He was looking to get his novel published, but Evan Puschak ended up starting The Nerdwriter, a Web video series that has reeled in more than 800,000 subscribers and more than 41 million views on YouTube.
While scouring the Internet in 2011 for ways to publish a book he had just completed, Puschak chanced on vlogbrothers, a YouTube channel created by author John Green and his brother Hank.
"John Green was on the verge of publishing The Fault In Our Stars and his pre-sales were through the roof. I put together that the people who watched his YouTube show were the ones buying his book and thought, 'I can do that!'" the 28-year-old, who lives in San Francisco, tells The Straits Times.
"So I started The Nerdwriter to publish and sell that book. Within 15 weeks, I fell in love with YouTube and gave up on novel writing."
BOOK IT / UNRAVELLING THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION
WHERE: The Arts House, Play Den, 1 Old Parliament Lane
WHEN: Saturday, 7pm
ADMISSION: Festival pass event ($20 from Sistic, call 6348-5555 or go to www.sistic.com.sg)
BOOK IT / LOVE, ACTUALLY?
WHERE: National Gallery Singapore, Auditorium, 1 Saint Andrew's Road
WHEN: Sunday, 4pm
ADMISSION: Festival pass event ($20 from Sistic)
BOOK IT / CHILDREN BORN IN THE 1980S: EMERGING ADULTHOOD OR EXTENDED ADOLESCENCE
WHERE: Asian Civilisations Museum, Ngee Ann Auditorium, 1 Empress Place
WHEN: Sunday, 11.30am
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The novel he had written, which follows a girl through different time periods as she extended her life indefinitely, is still not published.
"One day, I'd like to try to write a book again, but right now, YouTube is the medium for me. It's the perfect mix of my passion for writing and the skills I learnt as a video editor," he says.
Puschak, who will be part of the Singapore Writers Festival, studied film production at Boston University and worked for MSNBC and The Discovery Channel before deciding last year to work full-time on The Nerdwriter, a series he alone writes, researches, films and edits.
In the series, which he has been updating almost every week since 2011, he explores a range of topics, from current affairs to television sitcoms, philosophy to politics.
Puschak is equally at ease handling art and culture - think videos such as The Serial: From Dickens To Star Wars, in which he traces the history of the serial across mediums and genres - as he is speaking about the upcoming presidential election in the United States. How Donald Trump Answers A Question, for instance, has racked up more than 4.5 million views since it was uploaded last December. But, he insists, he does not know more than the "average curious person".
"If you see me take on a topic in a video, it's because I wanted to learn more about it. The philosophy of the show is that we learn by expressing, so if I want to learn something, I make a video about it," he says.
The secret is intensive preparation. Once he picks a subject - which he deems the hardest part of the process - he pores over everything there is to read about it.
"I research it from all angles until my head is packed with information. Then I let that sit and a structure for the video eventually bubbles up in my head. The rest follows from that," says Puschak. "The final video is usually a combination of my research with my thoughts on the subject. Every video is a mix of study and introspection."
With The Nerdwriter, he hopes to "cultivate worldview", which, he says, is not nearly as lofty as it may sound. It is simply a way of seeing connections between all the things a person knows.
"I've known people who are knowledgeable, but don't have a coherent worldview," he says. "A worldview is simply a coherent perspective, one that takes everything into account. That's important."
At the festival, he will be part of the Children Born In The 1980s: Emerging Adulthood Or Extended Adolescence? panel on Sunday, alongside Nigeria-born author Helen Oyeyemi, and Singapore's Pooja Nansi and Ann Ang.
He will also delve into how the word "love" is used in his talk Love, Actually? on Sunday and speak on what the United States presidential election means for Singapore and the rest of the world in Unravelling The US Presidential Election on Saturday.
This election feels different from the ones that came before, says Puschak - not just because of Trump, the real estate magnate whose path to presidency has been dogged by allegations of sexual misconduct. It also saw a groundswell of leftist politics, as evidenced by Bernie Sanders' candidacy, he says.
"We might look back on this election as the start of a historical swing back towards progressivism. They didn't have the numbers this time, but after Hillary serves two terms, who knows? In 2024, the American electorate might look a lot different," he says.
"Donald Trump is certainly the flashiest thing about 2016, and living through that phenomenon has been a lesson in our abjection, but my suspicion is that history will forget him a lot sooner than we expect."
•The Straits Times is the official media partner of the Singapore Writers Festival. For more stories on the festival, go to http://str.sg/4x7R