That life you're leading? It's a story. Treasure it, share it, preserve it. @sentascar shares her storytelling secrets. Click To Tweet
Senta Scarborough was nominated for an Emmy®️ for her production work at E! News on a piece about Joan Rivers. Whether it’s producing for E! News, being a crime reporter in Arizona, or writing screenplays about Al Capone in Appalachia, storytelling is in Senta’s bones. You’re not going to want to miss this week’s podcast — our 50th episode!!
Listen to Our Women’s Series
We’d Love To Hear Your Questions
Meet Storytelling Expert Senta Scarborough
Senta Scarborough is an award-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated producer. She is the founder of Sentamatic Media focusing primarily on screenwriting, journalism and non-fiction projects. Her work has appeared in Adweek, Into, USA Today, E! News, US Weekly Magazine and Asheville Poetry Review, among others. She currently serves on the board of directors for the National Gay and Lesbian Journalist’s Association. Senta holds her MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California Riverside/Palm Desert. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife, Katie, and their dog, Sadie.
Find Senta on social media
Senta’s Online Screenwriting Classes
Equity Corner: Slavery is a thing. In fact, it’s THE THING that caused the Civil War
Don’t let anyone tell you the Civil War was a ‘states’ rights’ issue.
The Civil War was fought over slavery. Period.
Any other explanation is a whitewashing of the facts.
Here’s a quote from Alexander Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy:
“Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.” – Alexander Stephens, The Corner-Stone Speech, 1861
This disgusting speech leaves little doubt that the Civil War was about slavery, first and foremost.
We’ve got some work to do. As Senta said, schools teach it as a states’ rights issue. And unfortunately, it’s working. According to the Pew Research Center, more people think the main cause of the Civil War is states’ rights – 48% – rather than slavery – 38%.
More Civil War facts: https://www.battlefields.org/learn/articles/civil-war-facts
Hosted by Jen McFarland
Jen McFarland is a business systems expert, podcaster, and blogger. She’s helped hundreds of businesses and thousands of podcast listeners make better business decisions. Jen’s passion is helping women-owned businesses get the growth tools they need to meet their 3-5 year business goals.
Are you starting a business? Confused about how to grow? Check out my favorite business growth tools.
Jen also loves appearing on podcasts. Here is a link to her Podcast Guests profile.
Connect with the podcast
Share on Pinterest
Senta Scarborough Transcript
Holy shirtballs. It’s the fiftieth episode of the podcast. I’m your host Jen McFarland. It’s amazing how sometimes these milestone kind of sneak up on you but I am so glad that I get to share this episode milestone with my bestie, award-winning journalist and Emmy-nominated producer, Senta Scarborough. She’s going to talk to us all about storytelling. Not only her own stories but helping us tell our own. All that and more here on the Third Paddle.
[music] Welcome to the podcast, recorded at the [Vanda?] Lounge in beautiful Southeast Portland, Oregon. Why the Third Paddle? Because even the most badass entrepreneurs get stuck up in business shit creek. Management consultant, Jennifer McFarland is your Third Paddle helping you get unstuck.
Before we get started with the episode, I wanted to remind you about the ebook I announced on last week’s show. It’s called Digital Trade-Offs and it’s about assessing whether or not all of that time on your screen and on your phone is really paying off in helping you directly reach your goals. If you go to jenmcfarland.com/ebooks, you will find the Digital Trade-Offs opt-in right there so you can get your free copy today and start assessing and discerning whether your time spent on digital productivity tools like email and social media are giving you the true benefit of supporting your bigger goals or if you could be using your time focused on different tasks more deeply aligned with your daily intentions. This guide works whether you’re in the business of generating revenue, or running a family, or both, so please check it out, jenmcfarland.com/ebooks. I am super-excited about this episode. Not only has Senta been my bestie for 20 years, she’s also had an amazing life and knows so much about storytelling. Senta Scarborough is an award-winning journalist, an Emmy-nominated producer. She is the founder of Sentamatic Media, focusing primarily on screenwriting, journalism and non-fiction projects. Her work has appeared in Adweek, Into, USA Today, E! News, US Weekly Magazine and Asheville Poety Review among others. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists’ Association. She holds her MFA in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside/Palm Desert. She lives in Los Angeles with her wife and my other bestie, Katie, and their dog Sadie. Find her on social media at Sentascar. Please note that during this interview, there was a huge rainstorm in Los Angeles. Coincidentally, it was not raining in Portland. We had the sunny LA weather and she had the rainy Portland weather, and you may hear some water dripping from– I mean there’s just no capacity for that kind of rainstorm that happened in LA, and there are a couple of times where the connection wasn’t as good because probably the rain, but there are some real gems in this interview and I decided not redo it because sometimes you just can’t recapture that. So sit back, relax, hear some great stories and learn about how you can start to tell your own stories. Thanks for listening.
You’ve been a writer and storyteller for as long as I’ve known you. When did you realize how important writing and stories are to you?
Yeah. It’s a good question, and it’s a question that I think sort of evolves for me over time. I can tell you the first time– so writing was the first time that I was ever told I did something well, something that I got noticed for. I remember, I think it was first, second, third grade or something, having a poem or something, or something I had written, and I remember it being put up on the wall in the classroom, and I thought, “Ha. Okay. I don’t know how I felt exactly, but I knew it was something different, right? I knew that it was something that I had done, that was unique enough that I got some attention for it. But I think I grew up in a family where everyone sort of had their own way of artistic expression. My mom was an artist, was an art teacher, and so growing up, we were always playing in clay or making some art projects. And then my dad was a natural storyteller. I think, though, that the first moment that I really understood the power of story was when I was growing up, and I would sit in the first couple of pews of Liberty Baptist Church, and pastor Wilder would tell these amazing, powerful engaging stories about the Bible and about morality or about who we are as human beings, humanity and for lack of better word, I guess, philosophy, like why are we here, what’s important to us, and that really resonated me very, very early on. And I think that as I got older– I was always– I don’t remember a time where I wasn’t really writing. I have an old spiral notebook, it’s very small but it has something like– and I have to dig it out at some point, but it’s like six going on seven. Look, it actually has me, I’d written but the title of it was my age and how I was getting ready to turn a new age and poems. And that was it. And inside I had maybe 5 to 10 different poems I had written. And I remember one of them was something along the lines of mothers do what they must do, and fathers do what they can or something like that. And it’s not the exact– it was I think written better than I’m telling it to you, but I always remember that because I was like, “Huh, that’s a real interesting–” Inside it, six or seven, about work and importance of things. But I have a bunch of those like that. So it wasn’t later, I think, until I became a journalist, that I realized that stories aren’t just great for conveying information, that there’s something much more important. I mean, for me, stories are sort of the technology of transformation is kind of what I like to say. It’s sort of the old school technology before there was technology. I mean, if you think about it, when we were all in caves, and we were like whatever, and trying to express ourselves in some ways, as we started to do that story was that first form and in that respect, it’s a technology. And if you look at what a lot of technology has been, it has changed the course of humanity. It’s like the Gutenberg press or like the internet or computers or like– all that kind of stuff is about information exchange, which really is about stories. Right? And some are more interesting than others. Some is just like boring the facts but you’re still getting a narrative of some sort. Some are more interesting and are more entertainment. But I think that I didn’t really understand how important they were and the kind of work that I was doing, the kind of work that I wanted to do with my life until I was in Arizona as a reporter where I met you, typical kind of boring story. And there was a woman and basically the stories about how she was sort of a critic from Christian faith, and had very different culture to I think it was an Indian family that lived next door, and how originally there was some issues in the neighborhood because they would cook their food, and people would smell these odd smells, and it would kind of alarm people and stuff. Well, somehow, the two people lived next door and the adversity ended up becoming a sharing of sure and a sharing of like personal lives and they became part of a [walk watch?] but in that the woman told me a story about how she had cancer, she had breast cancer. And it wasn’t really part of the story. Like it wasn’t what I was going to write for the newspaper but she told me about her fight with cancer and a little bit about the people next door and how they’d helped her and stuff. But it wasn’t something that was like– it was obviously something personal that she didn’t really want me to write about, it would have taken over the story in some ways, but I realize sitting there in her living room that day that what I do for a living or what I did mostly for a living then was far less about actually getting the story and putting it in the newspaper but it was bearing witness. It was holding space for people in a way that I could let them have an opportunity maybe for the first time in their lives to share something about themselves in a really meaningful way to somebody who is a trained, objective listener.
Yeah. I think that’s really beautiful and I’ve heard you tell stories and I’ve read the stories that you write and it’s magical the way that you capture thoughts. And I wonder sometimes if you ever took stories for granted a little bit, and I’ll tell you why I’m asking that question. When you were about how creative your family is and I’ve met most of your family actually but I– you and your dad are the two people who can tell stories better than anyone I’ve ever met in my life. And I’ve often, if anybody out there has watched the movie Big Fish, that’s Santa’s dad. Every time I see that movie I think about your dad.
[inaudible] screenwriter and it’s inspired by his father so he definitely– yeah. It’s really cool. It’s an amazing compliment both to me and my father and I really appreciate that especially, as you know, since he passed this past year so–
Yeah. And so I wonder sometimes if you take for– if you growing up didn’t realize how important stories were because you were in the midst of this great storyteller who probably had just come home from work and told you how his day was and it was like this– I mean he could tell anything and make it seem super exciting just like you can.
Definitely. I mean I think that you don’t really– I mean like honestly, I don’t think I– I don’t appreciate story, I have never appreciated stories as much as I do now, right? I mean like now that I have people who aren’t with me anymore who were great storytellers or part of stories, those stories become oh so precious to me, right? And I don’t think that I– I think it took me doing a lot of different kinds of storytelling and it also took me getting away from it. I mean I got really burned out. I mean I was like a courts and crimes reporter. I was the person for your audience that goes to the crime scene. And I dealt with a lot of really negative stuff like officer-involved shootings, hate crimes, molestation, anything – the worst of humanity. Like drama that we all love on NCIS and all kinds of things like that but it’s very different when you’re up close to it and you’re interviewing people every day about it and you’re trying to tell those stories because you can’t leave them behind, they follow you. I mean their stories today, I will never, never forget. They will always hit me at times and it will lay me out. Like crying, like I mean they’re powerful. They change your life. And I do think that I got to a point where I really was tired of what I did. I was tired of being a vehicle for stories. I knew the importance. There’s so many wonderful things about being a journalist and reporter. And I’m still glad that I’m still one on many levels today. And I’m glad that I did that. It’s so much a part of my journey. There’s a part of journalism– it’s great when you can do the muckraking and you can uncover stuff. And you can change government or you can oust a president or you can clean up a dump site that’s got toxic chemicals like I did once. Those kind of things are great because you really see the effect. But I often felt I had a lot more in common with police officers than I did with other reporters because we all brought home all those tragic stories every day. And so I think that I got to a point where I got tired in Arizona. I think you saw it. I kind of hit a wall where I felt all I saw in life was the negative parts. And I really am not a negative person. I’m a pretty upbeat kind of person. And so it was hard for me. It was something that I had to wrestle with. And I think by leaving that and going to different forms of journalism, it gave me a new way back into storytelling. And I’ll kind of just briefly explain. I went from small-town journalism to big paper journalism in Arizona. And then I left and kind of went away from breaking news, primarily. Celebrity journalism and entertainment journalism where I worked at US Weekly magazine and then at E News. But it wasn’t even until I got through part of the E News and I was still struggling because I started to realize I wanted to tell my own stories. And that’s when I think I started to really appreciate it, right? Because I realized I was getting older and the stories that I felt were important sometimes I couldn’t tell in the newsroom because I couldn’t get all the information on the record. There’s so many great stories that need to be told, but if you can’t verify them, right? And you can’t get people on the record, then you can’t tell them. So there are a lot of limitations that are very frustrating for journalists. So, for me, being able to find a place where I could tell stories that I could control and I could have the narrative. And I could also be imaginative and use my own life story to kind of infuse them with, was a place where I really started to understand sort of how much they meant to me. Because then going to get my MFA in screenwriting and actually taking the lens that I had worked so hard perfecting to use on others and turning it on myself.
Absolutely. And we’re going to talk about your journey. But you kind of started talking about journalism a little bit and we are good friends and we also follow each other on Twitter. And one of the things I really appreciate about you and did as I was watching you investigate crimes, is how careful you are about the facts and how much you want to verify things. So just tell the listeners how infuriating all of this fake news stuff is. And the way that journalists are being treated right now, pretty much by everybody.
Oh, absolutely. I mean, there’s nothing more frustrating than seeing– I mean, really, it’s one of the pillars of democracy. I mean, whether it is a small-town journalist, whether it’s a blogger, it doesn’t matter what form of journalism they’re doing, it takes a lot of work. And these people are not getting paid a lot of money. I mean, I made 13 to $16,000 at my first journalism job. And I worked around the clock. I covered over 20 beats. Everything from nonprofits to city council to the utility board to the housing authority. I mean, so they’re people in small towns, in middle markets and even the larger markets, they make a decent salary, they make a living wage, but it’s not glamorous. And people, I think, often look at the movies and they think about the jobs and the things that they get to see and experience and I mean, that is part of the great part of it. I mean, you get to go behind the velvet ropes, go behind the crime-scene tape a little bit and see a part of the world and understand some things that other people never will, but it’s a lot of work. I mean, it doesn’t matter. When I got married the first time in Portland, I was literally in the elevator, coming down with my wife, and there was the phone and it was the newsroom and they needed to verify some facts from a story that I’d written a couple of weeks before but was going to run the next day. And they just decided that it had to be that day. And anyone who knows me – and I know we’ve had these moments many, many times – it didn’t matter what I was doing. If something happened in the news and it was my time to go, then I had to get up and leave. And so your life is really committed to community. And the reason that people have bylines is so there’s credibility so that people can look at what’s in that story and say, “That’s the person who was responsible for saying this is true.”
So we take it really seriously, and there’s all kinds of standards. There’s books and books of stuff we have to sign. There’s all kinds of training we go through to make sure that we understand how best to vet our sources and information, even when there are things that are in documents, even when there’s things that are in lawsuits. I mean, it’s not just okay just enough to get the stuff and put it in the newspaper. You have to make the phone calls, and you have to talk to those people and see what you think and see if it makes sense to you that it’s accurate. So there’s a lot that goes into it, and these people just do really important work. I mean, they raise attention to issues that help save lives, that change lives, that change communities. And you rarely get anybody thanking you. Most people don’t get awards. Most people don’t get thank-yous or phone calls usually. When I was in Arizona, I would get phone calls telling me I was going to hell and I was evil because I was writing about Hispanic people because there was all the border stuff going on. And the story wouldn’t even be about it because there was so much hate and animosity about an issue that it would just topple over into whatever you were doing.
So fake news is horrible. We’ve been through back in, I think, the 30s, that whole time of yellow journalism, so it’s not unheard of. I know we’re going to get through it. I think that we’re sort of experiencing something where it’s kind of like we’re going through a cleansing. I think sort of like when you asked me the question about, “At what point do you appreciate a story,” it’s the same thing about, “At what point do you appreciate facts?” I think until you’ve had your whole world upended and you’ve lost rights and you’ve lost benefits and the world isn’t the way that it should be anymore, maybe you start to take for granted and you start to understand and appreciate what it’s like to be able to trust what’s in the newspaper or on your phone or on the computer. I hope that’s happening. I think there’s a lot more that needs to be done to do that. I think that it wouldn’t hurt to have workshops for the public and just anything we can because it’s not just on journalists to do the fact-checking. We also, as consumers making decisions based on that information, need to do it ourselves. So I think that sort of with the birth of social media and the Renaissance that it’s created with information, I think it’s now kind of made it so that everybody’s sort of responsible on some level, and I just don’t think that we’re all quite there yet.
And I think everybody wants to hear what they want to hear. They want to know that they want to get their point of view backed up. They want to find the facts that back up what they think, and I think that that’s natural, but I also think that if we’re going to be good citizens, we have to do a better job than that, and we have to understand that we have to go out and seek opinions that aren’t our own. And I think that’s something that could start in schools. I mean, we need to learn more about what government really is.
I totally agree. That’s why I get so frustrated with things like the school district or– I don’t know if it was the whole state of Texas or just particular school districts that wanted to not discuss Hilary Clinton or Hellen Keller anymore because they weren’t “popular” stories anymore. Because it’s suppressing part of the history. In this case, it’s suppressing women’s history. And those kinds of choices really limit what’s being taught in school. And if it’s a place that’s, say, very conservative, and we’re not talking about people that differ from us, maybe because they differ from us, then it just makes those divides even greater, I think.
Totally. I think you’re right. I mean, having grown up in the South, I mean, we didn’t really hear a whole lot about white supremacy, in terms of the Civil War is a– you’re not taught that it’s a bad thing. Right? You’re taught that it’s something to be proud of and that it’s about states’ rights. So I mean, things– and it’s interesting because we were still through the– I mean, I find it really interesting. At the time in this world where we’re trying to deal with fake news, we’re also trying to deal with the largest rise in white supremacists’ views than we’ve had in decades, and I think that’s not a coincidence. I think that when you try to change the narrative so much, and you don’t have facts, then you can have these kind of delusions. And that’s kind of what happens in a lot of places in this country, is that we only get one view. The newspaper is owned by one group, and maybe they’re conservative, and so you don’t really hear the other side, and you grow up thinking one way is the only way, so.
And I think we’ve both had those experiences. You having grown up in the South. Me having grown up in Idaho. So you’ve had a lot of experience on both ends of the political spectrum. You’ve also inhabited both sides of the political spectrum. Can you tell us a little bit about those experiences, and if there are any similarities that would surprise you?
To kind of jumpstart into that, I’ll basically say this. I had some difficult times at the end of my high school and early college, I guess, career, and my grandmother committed suicide, and my family and my parents split up and it was very hard on me. And I ended up having sort of a near-death cocaine addiction. And needing to get away from that, and needing to find new friends, and find a new way, I returned back to college. I had left for a year in between my freshman and my sophomore year. And so I went back for my real sophomore year, I guess you would say, and I threw myself into politics because it was something I love, and I threw myself into the political party that was closest to how I grew up Baptist, and also to the one that was infamous for Say No to Drugs, the Republican party. So the Republican party became my defacto rehabilitation program. And so I spent a couple of years there where I worked for George W. Bush Senior, his campaign, and I was at his inauguration. And I became the president of college Republicans, and I was editor for the conservative newspaper on campus. I was also–
Because you went all in.
You don’t just kind of do it. You have to go all the way.
Yeah. And I did. So Governor Wilder was the first black, African American governor of Virginia. And when he ran for office, I organized a tour in southwest Virginia where we basically followed him and heckled him the entire southwest part of the state. And we had dead baby fetus photographs on posters, and then I had written– I had came up with this idea of taking his name, and I made a poster that said, “Wildergate,” and so I went up to him, and he ended up being very charming; he signed it. And that photograph ended up in the Washington Post [laughter]. That was also my first time with paparazzi. I’ll never forget being there because I was president and I was leading this whole thing, and they were like– and because it was such a huge, historical moment because Virginia’s, perhaps, first black governor, which he did become, there were photographers from Time Magazine everywhere. And I just remember having all these photographers around me and us chanting and then Governor Wilder coming up and signing it. It was quite something. I’ve since sort of apologized on Twitter to him [laughter], so. And I’m a big fan of us his now, but. So yeah, I–
Well, I mean, it was a huge swing. Right? Because during the same George Bush presidency, were you not on the lawn of the White House, chanting something quite opposite?
Right. I mean–
I mean, I thought that you later were screaming, “George, George, get out of my bush.” Was that him?
Yes, I did do that. Yeah, when I worked in DC. When I worked at a law firm in DC, we went and protested. Yes. And they were arresting some people, but we wanted to go and do that. So yeah. No. So I mean, it was a very– it was a really intense couple of years where I was– I didn’t realize a lot about myself. I was still coming– I hadn’t quite figured out that I was a lesbian. I hadn’t understood that being a woman in the Republican party isn’t, necessarily, the best thing for a person. There were a lot of things that I didn’t understand. And it was time when I came to understand my privelage and understand the bad side of all of that. So it was a really interesting time. And then, when I did, I then went completely opposite. Right? And I did a few things. I started off doing some protests on the other side of things, pro-women, pro-choice. And when I was Republican, my first story– I think it was the first story I wrote was a anti-abortion column for the paper. So I did get into more Democratic policies and was interested in politics. I was a political science major. But I stopped because I became a journalist because I understood, also, when I was doing the whole conservative journalism thing, that I not only learned about some of the bad things about conversatis, but I also understood because I had a good editor about what journalism really meant, and I knew that if I was going to be a real journalist that I needed to take all that, political views and stuff like that, and put them aside and become objective. And so that’s what I ended up doing and how I got into journalism, but then it was hard because I’ve always been a very political person, and I’ve always been a person that wanted to make change. For me, making change was being a journalist for a long time, for a couple of decades, I guess. And then when I left the traditional newsroom, and I went into entertainment, I learned that, entertainment journalism, people didn’t really care so much if you were involved in political campaigns or if you had opinions because it was more that they felt like it was more like criticism and because it was entertainment. So that’s when, I guess, about 10 years ago, I started getting back involved in more Democratic politics and, really, I guess, trying to kind of make up for the things that I did, perhaps, in my youth. So I worked for Hillary’s campaign, fund banking. I went to Vegas, same thing with Obama, both campaigns for Hillary again, and recently, went up for one of the congressional candidates up in the third district, and we went door to door, and she won, which I’m really happy to say.
So the question about is there anything that I learned about them and what they have in common that’s, perhaps, surprising, I’ll say this. I think that, politics, it’s interesting. Politics is about power, right, but the way that we obtain that power is primarily through controlling a narrative because it comes back to storytelling, and he’s going to tell sort of the best story that’s going to inspire and to get people to support them. And what I think is surprising in some ways is that it just really comes down to something personal, right? We all have the same things in common. The people who care about politics and who are vocal, it’s all about passion. We all have this amazing passion and dedication and this belief that what we do and what we say and our policies and beliefs matter and can make a difference in the world, and that comes from really personal things. And I think anyone who cares about any of these types of stuff can kind of reverse engineer and go back to their own personal life and find that really special moment for them where it all kind of radiates. And I think that everyone in politics on both sides come down to some basic things. They either do it out of fear, or hate, out of hope, or inspiration. And I think even though they’re sort of basic human instincts, I think that’s really where it all kind of comes from. And so what’s surprising in all of that to me is that we really do sort of have this commonality. We all kind of come to these things. We just have different ways of looking at them or, more or less, more importantly, I don’t think we think so much. I think it’s mostly how we feel and how we emote those things, and so there’s a lot of opportunity, I think, for people to really make great change by kind of dissecting that back and figuring out where do we have commonality.
The other surprising thing is that politics is extremely exhilarating, satisfying, and addictive work. I love it. I loved it when I was 16. I loved it when I was 19, and I was going door to door, and I was stealing signs out of people’s yards in the middle of the night because I wanted my candidate to win. I did some other things that maybe I’ll save some other time [laughter], and I get just as much of a thrill and excitement going door to door today even though things are way more kind of chill on some ways. Now we have like an app that tells us exactly which houses to go to and what questions to ask people and stuff. It’s similar but also so different because it’s all about one-on-one interactions, but I love it. And I love it because of that. And really because you’re sharing your story with someone else about why you care and why it should matter to them, and hearing what they have to say. And I think that’s where all this stuff comes from. It’s where a community comes from. It’s how we create– all of us around the fire and start to share resources and share who all are, and have that kind of magic that happens as being a community. So it’s kind of cool.
Yeah. It really is. And I love that you talk about home and reverse engineering back, and how you can bridge some of those differences in that way. Because I make a lot of jokes about Idaho because I’m from there. But people can only push me so far in how they joke with me and make fun of Idaho. Because it’s almost like I can make jokes because I’m from there, but don’t make me feel bad or don’t make the people from where I come from sound stupid. There’s boundaries, right? And one of the things that I’ve always loved about your stories and Katie, your wife’s story also is how artful you are in your descriptions of Appalachina. In fact, I learned to say Apalachee instead of Appalacian because you taught me how to say it right [laughter]. I know. So I mean you’ve dispelled so many rumors and untruths about Appalachian for me. And I think that that might be part of all of our stories. So why do you think we defend our homes so fiercely?
It’s interesting because people can love and hate their homes but they still have passion about their homes. I think that the reason that they defend them so fiercely is that it’s the place where, I mean, I guess for a lack better term, it’s ground zero. It’s a place where we have our first experiences. The first time you step outside and see the outside world, it’s the first time you meet people and have friends. All of your firsts are in this place, and not just place as a geographical place, although it is, right? It’s where all the senses come in to play for the first time. Nothing smells the same way, and it’s like the rain in your neighborhood on that one day. It’s all tied to memory. It’s all tied to experience. And I think that we defend them because we’re tied to place and we’re tied to people. And all of those relationships are born. They’re first born there, right? They’re our origin stories. And I think when I look at movies. Some of my favorite movies are like the Dark Knight where we get to find out how Batman become Batman. I love that kind of stuff. And I think that the reason that the firsts and the origin stories are so important is because it’s where we create a standard. It’s our line in the sand. It’s our compass that we base and judge everything else against. And so we can hate, we can love it, we can revolt against it, we can lean into it, we can adapt it and create it into a whole thing that that first modeling clay that we get, that we can sculpt our identity into. And so when everybody messes with it you’re just immediately, “No. You’re not going to fuck with that,” pardon my French. Because it is who you are in your most essential self. it’s that blocks that without them and you take those things away, you’re lost. And it’s interesting because you’d say Appalachia and Appalachia is so much a part of who I’ve become and who I am, but it’s an adoptive place for me. I mean, it’s the places of my family. It’s my mom and my grandmother and her family and the [Haneys], but no, you’re from the beach. You’re actually from the beach.
Right. So that’s what I was going to say. So I just got back a couple of weeks ago from what’s called the Hampton Roads or Tidewater, Virginia, and as I had mentioned earlier my father, the storyteller, had passed away in June. And we decided to take his– he always wanted his ashes to be taken to the ocean. And so for Christmas we went back and we went to Williamsburg and got a timeshare and then we went back and took my niece and nephew, who had never seen where we grew up who had heard all these stories about this gramps and that and this is where my brother almost burned down the entire woods behind our apartment complex and all the–. All those stories that you tell in your family [inaudible] and people are like, “Tell that story,” which is so much a part of our family. So we were able to take them around and show them where their grandparents lived, where we lived. We got to have all these great reunions with old friends, my brother’s best friends. My friend Glenda and I, we all got together for breakfast and hung out and it was amazing. But what really was so powerful to me is that going back there to the place that I truly call my home, I can’t describe it in words, which is something. I mean, [inaudible] of memory, there’s a DNA, a soul, there’s something that happens when you’re from a place and you haven’t been there in 30 years that you fell a presence that– it was hard for me when I was driving in for the first time. I just couldn’t stop crying. I would see things and it wasn’t even seeing a sign that said Norfolk or Virginia Beach or whatever, Hampton, it was I saw that there was water in the woods when you looked out because it’s swamp. And what I missed the most is that a group on a Peninsula, which very few people do, I mean, a Peninsula is a body of land surrounded by completely all three sides of water. And so everywhere I grew up, it didn’t matter where I was going, I was going over a bridge or I was– I mean, we were by a beach, we were by an inlet, there was grassy moss, lined beautiful inlets and stuff. And being there, it was so resident to me. I just longed for it. Even though things have changed, buildings aren’t there, things have moved on, there’s still remnants and you still feel it. I went to go see where my dad used to work and it’s no longer there, and I was driving and literally, my muscles just said turn here and I just turned there and that was where it was. There’s something that takes over. So I think that it’s just– they’re really important places and I think that we don’t really give them the kind of– I don’t know, we don’t really give them the respect I think that maybe they deserve. Sometimes home, there are people that I know that have lived in their hometown their whole lives and can never imagine leaving and I know you know people like that in Idaho, and then there are people like myself who got to get out of this place. I understand the importance it had in my life and in my family’s life and then how it kind of informs the present.
Yeah. And as somebody who was on that Footloose path and people think I’m crazy that I did Peace Corps and has traveled around. I would say for me personally, it took longer for me to have an appreciation for home and what it actually meant. And as you were telling your stories here about going home, I started to cry because it was taking me to places from my childhood that I haven’t been to for a long time. And when I go and I try and take John there and I can’t explain it, I don’t have words for why this little dirt pile is so important to me. It’s just like where you go sometimes and if it’s home and there’s nothing- there’s, it’s so cellular I think. So why some animals don’t move.
Yeah, I mean if you think about it we’re all parts of this magical universe dust, and it all gets recycled, whatever you believe, whatever your belief system is, we are the stuff of other stuff. And there was something– I don’t know, it’s like one of the most amazing trips of my life to be able to honor my father and his storytelling and read a poem that I wrote for him at the beach with my family at the beach that we went to and Sand Bridge where we would go and my dad would cook hot dogs wrapped in bacon with cheese in the middle. And we It was delicious. They were so good man. The cheese hot dog is amazing. And we would go body surf all day, and it looks the same. The place we found that we didn’t even know if we could find where we were, we went and we were just like, “We’re going to get in the car. We’re all going. Gramps. Gramps 2018 or whatever.” 2019 I guess it was because were like– and it was like we went there, we told stories. It was great because we were at the place and my brother would be like, “Dude, that’s pongo, where we used to go flatfish in the swamp, blah, blah, blah. So it just invokes all this stuff, all these memories that we collect, that are in our bodies and in our mind, become alive again. It’s almost like– I talked about this on my website at symptomaticmedia.com. But [inaudible] story to me is like technology and to me it’s like photosynthesis. It’s like, Stewart– like when light hits the gunk of life, right? And it did that spark that created life. I feel like story, telling stories, sharing stories, does the same thing. It takes a part of us and it hits us in a new way that it evokes something in us and it creates new stories, new life, new inspiration, hope. All these wonderful things can come from it. And I feel like it’s that same thing that light does. And it was like that there. It was amazing to be able to go back and to share with the future with my nephew who’s the namesake, Willam Creamer Scarborough the fifth and Maggie my niece, to be able to show them these- it’s a little off topic, but I highly encourage people when it comes to we’re all going to die and leave this place. And we all have loved ones that we’re going to have to get ready to lose. But being able to do this and have a road trip where we told stories and we shared stories, and then we shared new things [inaudible] and then creating something new again, that can continue to live on in their lives and memories will have forever, I don’t know if I’ll ever do anything that’s more meaningful in my life. It’s so enriching stuff. So I get the dirt, I get the Idaho dirt because it doesn’t matter what it is it could be a stuffed toy. It could be the old home place that you went to as a kid. Could be some field that was just a field but, man, it came alive because that’s where you were alive with your friends or your family and stuff. And that’s what story can do. It can bring you back to those places. And that’s pretty magical.
Yeah. And what do you think we can learn about ourselves from these stories that we tell?
I think that having in the last couple of years to turn the lens on myself, it’s amazing to me how– I mean, whether we like it or not, we constantly create our own narrative, right? It doesn’t matter whether you are a business person or you don’t have a job. No matter what you do in your life you’re constantly telling a story yourself. And I tell this to a lot of my writer friends. And I actually did a workshop at my university about a month or so ago about creating your own brand. And it sounds kind of cheesy and businessy and– you know what I mean? I’m kind of not in that kind of world I’m– I mean, I am and I am not, right? And I run from traditional kinds of things, so. But for me, by going back and figuring out what’s really important for you in your story, just taking the time to reflect on it, you learn so much about what’s important to you. Like screenwriting 101, we all have an inciting incident. And we all have troubles. And then we have to have moments where we try to find a way to defeat those. And we have a low point. And then hopefully, we have a second act and we’re able to overcome those things, right? We all have those. But we have those throughout our lives. And we have sort of different lives, right? And so in my healing training that I’ve done, I learned that we have sort of these kind of ceremonial deaths for ourselves. There’s parts of us that sort of get left behind or that we allow to die so we can reborn in a new way. And I think no matter whether you’re into the woo-woo stuff or not or whether you’re super traditional Christian and Catholic or Buddhist or Tibetan or whatever you are, I think that story allows you to go back and figure out what’s really important to you. The things that you decide– things you’ve rewritten 1,000 times in your life and you told those stories to yourself and to others, those are important. And if you don’t know why, then you should look back and figure that out for yourself because there’s meaning there for you.
I mean, it goes without saying, and I guess we don’t say it enough, but stories are where we create meaning. Narrative is where we create meaning. Meaning isn’t just out there. We have to put our personal experience and our personal connection to things around us, whether they’re things, places, or people, to create meaning. Sometimes we do that through a worldview, a political view. Sometimes [we?] do it through a religion. Sometimes we just do it ourselves. We tell stories. And I think that, for me, when I started to go back to graduate school I really only wanted to do screenwriting, but you do a minor. And so I chose nonfiction because I thought it would be easy, honestly. Because I’m a journalist and I figured, “That’s nonfiction and I can figure something out,” right? And so that’s what I did. And I actually started– and I think this is a good thing for people to do if they’re interested in telling stories or they want to try to figure out– even if I make teapots and telling the story of how you make teapots or why you make teapots or why they’re important to you is part of your marketing. It’s part of how you sell them. It’s how you need to show to people there’s meaning, right? So it doesn’t really matter what kind of filter you have. So for me, what I did is I didn’t know what I wanted to write. And I just said, “I’m going to write down stories that I tell people.” When I meet people, like you, that have known me for a long and you introduce me to somebody new, you’ll be like, “Hey, Santa. Tell me the story about this.” And so, “Tell me that one.” And that’s [inaudible] my dad was always asked, something that I’ve been asked, something that other people that tell stories and stuff do. So I started going, “Okay. Well, I’ve never written any of them down. I just [inaudible] so I started writing them down. And that’s [inaudible]. So I think that when people take time to figure out what their origin story is. Right? What are those stories that define who they are? What are those moments whether they’re present day, whether they’re 20 years ago, 10 years ago, those things that when they started going, “Oh. Wow. That’s when I really became the person who loves the environment and I did this.” Why is that? I think when you do that, it really helps you and it helps you in lots of ways, and it’s not just a healing that’s good for you to heal yourself and understand who you are, but it’s a way that you can kind of communicate that to the world. And that’s what it really was all about in the beginning. Right? We all start telling ourselves in front of mirrors our stories because we’re worried about telling our friends our stories. So we practice it and practice it and we talk to ourselves and it’s that safe place. And once you do that for yourself, then it becomes a lot easier to do it on a podcast. Right?
Right. It’s funny. The story When I Knew That You Would Be My Friend is not, I don’t think– unless I’m misremembering it– I don’t think it’s actually about you. It was actually listening to you tell the story about the burrito getting hid in the back seat of a police car [laughter]–
–and it was the way that you told it and then we just laughed so hard. I mean, you get to the punchline of like, “And then I hid the burrito in the [laughter]–” and you’re laughing so hard. But I was like, “I have to have more of this. Yes, please. This is what I want in my life.” And so when I describe you to other people, it’s actually you telling a story about somebody else that comes up a lot for me. I know, right? And I guess that that just is a tribute to what a great storyteller you are, that the story I have about you is about you telling me a story.
Yeah. It means a lot because it’s kind of how I feel about my dad. My dad [inaudible] always told you a story about there was never a stranger and there was never a place that he didn’t have a story about. [inaudible] what are you doing? It could be [Burton?], Idaho. [Burton?], Idaho was going to come really dramatic and really interesting really fast, and I love that. I love that you can share that passion and excitement about life and about being alive. I don’t know. I don’t know what I would do without it. I mean, everybody has their way into the world, but stories are something we all share. So that’s a cool thing to be able to do, and you’re never too old to do it. It’s all about community. So it’s like being able to kind of push your boundaries. I mean, I know that one of the things for me, I was always really scared about getting up in front of people and being on stage. And so about 7 months ago, I was asked to do my first [moth?]. I did it for USA TODAY. They do a storytelling event, events around the country, and I did it through the organization that I’m a member of, and I’m on the national board, the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association, NLGJA. And my dad passed away in June just right about that time, and I just saw it like, “What a beautiful tribute to go and honor storytelling in a way where I’m fucking terrified out of my god damn mind and put myself out there. And dad would be fucking really proud and I will push myself to a new level, and I need to grow. And I mean, I just turned 50 and I was like, “I need to do some shit that’s new. I need to push myself and not just be in safe places.” And so I practiced. I kind of came up with a way to sort of figure out how to do that like, “How can I sort of tell a story in a natural way like you’re telling it but also have it scripted enough so that I can learn it enough and practice it so that I don’t get up there and I fucking forget the story and embarrass myself in front of all these people that I know. So I mean, I did it in Palm Springs at the Palm Springs Art Museum. It was a really cool experience because I got to get up on stage and do it. And at the time, right before I went on stage, I was really nervous. I’d have a glass of wine and I was like, “I shouldn’t have,” but it started to kind of cramp my stomach a little bit, and I was like, “Oh, my God. I can’t fart on stage [inaudible] [laughter] totally embarrassing. I’m just thinking basic human like, “I can’t throw up on myself.” I’d just kind of get up there and be able to pull it off. And what was amazing is that I’d practiced enough and knew my story well enough that when I got up on stage, it was easy. And I was comfortable and I was able to ad-lib and make jokes off-the-cuff, and I was like, “Holy shit. This isn’t just cool. This is amazing.” And I was so happy I’d done it. And so I kind of feel like we’re all sort of like that. We all are a little bit scared about telling our stories because some of them are really personal and about things that are really dark and hard for us, something we sometimes held in our lives forever. Right? But I’ve always known– and I’ll say this. So the other person who really influenced me about getting up on stage and doing [inaudible] [thing?] was a guy that I knew named Pat Storm. [inaudible] about him before. But he was this red-headed, big, huge, New Yorker poet who was an amazing performance poet. He won the National Poetry Slam with [a team?] [inaudible] [Ashville?] and I knew him when I was in the county in a small town where I was a newspaper reporter for the first time where I met my wife now of 20-plus years. And he would get on stage and just fucking rock it. I mean, he was this amazing writer and he was an amazing performer. And we had a great deal of respect for each other, but I was terrified of getting on stage. And I wanted to do it. I originally and kind of always will be, first and foremost, a poet. And in some ways, that’s why I think that screenwriting is so attractive to me is because really, you’re just doing visual poetry. And I always wanted to be like him. I always wanted to [inaudible] those damn poetry slam teams, so hot and happening [inaudible] the ’90s. And I just didn’t have the guts to do it. And I remember watching him going up there and sharing different stories because all of his poems were like some kind of story that was autobiographical. And I watched other people and I went with him to Ann Arbor to see the Nationals and all this stuff. And I kept watching people, and I was always really envious of them because they’d get up there, and they had enough guts to do it, and they did it, and then afterwards, it didn’t matter if the person was great or sucked or whatever. There was always people in the audience that I’ve seen go up to them. And they’d be like, “Dude, that story was so amazing. I had an experience like that.” Or, “Oh, I was so affected by that.”
And I realized, and I watched this for so long watching other people– you’re realizing the power of that kind of storytelling, the kind of storytelling that I’d saw with my dad on a one-and-one basis or with a small crowd, kind of the way that I liked to do it. But I never was able to translate that into a bigger place where you could reach more people. And so I thought about my dad, and I thought about Pat, and I thought, “We have so many important things to say. We all do, right?” We all have these things that are important that we share because we learn from each other, and we grow from each other. I mean, that’s how we change and evolve, right? So if you don’t do it, it’s almost like it’s a bad thing. You’re preventing people to maybe hearing something that might change their life or that might inspire them in some way. So I was really proud to do it. And I had some people come afterward and say really nice things, and since, I’ve had people who still contact me. And one guy, he’s like, “Dude, you got to do a podcast with that.” So it kind of [laughter] inspired me to think about taking some of my own personal stories and turning it into something like that too.
So I just encourage people to– whatever it is that they hold near and dear, they’re scared about, try to find a way to break that out in some way. I mean, one of the things I think that is helpful, and I don’t know if you have people who are writers that are listening or people who would like to write more or maybe have a story that they want to tell, but they’re kind of afraid to start. One thing that I like to do is– because it can be really nervous, right, if you’re telling something really personal. I like to get a candle and light it and use it as a focus, right, and then maybe meditate for three to five minutes to relax themselves. And then what I do is I get a new book, and I personally do it on pen and paper because I’m old school and I like to write when I’m really talking about heart work and stuff that’s really personal. I like to do it first on notebook because there’s something about the electricity and the physicality of it that I think there is stuff there that’s real that you don’t get on a computer. And what I do is I time myself for like three to five minutes, and I just let anything that comes to my head come out like, “Oh, shit. I didn’t pick up the tomatoes at the store. Oh, my gosh. I need to walk the dog.” And I just let my brain go [laughter]. But, I mean, it’s just whatever is on, so if you’re angry, you’re sad, you’re whatever, but it’s basically like a digital– it’s a dump, right, of all that stuff that’s in the mind. And then I time it, and I stop, and then I write what I want to write.
And I actually learned part of this from a screenwriting class that I took from the woman who wrote Before Sunrise. It was nominated for an Oscar. She was amazing, and so we’d start class, and we didn’t do the candle, and we didn’t do the yoga stuff, which I add on. And I think you could do essential oils if that relaxes you, or sometimes, smell really helps. It is evocative of memories and stuff, so that’s a great way to go too, but it’s really helpful. So I would come up with like, “I’m going to write a scene about this, or I’m going to write this.” And I would have it in my mind, and I would just put it aside, and then I would dump all that stuff out, and stop, and then I would time myself again for 10 minutes. So there’s not a big time obligation. You’re timed, so you don’t have to worry about like, “Am I going to not write enough, or I’m not going to–” it just happens. And because you clear everything out, it gives you such focus, and also like it a lot as you sort of really be comfortable because you’ve relaxed yourself, you’ve taken time, you’ve been purposeful, and then, you’ve let all the stuff that you need to let go, which I think is really [helpful?] too, and then, you do some work. It’s something that I go through a lot and I think it’s super helpful for people.No, I love it. I love it. And as someone who is at times fearful to share my own story, maybe that would help me a little bit more [laughter].Yeah, one of the things I’m going to start doing– the other thing did at 50, so I did the [inaudible]. The other thing I did is I– okay, everybody kept wanting to throw me a party and stuff, and I was like, “I didn’t really want to do it.” And probably I had some sense that dad was leaving anyway, and it was going to get– and it did, it all got– he died right before my birthday and then, I literarily was goo-ing all about when– whatever. But I wanted to do something for myself to push myself forward. And so, I’ve always been a little bit of a woo-woo [work?] and I’ve dragged many Crystal shows and things in Arizona and be like, “Oh, my Crystal.” So I’ve always been really connected to all that kind of stuff, sort of, I’ve always been very spiritual, but always really interested in new ways of, I guess, tapping into that kind of spirituality for myself.
And so, my yoga center, they do a year-long healer training. And so, I decided, “What’s the coolest thing I can do for myself?” and I thought, “I’m good in investing something that’s going to open me up and get me closer to my spirituality and help me use the skills I have.” because I always love to help people and I love to nurture people and I really believe writing at such a powerful healing tool, I was like,” I really want to try to learn as much as I can and kind of, do that.”
And so, I graduate in a couple of weeks, and my final project is basically putting together basic kind of workshops, one-on-one consultations where I basically, kind of, take everything from essential oils to crystals to healing breadth, which is a special kind of breadth to help you heal, that we learned in Kundalini, and so, other, obviously, things, and creating kind of a curriculum with writing to kind of help people to do sort of, that kind of really personal deep healing spirit writing. And also, you use it as sort of a precursor if they decide they want to [inaudible] maybe use it as a way to get in really deep to them, figure out what they might want to do and use it to then work on for something they might want to publish, or something they might want to use as a creative project. And there’re so many people I know that do writing but so few people talk about the healing aspect of it or how you can use it as a way to kind of dig deep in and create that meaning or find the meaning for you, and so, it’s something that I’m really excited about and, kind of, exploring more into in the next couple of years, so.
that’s awesome. So when you’re here in March for a writers resist, you’ll have to share a little bit of that magic with me.
I would love to.
We did get a question from Facebook.
We did? Okay. I love it. This is awesome.
So– I know, right? So how do you keep up with fresh ideas, both in types of stories and the methods of storytelling that are constantly evolving?
Yeah, read the first one then I’m going to answer it and then, you’re going to read the second one because that’s a lot in one big thing.
Okay. So how do you keep up with fresh ideas? Let’s just start with that.
Okay. So I’m not quite sure that means how I come up with ideas, or do I come up with fresh ideas, so I’ll give you both. So one way that I– so, no matter what kind of storytelling you’re doing, you need to be keeping up with what’s being told, what’s being produced, what’s being published out there now, right? So, they say there’s no new stories, we’re all just retelling old stories, right? That’s what Joseph Campbell start right. So for me, I always as a screenwriter than I’m constantly keeping up with the TV shows that are in my genre. Now, there’s so many shows being produced now and streaming and everything and with everybody and their great grandmother, they’re becoming the new I’m Hulu now, and I’m Amazon and I’m Netflix and I’m– there are just so many of them out there. I can’t even keep up with all of them, but. So what I do is– I mean I, I was a crime reporter most of my life, and so I decided that it’s important for me as a storyteller to kind of– you want to be able to kind of stay in a certain field. So for instance, in LA if you’re a comedy writer, people kind of expect you’re going to write comedies, right? So if you [do?] too many things that are all over the place, then people, if you’re new– and this isn’t if you’re old. If you’re like John August and you wrote Big Fish, you can do whatever the heck you want to do, right? If you’re a Barry Jenkins and you wrote Moonlight, you can do if there were– about the Beale Street thing. You can go off and do some things and have some diversity in the kinds of stories of the subject matters or the genres, right? But when you’re starting out, a lot of the advice is to stick with kind of something that is going to be your thing, right? And you can be known for.
So I made a conscious decision that since I am a journalist, and I do crime and I do courts, and I know drama really well, then I should stay with it. And as I’m sort of embarking into this new career, I’ve been told by a lot of people that because I’m a journalist, that actually gives you a lot of credibility, and it actually makes people much more interested in wanting to see here and perhaps buy my shows and my stories because they can market me that way. It’s simple, right? Your brand. So for me, I basically keep up with as many crime shows or kinds of crime shows, but. So I’m going to always keep up with Ozark because that’s a new take on a crime story, right? A little bit– or True Detective, Killing Eve, yeah. So basically, I am– so I’m just trying to make sure I stay up with what’s new. So for me, that means keeping up with the Oscars. So I not only watch all the Oscar films but I also read their scripts because if you’re a writer, it’s about what they put on the page. How I come up with fresh ideas?
So I mean, that’s a great question, right [laughter]? So there’s a program called Scrivener that I highly recommend. It–
Oh God, I love that one.
Okay. So love that. And for me, okay, I’m a highly chaotic person if you haven’t figured that out on this platform [laughter]. I tend to go off in a lot of tangents and go down a lot of magical pass in the woods. So for me, it’s really important to recognize when I have an idea and get it down. So coming up with fresh ideas, so two things, some of the advice I’ll give you. Number one, if you’re a audio person, if you’re a person that likes to talk and tell stories, get a recorder, have it near you. If you’re in a car, you’re on the bus, you’re doing whatever and you get something come to your mind, get it down. Just get a place you can keep it, right? If it’s a notebook, then get a notebook and just be– ideas [in a?] book, I’ve done it forever. I have tons of them. Sometimes, I just randomly go through old stuff of mine. It could be own poems, old whatever, and I’ll find stuff and I’m like, “Holy shit.” I’ve done that with screenplays where I’ve– sometimes, it can take years and years to write a screenplay, and one of the ones I wrote started out in Phoenix many, many years ago, and it took me over 10 years to write. And there’s so many different incantation, I guess, of this thing [laughter]. [inaudible] always sometimes helpful for me to go back and remember that original inspiration so I try to keep a place for that. When it comes to fresh ideas, I get it from watching things and from experiencing things. So I like to go on walks, I think that– or getting out in nature. There’s never a time that I don’t go out in nature that I don’t come up with an idea. And I don’t know where that comes from. I don’t know if that’s true for everybody. But I do think there’s something about getting away and listening to yourself. So whether it’s just finding a quiet place and hearing the internal– the stuff that the world is telling you, that you’re telling you, that universe, God, whatever it is that speaks to you, I think it’s a really good place. I also like to go to places like other kinds of art. So I like to go to art museums, or I like to read different kinds of books or different kinds of things that I don’t write regularly. So I like love poetry, I don’t really write it that much anymore. But I love to grab poems because it basically makes my brain go– it kind of takes it off the tracks. And I think where you’re creative, so if you’re a painter, maybe read a book, if you’re writing a book, maybe go paint something. I think there’s different parts of your brain. And I think switching back and forth and looking at different things, creativity expresses itself in so many different ways. Nature’s one of them. It’s the most creative of it all, right? It is creation. But I think all those kinds of things can give you a great places to get inspiration. And I think that you just go with the kinds of stuff that really get– if you know that certain things just get you going, every time you go and you see this or that or you experience something, go to that place. I mean, it’s that spark, it’s that passion. Because in order to do and create anything, if you’re gonna write a book, it takes a long time, if you’re going to write a screenplay, it takes a long time, and is kind of a pain in the ass honestly. But you have to love it and you have to have passion for it. You have to have– no, it’s true. You have to have discipline. So if you don’t love it, you shouldn’t do it. So find the things that you like, you can’t imagine you not doing, you can’t– so, for me, that’s kind of where it comes down to. Sometimes, for me, I take my Instagram. I love arthouse movies, and I love art. If I’d had my chance in life, I would have been a painter like my mom, but I didn’t have the skill and so I had to use the one that God gave me. And so I have great respect for artists. And I love photography because it’s the closest I can get to having that artist eye kind of. So I’m constantly on my Instagram, taking photographs of things, and a lot of those things end up being the inspiration for an idea for a story. We drove through Texas recently, and we ended up in the middle of oil rig alley if you will. It was like dudes and big trucks, no women anywhere, and it’s fucking sparse, and I went in to this hole in the wall to get– to go to the bathroom. And I go into go to the bathroom and there was this– and it’s on my Instagram, you can find it if you want, but it’s this cooler. And it’s old school so it’s kind of like got the metal but it’s the old refrigerators back in the 20s and 30s that were wooden and you would to open it up. It has a weird latch and stuff, and you sort of open it up. From the top, it says, “Can’t buy beer until after 7:00 AM,” or something like that, the sign– and I was like, “Okay. All right. What the fuck?” I’m like, “Who the fuck is buying beer before 7:00 AM?” I’m like, “These people are mostly working on oil rigs.” And there’s no place to go. There’s nothing fun to do. It’s just a bunch of dudes and a bunch of oil and dirt and Mexican grub to eat. And so I kind of thought, “Huh.” And so I went to the bathroom and I came back. And there was some other signs like that. Like, “On Sunday we don’t sell until after 8:00.” And I was like, “Okay. These people drink all the fucking time. Well, maybe okay, that’s an interesting world that’s an interesting slice of life, there could be a story there. Like, if I’d stop me in my tracks to want to a photograph and go, “Who’s the person who’s coming in here every day before 7 o’clock?” So in some ways sometimes my Instagram becomes that place where I save ideas, and you don’t know it but I’ know it, it’s like my secret place [laughter].
Not anymore. Go ahead, take all my story ideas, it’s all good, but.
I think it’s great. I read an article, earlier this week, about how inspiration doesn’t just hit And as a painter and as somebody who writes and creates, that’s so true for me. I can’t just sit like on a mountain and wait for inspiration to happen. It has to be like a sign [laughter], so no [Bond?] beer before 7 AM.
Look, one of the greatest things I learned from the news business is that there’s no excuse. So, I didn’t have time for inspiration to hit. Whatever material I had, I had to make it into something. And [crosstalk]–
Yeah. Because you had a deadline. That was it.
I mean, I had a deadline, and I was breaking news, so that meant my deadline was already past. There were already people like yelling at me wanting to talk right now. And, so, you kind of learn that you just create that for yourself. That’s why I think timing yourself is good, to be like, “Okay, I’m going to write for 30 minutes.” I can always write for 30 minutes about something. And then, if I get bored or I get whatever you stop and then, you do it again. There’s ways you can kind of trick yourself into having deadlines I think and for people that need that, like I do, it’s a good way to do it.
Oh, yeah. Absolutely. Oh my God. We’ve been talking for two hours.
Holy shit. So I guess [inaudible] working on now and get the hell out of here [laughter].
So yeah. If there’s anything that you can [laughter]–
Well, I’d like to talk about the philosophy of– no just kidding.
So this is the 6th part interview with Senta Scarborough [laughter]. I mean, that, I’m fine with that whatever [laughter]. So is there anything that you’re working on right now that you can talk about?
Sure. I’m actually going to tell you two projects that I’m working on. So I’m just going to read this to you because it’s easier to do it this way than me kind of tell you. So I was telling you that having a project that you’re sort of at the end stage of and that you’re polishing. So I’ve been working on a screenplay. It’s called the Ballad [of Fruit Jar?] Alley. I got the idea 20 years ago when I was working in a small town in Tennesee, in Cocke County. And someone told me a kind of a legend or like a sort of a story and so I’ve kind of taken it and created a story based on it. So I’ll give you the logline.
During prohibition, a young Appalachian Hiller must save his farm by repeating his father’s fatal mistake, make moonshine. He’s so good at his trade, he unwittingly gets into business with Al Capone. Now, the healer must fight the mobster for the woman he loves, his soul, and his community. So I originally found out– someone told me a story about how Al Capone’s people were there and they basically fought against– there was like a shootout between the locals, and that the locals were able to oust Al Capone and his people out of the county. So somebody meaner than Alcapone. So it always stuck with me. And it was somebody– it was like a story that a friend of mine told me in their living room and I was like, “Holy shit.” And it’s never stopped eating at me. And that’s why I say, the stories that you can’t not stop hearing in your head, are the ones you need to tell. So it’s taken me a couple of years to actually get it down but I’m really close to having it finished. I’ve got to finish some stuff on the back-end, and do some other polishing, and I’m getting ready to– I had a friend who works at Ole Smoky Moonshine, and so I’m hoping to talk to them, and perhaps starting to put together maybe some investors. I’d like it myself, but we’ll see.
If that seems like an abrupt ending to the interview, well, it kind of is. And that’s because the second project Senta shared about what she’s working on, she decided maybe it wasn’t a good idea to share it yet. And here at the Third Paddle, we honor that. Whatever our interviewees need to do, we’re cool with that. So we cut it. In terms of what Senta has to offer, she is the owner of Sentamatic Media, found online at sentamaticmedia.com. Her company is there to share her stories and help you tell yours. So if you have a project you need to start or finally finish, or you need a fresh set of eyes or line edits, you can let this award-winning writer help you simply tell a great story. And you can contact her through sentamaticmedia.com. You can also follow her online at sentascar on Twitter and Instagram, both of which are very active accounts. Senta is also an instructor at Pen & Paper Writing Workshops, found online at www.penandpaperwritingworkshops.com. Pen & Paper Writing Workshops is offering a rolling set of courses. The new courses are starting in April. If you’re listening to this much later, then please go to Pen & Paper Writing Workshops to find out when the next classes start. Senta teaches Screenwriting and Introduction to Screenwriting, Intermediate as well as Advanced. And those courses are, again, eight-week classes entirely online. They also offer courses in other types of writing. And I just encourage you to reach out to Senta, and thanks, again, to Senta for being on the show.
Welcome to another edition of Equity Corner. What’s Equity Corner? It’s intended to raise awareness around the issues of the day, including words and phrases that cause harm to others. It’s a look at not only current events, but also history, so we consider the consequences of our words and actions, including how we want to go from here. During today’s interview, Senta talked a lot about origin stories. And in the course of her talking about her upbringing, she mentioned that she was incorrectly taught that the Civil War was based on states’ rights. So here’s some source documentation and research about the Civil War. I’m quoting Pulitzer Prize-winning author James McPherson who wrote, “The Civil War started because of uncompromising differences between the free and slave states over the power of the national government to prohibit slavery in the territories that had not yet become states. When Abraham Lincoln won election in 1860 as the first Republican president on a platform pledging to keep slavery out of the territories, 7 slave states in the Deep South seceded and formed a new nation, The Confederate States of America. The incoming Lincoln administration and most of the Northern people refused to recognize the legitimacy of secession. They feared that it would discredit democracy and create a fatal precedent that would eventually fragment the no-longer united states into several small, squabbling countries.” So the free states and the slave states had a disagreement, and seven states seceded from the union and formed The Confederate States of America. So what was the cornerstone of the Confederacy? It’s interesting that you should ask. Alexander Stevens, the vice-president of the Confederacy had a speech in March 24, 1861, called the, “Cornerstone Speech” And it lays out why secession happened. “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea. Its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery – subordination to the superior race – is his natural and normal condition.” Sounds pretty clear to me that slavery is the reason why the Civil War happened. Was it a states’ rights issue? Yes. But what is actually at issue? The issue is slavery. When we teach our children in schools that states’ rights is the reason for the Civil War, we are glossing over the ugly truth, which is that, not only was slavery a thing, it also demeaned and diminished another race. And what that does is, it just perpetuates racism in our country. The interesting thing is that when Pew did a research study in 2011, which was the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, they found that 60% of people younger than 30 believe that the main cause of the Civil War was states’ rights. Those who are 65 and older are the only age group in which more say that slavery rather than states’ rights was the main cause of the Civil War. While 48% of Whites view states’ rights as the war’s main cause, so, too, do 39% of African-Americans. And why does this happen? This happens because of education, our education system that just perpetuates these falsehoods. And so our work is to consider our history, and consider how it is being told, and how it is being taught, and to educate our children, and to speak out when we hear people say that it’s states’ rights, which glosses over the broader issues and the entire reason why the Confederacy was formed. We’ll touch back on this because we had a long episode today. But just so you know, the origin of the Civil War was slavery. And slavery is wrong. And we need to face up to it, especially us White folks. Thanks again for stopping by Equity Corner.
Thank you for listening to the podcast. Be sure to catch every episode by subscribing on iTunes. To learn more, check out our website at www.jenmcfarland.com/podcast. The podcast is sponsored by Foster Growth LLC, online at www.jenmcfarland.com.
Jen McFarland ditched her comfy C-suite tech project management job in pursuit of freedom. Jen’s goal is to help business leaders like you vet ideas, take ownership of their projects, and incorporate digital marketing from day one.
If growing your business feels like rocket science, let’s fix that with these free business resources.