Shirley Nelson began her writing career and ministry on-the-job, first in radio, producing a daily hour long children’s show for Rhode Island’s first FM station. Surviving that, she and her husband, Rudy Nelson, broke into script writing for an independent film company in Pennsylvania. When they left that—surviving again—to re-enter academia and raise a family, she published poetry and short fiction and began what developed into her first novel, The Last Year of the War, a story formed by her own teen years during World War II. That won a Harper-Saxton Fellowship and a few other awards, opening the door to a second book and other publishing opportunities.
Surviving, as well, sixty years of marriage, she and Rudy have collaborated on a number of projects, including a documentary, Precarious Peace: God and Guatemala, and most recently a novel, MK: The Risk of Returning, both based on the violence and struggle for peace in that country.
Fair, Clear and Terrible: The Story of Shiloh, Maine. A narrative history. Latham, New York, British American Publishing, Ltd, 1989. New edition presently under contract to Wipf & Stock Publishers, Eugene, Oregon.
The Last Year of the War (novel). New York, Harper and Row, 1978; San Francisco, Harper and Row, 1979; Wheaton, Illinois, Harold Shaw Publishers, 1989; New edition, Eugene, Oregon, Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2004.
Entries in The Eternal Present (daily readings), ed. Andrea Wells Miller. New York, Berkeley: The Crossroads Publishing Company, 2003.
“Frank Sandford: Tongues of Fire in Shiloh, Maine,” essay in Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders, ed. James Goff, Jr., and Grant Wacker, pp. 51-69. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2002. With Rudy Nelson.
“Prospecting,” essay in Rattling Those Dry Bones: Women Changing the Church, ed. June Hagen. San Diego, CA: Luramedia, 1995.
“The Secret Stair (My MacDonald Syndrome),” Once Upon a Christmas, A Treasury of Memories, ed. Emilie Griffin. Norwalk, CT: The C.R. Gibson Company, 1993.
“All Souls Day,” essay in Epiphanies: Stories for the Christian Year , ed. Eugene Peterson. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1992.
“Making Peace,” back story to documentary “Precarious Peace: God and Guatemala,” Image: Journal of Art and Religion, #44 (Winter, 2004), with Rudy Nelson.
“The Ethics of Remembering: Echoes of the Sixties,” featured review of Sue Miller’s “The Distinguished Guest” in Christian Century, Vol. 114, # 9 (March 12, 1997).
“The Things File,” short story in Image: Journal of the Arts and Religion, #11 (Fall 1995).
“Stewards of the Imagination: Ron Hansen, Larry Woiwode and Sue Miller,” in Christian Century, Vol. 112, # 3 (January 25, 1995).
“Mother Wit” (“Cat Nap”), short story, in Family Circle (April 7, 1981) ; Woman (British periodical), Dec. 19, 1981; The Australian Woman’s Weekly, May 25, 1982
Awards & Fellowships
Recognition funding for Precarious Peace: God and Guatemala U.S. Institute of Peace, 2004
First Follot Literary Award, National Association of Independent Publishers, for literary content of Fair, Clear and Terrible,1990
Fellowship at Yaddo (Writers’ Retreat), Saratogo, N.Y., Jan-Feb 1983.
Honorable Mention, Janet Heidinger Kafka Prize, Rochester, N.Y. Excellence in Fiction by an American Woman, for The Last Year of the War. 1979
Award for fiction. Friends of Literature, Chicago, IL., for The Last Year of the War. 1979. Shared with James Carroll.
Harper Saxton Fellowship, Harper and Row, New York. Pre- publication grant for The Last Year of the War. 1974