Kent Nelson birding on Attu Island, Alaska in spring of last year.

(Photo: Courtesy Julio Mulero)

Ouray author Kent Nelson's new collection of short stories, "The Spirit Bird," won him The Drue Heinz Literature Prize, a prestigious award for short fiction.

Nelson joined "Colorado Matters" to talk about his new book and why he started to write. Listen to the interview at the audio link above and read highlights below.

On the theme of wealth inequality in his new book:

"One of the biggest problems in the United States is the division between rich and poor; how wealth is distributed -- or not. And I like to think about that with my characters as people who confront that problem."

On why he likes to write female characters:

"Because they articulate things more deeply and I think they have more emotional responses to the world."

On the college writing class that changed his life:

"I was on my way to law school at the time I took this class. I was going to be governor of Colorado. But I got short-circuited by this class. I just loved the class. I loved writing fiction. I finished law school, worked three jobs for a year, started writing, and have never really done anything else."

On birding and writing: 

Nelson says his "nemesis bird" (the one he hasn't managed to see) is the curlew sandpiper. Photo licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

(Photo: Wikimedia commons/JJ Harrison)

"I've said many times birding is just a great hobby for a writer because it gets you out in a lot of different habitats. And when you're looking for birds, you see many more things than just the birds. You see the weather, the habitat, the plants."