Thursday, January 29, 2009

Interview with Lea Schizas, author of Bubba and Giganto

Hi Lea,

I want to welcome Lea Schizas, author of Bubba and Giganto.

Would you tell us what made you decide to write about bullies?

Penny, my own children had run-ins with one form of bullying while in elementary school. From my understanding now, bullying seems to have increased. Schools are doing their best to counter these bullies by enforcing various rules in schools, but I felt if I can contribute some suggestions or show kids how the person who is bullied feels inside, the dangers of what a victim might do, then perhaps I can change one child.

Why did you chose soccer as the sport in which the boys participate?

Boys, let’s not joke on this, are reluctant readers compared to girls. So I felt an attraction to them would be to use a sport. I used soccer to show another area besides bullying: discrimination or assumption that one person doesn’t fit in with a certain sport because of their weight. I show how the determination from one best friend can make a big difference in a child’s life by having them as their support system.

Who did you use as role models for your characters?

My kids. One thing I love about my children is that each one of them have and continue to befriend people who need a support, or a shoulder to lean on. They’ve all played soccer, the girls and my son, and have always went out of their way to practice after school with friends who needed more practice time.

This isn’t just a sports story, it also weaves mystery throughout. Why did you write across these two genres for this particular story?

I find mystery pulls a child’s interest to continue reading. Like adults, they love to try and figure out the answer to the mystery. Mystery also is like a cliff-hanger, drawing them into the characters plights.

I love your descriptive phrases such as “he’s my own personal Barney the purple dinosaur friend.” Or, “He puffed out his chest like a rooster about to crow.” Do you have a trick for finding just the right phrase?

Not sure how many writers do this but I visualize each scene by closing my eyes and seeing it in movie mode. I picture my characters, see beyond them – the setting, the skies, other characters around them – which helps me see their body language, facial expressions. Also, don’t forget you need to offer descriptions that kids can relate and understand.

I understand you next book will also deal with the theme of bullies. Can you tell us a little about this next project?

My next one is a picture book, Libby the Odd Squirrel, for kids 6-8 years of age. In this one, Libby is the squirrel bullied and shunned by the other squirrels who are a different color than her. So you might say it touches base on racism, as well. Libby wants to be their friend and doesn’t understand why they keep to themselves. She meets up with two birds who are surprised at something Libby is about to do at a crucial moment in the book. Enough said…don’t want to spoil the ending. GRIN

I’m also in the process of writing the next book in the Bubba series. This time the theme will touch upon lack of understanding from students when they have a new student at school who has a disability.

Thank you so much for your support. I had a great time today.

Thanks for stopping by Lea and for sharing your thoughts with us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Should You Do a Rewrite

Do you ever wonder if it will be worth your time to rewrite an article? Have you submitted something and received a critique from the editor containing useful suggestions? Have you for a minute or two resented that someone didn't think your article was worthwhile?

As someone who has been there, I want to encourage you to rewrite whenever you can. If an editor takes the time to make suggestions about your piece, chances are she feels there is some value in what you've submitted. While you might have felt you wrote the best possible article, someone with fresh eyes can often see the mistakes you've overlooked. The editor also knows her audience better and may be looking for specific information. It's always worth the effort to rewrite. Consider rewriting just another form of editing, which you always do before submitting, anyway. Right?

Recently, I submitted a piece and received a nice rejection which included comments as to what the editor would have liked to have received. Rather than tossing the piece aside, I looked closely at her suggestions and tackled the information from another angle. By doing so, I realized asking several "experts" would add information and bring credibility to my statements. In fact, I was able to collect enough expert opinions I had material for two articles. One has already been accepted, the other is being considered as I write this.

Appreciate the fact an editor cares enough about your work to request a rewrite. Ignore those feelings of ownership which come with putting pen to paper, and look at how you can improve your manuscript. You may find yourself with a nice check to reward your efforts.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Review of Bubba and Giganto

Review of
Bubba and Giganto
Odds Against Us
By: Lea Schizas

This delightful young adult novel tackles some serious issues with understanding, compassion and humor. Written in the first person, this is the tale of Bubba ("not Bobby or Brendan, but Bubba"), and his unlikely 200 pound friend, David, nicknamed Giganto by Bubba.

Bubba meets David on his first day at a new school. According to Bubba, he "almost always found the bullies." Pierson High was no exception. We meet Jason and his cohorts, who for reasons unknown to Bubba, torment David, and try to keep him off the soccer team. Always up for a challenge Bubba decides to help David make the team. After try-outs, Bubba and David are challenged to a "friendly" skirmish. There are many twists and turns to this story and Ms. Schizas deftly weaves mystery and action. Interspersed are delightful descriptions such as "David giggle-snorted, more like an elephant wheeze." When questioning fellow students about their lack of support for David, Bubba learns that the bullies would "either stuff (him) in a locker or give (him) a wedgie."

Mr. Ambrose, the soccer coach, knows more about David than he tells Bubba. You may think you know why David is the brunt of jokes and torment, but do you? Read Bubba and Giganto to find out how Bubba tackles the bullies of Pierson High not with his fists but with his brains.

This is a story of soccer, athletes, bullies, and learning to make good decisions. It is also a tale about friendship and sticking up for your belief in what's right. It is a tale that should be shared and discussed by students, parents and teachers. To learn more about Bubba and Giganto, go to and also

4RV Publishing LLC
PO Box 6482
Edmond, OK 73083-6482
ISBN: 978-0-9797513-6-3

Available at:

4RV Publishing

Barnes & Noble

The Reading Warehouse

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Does Other People's Success Make You Feel Guilty

Do you cringe and feel guilty when you hear about full-time writers who produce three and four books a year?

If you are a part-time writer, perhaps you should put that guilt aside. We do our best to create what we can in the time allotted to us. All of us do not have the luxury to spend 8 hours a day at our computer writing. Most of us have other obligations whether that is a full-time job outside the home, being a stay-at-home parent,caring for an elderly parent, or working at a farm or other home business. Can we call ourselves writers if we don't write full-time?

Most definitely. Whether you publish your material in a magazine, on-line, or in your church newsletter, if you are writing, you can call yourself a writer. Recently, I've had an opportunity to talk with part-time writers who are accomplishing a lot with their writing time. How do they do this? They grab whatever time they can, between diaper changes, or during lunch breaks at work, to sit and write.

The rest of us shouldn't feel guilty by other writers' success stories. Instead, we should feel energized and inspired to do more in the limited amount of time we have available.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Writing in a Closet

Recently a writing friend, Barbara, mentioned that she wished she had a little office space like mine. She has to do her writing at her kitchen table. I feel fortunate that I have a room, small though it may be, that has a wrap around desk and shelves on three walls, plus a window that looks out through my greenhouse to my garden. Best of all, it has a door that closes. Previously, I had to contend with cat hair and barf on my computer keys on a rather regular basis.

Yesterday I was looking at a list in House Beautiful of quick inexpensive ways to improve your home. One of the ideas that was suggested was to turn a closet into an office. I thought of Barbara and her wish to have a writing space, then I looked around my "office," and realized it's no bigger than my walk-in closet.

Here is a relatively easy way to find a writing space. Do you have a closet that's just stuffed with junk? Could you get rid of most of it or move it somewhere else? While your closet office may not have a window, it probably has a door. You can probably find an inexpensive desk, shelves and lighting. Add a comfortable office chair, some of your favorite photos or inspirational posters, and you have a space that you can call your own. You won't have to keep your writing reference books in paper bags, and you can shut yourself away from household distractions.

Look around your home, maybe you can be happily writing in your closet.

Friday, January 16, 2009

To Write for Pay or No Pay, That Is the Question

Writing for no or very little pay is an ongoing debate amongst writers. When first starting out, many new writers are happy just to get a byline. Seasoned writers are quick to point out that if you write for free, you are proving, once again, that your writing has no value.

Many years ago, I meditated and followed a guru. Part of the program was attending retreats. The retreats cost money. Not a lot, but it was a hardship for many of the attendees. Our teacher was quick to let us know that people who get something for free don't value it. Is this true if we give away our writing for little or no pay?

Just last year, I signed up for a "free" writing course. I was looking forward to interacting with other writers. From the beginning several people took part, but as the weeks went by, fewer and fewer people attended and responded to prompts. Did people not value this because it was free? (This isn't to say there aren't things for free that people value, case in point would be the MuseOnLine Writers Conference which is offered free and attended by thousands of people world-wide.)

Now, some might say that blogging is giving your writing away for free. Others would contend that blogging, for a writer, is an integral part of the job. As a blogger, you market your name and your writing style. You also network with other writers, if your blog, like mine, is writing related.

Back to the original question, should you give your writing away for free? I believe this is a personal choice. I hesitate to do so now, as a professional, yet there are times I might consider it. For example, I'm hoping to expand into the children's magazine market. In order to build credentials, am I willing to send a manuscript to a non-paying market? The carrot here, for one particular non-paying market, is that it has a "best of" anthology. The stories selected for the anthology are paid. If I submit to this magazine, it would be in the hopes my story is considered a "best of." Some may say that a clip from a non-paying magazine isn't much of a clip, still, for some, seeing one's name in print is exciting.

What are your thoughts? Would you submit to a low-paying or non-paying market? Do you feel these types of markets jeopardize your standing as a writer?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Character Naming

We are getting two new puppies. Yes, two, not one, but two new puppies. Are we out of our minds? Possibly, but we're looking forward to them. The problem that now hangs over our heads is what to name the little cuties. One is a black male, the other is a brown female. We've had lots of suggestions from a lot of different people. Because there are two, people are thinking in pairs, like Chip and Dale, Fred and Ginger, Bonnie and Clyde, Bert and Ernie. My daughter feels we can't go with color names because they're "lame." (She's voting for Natasha and Boris.) There have been several color related names such as Cocoa and Licorice, Chocolate and Chip, Carbon and Hershey.

Just as important as naming our new puppies is the challenge writers have to name their characters. Names can make or break your character.

Make sure your characters names begin with different letters. You don't want both your females to have names that are similar like Jane and Janine. You wouldn't want your hero to be named David and the villain Damian. The names also shouldn't sound alike or rhyme such as Mary and Jerry or Tami and Manny. Your reader will become confused and give up.

If you're writing a fantasy, you can create names that fit with the story. Be sure to have them be names that your reader can pronounce, even if it's a made up name. I have a dictionary of names from different time periods and countries which is helpful. This dictionary also gives a description of the name such as "Abel (Hebrew) one who is father." Webster's New Encyclopedia of Dictionaries, 1990, p 733

There are also several web sites devoted to names. Check out or and also While you may not be specifically looking for baby names, you will be able to see what names were popular during different years. This can help you if you're writing a period novel, or you'll see what names your adult characters would most likely have based on when they were born.

Start a namebook. If you come across a name you like, jot it down. You may read a name in the paper, hear it on t.v., or in a movie. Maybe you like the name of your favorite recording artist. Collect names from the phone book or a graduation program. Then when you're writing, look at your name list, find out what a name means and see if it fits your character.

Finding just the right name is important. Sometimes you end up changing your character's name because you find the name you originally chose just doesn't fit. Be flexible and let your character let you know if he or she likes the name.

(By the way, if you have any good puppy names, let us know.)

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Today, in two different ezines, I read about the advantages of recycling your work. Both Funds for Writers and Writer's Weekly featured pieces which touched on this subject.

This is excellent advice for any writer, but particularly those of us who write non-fiction articles. As I look over my publication history, I see several articles which have been published two or more times. In each case, the second publication took little or no effort on my part. Occasionally, I did need to update or change the slant slightly, but the majority of work had already been done.

More and more us are trying to be green in our lives by recycling paper, plastic, clothes and buying used cars instead of new ones. Use that same philosophy in your writing life. Go through your past submissions. What can you find that is still useful information? Can you update a piece? Maybe you sold a parenting article to a regional publication. Recently when I pitched a parenting article to a magazine in California, they responded that they loved the idea, but were only buying reprints from authors outside of their region. The editor urged me to get back to her when the article was available for second reprint rights. You can be sure I've made a note of this publication and will be sending them the article as a reprint.

You've all heard the phrase "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle." Put that to work in your writing life as well as your everyday life. Reduce the time you spend writing by selling reprints. Reuse your articles, sell them as reprints. Recycle your work, sell those reprints.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Interview with Terri Main, Author of Creative Calisthenics

Hi Terri, tell us a little about your writing career?

Well, I sold my first piece when I was barely 18. It was a short poem to a Christian youth magazine. I got $2 for it. Unfortunately, financial compensation for poets hasn't increased much since then. Later in college I took journalism classes and sold magazine articles and poetry while in college. Later I worked in radio writing commercials, did marketing, and lots of magazine articles, even resumes and reports on Wastewater Authority meetings. That was during the days I was writing full-time. Full-time writing is not as glamorous as it sounds. Your first question isn't "What do I want to write?" It's "What can I write that will pay the electric bill?"

I did a lot of marketing and publicity materials. I'm starting to get back into that doing a bit of work for some writers who are just getting out books. Most recently, I've been doing a lot of work on the web editing , a site for Christian Science Fiction and science fiction with some sort of spiritual or ethical theme. I write a lot of Bible study material. It's kind of nice to not have to check my bank balance before thinking about what to write.

What prompted you to create these writing exercises for the
Fellowship of Christian Writers?

Well, I have taught writing for almost 30 years. And for most of that time I used what I called Creative Calisthenics to start my classes. They were usually three-hour once a week classes. So, we took the first 20-30 minutes doing these crazy exercises. I suggested to Lavon at FCW that we post one of these weekly. Well, that led to me creating new ones. I have been trained in creative thinking so, coming up with new ideas for writing prompts is pretty natural for me.

Do you have any favorite prompts in the book? If so, which ones?

I think my personal favorite is Chance Encounters. This one takes some preparation. You make up maybe 20-30 cards with characters on them. For instance, priest, vampire, astronaut, extraterrestrial visitor, school teacher, lawyer, etc. Then you make up another set of cards with locations like supermarket, school, cruise ship, old west, medieval castle, starship, etc. You choose two characters and a location and come up with a story. Sometimes I do this in my classes with two people and they do a small drama. But it is great fun and forces you to think not just outside the box, but outside the room where the box is sitting.

Why did you decide to self-publish your book?

I decided on self-publishing for a variety of reasons. First, there are a limited number of companies publishing writing books. Most of those companies already had a writing prompts book. The problem I had was trying to figure out how to explain how my writing prompt/story starter book was different. I believe when people read these prompts they will see the difference, but articulating that sight unseen is difficult.

A second reason is that I thought it would be fun to do the whole thing from writing to cover design to marketing. I had the maximum creative control. Of course, if I mess up, then I can't blame the editor or the artistic director, but you take the good with the bad.

I have nothing against the traditional approach. It just didn't seem right for this project at this time. It is also allowing me to play around with a variety of ebook formats. I'm getting a bit excited about some of the possibilities for e-publishing as well. I plan to have a few genre-specific "mini-guides" out in a few weeks that will be selling for about a buck each and will download either as PDF or as a format that can be downloaded into Palm or PocketPC ereader formats.

What marketing techniques are you using to get the word out?

I'm really at the very beginning of the marketing stage. This is taking me back to some of my roots as a marketing consultant. Now, I am my client. First, and this is going to sound strange, I'm ignoring Amazon. I don't have anything against them, but in order to keep the book affordable my profit margin is way low selling through Amazon. It will be available there, but I'm focusing on sales through my website and the publisher's site which brings a better return.

I'll be contacting at least 10 reviewers a month (hopefully more) to review the book. I'm even going to contact Writer's Digest. It probably won't be reviewed, but it definitely won't be if I don't try. I also have several social networking sites set up on Facebook, Shoutlife and Twitter. I will also be connecting at Author's Den and a few other writing oriented sites.

I will be writing articles about creativity and writing and placing them with article announce services that provide articles for E-zines. I'll also be sending out press releases.

Later in the year, I'll be setting up a blog tour.

I'll also be developing the web site, adding more content and renewing that content frequently. I'm getting links to the web site. I'll be adding some items for teachers. I am also going to be adding a feature soon where people can add a few lines of javascript to their website and get a new exercise delivered to their web visitors each week. That will, of course, include a link back to the web site.

And then in February, I'll be giving a presentation at the Catholic Writers Online Conference about pre-writing and Creative Calisthenics. Incidentally, that conference is free and registrations are open now at . I hope to be able to do more conferences. I'm even considering an ongoing "conference" on the Creative Calisthenics site with guest authors dropping in and giving workshops, but that is in the future.

Honestly, my marketing is looking at building a brand. I have other projects in the works applying the principles of creative prompts to teaching, Bible study, even business and professional writing. So, this is just the beginning.

REMINDER: I noticed you have a promotion going on to give away free copies of
the book with a newsletter subscription. How long will you be offering

I'll be offering that through January 7. That's Wednesday Midnight. When they sign up for the newsletter either on the site or at

They will receive a welcome letter with the URL for download of their free copy. Obviously, I can't keep that up forever, but I think they will enjoy the newsletter. It will be a good adjunct to the book. It will have new prompts, articles about creativity in writing and in life. And as new Creative Calisthenics products come out they will have first look and discounts.

Thank you for stopping by Terri.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Review of Creative Calisthenics

Review of
By Terri L. Main

If you are like many writers, you often find yourself at a loss for words. You may have tried different books about breaking through writer's block, writing prompts emailed on a daily basis, or just freewriting where you take a word and add related words until you find yourself writing a story.

Now, there's another solution, one that I think you will find both useful and entertaining. Terri L. Main, communications professor at Reedley College in California, has written a fabulous book, Creative Calisthenics. According to Ms. Main, "this book is all about pumping up your creativity and having a good time doing so."

For years, Ms. Main wrote a column for the Fellowship of Christian Writers email discussion group. As part of that column, she created different writing exercises. Creative Calisthenics is a compilation of the collected exercises plus an additional twenty new essays. The book features more than 175 story starters, prompts and exercises to get your creative writing juices flowing.

The book is intended as a reference, not something you would sit down and read. You'll want to keep it handy, to flip to an appropriate section as needed. Listed at the front are chapter headings such as "Jumper Cables for the Brain," "Characters and Settings," and "Organization and Plotting." Don't get me wrong, this isn't a tool just for fiction writers, non-fiction writers will find plenty to jump start their brains as well.

Each section is filled with intriguing ideas to get you started. For example, in "Jumper Cables for the Brain," Ms. Main suggests this:

"A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to..."
"Have you ever thought about detours? You start going somewhere. Then right in the middle of the road is a detour. You have to go an entirely different way. Sometimes those detours are more interesting than the main road once you get over the irritation of having to go a different way.

"So, here's a story starter for you. Choose a couple of characters at random. Put them in a car going somewhere. Then right in the middle of the road appears a detour sign. Where does the detour take them? How do they react ot the detour? What do they find down that road? How does the detour change everything?

"Detours can be annoying and interesting. They can also be a great way to get a story started."

I know I'm going to keep my copy of Creative Calisthenics close at hand for those days my brain just can't quite get started. Creative Calisthenics carries a cover price of $12.57 for print, $5.00 for PDF and $3.50 for Ereader. Stop by Ms. Main's web site for more information.


Terri Main has a promotion going on to give away free copies of
the book with a newsletter subscription. I asked her about this and she responded:

"I'll be offering that through January 7. That's Wednesday Midnight. When they sign up for the newsletter either on the site or at

They will receive a welcome letter with the URL for download of their free copy. Obviously, I can't keep that up forever, but I think they will enjoy the newsletter. It will be a good adjunct to the book. It will have new prompts, articles about creativity in writing and in life. And as new Creative Calisthenics products come out they will have first look and discounts."

Monday, January 5, 2009

Planting the right seeds

The new year's seed catalogs are beginning to arrive in the mail. If you're a gardener like I am, you flip through the pages, looking for just the right seeds to grow in your garden. You think about what your family loves to eat, what veggies taste best fresh from the garden, and which grow the easiest in your weather zone.

Planning your writing is like planning your garden. What do you love to read? Do you enjoy romance or any of its subgenres? What about fantasy or science fiction? Maybe mysteries are your cup of tea. Just as you would pick the right tomato seeds because your family adores heirloom tomatoes, you should pick the right genre for your fiction writing. Don't choose to write romance simply because you think more people read romance than science fiction. Write romance because you love the way it tastes, feels and smells to you.

Did you decide that peas picked fresh from your garden are superb? Is this the one vegetable you can get even your picky seven year old to eat? The same goes for your writing. What feels fresh to you when you write? Do you have to force yourself to write fantasy because you want to be the next J. K. Rowling? Make your writing fresh by writing what comes naturally to you.

Just as you want to plan a garden that grows well in your weather zone, pick a field of writing you know you can write well. You may have to try a few varieties of seeds before you find that Blue Lake Green Beans grow better than another variety, so too, you may need to try different types of writing. If you've struggled to write poetry, maybe children's literature is what you should try. If you are getting nowhere writing non-fiction, give romance a try.

If you plant the right seeds, your writing will grow.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Getting Organized

A new year generally means new beginnings for a lot of people. New hopes, new dreams, new goals are established. What about you?

I look around my office and think of being more organized. I tend to think of myself as a more organized person, than, say, my husband and my ex-boss. Both tend to thrive on disorder and piles of papers. While to me it screams chaos, they both seem to know exactly which pile a certain piece of paper can be found. What about you? Do you thrive on order or do you have piles of correspondence and works in progress scattered throughout your house.

As writers, we need some sort of organization. We need to know to whom we've sent a manuscript, when it was sent, what rights were offered and when we might expect a reply. Do you have a system in place to track your manuscripts? Do you prefer a computer program, 3 x 5 cards, a hanging file, or a notebook? The size of your writing business may determine which system works best for you. Try out different types of organizing tools to see which one you like.

While you may prefer chaos to order, if you don't want to send the same manuscript to an editor who has already rejected it, you need to find a way to organize your office and your tracking system. Share your thoughts with others. What works best for you?