Interview with Peter Nelson

\"PeterNelson\"The following interview with Peter Nelson was conducted by Joan Axelrod-Contrada, moderator of the Secrets of Successful Writers panel at this year’s WriteAngles conference.

Why did you become a writer? When did the writing bug first bite you?

I dictated a book of poems to my mother when I was four or five. It began “Two squirrels collecting pearls . . .” And so on. I also illustrated it. Then I won a poetry contest in second grade and read my poem to an auditorium full of Minneapolis elementary school teachers. The poem was called Hail the Mighty Golfers. Illustrated that one too. I was always writing little stories and skits and making imitations of Mad Magazine or comic books – In other words, I don’t know when I became a writer, but it never occurred to me that I couldn’t be one. Never a day when I had to make a decision to become something I had any doubts about. The decision to try to MAKE A LIVING as a writer came with a week to go in college when my writing professor told me I was good at it and suggested I get an MFA, at which point I was launched on the path.

What is the most rewarding part of being a writer?

Finding out how the stories I begin end. That’s the process, wondering, “What would happen if . . .?” And then writing until I discover the answer.

The most frustrating?

Divining the ways of the publishing marketplace.

Can you tell us about your latest release?

The last book I published, FINDING REILLY; SAVING MYSELF, was in collaboration with a man who rescued a dog from a slot canyon in Arizona and, in the process of rescuing and seeing through to the dog’s full recovery, discovered the origins of his own bullying as a child. Though oddly, I realized, as we worked through his life story, that he was somewhere on the Aspergers/autistic spectrum and unable to see things about himself that were quite evident to me. I was writing his story, but I knew his story better than he did.

What inspired it?

I got a call from an agent looking for a writer to collaborate on the project, and she knew I’d written about dogs before.

You’re sitting on the Secrets of Successful Writers panel at this year’s conference. Can you tell us a little bit about what you’re planning?

I am planning to wing it. That is, I’ve taught and talked about these things my entire life and while I’m not sure I have any secrets, I’ve learned a few tricks here and there.

What are you working on now?

I have, lately, been working with a collaborator in Hollywood on a number of film projects. We have multiple irons in the fire, but to mix a metaphor, it gets to feel like herding cats. I have literary projects in the works as well, including a memoir, and I grab an hour here and an hour there to move everything forward.

Where can we find you online?

You can’t, though if you google my name, there’s another guy with my same first name, last name, and middle initial, and he writes books (and has a TV show) about tree houses. I used to have a website, and I should probably restore it, but it seemed for the most part like a waste of time and money to maintain. There are probably writers who know how to monetize the Internet, but I’m not one of them.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just that I look forward to meeting everybody.

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