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Synopsis Biography of Kent Nelson

Kent Nelson received his pre-college schooling in Cheyenne Mountain Public Schools in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and went on to attend Yale University on a Gates Foundation full scholarship, studying Political Science and playing varsity ice hockey and tennis, as well as academic accolades on the Dean's List and as Ranking Scholar.  At Yale, Kent Nelson's writing earned for him the Wallace Short Story Prize, the Saybrook Fellows' Prize, and membership in the Book and Snake Society.

Kent Nelson went on to Harvard Law School where he earned his Juris Doctorate in Environmental Law, and his stellar third-year work was placed on deposit in the Harvard Law Library.

Kent Nelson has held no less than 15 distinguished academic positions in his career, but it is his list of part-time and odd jobs which most interests readers, and which Kent refers to as "the real me".  Kent's readers will spot immediately how these vocations have contributed to his work.  Nelson's work in chronological order:

  •  Doorman, Club Casablanca;  Cambridge, MA

  •  Teacher in STEP, a prison education project;  S. Walpole, MA

  •  Tennis Professional;  Colorado Springs, CO, Charleston, SC, and West Germany

  •  Travel Agent;  Frankfurt, West Germany

  •  Dishwasher, Hotel Băren;  Sundlauenen, Switzerland

  •  City Judge;  Ouray, CO

  •  Basketball Referee;  Ouray, CO

  •  Ad Salesman and Reporter, Ouray County Plaindealer;  Ouray, CO

  •  Writer for a Tow-Truck Magazine;  Chattanooga, TN

  •  Algebra Tutor, Baylor Academy;  Chattanooga, TN

  •  Summer School SAT Prep Teacher, Exeter Academy;  Exeter, NH

  •  Squash Coach, Exeter Academy;  Exeter, NH

  •  Hired Man, Alfalfa Ranch;  Oral, SD   (irrigating, fence-building, cutting hay, etc.)

  •  Innkeeper;  Ouray, CO


A Recent Statement from Kent Nelson:

Working as the hired man on John TePaske’s alfalfa ranch in South Dakota – the last of my seven dollar an hour jobs – was the experience that led directly to the novel, Land That Moves, Land That Stands Still.  After that, I spent three years in Hollywood, the first on a Chesterfield Film Project fellowship, learning to write screenplays.  A year later I put four bathrooms in my house in Ouray, Colorado, and rented out rooms to tourists.

In the ensuing years a few teaching jobs kept me going financially – at the University of Alabama, the University of Tennessee, and the University of Wyoming, as well as stints at Colorado College.  With financial help from friends, to whom I’m still grateful, I was able to finish writing Land That Moves, finished in Costa Rica in 2000.  Since then, I’ve been working on a new novel tentatively titled Family in Autumn.

Birding has remained a major thread in my life, and has over the years contributed both directly and indirectly to stories and novels.  Mattie Remmel, the main character in Land That Moves, has working knowledge of birds; the protagonist Scott Talmadge, in Language in the Blood, is a bird guide and teacher, and many of my stories, whether they have birds in them or not, have landscapes that have been derived from birding trips:   “Acts of Love” (Alaska), “The Orange Grove Book of Dreams” (South Texas), “The Tarpon Bet” (The Everglades), “The Middle of Nowhere” (southeastern Arizona), and “The Sunbittern” (Costa Rica).  Birding has taught me to look, to be aware of looking, to be curious, and this has meshed nicely with writing.

In the same way, sports has also been a determinant of many plots -- not who wins, but rather as a milieu for characters to explore their inner selves or their ways of relating to others.  Toward the Sun is a collection of many of these stories. And I’m thinking of a novel based on mountain running, which I took up in 1996.

Salida, Colorado, is now home, a small town on the Arkansas River, east of a line of fourteen-thousand foot peaks and the Continental Divide, and three hours southwest of Denver.

  Kent Nelson's Ten Favorite Stories
(listed in no special order)
  •  “Ringo Bingo,” Prairie Schooner, Volume 77, No. 2, Summer, 2003.
  •  “Tides,” The Georgia Review, Summer, 2000.  Included in The Best American Mystery Stories, 2000.
  •  “The Touching That Lasts,” (incorrectly titled “This Grass Mending”), Iron Horse Literary Review, Vol. 1, No.1, Spring, 2000 and Vol. 1, No. 2, Fall, 2000.
  •  “Rituals of Sleep,” Chicago Tribune Literary Supplement, 1997.  Winner of the Nelson Algren Prize.  Reprinted in Witness, Vol. X, No. 2, 1998.
  •  “What Shall Become of Me?The Gettysburg Review, Vol. 8, No.1, Winter, 1995.
  •  “Yellow Flowers,” Boulevard, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1991. Reprinted in The Middle of Nowhere, Gibbs Smith, 1992.
  •  “The Middle of Nowhere,” Grand Street, Vol. 8, No. 3, Spring, 1989. Reprinted in The Pushcart Prize XV, Pushcart Press, 1990;  in Fathers and Sons, University of Virginia Press, 1992;  in The Middle of Nowhere, Gibbs Smith, 1992;  and in Love Stories for the Rest of Us, Pushcart Press, 1994.
  •  “Learning to Dream,” The Southern Review, Vol. 24, No. 2, Spring, 1988.  Reprinted in The Middle of Nowhere, Gibbs Smith, 1992.
  •  “Joan of Dreams,” The Virginia Quarterly Review, Vol. 73, No. 3, 1997.
  •  “Invisible Life,” The Virginia Quarterly Review. Vol. 61, No. 1, Winter, 1985.  Reprinted in The Best American Short Stories 1986;  and in The Middle of Nowhere, Gibbs Smith, 1992.


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