Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Anthology Collaboration - Steve Nelson

Getting to know you  ♫♪♫♪  Getting to know all about you  ♫♪♫♪   We’ve come a long way since that first email in April/17 about collaborating on a book.
 Our anthology, an eclectic mix of short stories entitled (drumroll please) Our Plan to Save the World, is thisclose to being released. You’ve read my Q & A’s with Frank T. Sikora, Nancy Kay Clark and Michael Joll. Really? Why not?? This is a great time to check them out.
Now it’s time to visit with author Steve Nelson.
I sense that Steve is a busy man. His e-messages are concise. Almost as if he’s saving his words for the short stories he writes so beautifully. He’s congenial – maybe even gentle and caring. Or was that only an impression from when he edited my stories. A mild suggestion here and a nudge there. His perceptive approach led to the elimination of a minor character in Birds of a Feather. He’d obviously gained my trust.
Aside from writing and editing, the only thing I know for sure about Steve is that he’s the proud papa of twins. When I received the emailed picture of the beaming daddy with his babies, it totally made my day. J

I’m hoping this candid interview will shed light on Steve Nelson’s work, aspirations, and goals.

 P: Steve, your story Our Plan to Save the World was chosen for the title of our anthology. Congratulations! Without giving away too much (wait for the BUY ME link) tell us if your inspiration for this story was based on a life experience or just life.
S:  This was based on a news story I’d read about that happened right in our neighborhood in Chicago. I didn’t know the details but I figured they must be interesting and thought it would be fun to write a story based on it set in our neighborhood. I wrote this at a time I hadn’t been writing much and had made a deliberate effort to finish some stories. My plan was to write a whole series of stories based on news stories, using a few details and inventing the rest. I think I started some others but “Our Plan to Save the World” is the only one I finished. It was fun to write and see the characters come to life. I am excited and honored that it is the title story of our anthology.

P: You create interesting characters for your stories and I believe that’s part of what draws me to your work. Irish Literature, one of my favourites of your submissions, is not part of the anthology. Has that story been published elsewhere and if not, do you have plans for it?
S: I’m glad you liked that one (the full title is “My Contribution to Irish Literature,” which readers will appreciate if they read the story). I wrote that quite a while ago when I was in grad school and taking an Irish Literature course. My professor gave us the option to write a creative work instead of a literary analysis and that is what I came up with. It was published in Storyglossia, an online journal. Here’s the link:  My Contribution to Irish Literature - by Steve Nelson

My Contribution to Irish Literature - by Steve Nelson

By Steve Nelson
My Contribution to Irish Literature is a story by Steve Nelson.

P: Some authors write for a particular amount of time at a particular time of day. Some have music in the background, some write in coffee shops, and some scribble in notebooks at every opportunity. Do you have a preferred process for writing?
SI like to write in the mornings—that’s when I have the most creative energy and the clearest thoughts. Over the course of the day these degrade pretty reliably. Ideally, I’d write from 7-11 or so, or maybe stretch it out to 1 o’clock if I am having a good day. But I only write when I have a project I’m working on. I respect the writers who do it every day and I’m sure I’d write more and better if I did that, but I’m generally either on or off—when it comes to creating, that is, first drafts, discovering the story. Editing is a little different, a little easier. I also don’t like to start anything unless I know I can spend the time I need to accomplish what I want to. For example, I’ve got an idea for a novel now that I’m excited about, but I know I don’t have the time to write it now, with the babies (4 months old already!) and the new semester starting. Some days I wake up with the narrator’s voice telling the story in my head, but I’m just going to leave it there until the semester is over, when I have time to write it.

P: Could you provide a detailed (because I’m a detail person) description of a typical day in the life of Steve Nelson?
S: Every day is different. The best part of my day now is waking up with my wife and enjoying the morning feeding the babies. They’re all smiles in the morning and we’re all just so happy to be alive (honestly, babies can do that to a person). After that, well, it depends if I am teaching that day, or what kind of workout I want to do, or what errands need to be run, or if I’ve got papers to grade, et cetera. I could give you a list of things I get done in a week (though it wouldn’t be very interesting), but there is no “typical” day. 

P: You and Frank Sikora are our two American authors in this anthology. According to Frank, you’ve known each other a long time. Do you recall when you first met? Were you aspiring writers at the time?
SFrank and I have been friends for a long time. In the past we spent time together running and worked together delivering pizza. I don’t think either one of us knew the other was a writer until years into our friendship. I was getting my PhD in Creative Writing and Frank mentioned that he did a little writing too. When we started exchanging stories I was super impressed with his work. And he’s such an interesting, multi-talented person. Did you know how smart he is? A while back he was working as the graphic designer for an aerospace company and he and a bunch of others at work all took an online IQ test and he got the highest score, beating out, literally, rocket scientists! His co-workers couldn’t believe it. Another year he was in a string of bad, serious car accidents. He was proven to be not at fault in all of them but he lost his insurance because he was deemed “statistically unlucky.” You can confirm these stories with him if you want, but he’s certainly one of a kind. It’s exciting to be in this anthology with him.

P: Do you compartmentalize your life and if so, how many compartments does it have?
SThat’s an interesting question. On one hand, I feel like I don’t compartmentalize, that everything in my life affects and is affected by everything else. Whether I’m working, teaching, taking care of the kids, or taking out the trash, I believe if I can do one thing well, it can help me do other things well too (of course, I’ve only come to this conclusion because I’ve done things poorly and failed so many times in my life and continue to do so) (but luckily, I’m good at not dwelling on those failures). On the other hand, I’m good at forgetting about everything else in my life when I’m doing something. When I am writing, that’s the only thing on my mind. Sometimes I’ll find myself in the middle of a run and suddenly “remember” that I’ve got twin babies at home. Of course, I don’t want to give the impression I’m always this way—there  are lots of times I’m distracted, feeding one of the babies and playing Words with Friends on my phone. I burn a lot of toast and have a lot of unfinished projects and I.... I fear this answer is getting confusing so I think I better stop now.

P: Okay, Steve, imagine this. You get a phone call from Frank telling you that he’s bringing Nancy, Mike, and me to your place for dinner. We’ve never met. Your wife and family are away. What would you do in preparation of our visit and what meal would you prepare? Can you describe the evening?
S: Well, first of all, it’s really a shame my wife and the kids are gone because I would have loved for you all to meet them! As far as dinner goes, I’ve got a few good recipes, but if I had the time I’d make a big pot of my south-of-the-border chicken chili (that’s south of the US border). This is pretty good, very healthy, and I can make it in advance of your arrival so I won’t be busy in the kitchen when you all arrive. I’ll have some drinks available, beer, wine, water, soda. I’d hope we could sit around the table chatting a long while before we ate and then again after dinner. And ideally, at the end of the night, you’d offer to host us all at your place for the next meal and Nancy, Mike, and Frank would follow suit and it would be the start of a great tradition.

P: This is your chance to tell the world (in 500 words or less) something we should know about you that we haven’t already covered. A new story or publication in the works, perhaps?
S:  As far as my writing goes, I have finished a book for composition teachers titled  “Teaching the Way:  Using the Principles of ‘The Art of War’ to Teach Composition” and I really want to find a way to get that to readers. I’ve been sending it to agents and publishers but haven’t had any luck yet. In the past when I’ve tried to get other things published and haven’t been able to do so, I inevitably get to a point where I say to myself, well, okay, I guess the world doesn’t really need my novel (there are so many good ones out there already). But it’s different with this because I think this book could be a really valuable resource for teachers—one that could make their lives better, make their students’ lives better, and  make the world a better place (better writers being better thinkers being better people is the root of that argument), so I’m going to keep trying to get this one published. That’s my main writing-related goal right now. In the meantime, I am looking forward to sharing “Our Plan to Save the World” with readers. Maybe that can make the world a better place as well J

Steve Nelson lives and writes in Chicago.  He earned his PhD in Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and have had work published in The Rambler, Storyglossia, eye-rhyme, The Absinthe Literary Review, The Rathalla Review, and elsewhere.  His essay “Mind Wide Open” is included in the anthology The Runner’s High:  Illumination and Ecstasy in Motion and “Night at the Store” was published in Phantasmagoria and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. 


  1. Steve, as always, is the kindest, gentlest man I know; however, if you run with him, he will bury you. He's a talented writer, teacher, editor, father, and athlete. Yeah, it's annoying. Still, I love the guy.
    Frank Sikora