Saturday, September 13, 2008

Sheila Scarborough, Freelance Writer: Tell us about you

Name: Sheila Scarborough

Hometown: Round Rock, Texas

Bio: "I'm a full-time freelance writer specializing in travel, NHRA drag racing and Web 2.0/social media."

Publications your work has appeared in: "National Geographic Traveler, Texas Highways, Transitions Abroad,, and I write the award-winning Family Travel Guide on the BootsnAll Travel Network, I'm one of three authors on the Perceptive Travel blog, my drag racing work is mostly on Fast Machines, and I write about social media for Every Dot Connects."

How you got your start in freelance writing: "When I retired from the Navy in spring 2006, I thought long and hard about what I would enjoy as much as the service. I love to write and I love to travel, so I decided to figure out how to make a living at it. I bought a stack of books on freelancing and started a blog, then just kept pushing. When print editors ignored me at first, I kept blogging, and found that online work is my preference. I hate waiting a year between a pitch and seeing the final article in magazines.

"Now, suddenly, my diverse online skill set is in demand; the ground has shifted. When an area of interest calls to me, I'm unafraid of looking foolish and I jump in. What are they going to do, deploy me to the Indian Ocean for six months? Oh, wait, already did that...

Some of your favorite kinds of articles to do: "Quirky travel pieces, really zero-ing in on the unique aspects of a place like its food, history, art or music. I like drag racing stories because it's a small community with lots of history between teams and families. Articles about Web 2.0 and social media, and why my fellow writers and communicators need to stop stalling and 'get it,' are always stimulating (I've been writing about this in one form or another since I tackled network-centric warfare issues while on active duty.)"

A few of your favorite interview subjects of all time: "Ashley Force, NHRA drag racing Funny Car driver. One of the Frag Dolls; an all-female video gaming team. The owner and employees at Round Rock (TX) Donuts."

What your writing routine looks like: "I skim a variety of sites, blogs and my local newspaper first thing in the morning, then my email, then I start blogging and working on social media projects. I invariably forget lunch and wonder why I'm cranky at 2 pm. The hardest thing is to stop working at night and pay attention to my family; I'm a night owl and love the quiet, late times at night."

Writers whose work you admire: "Anne Lamott, Tom Wolfe, Rolf Potts, Susan Orlean, Herman Wouk, Wendy Perrin, Heather Armstrong (,) Bill Bryson and William Least Heat-Moon."

What you're working on next: "Teaching Web 2.0 workshops and going to China for China BloggerCon. I love tech issues because many of the tech people are curious, fun, demand excellence and are passionate about a better world. They challenge me. In terms of travel, I'm thinking about an East Texas road trip article. Too many writers go for the obvious in Texas, but I like to find the unknown gems. I like Louisiana for the same reason, and I'm becoming a fan of Oklahoma and Kansas. Anyone can do a 'My Secret Tuscany.' Gimme the hard stuff.

Insert your questions here: "What's Jackie's favorite 'secret gem' in East Texas? :) Is the Gilmer Yamboree worth the trip?"

Jackie's Secret Gem of East Texas:

Easy question.

On the way into Gladewater, there is a greasy spoon that has a tiny main dining area, the smoking section, where everybody eats and talks, and a large, empty-ish sort of dining area for non-smokers, where I dined completely on my own in some kind of time warp.

On the wall, there are spectacularly tacky little shrines to stars of the 50s -- who, it just so happened, all died tragically young. Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, I think I'm missing one. Maybe Buddy Holly. It was disorienting, like stumbling into a parallel universe or at least an episode of the NPR show, This American Life with Ira Glass, the sort of thing that makes you believe there could be alien life in outer space.

Thanks, Sheila.

The Writing Porch's J. Louise Larson writes for and about writers and writing, and can be reached at jackielarsonwrites (at)

1 comment:

jessie said...

great interview! i always enjoy reading sheila's writing.