Nell Scovell, the middle of five children, grew up outside of Newton, Massachusetts. Her father, Melvin E. Scovell, is chairman of the board of Scovell & Schwager, a health-care management company in Boston. In high school at Newton South High School, she was the manager of the boys' track team. Scovell attended Harvard University, where she spent her time reporting and editing sports stories for The Harvard Crimson. In her senior year at Harvard, she wrote for the sports desk of the Boston Globe. She graduated cum laude from Harvard University in 1982.
After graduation, she moved to New York and was the first staff writer hired by Spy magazine in 1986. Tina Brown recruited her to work at Vanity Fair, contributing quirky visual features about money and culture.
Scovell wrote a spec script for It's Garry Shandling's Show, which they bought, and after serving as story editor for the final season of Newhart, she worked for David Letterman.
As a television writer, Scovell wrote the season two episode of The Simpsons, "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish". Other TV writing credits include The Wilton North Report, Coach, Monk, Murphy Brown, Charmed, Newhart, The Critic, NCIS, and many others. She also wrote the season two episode of Space Ghost Coast to Coast, "Urges".
Outside of television, Scovell was the first staff writer hired at Spy magazine and is a former contributing editor at Vanity Fair. She has also written for Vogue, Rolling Stone, Self, Tatler, and The New York Times Magazine. She currently blogs for Vanity Fair's web site.
Scovell has also directed two made for television movies: Hayley Wagner, Star for Showtime and It Was One of Us for Lifetime.
Briefly married to Tom Tisch, Scovell is currently married to Colin Summers, an architect. They have two sons.
Comedian/magician Penn Jillette called her "one of the funniest people alive" in an interview with The A.V. Club.
Scovell co-wrote Sheryl Sandberg's 2013 book Lean In.