Allison's Book Bag

Catching up with Nick Hupton

Posted on: April 30, 2015

NickHuptonAn author of three published books, Nick Hupton is a teacher by trade. Hupton first started thinking about pursuing a career in education when he was in high school. His mom is a teacher and his 11th grade American literature teacher had a profound influence on him, which he says fueled his desire to teach. “First and foremost, I am passionate about helping kids. Watching a kid learn and grow, both academically and emotionally, is why I got into education in the first place,” Hupton tells Gustavus College.

Along with his academic pursuits, Hupton was a four-year member of the Gustavus men’s tennis team. During Hupton’s four years, the team won four MIAC championships, while Hupton was named an all-conference performer in 1998 and 1999. While the team’s success was something that Hupton enjoyed, the life lessons learned from the experience and from former head coach Steve Wilkinson are things that he carries with him today. “I learned a lot about tennis and became a much better player, and in time, a better coach, because I participated in the Gustavus tennis program. But most importantly, I became a better person and I try to relay the messages of sportsmanship, integrity, and respect to my players today.”

Hupton got his inspiration for The Ridge when he took a group of seventh graders to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center in northern Minnesota for a three-day field trip. While telling ghost stories in the woods, Hupton made up a story about an old hermit who would kidnap Wolf Ridge campers. Ten years later, Hupton turned that story into a much more elaborate and detailed novel titled The Ridge. “Some of the proudest moments in my writing career have come when I see otherwise reluctant readers picking up my books and diving in,” Hupton said. “It’s all about getting young people to read and I hope I have aided in that endeavor at least a little bit.”

Stone Ridge is the sequel to The Ridge and my review book for tomorrow. Save the date: May 1!

ALLISON: Who served as a mentor to you as a child?

NICK: As a child, my biggest mentors were certainly my parents of course, but also, my drum teacher and baseball/tennis coaches. I have always been very involved in music, so anywhere I could find guidance with that pursuit, I followed. I was also very involved in sports. I played a ton of baseball as a kid, but then I turned to tennis. One coach in particular stands out as someone who guided me in a number of directions: Andrew VanCott. I couldn’t afford a lot of private lessons because tennis is an expensive sport, but Andrew saw my potential as a player and person and offered to give me some free private lessons. This selflessness has stayed with me for a long time and I hope I am carrying on that same legacy with my parenting, teaching, and coaching.

ALLISON: How has the adolescent experience changed since you were one? How has it stayed the same?

NICK: The adolescent experience has changed a lot since I was young. The first thing that comes to mind is technology. The way teenagers conduct their daily lives is so drastically different than it was when I was that age. As a teacher, I see that firsthand in the classroom. Social skills, in general, have diminished I feel. Kids would much rather plug their face into a screen than talk to the person next to him. That goes for their close friends too. I hope I don’t seem ancient (I’m not really that old), but I miss the good old days of calling up a girl you like, your hands clammy, heart pounding, then having to struggle through the conversation of “asking her out.” That kind of thing doesn’t happen anymore. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of positives of technology and I’m on my iPhone constantly too, but to me, that has been the biggest change in adolescents.

ALLISON: What is your most memorable teaching experience? What about a time when you questioned your choice?

NICK: I’ve been teaching for sixteen years, so picking out my most memorable experience is very tough. I teach high school now, but when I taught middle school, the most memorable moments came outside of the classroom- field trips to Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center (which The Ridge and Stone Ridge are based upon), chaperoning ski club trips, etc. But I also have very fond moments of receiving letters from former students who are in college or recently graduated. The letters spoke of the influence I had on them in high school. Those are the kinds of things that keep me in education- knowing I am having an impact on my students in positive ways.

ALLISON: How have your students reacted to the publication of your books

NICK: The reaction to the publication of my books by my students has been very positive. Many of them choose to read the books on their own and it’s fun to get their feedback. Based on their reactions, I feel it has given me an extra sense of credibility. The fact that I have gone through that writing and publishing process gives me a unique perspective on the assigned books we read in class. At times it can be a conflict of interest- I don’t want to be marketing or promoting my books in class, but it is certainly pertinent to the content I teach. The media center has also done a great job of promoting my books and getting kids to check them out. That takes some of the pressure off me to do so.

ALLISON: Why a story involving the supernatural?

NICK: I wrote a paranormal/supernatural story in The Ridge and Stone Ridge because those books are the products of a story I used to tell on field trips to Wolf Ridge Environmental Center. I would tell ghost stories to the kids in the middle of the woods and one kept evolving over the years. That story served as the premise for The Ridge and then the sequel. When I first started writing, I never thought I would be a paranormal writer of any kind, but I had a lot of fun with that story and it has resonated with a lot of young people. The book I am working on now, The Opposite of Music, is not paranormal at all. In fact, it’s based solely in reality. It tells the story of a teenager traveling and living with his “rock star” parents. I’m having a lot of fun writing it and honestly, I feel like I am getting back to my roots in terms of writing style.

ALLISON: This is my second interview with you. Catch readers up on highlights from your life since we talked a year ago.

NICK: Since the last time we talked a year ago, Stone Ridge was published, which has done pretty well overall and I have started my next book, The Opposite of Music. In my personal life, not a whole lot has changed other than being a year older, seeing my kids, Tyler (7) and Siena (5), grow up more and more, and just enjoying life. Things are very busy with writing, teaching, coaching, and parenting, but things are very good.

ALLISON: You have enjoyed seeing reluctant readers pick up your books. What advice do you offer to parents whose children do not like to read?

NICK: The advice I have for parents whose children are reluctant readers is this: Don’t give up. There is a book out there for everyone, even those who claim to despise reading. Over the years, I have seen many students change their attitude about reading and it may be frustrating, but finding the right book for your child is possible. Just keep working at it.

ALLISON: When not writing how do you spend your time?

NICK: Right now when I’m not writing, I am teaching high school full time, coaching tennis and being a dad and husband. I teach 9th and 11th grade English, Intro and Advanced Creative Writing, and World Mythology, so that keeps me very busy. And in the spring I am busy coaching the varsity boys tennis team. My kids are 7 and 5, so when I get home, it’s on!

ALLISON: What is a fun quirk about you?

NICK: A fun quirk about me is that when you first meet me, I may seem a bit shy and quiet, but given the right situation, I can definitely open up. For example, I have won the past two Jefferson High School teacher/student dance-offs. Everyone is a bit shocked when I get out there to show my “skills.” Really, it’s all about making a fool out of myself, but I am more than willing to do that for a good cause (it’s a fundraiser for National Honor Society).

ALLISON: What’s the one question you have yet to be asked? What’s the answer?

NICK: This last question is tough, but one question I haven’t heard yet about my writing career is, “Would you like to accept the Pulitzer Prize for Literature?” The answer would be yes. Maybe that will occur in a dream sometime.


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I am focusing this year on other commitments. Once a month, I’ll post reviews of Advanced Reader Copies. Titles will include: Freddy Frogcaster and the Flash Flood by Janice Dean, One Two by Igor Eliseev, Incredible Magic of Being by Kathyrn Erskine, Dragon Grammar Book by Diane Robinson, and Wide as the Wind by Edward Stanton.



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