Back in early 2002, I was one of the volunteers for the Missouri SCBWI and had the assignment of picking Lisa Banim (now Mathews) up from the airport for our fall conference. At the time, she’d had the manuscript for DEFENDING IRENE for a little over a month. (The history of that is another story altogether that I may post at some point.) I was really hoping that she’d have some feedback for me on my story about a girl playing on an Italian boys’ soccer team even she decided against acquiring the manuscript. Naturally, she’d be quite busy on the day of the conference, so I invited her to dinner on the Friday night that she flew in. I gave her an “out” in my email by letting her know that I’d completely understand if she wanted to go straight to her hotel and crash.
But she agreed to dinner. After we chatted for awhile, she let me know that she was taking DEFENDING IRENE to the acquisitions meeting on the following week. Frequently, she doesn’t let authors know that because she knows how stressful it can be for them to know when the fateful day will be. Well, that was exciting and it clearly demonstrated where the old cliche of “breath-taking” came from.
A little later, I told her the story of how I found my stone griffin in Siena. It was one of my standard tales that friends, relatives and even strangers usually found a bit amusing. When I finished it, I mentioned how I’d actually written a novel about the griffin.
I had been babbling on about all this without the least degree of self-consciousness because I knew that Peachtree didn’t publish fantasy novels. So I wasn’t trying to pitch the project.
“Why don’t you send it along?” Lisa asked.
Well, for the second time in one evening I was well and truly breathless. For a hard-working writer with no published novels to her credit, the idea of having an editor interested in not just one but two of my novels was amazing. And I’m sure that I couldn’t stop myself from saying something like, “But I didn’t think Peachtree did fantasy.” But I think that Lisa had recognized that this project was a contemporary fantasy with the accent on sibling relationships. Plus, it had a mystery going on inside of it and Lisa had edited numerous mysteries.
I wrote about the long, difficult editorial road for Darcy Pattison on her revision blog, which is now Fiction Notes under the title of Revising the Griffin. But it was certainly worth all the hard work. My name might be on the spine, but Lisa was the one who pushed me to produce the book that’s now in print because of her knowledge of what mysterious adventures needed.
Often writers are asked to write something for the “about the author” section on the back flap of a book. Lisa remembered my story about discovering the griffin in Siena and asked me to put it in. My first version was a bit long. Lisa recommended a few cuts and this is what came out:
KRISTIN WOLDEN NITZ first spotted a griffin while visiting a stonemason’s shop in Siena, Italy. How much for that griffin in the window? she wondered. Too much, she feared. But her husband, who usually specializes in rude remarks about “dust catchers,” said, “You’ll never know unless you ask. So she did.
Ms. Nitz, who is also the author of DEFENDING IRENE currently lives with her husband, three children and one stone griffin in southwest Michigan.