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Writer, birder Nelson to read

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Writer and birder Kent Nelson of Colorado will read from his work Tuesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. at Glen Helen. (submitted photo)

Writer and birder Kent Nelson of Colorado will read from his work Tuesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. at Glen Helen. (submitted photo)

Kent Nelson’s twin passions for writing and birding work well together. For instance, birding takes him to remote and exotic locations, such as an Aleutian island in Alaska, where the Yupik village he visited inspired a short story — about birders who go to Alaska. The story, “Spirit Bird,” is the title story of his new short story collection, which recently won the 2014 University of Pittsburgh Press Drue Heinz Literature Award.

Nelson will read a short story and possibly talk about birding — he’s a “lister” with 757 birds on his list — on Tuesday, April 21 at 7 p.m. at the Glen Helen Auditorium in Glen Helen, 405 Corry St. The event is sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Press with the help of Glen Helen and the Antioch Review.

The Drue Heinz award is among the most prestigious of short story awards, according to Antioch Review Editor Robert Fogarty, who is a fan of Nelson’s work — the literary journal has published eight or nine of Nelson’s stories in the past decade, with another coming out soon. Fogarty sees a connection between Nelson’s fascination with birding and his creative work in that “some of his stories are about individuals in flight, people going from one place to another.”

To author David Guterson, the judge of this year’s Drue Heinz award, “‘The Spirit Bird’ indicates a seasoned talent at work. It’s a collecton set in disparate geographies and touching on disparate lives, but it explores consistently the terrain of loneliness and yearning. One of its more impressive features is the way it artfully balances saying too much with saying too little. These stories open out instead of closing up. They’re moving, which is hard to do, and surprising in the sense that we’re unprepared for how they end.”

According to Nelson, he too is often surprised at the ending or the direction a story takes. He finds the process of writing to be one of exploration and discovery, in which he begins with a character and a place and “figures out from there where the story might go,” he wrote in a press release. Referencing Peter O’Toole’s description of the process of acting, Nelson considers writing a blend of “magic and sweat.”

Nelson, of Ouray, Colorado, also holds a Juris Doctor in Environmental Law degree from Harvard Law School. He has written the novels “Language in the Blood” and “Land That Moves, Land That Stands Still,” along with several collections of short stories. His work has been included in “Best American Short Stories.”

Comparing novels and short stories, Nelson said in a recent interview that stories provide the opportunity to find meaning in a small event. Overall, he said, “Writing allows you to be curious your whole life. It’s a way of paying attention and a great way to live.”
Contact: dchiddister@ysnews.com

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