Monday, August 2, 2010

Inquiry XV: Kristin Nitz

Today I am pleased to welcome Kristin Nitz.

Kristin Nitz attempted her first novel in 5th grade. She attended Michigan Technological University to study electrical engineering while dabbling with writing on the side. Her first book was Fundamental Softball. Since that first book about Softball, Kristin has written Play By Play Field Events, Play By Play Track, Defending Irene, and Saving the Griffin. For Saving the Griffin, she won the Kentucky Bluegrass Award and was a nominee for the Georgia Children's Book Award and a preliminary nominee for the Mark Twain Award. Kristin is represented by the Erin Murphy Literary Agency. To read more about Kristin and her great books, visit her website at

EEM: Did you always want to be a writer?

KN: I did always want to be a writer. I knew, however, that it would be extremely difficult to break in. So I decided to get a degree in electrical engineering and write on the side. I’m one of those strange people who think that Calculus is a thing of beauty.

EEM: When you began writing, was it instant success and riches or did you find you had to work other jobs in order to continue your dream of being a writer?

KN: I wasn’t an instant success. And I’m still really not at the point where I’d be able to support myself fully on my writing.

EEM: What jobs have you held, current or in the past, to help sustain your writing career?

KN: I spent some time working at a few different electronics firms and as a teacher at a technical college after I graduated from college. Later, I stayed home with my kids. I was just beginning to think about getting back in the work force when my husband had an opportunity to work in Italy for three and a half years. For me, that was a dream come true. He told me later that if I hadn’t been so relentlessly positive about the opportunity that he might not have decided to do it. I set two short stories, two articles and two novels in Europe. Since our kids attended the local Italian schools, I spent one more year at helping them adjust to life in the States before doing some work as a substitute teacher. After my soccer novel came out, a friend suggested that I consider teaching for the Institute of Children’s Literature. After checking over the course materials, I decided to do it. They laid out all the things that I’d had to teach myself.

EEM: Which job was the most challenging or strange to you?

KN: With substitute teaching, I could be with high school seniors one day and kindergartners the next. That was a shift! I generally found the kindergarten classes to be more frightening.

EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?

KN: Interacting with lots of different kids.

EEM: Least Favorite?

KN: Teaching the music class with the child who had a very serious peanut allergy. He actually had his own mat to sit on and his own instruments to use. I always felt quite relieved when he and his class made it safely out the door.

EEM: Did your day job(s) allow you to write regularly? Or did you have to get creative to get those word counts in? What other effects did it have on your writing?

KN: When I was working outside the home, I typically wrote during my lunch break. I was just too tired at night. When I was parenting young children, I did most of my writing during naptimes or Sesame Street. Currently, I try to work on my fiction in the morning when I’m at my most creative. Then I dedicate afternoons to my students’ assignments. I tend to stress the basics like plotting and point of view, conflict and characterization, setting and scene-building. But I also do plenty of Nitz-picking when necessary on grammar, punctuation and formatting.

EEM: Have you ever based a loved protagonist or an evil villain on one of your co-workers? Wished you had?

KN: Oddly enough, no co-worker has ever inspired me in that way. But in general, people aren’t safe from me. In fact, two of my husband’s Italian co-workers had versions of themselves in SAVING THE GRIFFIN.

EEM: What are you working on now and is the process any easier than your first work?? If so, in what capacity (people noticing it, the writing itself, the confidence?)

KN: Currently, I’m revising the first novel that I ever attempted. While the bones of the plot are the same, I don’t think that it has two sentences in common with the original.

I spent a lot of time earlier this year working on the revisions for SUSPECT, a YA mystery that will be coming out October 1.

I used to study my favorite books for techniques on openings, closings and transitions all the time. Now I only need their help every once in a while.

EEM: Would you change anything if you could begin your writing journey over again?

KN: I wouldn’t change anything for myself. When you’re not a genius, luck is often as important as hard work. But here are two pieces of advice that I’ve carried with me since 1999 when I was fortunate enough to win the Missouri Mentorship with author Gary Blackwood:

It takes a lot of conflict to carry a novel.

There’s no room for deadwood in a novel. Everything has to contribute to plot, character, or setting.

EEM: Thanks Kristin!


  1. Great interview Kristen. I know you from SCBWI and just learned so much I didn't know about you. I loved Saving the Griffin. Can't wait for your next book to come out.

  2. Thanks, Natalie! SUSPECT will be a lot different. My editor at Peachtree said something close to the following: "You've written a upper middle grade sports novel, lower middle grade contemporary fantasy and YA mystery. It might be time to pick a major." But when I was trying to break in, I was writing the things that I like to read.