordless book is about compassion, kindness and unconditional love.

I became a Silent Book Contest finalist and traveled to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair in Italy where the work was exhibited.  I then queried the story when I returned home and it was picked up by PomegranateKids.  It has been a fabulous fit and I am grateful for their diligent team!

Debbie:  Other books or projects on the horizon?

Amy:  I have one picture book dummy under a second review with a publisher and queried another house with two other stories.  I am in the waiting stage which is agonizing, but now have time to flesh out a new dummy I plan on querying in December.  Outside of story making, I’d like to add more products to my online SHOP and develop THE BLOB BLOG even more.

Debbie:  Upcoming appearances?

Amy:  Yes!  The Ladybug Race Book Launch will be held at the Kerrytown BookFest, this Sunday, September 13, 11-5pm.  Please stop in to peruse the great books out there and say “HELLO” to me!

Debbie:  Do you have a favorite Michigan library?

Amy:  We have been longtime enthusiasts of our own library, the Royal Oak Library for the past 10 years.  My kids feel instantly at home every time we visit.

Debbie:  How about a favorite place in Michigan?

Amy:  My favorite place in Michigan...I went away to music camps when I was growing up so being surrounded by trees and water feels comforting. We’ve been camping at the Interlochen State Park the past two years. During evening bonfires, Taps has found its way to our campsite  from the music camp (accompanied by a perfect summer breeze).  This elevated our camping experience to a whole new level of Michiganedness.

Debbie:  Do you have a Michigan event or happening that you love to attend?

Amy:  Living in Royal Oak, we love to bike ride as a family to local events downtown or the Farmers Market.  Arts Eats and Beats is a popular weekend we look forward to.  We also have been Oak Apple runners in the past which is a race that brings many families together throughout the community.

Debbie:  Something you'd like a non-Michigander to know about Michigan?

Amy:  There are pockets of places to discover!  We recently did a day trip through Leelanau Peninsula and felt like we had been transported to California with all the windy roads and lovely waterfront views.

Debbie:  Last question.  Some folks in Michigan refer to themselves as Michiganders, others as Michiganians. For our ongoing vote tally: are you a Michigander or a Michiganian?

Amy:  A happy Michigander grateful for the opportunity to be a guest on Jumping the Candlestick. Thank you Debbie!

Debbie:  Amy, we'll add you to the Michigander column.  Thank you for joining us for Michigander Monday!