Joel Nelson has made his living, either directly or indirectly, with horses and cattle on outfits such as the King Ranch, o6 Ranch and Parker Ranch since college graduation. He began writing while serving with the 101st Airborne Division in Vietnam and has been a serious writer and reciter of traditional and free-verse poetry for twenty-five years.
In 1999, the Mid-Northumberland Arts Group sponsored his poet-in-residency in England and in 2000 his CD The Breaker in the Pen earned a Grammy nomination in the Spoken Word category alongside notables such as Leonard Cohen, Jewel, and Tom Brokaw. He was the AWA male poet of the year in 2002 and he describes his poetry as being "the distilled product of the life he has led."
Joel and his wife Sylvia work side by side managing the Anchor Ranch near Alpine, Texas where they raise Corriente cattle.