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He’s currently wrapping up his fourth book in a series titled “The Amygdala Hijack,” with “a battered but ambitious lawyer” at its center. “It explores the possibility of a new legal defense of mental illness,” Nelson said.
Nelson’s experience as an attorney comes in handy as an interviewer. He said he talks with writers ahead of time to find out: “Are they open? Funny? Do they have some effervescence about them?”
“I always tell people, you tell me what questions you want to address,” he said. Once someone gets to talking about something they’re passionate about, “You don’t have to ask questions. You can sit back and nod.”
During the event, Nelson also looks for “some emotional aspect of the writing” that speaks to the audience, he said.
Nelson also encourages the authors to use visuals or props to make the event more interactive. The discussions have included original pieces of music, dried peat samples and watermelon radishes. “We’re such visual people because of TV,” he said. “It brings another sensory thing to the talk.”
Along the way, Nelson has picked up tips and tricks for his writing. For example, one guest said that when she gets blocked in a chapter, “rather than trying to force things or worse, stopping, she simply jumps ahead,” returning to that spot once the material is flowing again. Nelson has since adopted that strategy.
Connecting with readers
Golden Valley resident Mary Logue, who’s had five books come out in recent months, was a guest on the Author’s Studio last year. Nelson does his homework, and he asks thoughtful questions. It results in a far more interesting dialogue than a typical speech, Logue said. Nelson’s examines “the life of a writer, what’s it’s like. It gives a bigger sense of the body of work.”
Cookbook writer Beth Dooley, who lives in Minneapolis, also appreciated the fact that Nelson gave her cookbooks a close read. He also took the time to gather plenty of background information, Dooley said. “I write cookbooks that people want to read at night in bed,” with colorful narratives sprinkled in. She writes about “how sourcing food close to home provides you with amazing flavors and a wealth of stories.” Often, she tries to connect readers to place, something that Nelson seemed to understand, Dooley said.
For the authors, the program is an opportunity to engage new readers. Julie Kramer of White Bear Lake, who worked in TV news before penning fictional accounts about the industry, said that major publishing houses don’t promote titles the way they used to. Nowadays, it’s up to individual authors to get their work on the radar. “The Author’s Studio” was a nice opportunity to do just that, she said.
Anna Pratt is a Minneapolis freelance writer. She can be reached at email@example.com.