Nels was born and raised in Merced, California in 1951, and is of Norwegian and Basque heritage. He lives in Santa Monica. Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Nels is a patient coordinator with International Relations at UCLA Medical Center. He has a BA in Political Science and Hispanic Civilization from UC Santa Barbara. During the summer of 1972, as a recipient of an NDEA Title VI scholarship, he studied intensive Portuguese at Georgetown University. Nels did graduate work in Latin American Studies at UCLA in 1973-75. He attended classes in Brazilian literature at the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 1976-77 on a Rotary International fellowship. Nels studied poetry with Peter Levitt from 1981-2001. The natural world and specifically the San Joaquin Valley are the inspiration for much of his poetry. Nels was a judge at the Madera County 2009 Poetry Out Loud contest held in Oakhurst. He joined the CPITS board in 2009 and hosted a CPITS fundraiser that summer. He is temporary AC for Los Angeles County. Nels is a contributor to the Beyond Baroque literary center in Venice, California. He has had poems published in several journals. Beyond literature and poetry Nels has an interest in ceramics and cacti and succulents.