I thought it would be fun to hear from Melissa Shanker's mentor, Kristin Wolden Nitz. Kristin took time out of a tight deadline to answer our questions about mentoring and how important the process has been to her and her writing. She can be found at http://www.kwnitz.com/. Thanks, Kristin!
Please share a brief bio of you and your work.
I’ve always written the books that I wanted to read. That might explain why my credits include a young middle grade contemporary fantasy (SAVING THE GRIFFIN), upper middle grade sports novel (DEFENDING IRENE) and YA mystery (SUSPECT). My husband and I have moved thirteen or fourteen times since we graduated from Michigan Tech. Currently, we’re in the middle of preparing for our third move to Missouri.
Why did you decide to become a mentor?
When I heard that the (SCBWI-MI) mentorship was going to be a novel in the next year, I offered to serve as one of the judges. When a friend on Ad-Com asked me if I’d actually BE the mentor it was hard to say no!
How many writers have you officially mentored?
Other than Melissa, I’ve also officially mentored Debra McArthur. She won the Missouri mentorship back in 2003 or 2004. Unofficially, I’ve offered a lot of encouragement to a number of talented writers. I also teach for the Institute of Children’s Literature in their beginners and book course. Often, I feel more like I’m mentoring the novel students rather than overtly teaching them.
Were you part of the decision process for choosing Melissa Shanker as the SCBWI-MI Mentor Award? If so, what about her work made it rise to the top?
Yes. I had my choice of the top three writers as chosen by the other judges. I bonded with Melissa’s characters almost immediately. They seemed very real to me. At the same time, she brought some serious tension to her project.
What strengths do you bring as a mentor?
Well, I have a zeal for making sure that there’s enough conflict and tension in a project since that used to be one of my weaknesses. I also have a pretty good understanding of layering in subplots so that they all come together in a coherent and dramatic way. Finally, I really want to see talented writers succeed. For that reason, I really have an enthusiasm for nurturing and encouraging them.
Have you been a mentee? If so, what from that experience helps you be the best mentor you can be?
My writing life changed dramatically when I won a mentorship with noted children’s author Gary L. Blackwood back in 1999. He helped me understand the importance of conflict in novels. I would often try to smooth things over for my characters. Problems would stop before they got started. I can never pay Gary back. This is the kind of debt that you can only pay forward. (Award-winning science fiction author Robert Heinlein came up with this idea decades ago.)
If you could mentor any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
Megan Whalen Turner. Then I could find out what happens next in her Attolia books.
If you could be mentored by any writer throughout time, who would it be and why?
As much as I adore writers like Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, they probably wouldn’t be that much help in dealing with current issues in writing. That’s why I’d have to go with either Lois McMaster Bujold or Elizabeth Peters. They’re both delightful, generous writers who went through tough times before achieving success.
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