As a writer I remain fascinated by how other writers write. I think this is because I secretly hope to find the hidden code that makes me able to immediately write wonderful books that are literary and commercial successes. But I digress.
Today I have a guest from my local RWA chapter (Romance Writers of America for the un-initiated). Lisa has two writing persona’s – ‘Lisa McManus Lange’ writes sassy and inspirational slice-of-life articles for her blog www.lisamcmanuslange.blogspot.com and is multi-published with Chicken Soup for the Soul (5 books – 7 stories) and other anthologies. ‘Lisa McManus’ writes fiction for kids and teens, and is contracted with Lycaon Press for her young adult novella, ‘Newbie Nick’ available wherever ebooks are sold. She can be found at www.lisamcmanus.com
How did you start writing?
I daydream – a lot. I read – a lot. As a kid I did both – a lot. I knew at a young age I wanted to be a writer, and had a first-attempt at it by writing a short story – a ‘thriller’ – about an acid-spewing spider that attacked people as they slept. Needless to say that story was never published – but to this day I wish I still had that story. I wrote poetry in my teens, and then didn’t ‘really’ start writing until I was in my early 30’s. My first publication was a slice-of-life story about an old woman I would see on my daily walks who always picked-up trash during her own daily walk.
What is the best part of writing?
The best part of writing is when a reader comes to me saying that what I wrote changed their day, their perspective, or their life (I have been blessed to have all three).
Why do you write?
I write because I love being able to entertain or inspire. If someone laughs at what I wrote (even if it’s in the wrong places!), I am happy.
How do you come up with ideas?
From daily life. I enjoy the obscurity and absurdity of everyday stuff. I love things that make me think, ponder and wonder – and then I think, “What if?”
If you had one super-power what would it be and why?
To run fast. I am busy and always on the go, and if I could run faster to where I needed to go, I would be happier (never mind having the ability to outrun zombies, a secret obsession of mine).
Funny you should ask about wishes as I have been thinking about them for a story: the possibilities, the problems they can cause (if they came true), the good they do (if they came true), and the power they have over a person who has been granted just one wish.
So what would I wish for? As cliché as it sounds, to have happiness and health for all my family. That’s all. It’s simple, really.
What would you say to someone wishing to become a writer?
Read. Read. Read. Read.
Write. Write. Write. Write
Read what you want to write about.
Read what you love.
Read outside your ‘norm.’
I’ve heard too many people say ‘I want to be a writer’ (of books) but they don’t know what to write. When asked what kind of books they like to read (a writer can write books, magazine articles or poetry – the list goes on), they say ‘I don’t have time to read,’ or ‘I haven’t read a book in years.’ One fuels the other – reading and writing – and you can’t have one without the other.
And then when asked if they are writing, they say no. Everyone has to start somewhere, why not NOW? So get writing, and get reading!
Lisa has recently written a YA book called Newbie Nick which is available wherever ebooks are sold.
All 14-year-old Nick Zinsky wanted was a guitar of his own and a necklace for his mom, and he wanted to buy both without anyone’s help. Too young to get a real job, he came up with a plan to get the money.
Using a guitar loaned from his high school, he spent the summer and weekends playing the guitar while busking downtown. But he had to keep his “job” a secret from everyone—from his mom, his music teacher, the other kids at school, and especially from the school bully, Beau.
But when a music competition is announced where the prizes would solve all Nick’s problems, Nick lacks the confidence to enter the competition. Having a nickname like “Newbie Nick” doesn’t help, either.
Does he find the courage to enter? Will he ever get his guitar?
“Whatcha doin’?”I stopped playing and looked up. Even though I was wearing sunglasses, I had to shield my eyes against the sun.
It was that little girl again. “I’m playing the guitar.” I wasn’t about to be a rude jerk to her, but I didn’t have much time to talk. She hung around me yesterday, but was too shy to talk. Her dad, or uncle, or whoever from the shop next to me kept a watchful eye on her, peeking out the store door every few minutes. I figured if I ignored her, she would go away. Traffic wasn’t busy on the street, which meant less noise, but the sidewalks were busy with tourists and shoppers. If I was gonna make some decent cash today, I needed to keep playing, but not with the attention of a little kid. I had just started strumming, remembering how my grandpa taught me to place my fingers, when she spoke again. “Why are you playing?” she sing-songed. Her whiny voice bugged me. How do you explain being a street busker to a kid who looks like a kindergartener? As she picked her nose, some guy threw a dollar into my guitar case. “Thank you!” I called out. Some might laugh at getting only a dollar, but it all adds up. Not only was I saving money for a sleek guitar for me, but also a necklace for my mom. And I didn’t consider what I had been doing all summer as charity. She always worked hard for us, and taking nothing for herself. I wanted to do this for her and was determined to do it all on my own, without help. I worked for every dime I got. My mom always says money doesn’t matter when you have people in your life that care as much as they do. Whatever. I looked at the little girl, stalling to think about how to answer. “Jessica, are you okay?” Her father or uncle or whoever called from the store. “I’m fine, Daddy!”
Oh, so that’s her dad. When I first started coming downtown at the beginning of summer, he would scowl at me from the store’s doorway. I was afraid he would call the police, but he didn’t. I always try to move spots, but there are only so many sidewalks I can use. I have to be seen and heard, but I also have to be careful to not be seen by anyone I know.
Her dad went back inside. Jessica was still waiting, so I gave the easiest answer. “I want to buy a guitar and one day play like my grandpa.”
“Whyyyy?” This time she sat down on the sidewalk beside me.
I strummed a few chords. The people passing by ignored us. I was losing business chatting with her. I figured I would just get my story out quick. I knew she wouldn’t care and probably wouldn’t tell anyone. And besides, a little twerp like her wouldn’t understand, anyways.
Sweat dribbled down my back, and I knew the peanut butter and jam sandwich in my backpack was gonna be warm and soggy.
I looked at her again. “Because he was the best guitarist ever. He was a music teacher and taught me how to play when I was a little kid like you.” Before I knew it, I was babbling on. “If I want play like him, to be like him, I need my own guitar.”
I barely registered that someone had thrown in a few coins in my case as I kept talking. “Someone stole his old guitar from my grandma’s house, and I haven’t been able to play unless I borrow a guitar from school. So I want my own.” I stopped. Why had I gone on and on like that?
“Doesn’t he play the guitar anymore?” she asked, as if I hadn’t rambled on about any of the other stuff.
“He died a while ago.” And I miss him so much, I wanted to add, but didn’t. I didn’t want to sound like a freak, even if only to a stupid little kid.
“Is he in heaven?” She looked fearful for a second.
“Yes, he is,” I said, and she sagged in relief, as if worried he wasn’t.
She picked at a worn edge of the guitar case, looked at the money inside, and then said, “Why don’t you work at a store to get money? If you have a store like my daddy, you could make lots of money!”
She was really starting to get on my nerves, though I couldn’t blame her for my frustrations. I strummed again. After being without a guitar for a year, not only had I gotten rusty and lost my touch, but I had forgotten how playing made any mixed-up feelings disappear.
But it was missing my grandpa that had me wanting to play again. My grade nine music teacher, Shark, had loaned me a guitar for practicing on the weekends. He knew my mom couldn’t afford to rent one. But it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted my own. I hated not having something to play during the week, and I hated feeling like a charity case and borrowing one.
So when summer came, Shark secretly loaned me the guitar for the summer. The school wouldn’t approve if they knew. Even though having a guitar with Mattheson High School in black ink down the side of it wasn’t exactly cool, at least I could play. But if Shark knew what I had also used the guitar for, I don’t think he would exactly approve either.
Jessica still watched me. Waiting.
I gave in. “I can’t get a job because I’m fourteen, almost fifteen,” I was quick to add. “Maybe next year I can get a real job. But for now, my mom won’t let me. She says school is too important.” Just thinking about it was starting to irritate me. I had to get rid of the kid somehow.
In a nice, fake, happy voice I said, “Hey, I think your dad is calling you. I think you better go now.”
At the mention of her dad, her eyes widened and she jumped up. She stared at me for a moment, and then skipped away. Thank God.
A leaf fell at my feet, reminding me I didn’t have much time left. Soon the crappy autumn rains would start, and my days of busking downtown would be over, along with days of making money. If I wanted to play, if I wanted a guitar of my own, I had to make money. I had already put down $50 toward theperfect guitar I had on layaway at Mike’s Music store, but I had a long way to go. It was a vicious circle—playing a guitar to make money to play a guitar. It sounded stupid thinking about it that way, but it was true.
But none of that mattered right at that moment.
Because as I looked up, I saw him. My sweat from the summer sun turned to ice.
It was that stupid jerk, Beau, from school.
I can personally say I loved this book and cried happy tears at the end.
Newbie Nick, available at Lycaon Press
Find Lisa at:
Thank you for having me, Pat. I wish you much success in your own writing, and thank you in advance to your visitors for stopping by!