by Kristin Bartley Lenz
(Website, Twitter, Goodreads)Published by Elephant Rock Books Amazon •
“Cara is an appealing, engaging narrator. Surrounded by a well-rounded cast, Cara's journey toward a peaceful, fulfilling life is almost perfectly depicted. A compelling, unusual coming-of-age story.” —Kirkus
“Lenz offers a thoughtful meditation on life after loss. Lenz effortlessly explains complicated climbing terminology and intermixes moments of levity with contemplative quotations from naturalists and mountain climbers.”—Publishers Weekly
“When every piece falls into place, it’s like a dance, a delicate but powerful balancing act. The art of holding on and letting go at the same time.”
Competitive climber Cara Jenkins feels most at home high off the ground, clinging to a rock wall by her fingertips. She’s enjoyed a roaming life with her mountaineering parents, making the natural world her jungle gym, the writings of Annie Dillard and Henry David Thoreau her textbooks. But when tragedy strikes on an Ecuadoran mountaintop, Cara’s nomadic lifestyle comes to an abrupt halt.
Starting over at her grandparents’ home in suburban Detroit, Cara embarks on a year of discovery, uncovering unknown strengths, friendships, and first love. Cara’s journey illustrates the transformative power of nature, love and loss, and discovering that home can be far from where you started.
Available September 12th 2016!
Hi Kristin! Welcome to A Leisure Moment! We’re so glad to have you here to discuss your debut YA novel, The Art of Holding On and Letting Go, and a little about yourself. To start off, why don’t you tell readers something unique about yourself?
It used to be unique that I was a rock climber, but it’s become a much more popular sport in recent years with easier access for anyone to try it. So, how about this: I’m a social worker who has worked in Michigan, Georgia, and California, at a teen runaway shelter, a rural mental health clinic, a suburban school district, and an urban hospital.
This is your debut! So congratulations on that, firstly! What was your writing process when you started The Art of Holding On and Letting Go?
TAOHOALG was my third novel. The first novel was purely practice and will never be published, but an agent showed interest in my second novel. We went back and forth with revisions without a contract for over a year with long delays while I waited for her to read and respond. I used that time to start TAOHOALG. I was working as a social worker, but had a flex schedule with every other Wednesday off, and that was my writing day. By that time, I had joined SCBWI-MI and had several critique partners to keep me motivated and learning.
The Art of Holding On and Letting Go is the winner of the Helen Sheehan Award. What drove you to submit your work, and what was going through your mind when you won?
To be honest, it was an impulsive decision. I saw the announcement right before the deadline, and I recognized Elephant Rock Books because the last YA novel they published went on to win accolades, and I loved the story. Carnival at Bray was a literary, realistic coming of age novel with depth and heart, and I thought my book might be a good fit for this publishing house too.
Cara’s love of climbing is tested when tragedy strikes. Instead of throwing herself into the climb, she questioned what it meant to her. Why did you decide to go this route?
Climbers are very familiar with accidents and deaths in the sport, but this one hit especially close to home and upended life as Cara knew it. Teenagers are already questioning the world around them and their place in it, and I felt that such a personal tragedy/loss would especially make her question how she’s been raised and what is truly important to her. Also, she’s an introspective person, so it made sense for her to pull back and retreat initially. Later, she throws herself into climbing as a way to cope.
Her friendship with Kaitlyn and Nick was probably one of my favorite parts of the novel. They even had their own story going on in the background. How did you get these characters and their stories to mesh so well?
Through many, many revisions! My editor asked me to do some journaling to help deepen characterization. Much of that writing never made it into the novel, but it helped me to really understand all of my characters better. They were constantly talking to each other in my head!
The romance was a tad different than a lot of the young adult novels out there today. Cara seemed older in some ways, but her relationship with Tom showed a younger side of her. Why did you decide to write her relationship with Tom this way?
I went back and forth on this aspect because an agent had rejected this manuscript at one point by saying that she thought it “skewed young.” But I really wanted to portray a romance than begins and grows through friendship over time. I love a good sweep-you-off your-feet, love-at-first-sight story, but I think Cara and Tom’s gradual, slow-burn romance is more realistic than some of the insta-love stories I’ve encountered. Also, Cara has traveled the world, but she’s been sheltered in many other ways. She’s been primarily home-schooled with limited access to social media, so in that way it also made sense for her be more innocent and tentative as she adjusted to typical high school life.
Her relationship with her grandparents was integral to her growth. Did you originally plan for it to work out that way? How did the relationship come to be?
This was a really organic process and one of those magical first draft writing experiences that I still haven’t been able to repeat with any of my other manuscripts. I really can’t explain it. Their story flowed, and then was later honed through revision after I better understood the grandparents’ history.
Would you ever write a spin-off or sequel of is TAoHOaLG, or is it strictly a standalone?
I have no plans to continue Cara’s story. There are questions I could still explore, but I like leaving that for readers to ponder.
You’ve got a fan in me, Kristin! Are you working on anything new?
Yes, thanks for asking! At this time, Elephant Rock Books only publishes YA novels through their Sheehan Book Prize. Jotham Burrello was a wonderful editor, but he’ll be looking for the next prize winner, and I will need to find a new editor for my next book. I was honored to be chosen as the YA winner of the manuscript contest at the Wild Midwest SCBWI multi-region conference a few months ago. I’ve been revising that manuscript over the summer, and my agent is preparing to submit it to editors. Fingers crossed!
Thanks so much for cheering me on, Moriah! Can I turn the tables on you and ask about your own writing? Your YA manuscript, Panned, is on Swoon Reads. Please give me the scoop!
I love that you turned the tables on me, Kristin! I’ve never had that happen before. Panned started out as a question to myself that I couldn’t think anyone had answered in the way that I wanted it to be answered yet. It’s the story of Maggie Aldaine, who, instead of willingly joining Peter Pan to Neverland, is kidnapped. She doesn’t know why, and she can’t get a straight answer out of anyone. I posted it on Swoon Reads a little over half a year after I had finished writing it. I started with the traditional route or querying agents but hadn’t had much success. I wanted more feedback, but most importantly, I wanted to share my story with people.
The current version on Swoon Reads is the second time I uploaded it, a revised edition that I edited off of the comments that I got after first hitting publish. It’s a wonderful reading/writing community that Swoon Reads has created, even for those that aren’t chosen for publication. So far, Panned hasn’t been picked, but the story holds a special place in my heart. It was the story that showed me I could be a writer if I wanted to be a writer. I’ve read some wonderful stories on there that haven’t gotten chosen and met some writers that will, without a doubt, be on shelves one day!
So Kristin is pretty awesome, as you can tell! Not only do I adore the cover of her debut, the story inside is great. A YA for any age! You can also read my review here.
What do you mean you haven’t already secured yourself a copy?
Full blog tour schedule:
Aug. 22 – Kristin makes a guest post on Making Connections
Aug. 26 – Kristin interviewed on Fiction Over Reality
Aug. 30 – Kristin interviewed on A Leisure Moment
Sept. 1 – Kristin interviewed on Crazy Book Obsessions!
Sept. 4 – Kristin makes an appearance on blackplume
Sept. 6 – Kristin makes a guest post on Books Are Love
Sept. 8 – Kristin interviewed on Alice Reeds
Sept. 12 – Release day post on Making Connections
Sept. 12 – Kristin makes a guest post on Books & Tea
Sept. 12 – Kristin is interviewed by her agent, Carrie Pestritto, on Literary Carrie
Sept. 15 – Kristin interviewed on Books Are Love
Sept. 20 – Kristin makes a guest post on The Reading Date
Sept. 23 – Kristin makes a guest post on Twenty Three Pages
Sept. 26 – Kristin interviewed on Literary Rambles
Sept. 28 – Kristin interviewed on Wandering Educators
Oct. 5 – Kristin interviewed on Operation Awesome