May 18, 2016

The Story Behind Folly Beach Dances

By Sheree K. Nielsen

The 2015 Da Vinci Eye Award Winner, Folly Beach Dances, is a ‘healing’ coffee table book inspired by the rhythm of the sea and the changing tides, and my essay, “Beach Dances” previously published in the Folly Current newspaper.

Folly Beach Dances features photography from a favorite South Carolina beach by my husband, Russell, and me. Each photo is captioned with a dance name, whether real or made-up. It’s about balance and movement on the beach – people, dogs, birds, babies, even beach structures – moving in infinite rhythm.

Five women author friends (a songwriter, a grant writer, an English professor, a marriage therapist, and poet) have interpreted the photographs (captioned with dance names) to create poetry or short prose for the book. I merely requested the element of positivity shine through their work. The reason I asked these particular women to contribute, is that I felt a connection to their writing styles. My husband, who doesn’t claim to be a writer, penned a poem for his photograph “Angel Dance”.  Rounding out the project, a travel writer by trade, I’ve penned about nine poems.
The resulting work made me cry. Everyone’s reflections and interpretations were poignant, touching, and mesmerizing.

Some reader favorites are Circle Dog DanceCrowd Surfing, and The Fandango. You can view three pages from the book on our website at under the media page.

As a young girl, I built my first pinhole camera at age five, and became obsessed with photography. I believe pictures help recreate a story, or even form the basis for new stories. For me, photography and writing go hand-in-hand.

The journey and vision of Folly Beach Dances changed after being diagnosed with lymphoma in June of 2012.  Folly Beach Dances wasn’t just another pretty coffee table book. The project became a mission of self-care and healing – the story behind the book told on the Introduction and Prologue pages.

Not feeling the book’s vision was complete, I reached out to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I met with Debbie Kersting, the Gateway Chapter Director, at a local coffee house. We chatted about the book’s message over cappuccinos.

I explained to Debbie that sometimes when people have trials and tribulations, they forget to dance. In the book, I ask each reader to take care of themselves and remember to dance, no matter where they are, no matter their worries. Debbie wrote a beautiful Foreword for the book.

Russell and I donate 10 percent of all book sales to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The National Office of LLS allows us to use their logo on the back cover. For that, we are grateful.

I believe my purpose in life is ‘sharing’ through inspirational writing and photography. This purpose is evident in three personal projects – an Emerson-inspired essay collection, a children’s picture book about confidence and overcoming handicaps, and a second Beach Dance book about a favorite North Carolina beach. I’m just beginning the query process for these.

So whatever you do in life, look to the positive and remember to dance. You know you’ll feel better if you do.

The book is dedicated to beach lovers, dancers, dreamers, the residents of Folly Beach, and all those with ailments. And of course, Mom and Dad – my own personal Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Sheree K. Nielsen is an award-winning freelance writer, poet and photographer.  Her countless credits include Missouri LifeAAA Midwest TravelerAAA Southern Traveler, and others. For two consecutive years, Sheree received First Place for Photography from the Missouri Humanities Council and the Warrior Arts Alliance – Awarded September 2014 for “Jimmie on the Pier”, and in October 2013 – “Dear Kindred Spirit”. The photos were selected for inclusion in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors Volume 2 and 3. Chosen by her peers, Sheree received the First Place, People’s Choice Award for Nonfiction, Storyteller Magazine, April-June 2010. Sheree’s works are well-represented in numerous anthologies, magazines, websites, and newspapers across the nation and Caribbean. Her essays and poems interweave universal beauty inspired through travel, nature and family.  She enjoys teaching her “Every Picture Tells a Story” workshop to veterans. She credits a deep affinity for the ocean to her parents through regular vacations to the Southeast.  Dad Joe, a World War II veteran, spun tales of exotic ports of call.  Her mom Gladys, a sketch artist and master gardener, taught Sheree about art and nurturing the soil. She blogs at Sheree’s Warm Fuzzies.

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