Kevin Nelson

Great Stories Found Here

Category: Personal Stories

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

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

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

Finally, I Make My Son Proud

The other day my friend Max sent me a picture he had uncovered of us. I am the middle person here, the one with the beard. Max is on the left; another friend, Dan, is on the right. I was twenty at the time the picture was taken, on the day of my brother’s wedding. This is why I am in the tux. (I did not wear the wool cap during the ceremony!)

My older son is turning twenty this year, and he just shaved off a beard he had been growing for a while. I emailed him this picture to show him how his old man once had a pretty good beard, too. He liked it and texted it to some of his friends, many of whom commented favorably. Then, on Father’s Day, he shared the photo on SnapChat, saying, “Hey, this was what my dad looked like back in the day,” and he received a bunch more favorable responses. Finally, I made my son proud!

How I Sold Operation Bullpen to the Movies

It’s Sunday afternoon in the banquet room of a hotel in West Hollywood. I’m sitting across the table from a Hollywood producer pitching her on why my book, Operation Bullpen: The Inside Story of the Biggest Forgery Scam in American History, will make a great movie.

“It’s all true,” I tell her. “I’m not making a word of this up. It all happened.”

“Great,” she tells me. “I love true stories.”

“It’s about a group of people who basically start with nothing and create a $100 million forgery ring, the biggest in America.”

Suddenly the producer looks puzzled, like she ate something bad. “How? What are they forging?”

“Fake autographs. You know, Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali, superstars like that. And they’re forging these autographs on baseballs, jerseys, photos, posters—you name it. They produce hundreds of thousands of fakes and sell them on the home shopping channels, eBay, stores, all over the place. And they make millions in cash.”

“Okay,” she says, finally getting it. “What’s the story?” Continue reading

How to Get Your Children Away from Electronics and Reading Books Again

“Wow! A book. What a neat present!”

When Hank was a boy, he read voraciously, gobbling up Alex Rider, Harry Potter and other books like peanuts at a ballgame.

Then we got him an iPhone and his appetite for books dried up seemingly overnight. I asked him about this change and he said, “I hate to read. Books are boring.”

A similar change occurred with Gabe. When the iPhone—and iPad and gaming systems—entered the picture, his youthful interest in books evaporated.

I know from talking with other parents that our experience is hardly unusual. Boys and girls read fewer books once they fall prey to the siren song of phones and social media. But the prognosis for the written word is hardly dim. In many ways it’s very bright. Continue reading

Travel, and Other Writing

Besides writing books and blogs, I have a reporting background. I am a former newspaper reporter and magazine editor. Additionally I have contributed to a variety of online and print media.

In recent years I have done a lot of travel writing. My travel pieces for Examiner.com were consistently ranked in the top 25 nationally for writers contributing to the site. And FlipKey By TripAdvisor rated my Napa Valley-Sonoma blog as a top Wine Country site. Continue reading

Grace Brothers Mysteries: Q&A with the Author

Grace Brothers Mysteries: Searching for Sweetness is the debut new novel of award-winning author Kevin L. Nelson. Here is an interview with the author about his new book.

Q: That is certainly an exciting start to chapter one. Tell us more about the book.

Nelson: Well, as you can see, it begins with a robbery in a supermarket in Steelhead City. That’s where the two  teenage brothers at the center of the action,  Nathan and Matt Grace, live. The robbery involves them in the baffling disappearance  of a local girl named Sweetness who has been kidnapped by the notorious T/3 gang. It’s an action adventure mystery novel for ages ten and up. Continue reading

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mother died twelve years ago, and I still miss her. Today would have been her birthday, had she lived.

Marde Nelson

She was a rock in my life. She raised  my brother and me after my dad died when we were teenagers, and she achieved so many other things in her life.

A graduate of the University of Oklahoma with a master’s degree, she was a social worker, a financial counselor, and an elementary school teacher for 20 years. Born and raised in Oklahoma, she and her husband Delmar, my father, moved to Arizona, then Hayward, California. Hayward is where I grew up. Continue reading

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