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.


  1. Whee! I signed up for the newsletter in time!
    *end-zone dance*

    I'll be reviewing Creative Calisthenics too. I've been a member of the Fellowship of Christian Writers for years, and know Terri's book is an outstanding tool from which any writer will benefit.


    Frank the official site of Flashpoint: Book One of the UNDERGROUND

    The Polishing Manuscripts until they Shine

  2. 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.

    I agree that it is difficult to articulate the "difference" and perhaps after more reviews it will become apparent. But, having read the book, I can say that it is different. Besides being very informative, just reading the exercises stimulates one's creativity . . . and it is written in a conversational tone and you throw in a few surprises that provided me with a giggle or two!

    It believe it is a very marketable book.


  3. Thank you both for the comments. Glad you were able to sign up for your newsletter in time, Frank. I know you'll get a lot out of this book.

  4. Wonderful interview! When you do tour, Terri, please get in touch with me for a hosting spot :-) Your book sounds fascinating!

  5. Hi Joyce, thanks for stopping by. I'll be sure to let Terri know.