Shirley Nelson


More often than not, being a writer can come down to just doing the work at hand, having fun, and surviving. 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 fun, 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 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, wrote another screenplay (produced), and a stage play (unperformed). 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 public appearances, membership in the Authors Guild and the Chrysostom Society of writers, and a second book, Fair, Clear and Terrible: The Story of Shiloh, Maine, the more extraordinary segment of her family’s history, published by British American in Latham, New York.

Over the years, the Nelsons have cooperated 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 eight 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 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 Book Makers in the Spring of 2013.

Selected Works

A strong and unusually perceptive portrait of a young girl on the edge of maturity.
Publishers Weekly
...the madness and glory of evangelist Frank Weston Sandford and his followers in rural Maine. (From a Kirkus review.)
What happens if you go back?

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