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Dave Pell: On Finding Humor in the Horrible

Writer Dave Pell discusses how he incorporated his lifelong love of news with the tumultuous year of 2020 for his new current events book, Please Scream Inside Your Heart.

Dave Pell has been writing about news, technology, and media since 1999. He writes NextDraft, a newsletter offering a quick and entertaining look at the day’s most fascinating news. He’s been news-obsessed since he was a child and is known to his readers as the Internet’s Managing Editor.

Pell is a graduate of UC Berkeley and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He sits on the board of 826 Valencia and is a longtime advisor to the Center for Investigative Reporting. He lives in Marin County with his wife, Gina, and their two kids, three cats, two beagles, and two broadband providers (in case one ever goes down). Find him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Dave Pell: On Finding Humor in the Horrible

Dave Pell

In this post, Dave discusses how he incorporated his lifelong love of news with the tumultuous year of 2020 for his new current events book, Please Scream Inside Your Heart, the insight his father gave him about history repeating itself, and more!

Name: Dave Pell
Literary agent: Jackie Ashton, Lucinda Literary
Book title: Please Scream Inside Your Heart: Breaking News and Nervous Breakdowns in the Year that Wouldn't End
Publisher: Hachette
Release date: November 9, 2021
Genre/category: Politics/Current Events/Humor
Elevator pitch for the book: Please Scream Inside Your Heart is a time capsule; a real-time ride through the maddening hell that was the 2020 news cycle—when historic turmoil and media mania stretched American sanity, democracy, and toilet paper. Fueled by the wisdom and advice of his two Holocaust-surviving parents, for whom parts of this story were all too familiar, Pell puts the key stories of 2020 into context with pith and punch

Dave Pell: On Finding Humor in the Horrible

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What prompted you to write this book?

For my NextDraft newsletter, I’ve been finding, analyzing, and contextualizing the day’s most fascinating news for more than a decade, so I thought I was uniquely qualified to give context to the chaos of America’s craziest media year, while including enough humor to make it possible to digest the indigestible.

During 2020, my dad, who was the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust, and who fought with the Partisans after escaping the Nazis, kept telling me he saw similarities between modern America and the pre-WWII politics of his childhood. One day I told him that I didn’t think Americans ever thought what happened to him could happen here.

He responded, “Do you think when I was a kid we thought it could happen there?” It was at that moment that I decided to write this book.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?

I had to live through one part of the year while writing about an earlier period of the year because we had a very tight publishing window. The whole process took about 15 months. The idea stayed the same throughout the process, but the content got a lot shorter during the editing process.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?

I’ve been a news addict since I was a kid. As I was writing this book, I realized that many of my friends and readers were becoming news addicts as well, so I made sure to include a lot of analysis related to how our relationship with the media got out of hand.

Dave Pell: On Finding Humor in the Horrible

Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?

I have a steady writing routine where I put in four solid hours each morning to get my newsletter out. I had planned to write my book at night. But I found that the best strategy was just to tack on the extra hours while I still had the momentum going.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

On the most basic level, I wanted to create a funny time capsule that captured the feeling of a year that was impossible to absorb in real time. Beyond that, I want readers to rethink their relationship with the media, and to be aware of just how threatened our democracy was and is.

If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?

Ultimately, just do it the way you’ve been doing it. Everyone has their own process.

Throughout this 12-week course, you will get step-by-step instruction on how to write nonfiction, read Philip Gerard's Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life, and write articles, essays, or a few chapters of your book. Register for this course and discover how fun writing nonfiction can be.

Throughout this 12-week course, you will get step-by-step instruction on how to write nonfiction, read Philip Gerard's Creative Nonfiction: Researching and Crafting Stories of Real Life, and write articles, essays, or a few chapters of your book. Register for this course and discover how fun writing nonfiction can be.

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