Posts by deannelson

The New King of Iceland

My Nov. 22 2015 New York Times story about the Literary Scene in Iceland made the national news in that country, and was on the front page of the national broadcasting service website. You can read it here. If you can’t read Icelandic, my summary of the article is that the reporter says my story was the best thing ever written about Iceland, and that they want me to move there and become king. I may have missed some of the nuance, but that’s pretty much what it said. And if you want to read the story I did for the
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You Thought You Knew Something About Iceland? Bet You Didn’t Know This

  This story of mine originally appeared in the New York Times Nov. 22, 2015 Standing in the dark outside the Reykjavik public Library in the relentless damp chill that comes with a light rain at 40 degrees, I kept trying to zip up my jacket. The charcoal sky was a shade lighter than the inky ocean a few blocks away, but it was noon, not twilight. I had a few minutes to bundle up before an outdoor walking tour on literary Iceland began. As if on cue, the zipper snapped off in my hand. I could write here, I
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Where Do You Go To Heal a Broken Heart?

This essay of mine originally appeared on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog.   I think it was the ax that made me stop the longest. It was the ax a man used to break up his girlfriend’s furniture when she said she wanted to break up with him. But there were other compelling items, too. The wedding dress, the joker card, the stun gun, the Galileo thermograph, the three-volume set of Proust, the stuffed animals, the unopened letters, the court summons for rape. All of these things were on display at the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb, Croatia, when I
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When All That You Have Is Exactly What Someone Needs

This essay of mine originally appeared on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog.   David and I walk through the hilly, rocky area that used to be his bean field. He reaches down and pulls up a hollow bean plant. It’s as dry as straw. “It stopped raining here almost a year ago, so nothing will grow,” he said. It’s hard to imagine any life in this field right now. It’s really, really hot. The ground is useless. Or maybe not. The area around us is full of activity. Children playing, laughing, crying. The hacking sound of a machete on wood. Adults
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Plotting Revenge Feels So Good, Until It Doesn’t

This essay of mine originally appeared on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog.   I have a friend who rides bikes. Expensive bikes. Ultra-light bikes. And you know what the rule is about bikes, right? The lighter they are, the more expensive they are. My friend’s bikes cost many thousands of dollars. We both live in San Diego, where there are some great bike trails. He can go inland to the desert, up the coast along spectacular ocean views, down to the border – anywhere he wants. They all involve pretty serious hills. Most mornings he rides anywhere from 50 to 100
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Travel Advisory: Don’t Jump to Conclusions

This essay of mine first appeared on Donald Miller’s Storyline blog.   If you’re traveling this summer, there is a chance you’ll be going through an airport or two. Would you mind if I offered some insight? It comes from several confrontations with TSA agents and law enforcement personnel whom I thought were on just a bit of a power trip. But that’s my issue. It might not be yours. Context is everything. Last year a TSA agent pulled a jar of hair gel out of my backpack as if it were an Improvised Explosive Device, and held it high
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The One Question We Should All Ask of Each Other and Ourselves

This essay of mine first appeared on Donald Miller’s Storylineblog on June 4, 2015. When one has a literature degree and no plans for graduate school or a career in teaching, and no real sense of what the word “vocation” means, there are few options. This was the situation I faced after I graduated from college. Maybe you can relate. You’ve got a degree but you aren’t sure what to do with it. Anyway, so I did what everyone with no marketable skills seems to do in my situation. I went to work for a church. Kidding! I really did
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What Are Friends For? Sometimes It’s Easier Than You Think

This essay of mine appeared on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog. One of the reasons I looked forward to moving back to the town where I grew up was that my best friend through my teenage years was still there. After I graduated from high school, I moved a lot and was back in my home town infrequently—once was to be a groomsman in his wedding. He was a groomsman in mine. When I moved back, though, something wasn’t right. We’d make plans to get together, and about half the time he wouldn’t show up. When we did see each other,
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Talking About Writing in La Jolla, Chicago, and on the USS Midway

How’s this for three straight weekends of talking about writing? The first was at the La Jolla Writer’s Conference, where I did workshops on “What the Greats Have Taught Me,” based on my 20 years of interviewing writers at our annual Writer’s Symposium By The Sea; “10 Things I Hate About You,” based on my more than 40 years of professional writing, where I discuss what editors hate most about writers; “Modern Travel Writing,” based on workshops I recently did in Iceland for the Society of American Travel Writers and on my experience writing travel stories for the New York
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Categories: Talks.

Reaching For The Sky

This essay of mine originally appeared on Donald Miller’s Storyline Blog site. Three things startled me recently. First: While taking a walk near my house, I came around a corner just as a woman was cleaning up an impressive pile that her dog, a Bullmastiff, had deposited on the sidewalk. My sudden appearance surprised both of them, but I was worried about only one of them. He charged. A Bullmastiff is, I’m pretty sure, a descendant of the Mastodon. That’s where the “mast” in Bullmastiff comes from. I haven’t looked that up, but I don’t really need to. Second: I
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