I got an education talking with veteran journalist Dean Nelson. His book Talk to Me is a must-read for anybody wanting to ask better questions, get better answers, and interview every guest like a pro.
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About the Book: Interviewing is the single most important way journalists (and doctors, lawyers, social workers, teachers, human resources staff, and, really, all of us) get information. Yet to many, the perfect interview feels more like luck than skill—a rare confluence of rapport, topic, and timing. But the thing is, great interviews aren’t the result of serendipity and intuition, but rather the result of careful planning and good journalistic habits. And Dean Nelson is here to show you how to nail the perfect interview every time.
Drawing on forty-years of award-winning journalism and his experience as the founder and host of the Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, Nelson walks readers through each step of the journey from deciding whom to interview and structuring questions, to the nitty gritty of how to use a recording device and effective note-taking strategies, to the ethical dilemmas of interviewing people you love (and loathe). He also includes case studies of famous interviews to show readers how these principles play out in real time.
Chock full of comprehensive, time-tested, gold-standard advice, Talk to Me is an indispensable guide to the subtle art of the interview guaranteed to afford readers with the skills and confidence they need the next time they say, “talk to me.”
About the Author: Dean Nelson is the founder and director of the journalism program at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego. He writes occasionally for the New York Times, the Boston Globe, San Diego Magazine, Westways Magazine, Sojourners, and several other national publications. He has won several awards from the Society of Professional Journalists for his reporting, and has written or co-written 14 books. Nelson is a frequent speaker at writing workshops and retreats.
He has traveled throughout the world covering stories of human interest — India, where he wrote about the slums of Bombay; Kosovo, where he interviewed and wrote about victims of terrorism; Tanzania, where he wrote about members of the Black Panther Party who live in exile; Tibet, where he wrote about religious persecution; Central America, where he wrote about poverty and contaminated water; New Orleans, where he wrote about the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina; Haiti, where he wrote about the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake; Iceland, where he wrote about the literary scene there; Croatia, where he wrote about a part of Europe that is trying to reinvent itself after the breakup of the Soviet Union; Rome, where he wrote about the Canonization of Mother Teresa, and elsewhere.
He has covered the stunning, the moving, the mysterious, the tragic, the amusing and the absurd.
His book on the seven sacraments, God Hides in Plain Sight: How to Find the Sacred in a Chaotic World, was published by Brazos Press in 2009.
His most recent book is Quantum Leap: How John Polkinghorne Found God in Science and Religion, published in 2011 by Lion-Hudson Press of Oxford, England. The book is about the life of John Polkinghorne, a world-famous physicist who became a priest in the Anglican Church. It is also about how faith and science do not need to be mutually exclusive.
In addition to directing the PLNU journalism program, Nelson also hosts the annual Writer’s Symposium By The Sea, where prominent writers come to discuss the craft of writing. Nelson has interviewed Amy Tan, Anne Lamott, Gay Talese, Krista Tippett, Jane Smiley, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Anchee Min, Ray Bradbury, George Plimpton, Joyce Carol Oates, Garrison Keillor, Billy Collins, Nikki Giovanni, Dick Enberg, Otis Chandler, Kathleen Norris, Donald Miller, Bill Moyers, Jim Wallis, Chitra Divakaruni, Joseph Wambaugh, James Fallows, Barbara Brown Taylor, Eugene Peterson, Philip Yancey, Michael Eric Dyson, Bill McKibben, Chris Hedges, Rachel Held Evans, Luis Urrea and dozens of others. Many of those interviews are available for viewing on this site and on UCSD-TV’s website. They have been broadcast worldwide and have been viewed or downloaded almost 4 million times.
Nelson came to San Diego from Minneapolis, where he was working as a business writer.
He has a Ph.D. in journalism from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia, and a bachelor’s degree in literature from MidAmerica Nazarene University in Kansas City.
He grew up in Minnesota, is a die-hard hockey player and fan, is married to his college sweetheart, Marcia, and has two adult children, Blake and Vanessa.
Connect with Dean:
Books by Dean Nelson:
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