Shirley Nelson (In Memoriam)

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. Presently she and Rudy are also collaborating on the book version of a recent  historical event in Massachusetts—a story of war resistance and tax refusal, involving questions about personal conscience and citizen rights.


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.


Squatting on Miller Hill.”

“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