Rachel Moulden for Digital First Media
Oakland County author Kristin Lenz has always been a writer at heart.
As she grew up in Farmington and attended University of Michigan, she says she lacked confidence to pursue a career in writing. Instead, she chose psychology as her major and went on to earn a master’s in social work at Wayne State University.
Then, her husband’s job took them cross-country to Georgia and California, giving Lenz opportunities to work in various areas of social work.
“Social work greatly expanded my world view,” Lenz says. “It gave me the confidence I needed to pursue writing again, and I’ve been so inspired by the resilience of the children and families that I’ve worked with.”
Inspiration for her first novel, “The Art of Holding and Letting Go,” came as Lenz and her husband fell in love with the outdoors near the mountains of Georgia and California. She followed the careers of well-known mountaineers who died attempting epic summits, and studied the effects their deaths had on their families. Lenz says she wondered what it would be like to be the child of a professional mountaineer, and asked herself just how that child’s upbringing would be different.
Her story further developed after she moved back to Michigan.
“I was struggling with this transition and the losses that came with it,” Lenz says “I had left my job, close friendships and a beautiful climate with daily access to nature. I was a new mom, feeling isolated and uncertain in a new environment while simultaneously trying to raise my baby daughter. My grandmother died suddenly.”
She believed everyone can relate to this feeling of loss during times of transition, at any age.
Her coming-of-age novel follows the story of a 15-year-old competitive rock climber. Cara, the main character, has enjoyed a roaming life with her mountaineering parents and makes the natural world her jungle gym. When tragedy strikes on an Ecuadorian mountaintop, her nomadic lifestyle comes to an abrupt halt, and she’s forced to move to her grandparents’ home in suburban Detroit.
Through the novel, Cara embarks on a year of discovery, uncovering unknown strengths, developing friendships and finding first love. It’s a journey that illustrates the transformative power of nature, love and loss, and discovering that home can be far from where you started.
An avid reader and writer, Lenz says reading builds empathy by inviting you to walk in someone else’s shoes and experience other time periods, environments and cultures.
“Our world needs thoughtful writers with diverse voices who open doors, especially as a contrast to the vitriol that’s often spewed on social media in response to current events and our toxic political climate,” Lenz says.
She will have two book launch parties to celebrate “The Art of Holding and Letting Go.” The first is Sept. 18 at the Office Coffee Shop at 402 S Lafayette Ave, Royal Oak. Oak Park indie bookstore The Book Beat will sell copies , along with fellow author Laura Romito’s new line of specialty cooking salts, High 5 Salts with Benefits. (foodgeekfoods.com)
Then on Sept. 25, Lenz will be at Nicola’s Books, in the Westgate Shopping Center at 2513 Jackson Ave, Ann Arbor, with author Shutta Crum, who has written many books for children, including her new middle-grade novel, “William and the Witch’s Riddle.” (shutta.com)
When she’s not working on books, Lenz does freelance writing for nonprofit organizations, keeping her involved in social work. She also manages a blog for the Michigan Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
For more information about Lenz, visit kristinbartleylenz.com.