Friday, August 23, 2013

World of Writing, interview

-- World of Writing --

Yes, it is time for another World of Writing interview here on our blog... today we are enjoying hearing from Jerry Nelson:

Jerry Nelson is an American freelance photojournalist now based in South America. His newest book, Journey America: Behind the Image, is collection of stories about the images highlighted on the homepage of his website,
Nelson has visited all 50 states and over 50 countries working as a traveling photojournalist, an adventure and travel photographer and a curious writer. The tagline on his website sums up his mission: “I see it. I Shoot it. I Live it. Join the adventure”

Q: Who inspired you to pursue a career in writing?
Jim Arrendel.  Jim is a good friend in Asheville, North Carolina.  Several years ago Jim and I were talking and I was complaining about how everyone with a camera thought they were a photographer and this mindset was making it harder for legitimate photographers to find work.  Jim had been a follower of my blog,, liked my writing style and suggested I see if I could make it as a writer as well as photographer.

Q: How does writing help you make a difference in the world?
Along with the images, writing helps me to move from the task of telling someone about a social justice issue to showing them.  I try to use my writing and photography to compliment each other combining these tools by using the images to show the story as if for a deaf person and the words to tell the story as if for a blind person. I get emails frequently from people who tell me that they feel they are living vicariously through my work and, I guess, that does make a small difference — at least in that person’s world.

Q: Can you tell us what editors typically look for in a query letter or project proposal?
Brevity and appeal.  Editors are busy people and don’t have time to wade through a ‘mini-version’ of a story, yet, whatever you write had better catch their attention.  Brevity and appeal are two opposing goals until you try this exercise.  Take your latest story idea and reduce it to one paragraph.  Then reduce the paragraph to one sentence.  Then reduce the sentence to 140 characters — or the length of one tweet.  When you can Tweet your story idea in 140 characters and get people to respond, THEN you have a great query letter!

Q: What do you do when you are not writing?
Wow.  Great question.  It sounds trite, but when I’m not writing I’m thinking about writing.  I refuse to go anywhere without the camera so I’m also always taking images of what I see and my mind rolls around captions, extended captions and stories to go with the images.  Someone once said, “Find a job you like and you’ll never have to work a day in your life.”  That’s what I’ve been blessed with.  My job is to capture images, write stories and share the world with others.  Three things that I would gladly do for free, except I get paid to do them; so, I really don’t ever stop ‘working’.

Q: What gave you the idea or inspiration for this book?
Over 5,000 Facebook friends and 14,000 followers of my blog continue to inspire me.  I’ve been writing stories for media outlets for quite a few years and the stories behind the picture were usually saved for late night bull sessions with other photographers; I never thought anyone would be interested in hearing how a certain image came to be.  Then one night after I got caught in a buffalo stampede I was talking to my wife (then fiancé) Ale, telling her the story and she suggested that I really start to write the stories “behind the image”; so that’s how the title and the seed of the book was planted.

Q: What were some of the challenges you faced in writing your non-fiction books?
This will be the ninth book I’ve done, but it will be the first where the words were as important as the images.  The other books had prose, but it was mainly in the form of extended captions.  This is the first to really give “equal billing” to both.  The challenge in this book was to find the ‘sweet spot’ in each story; the balance of giving the reader enough information so they could feel as though they were with me behind the lens when I pushed the shutter, yet not so much information as to bore them.  I’ve tried in the writing to remember that less is really more and allow the reader’s mind to connect-the-dots and fill in the pieces of the story that are untold.

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