Nelson, Peter N. 1953–

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Nelson, Peter N. 1953–

PERSONAL: Born February 8, 1953, in Minneapolis, MN; son of Newell N. (an economist) and Lois (a homemaker and secretary) Nelson; married Diane Porcella, July 8, 1989. Education: St. Olaf College, B.A. (English) and B.A. (art; cum laude), 1975; University of Iowa, M.F.A., 1979. Politics: Independent. Hobbies and other interests: "In my spare time I play with my dog, work in the garden, paint or draw, and I sometimes play piano in a country-western dance band."

ADDRESSES: Agent—Zachary-Shuster-Hormsworth, 888 7th Ave., New York, NY 10106.

CAREER: Freelance journalist, 1981–. Teacher of creative writing at Rhode Island School of Design and St. Lawrence University.

AWARDS, HONORS: James Michener fellowship, 1981; fiction grant, Rhode Island State Arts Council, 1985; playwriting fellow, Massachusetts Artists Foundation; Edgar Allan Poe Award nomination, Mystery Writers of America, 1992, for Scarface; Christopher Award, books for young people category, 2003, for Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis.



Sylvia Smith-Smith, Harlequin (Buffalo, NY), 1987.

Fast Lane West, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

Night of Fire, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

Scarface, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1991.

Deadly Lessons, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.

Dangerous Waters, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1992.

Double Dose, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.

First to Die, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.


Real Man Tells All: Confessions of an Eligible Bachelor (collected columns), Viking (New York, NY), 1987.

Marry like a Man: The Essential Guide for Grooms, Plume (New York, NY), 1992.

(With Jack Brehm) That Others May Live: The True Story of a PJ, a Member of America's Most Daring Rescue Force, Crown Publishers (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Jack Brehm) That Others May Live: Real-Life Heroes of the Perfect Storm, Three Rivers Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Left for Dead: A Young Man's Search for Justice for the USS Indianapolis (young adult), Delacorte Press (New York, NY), 2002.

The Christmas List (novel), Rutledge Hill Press (Nashville, TN), 2004.

Also author of the screenplay Crazytime. Author of "His," a column in Mademoiselle. Contributor to periodicals, including Esquire, Harper's, New England Monthly, Redbook, and Special Report.

ADAPTATIONS: Some of Nelson's writings have been recorded as audiobooks, including That Others Might Live: The True Story of a PJ, a Member of America's Most Daring Rescue Force.

SIDELIGHTS: Peter N. Nelson once commented: "I was born on the eighth of February, 1953, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the second of four children. My father, Newell N. Nelson, worked as an economist for General Mills until retiring in 1987. My mother, Lois, was a mother and later a secretary until she retired in 1989. I attended Washburn High School, in Minneapolis, and later St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota, majoring in art and English, bachelor degrees cum laude, 1975, my studies including a year at St. Peter's College in Oxford, England. I taught English and studied poetry at the University of Arizona, in Tucson, from 1976 to 1977, but transferred to the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, in Iowa City, where I finished an M.F.A. in poetry in 1979. By the time I finished my degree, I was writing only fiction. In 1981, I received a James Michener Fellowship, an award given to promising first novelists, and moved to Portland, Oregon.

"The grant, which lasted a year and a half, bought me the time to establish myself as a freelance writer. My very first publication appeared in Esquire in 1982, after which I moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where I taught creative writing at the Rhode Island School of Design (briefly), while making frequent trips to New York City to find magazine work. I continued to write both fiction and nonfiction throughout the 1980s. In 1992, I taught creative writing at St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York.

"For two years I wrote the 'His' column for Mademoiselle; those columns were collected in a volume called Real Man Tells All: Confessions of an Eligible Bachelor.

"My short stories appearing in Seventeen were collected in a volume named after the title character, Sylvia Smith-Smith, a girl whose mother had the same last name as her father but refused to take it when they married. Sylvia Smith-Smith was based on a real girl I knew named Marah who hated anchovies. One night at dinner, when Marah was perhaps twelve years old, her stepfather and I tried to get her to eat a single anchovy. We each took a ten dollar bill from our wallets and laid the money on the table before her—hers for the consumption of a mere hairy fish. She refused, though twenty dollars is a lot of money for a twelve-year-old, even today. I admired her gumption so much that I wanted to put it into a story, and so Sylvia was born.

"How the career of writing Sylvia Smith-Smith stories and books (as well as other young adult material) came about is equally accidental. I sold the first Sylvia story to Seventeen magazine. After it was published, my agent called to say Seventeen really liked it and wondered if I had any more Sylvia stories. I said I did not. My agent, sounding puzzled, thought I did and advised me that, if I did, I should send them to Seventeen. I thought, well, 'duh' … and said I would … if I were to write another. I had no plans to do so. Several months later the fiction editor from Seventeen called and said, 'I don't want to pressure you, but the story is scheduled for March, and we need to know what it's about so we can get the art department started.' 'What what's about?' I asked. They had thought they'd assigned another Sylvia story, commissioned one, I should say, but my agent (my first one—I've since gotten another, for obvious reasons) had failed to accurately convey the message. 'Give me a week,' I told the fiction editor. I wrote one story, wasn't thrilled with it, wrote a second which I liked better, all in a week, mailed them both, and Seventeen bought them both. Three stories became a series, which became a book, which became a series of books."



Children's Bookwatch, April, 1993, review of Night of Fire, p. 7.

Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, January, 1993, review of Dangerous Waters, p. 11.

Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1993, review of Dangerous Waters, p. 28; August, 1993, review of Sylvia Smith-Smith, p. 156.

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Nelson, Peter N. 1953–

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