Kevin Nelson

Great Stories Found Here

‘Who wouldn’t be a mountaineer? Up here all the world’s prizes seem nothing.’

Victoria Lakes, near Victoria Pass, off Highway 395 in the eastern Sierra of California. The scene is God’s creation; the words belong to John Muir.

How to Survive a Trip to the top of Yosemite’s Half Dome

Note from Kevin Nelson: This piece won recognition in a travel writing contest sponsored by Dave’s Travel Corner, which drew entries from around the world. It’s about an adventurous trip to the top of one of the world’s most remarkable peaks. Here’s the start of the story, with the jump switching you over to Dave’s to read the exciting finale. Enjoy!

The plastic water bottle skidded off the granite and disappeared. It wasn’t the sound the bottle made that disturbed me. It was the silence that followed its rapid disappearance.

Along with twenty to twenty-five other people I was perched on the east face of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, the world-famous granite slab that John Muir called “the most beautiful and most sublime of all the wonderful Yosemite rocks.” We were climbing the cables that lead up the backside to its 8,842-foot summit. The message in the bottle needed no translation. It was as clear as the pale blue sky above us.

Hug the cables tight, and we’d all be fine. They meant safe passage up and down. My problem was that I was feeling woozy and lightheaded, unsure if I should—or could—take another step upward. To read more, please click here….

My Adventures with Pixar Studios

It was one of those phone calls you always love to receive as an author. Pixar Studios was on the line, and they wanted to take a meeting with me.

“Sure,” I said. “Love to.”

            The meeting occurred ten days later at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, a small city across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco and about forty-five minutes by car from my home. The studios are behind a gated entrance. I parked and walked into a lovely amphitheater and open space where Pixar employees take lunch and hold company events and meetings. In a courtyard was the famous lamp, which is the company symbol and always makes an appearance in the credits at the start of every Pixar movie.

      Continue reading

Ziplining through the redwoods

There is a wealth of things to do in California’s wine country. Here is an activity you may not have thought of: Ziplining through Sonoma’s coastal redwoods.

A boy in flight.

My son and I took a “flight” through the forests of Occidental in Sonoma County, about two hours north of San Francisco. I’d heartily recommend it for families or anyone who is looking for something a little different than the usual Sonoma and Napa Valley pleasures of wine tasting and dining. Continue reading

How to be a Better Writer

Hemingway’s advice for writing well was simple: Run it through the typewriter one more time. We no longer have typewriters but the advice is still sound.

Ernest Hemingway, as a young man.

Almost without fail a second draft is better than a first. It is shorter, tighter, and less of a strain on your reader’s attention. For this blog post I went through three drafts. 1) I jotted my thoughts down on a legal pad. 2) I typed it up on my iMac. 3) I left it for a moment, came back, made a few last edits, and I was done. The whole process took twenty minutes.

This simple advice will help you write better books as well as better blogs, articles, and school papers. Just send it through the word processor one more time.

FYI. If you’re a young person looking for a good book, try Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. My personal favorites of his, though more for adults, are his novel A Farewell to Arms and A Moveable Feast, his memoir of living in Paris in the 1920s and ’30s.

What do you do when you’re a writer, and you’re rejected?

To be a writer is to be rejected. Many article and book ideas of mine have been rejected. If you’re not being rejected, you’re not trying hard enough.

Irma S. Rombauer, author of Joy of Cooking, rejected by publishers.

The question is, How should writers react when they receive those inevitable rejections? Well, don’t give up. That’s the first and most important thing. Know that you are not alone, and that the very best who have ever practiced this craft have all been rejected, often when they were unknown and just starting out.

Back in the days when publishers and editors issued rejection notices on paper, William Saroyan would write “I reject your rejection!” across the face of the rejection letter and send it back to the person who rejected him. Continue reading

6 Truths We Can Learn From Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson

Born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson is the owner-chef of Red Rooster Harlem, Marcus National Harbor, and an upcoming new eatery planned for the Overtown district of Miami. A TV star and best-selling author, his life story has truths and insights for anyone who eats and cooks in today’s world—which is, after all, all of us. Here are six of those truths: Continue reading

What Dogs Can Teach Us About Overcoming Disappointment and Defeat

“Squirrel? Duck? What you got?” Ruby is ready to chase something at this pond.

On a walk this morning, Ruby lit out after a squirrel she saw at the foot of an oak tree. She went all out, from the drop, to get that squirrel.

She didn’t get it.

She did not in fact even come close. Squirrels appear to like to torture her and dogs in general. This one hesitated a second, as if to lure her in with the tantalizing possibility that she might catch it, only to scurry easily up the tree out of reach.

“Hah hah,” it squeaked. “Can’t catch me.”

Undismayed, Ruby trotted back to me after her fruitless chase, thinking nothing of it. It occurred to me that humans can learn a lot from dogs on how to handle disappointment and defeat. Continue reading

Visit Luther Burbank’s Home and Gardens in Santa Rosa

Luther Burbank was to plants what Steve Jobs was to computers. A creative genius who could take a thing and combine it with another thing, and in so doing make the original thing better and even sometimes new.

Luther Burbank, left, and Henry Ford.

At the time of his death, in 1926, Burbank was one of the most famous men in America, certainly the most famous horticulturalist. Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, Helen Keller, Jack London, John Muir, and other luminaries of the time visited him at his home and gardens in Santa Rosa, about an hour north of San Francisco, to see him and a few of the wonders he had created such as the spineless cactus.

Continue reading

I Have Four Children. Their Names are Annie, Hank, Gabe and Leah

Many people do not know that Jennifer and I had a baby, Leah, who died. She was born Monday, November 25, 1996, and died Friday November 29, 1996, after five days of living only in a hospital. She had breathing problems she could not overcome.

Leah with her parents, in the last hour of her life.

One of the reasons that many people do not know about Leah is that I do not tell them about her. Privately, among our family and close friends, we of course speak of her and remember her. Every November around her birthday, a time of year that is particularly hard for her mother, we recognize her life by lighting a candle or hiking, as a family, up to the hill where we scattered her ashes. We talk about her freely with our sons, who never met her and will never understand the impact she has had on their lives.

Among people I do not know, however, talking about Leah represents an awkward challenge. Whenever a new book of mine comes out, the publisher releases biographical material about me that typically mentions the fact that I have children. I often speak publicly in front of groups, and occasionally do radio and TV interviews. These, too, generally mention my children, at least in passing, and this is where the awkwardness comes in. Do I tell people I have four children, or three? Continue reading

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