Now residing in South Dakota, Mary Nelson Keithahn and her family have had a long relationship with Carleton College.
A 1956 graduate, it was there she met her husband; and between their two families, they have a least a dozen familial connections to the school.
“Two of my children went there, and my other child married a Carleton graduate,” she said. “And my grandson is the class of 2018. We love the school.”
A retired United Church of Christ minister and church educator, Nelson Keithahn has become a prolific writer. Previously having published collections of hymns, she has recently branched out with publishing two diverse books and still has two additional titles planned for publication this year.
The first is titled “Embracing The Light,” and it is a collection of meditations as well as personal reflections on her own travels.
The second is a children’s book — “Elfie: Adventures on the Midwest Frontier.” Both titles are available from Lilja Press.
Nelson Keithahn said “Embracing The Light” came together after she decided to collect personal writings on her own travels, as well as meditations she used during her time as a minister.
She said the children’s book came together from her interest in genealogy.
“I connected with cousins using Ancestry.com,” she said. “One of them shared a memoir his great great grandmother wrote about the experience of the family relocating to Illinois before The Civil War.”
It was stories from her own grandfather’s history as well as this Civil War-era story that inspired her to begin working on “Elfie.”
The book is also a family project for Nelson Keithahn, as she involved both her oldest and youngest granddaughters — the oldest did the watercolor illustrations, and the youngest provided the font for the front cover.
She said she hopes a book like “Elfie,” with its base in history, inspires young readers to think about what life was like in the past.
“I also hope that children are interested to find out about their own family and how they are a part of history,” she added.
Not one to slow down, Nelson Keithahn has another collection of hymns slated for release this year, along with a volume of bible-based songs for children. Additionally, she still has more stories she’d like to tell — including her husband’s childhood encounter with Mahatma Gandhi.
Vice President of Lilja Communications, Linda Tedford, worked with Nelson Keithahn on both books.
Nelson Keithahn also shares a Carleton College connection — Tedford was classmates with Nelson Keithahn’s son Philip — which is how she was introduced to the projects.
“Lilja Communications is much more than books,” Tedford said. “That is just one of our business lines and when I had met with Philip, we were talking about something else. I mentioned the work I do with Lilja’s ‘LifeStories’ line, and he said ‘You have got to meet my mother.’”
Tedford said a majority of what the company publishes through “LifeStories” are memoirs or business histories produced for a private audience.
“The concepts of both of Mary’s books were very interesting to us, and in talking with her, I realized they both had more public potential,” she said.
Tedford said the response to both books has been very positive thus far. She added the company would like to continue working with Nelson Keithahan on future projects.
More information on both books can be found here: lilja.com/books/