Behind the scenes of ‘Newbie Nick’ by Lisa McManus


newbienick_200x300Behind the scenes of ‘Newbie Nick’

Author: Lisa McManus


Blurb: When 14-year-old Nick Zinsky secretly busks for money on the downtown streets, he soon learns that keeping his “job” a secret is harder than he thought.


I wrote my young adult novella, ‘Newbie Nick,’ after being inspired by street buskers. I live in Victoria, BC, a haven for tourists and, in turn, for street buskers. Ranging in all ages and performance acts, street buskers are often given a bad name. Many assume they are ‘bums’ who couldn’t be bothered to get a ‘real job.’


Quite the contrary.


On the day I was inspired to write Nick’s story, the streets were alive with performers. One juggling act consisted of three scruffily dressed guys who were, as they told the audience, on break from university where they were completing their degrees in engineering. Another act consisted of three smartly dressed young violinists who were, as their sign beside their open violin case/collection box indicated, raising money for travelling abroad to a band competition.


And then as I continued down the street a young guy no more than 14-years-old was playing a guitar with the case open at his feet. He wasn’t a flashy dresser, nor was he what many would call a ‘street kid.’ But the huge sunglasses he wore had me wondering. What was a young guy like him doing playing on the streets, by himself? And what was with those sunglasses of his? (It wasn’t overly sunny and the sunglasses were huge – as if he was trying ‘hide’)  What was his story? It was a reminder that everyone has a story, and from there my character, Nick Zinsky, and his own story and journey, was created.


Thank you to the folks at YaReads for having me! I enjoyed writing Nick’s story, and I hope you enjoy reading it. I love to hear from readers and writers. I can be reached at or visit my blogs at and


‘Newbie Nick’ is available in most ebook formats and can be purchased through Lycaon Press, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and so many more.


Buy the book here:


About the Book:

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 on his own, 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?


About the Author:

lisa 4

Like many authors, Lisa McManus started writing at a young age. When she was nine-years old she wrote a sci-fi/horror story about an acid-spewing spider that attacked her in her sleep—it would be her first and last story for many years. Although the story was never published and eventually met its fate in the garbage dump (paper recycling wasn’t around back then), the seed was sown.

Her love of books started when her dad read her The Bobbsey Twins At Big Bear Pond when was too little for such big novels. Within time it was Judy Blume who kept her up well past her bedtime—”Just one more chapter!” An outgoing teen by nature yet a reclusive bookworm at heart, her summers were spent on her back porch reading everything from Nancy Drew to Sweetdreams teen romances (it was the 80’s!), to Agatha Christie and Danielle Steele. Her library card took a beating—the path to the Richmond Public Library in Richmond, BC was well worn.

Although not very academic and not destined for the accelerated classes in school, some teacher somewhere along the way must have seen something in her homework for in grade eight, and much to her surprise, Lisa was placed in an advanced English class—with all the “smart kids.” There she stayed for the rest of her high school years: dissecting novels, conjugating verbs, and writing essays—which she all secretly loved. She won an award for best poem in grade 12.

But the writing bug hadn’t bitten her, yet.

Soon married life and motherhood became her world, but books were still her passion and escape during those busy years. Then, eventually, her deep-seated writing-spirit finally surfaced when her second son was two years old. A slice-of-life story she wrote on a whim was accepted in a local parenting magazine. The call from the editor is something she will never forget.

And from there it started.

Multi-published in magazines locally and internationally, as well as in numerous anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Soul under the name Lisa McManus Lange, her slice-of-life stories of humour, wit and inspiration have been drawn from the world around her.

As a mother to two teen boys, it only made sense to write for kids and young adults—but it took her a while figure it out. It was only upon reading countless young adult novels in recent years – stories that speak to her teenage self – that she started to find her place in the fiction writing world. With a nudge from a fellow young adult author, she wrote Newbie Nick, a novel geared towards 12–15 year olds.

While juggling her family of three men, her office job and her writing world, she also blogs at  You can find info about her young adult books at  or write her at


Read below for an excerpt from Newbie Nick:

“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 the perfect 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.