More often than not, being a writer can come down to just doing the work at hand. Shirley Nelson began her career in radio, creating and producing a daily hour-long children’s show at Rhode Island’s first FM station. Surviving that, barely, she and her husband, Rudy Nelson, spent two years as scriptwriters and production assistants for an independent film company in Pennsylvania. Surviving again, they left that behind to re-enter academia—Rudy in graduate work at Brown University, and teaching at Barrington College in Rhode Island and the University at Albany, New York. In that period, Shirley taught Creative Writing, published poetry and short fiction. One story, The Last Year of the War, won the Harper-Saxton Fellowship and was published as a novel by Harper and Row, New York, in 1978. That opened the door to a second book, Fair, Clear and Terrible: The Story of Shiloh, Maine, an extraordinary segment of her family’s history, published by British American in Latham, New York.
Over the years, the Nelsons have collaborated on a wide variety of projects. Their work, independently and together, has appeared in Image, Southwest Review, Family Circle, Books and Culture, Old House Journal, The Christian Century, The Globalist (on-line) as well as many anthologies. Rudy’s intellectual biography, The Making and Unmaking of an Evangelical Mind: The Case of Edward Carnell, continues its life at Cambridge University Press. Chapters of Shirley’s on-going memoir, Squatting on Miller Hill, are viewable at HollistonReporter.com. In 2003 they wrote and produced a full-length documentary on war and peace in Guatemala, funded in large part by the U.S. Institute of Peace. A novel, The Risk of Returning, also a collaborative adventure, is forthcoming from The Troy Bookmakers in the Spring of 2013.