Luke Nielsen, an art teacher at St. Ansgar High School, is starting a new media venture entitled Luke Nielsen Media.
The enterprise includes various projects, including a blog, a podcast, and, as of recently, some video content, as well.
Nielsen says the new endeavor stemmed from his lifelong creative tendencies.
“I’ve always loved writing and creating, so I would occasionally write things for my own amusement, but then about five years ago, I got sick,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen says while the illness was not life-threatening, there was a significant stretch of time where he felt very unwell and could not get much of an answer to questions about his health.
This uncertainty and frustration, Nielsen says, motivated him to become more serious in his creative pursuits.
“It sounds a little cliche, but it opened my eyes and made me realize that nothing’s guaranteed,” Nielsen said. “You might wake up sick one day, or you might not wake up at all. So I asked myself, ‘What are some things I want to do or say, especially for my own children, while I have the time to do it?’.”
Nielsen says the idea started with a blog, where he would occasionally post short creative pieces. He would also make things for his children, namely short stories. His creative exploits garnered positive responses from those who viewed them, according to Nielsen. This positive reaction further inspired him.
“The little bit that I would share seemed to make a connection with a few people, so I was like, maybe I’ll just try and do this,” Nielsen said.
From there, Nielsen created his own web site, lukenielsen.com, which features the blog and a podcast.
“I know everyone and their cousin has a podcast now, but it seemed like a cool thing to do. I like that format where you can just sit and talk to people,” Nielsen said.
On the podcast, Nielsen has interviewed several guests including his brothers Logan and Landan, as well as fellow St. Ansgar High School teacher Jason Squier.
“It was a lot of fun,” Squier said of the experience. “It was my first time doing a podcast, so I was kind of nervous, but I very quickly became comfortable. We talked a lot about growing up without a lot of money, and how that influenced how we attack our lives and our work.”
Nielsen’s younger brother Logan, a stand-up comedian in Chicago, was similarly enthusiastic about the experience.
“I’ve done his podcast twice now and we’ve mostly focused on my recent struggles with mental health. I noticed that most of the existing media out there seems to be from the perspective of after the struggle is over. Luke had the idea of recording a conversation with somebody while they’re still in it,” Logan Nielsen said.
The younger Nielsen said he was nervous, as he had never spoken publicly about his issues before, but knew if there was one person with whom he was comfortable discussing them on tape, it was his brother.
“It was an incredibly rewarding experience, not just because it felt great, but because of the amazing outpour of people who reached out to share their own experiences with the same issues,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen is also acquiring a publishing deal for his book currently in the works. At this point, he says the project began simply as an outlet for random creative outputs but became something significant.
“Then it was sort of like, ‘Ok, this is actually becoming a thing’,” Nielsen said. “It’s not like I ever intended this to be anything more than extra stuff to do in addition to teaching, but once you sign a publishing deal and have a book coming out, there’s sort of an expectation to network and get yourself out there. If I’m going to do that, I want it to be something I enjoy and find purposeful.”
Nielsen says his big goal for this year is to release the book. He signed the publishing deal in August and has enjoyed watching the many steps a book takes in order to become a fully developed, marketable product.
“It’s been neat seeing that process of getting everything approved, even things like cover art,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen says he has also enjoyed getting to interact with people on the more technical side of writing, such as editors and publishers.
“Now I have an editor who does my content editing, and another editor who just answers general questions,” Nielsen said. “Getting to work with those types of people and interact in that way has been good.”
Nielsen hopes to have the book out in the near future, as it is currently in the final stages of editing.
“We’re in the content editing stage right now, which mainly means going through and making sure everything makes sense,” Nielsen said. “Next is line editing, which is just checking to see that commas and other punctuation are where they’re supposed to be.”
The book, Nielsen says, is a science fiction story set in a Gene Roddenberry-esque, idyllic future where problems like war and poverty have been solved.
“People from Earth have the freedom to explore the cosmos and do whatever they want, and the main character, this kid Ernest, gets separated from his family on this trip,” Nielsen said.
Ernest winds up on a planet he doesn’t understand, which Nielsen says is intended to represent a part of Earth’s history, specifically America in the 1960s.
“It sounds maybe more far out than it is,” Nielsen said.
Nielsen says while the book has a science fiction setting, the story itself is actually more grounded in reality.
“The book is geared at middle and high school students and deals with the theme of what it feels like to be an outsider,” Nielsen said. “You’re starting to get an understanding of the larger world at that point and how some things don’t make sense to you. Whether it’s bullying, or feeling like you don’t fit in, the book deals with those themes.”
Nielsen expects to have a release date for the book soon, but in the meantime he intends to continue writing pieces for his blog and record interviews for the podcast.